Liberal-Tory coalition at Westminster?

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but it seems like this story in the FT slipped through the net. I mean, it’s a big deal, no?

Lib Dems could back Conservatives
By George Parker and Alex Barker

Published: February 7 2008 22:23 | Last updated: February 7 2008 22:23

Nick Clegg says his Liberal Democrats could support a minority Conservative government after the next election, if David Cameron proposes genuinely “liberal” reforms in areas such as civil liberties, public service reform and the environment.

The Lib Dem leader on Friday sets out conditions under which his party would back the first Queen’s Speech of a minority government if the next election produced a hung parliament.

But Mr Clegg’s legislative shopping list is remarkably similar to the priorities identified by Mr Cameron’s team for his first Queen’s Speech. They include a focus on civil liberties, education reforms, the environment and more local decision-making.

Mr Clegg said: “I don’t care who produces a more liberal document for government. If it is more liberal then of course I would be interested to look at it.”

His colleagues say that while Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Lib Dem leader, claimed to be equidistant, he could never truly imagine working with the Tories.

The 41-year-old Lib Dem leader – dubbed “Cameron’s stunt double” by his former leadership rival Chris Huhne – said he expected any new government to take an “enlightened” foreign policy stance, including warmer relations with Europe.

Mr Cameron’s allies admit Europe is the biggest dividing line between the Tories and Lib Dems, but one said: “We aren’t going to be legislating on Europe.”

They hope that a moderate “Lib Dem-friendly” first Queen’s Speech could secure Mr Clegg’s support in parliament, while stopping short of a formal coalition.

However, Mr Clegg suspects the Tory leader’s offer of a “progressive alliance” is all talk and says Mr Cameron has yet to produce convincing policy proposals that would be acceptable to his party.

Many Lib Dems are hostile to the Tories and see Mr Cameron’s overtures as a trap. Mr Clegg insists he could equally well work with Labour if – like the Tories – they “became, to all intents and purposes, Liberal Democrats”.

Any working relationship between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in a hung parliament would be likely to stop short of a full coalition, not least because Mr Cameron will not offer a change to the voting system.

“Constitutional change is not something people are interested in,” said one Cameron supporter.

The Lib Dems see reform as vital in amending an electoral system, which they view as stacked against them.

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Tories in scandal over S&M photos

Okay, the title of this post is true if S stands for Slave and M for Master.

The Fanonite, a blog I always read via feed, brought this to my attention, by the way:

Fury Over Young Tory Slave & Master Pictures

ONE of Scotland’s top young Tories poses as a slave master at a fancy dress party, pulling a colleague behind him in handcuffs.

And with a camera on him, David Harris dishes out a sick mock beating to his “slave”.

Harris, 21, is the Scottish secretary of the Tory party’s youth organisation, Conservative Future.

Until yesterday, his “slave”, Jamie Johnston, 20, was secre tary of Glasgow University Conservatives.

But he promised to quit his post after learning that the Daily Record was about to expose the revolting stunt.

David Harris

Harris tried to blame his pal for their shocking choice of costumes, saying: “It was actually one of Mr Johnston’s ideas.”

And, incredibly, a spokesman for the Tory party in Scotland played down the incident, saying: “Students dress up for a fancy dress party – it’s hardly the shock of the century.”

Tory leader David Cameron and Scots party chief Annabel Goldie, who have both been photographed with Harris and Johnston, are very unlikely to agree with that assessment.

Johnston posted the photos from the party on his home page on friendship website Facebook.

They show Harris dressed in a pith helmet, khaki shirt and shorts and clutching a swagger stick.

Johnston trails behind him dressed as a field slave. His wrists are shackled and his shirt stained with fake blood.

Harris smirks and hams it up for the camera as he pretends to punish his “slave”. Johnston cowers and puts his hands in front of his face.

The Tories have bragged repeatedly about the revival of their youth wing’s fortunes since the Young Conservatives were rebranded as Conservative Future.

The antics of Harris and Johnston will be desperately embarrassing for party bosses.

But Harris was hardly apologetic when the Record confronted him. He said: “We never meant any offence and you have to understand it was actually one of Mr Johnston’s ideas.

“It was a private party. Can I ask what’s going to happen?

“I can’t offer any comment at the moment, I’m afraid.”

Johnston was more forthcoming. He contacted the Record after learning that we had the pictures and said: “I’d like to apologise for any offence that will be caused.

“The party was of a lighthearted nature and it was not our intention to offend. I do not condone racism and I understand why these pictures could be seen as offensive.

“My friends have always held me in the highest regard and race has never been an issue in any of my relationships with them.

“These photos were an outside issue. I do understand how it could become a party issue but the point must be raised that we were acting as individuals. We realise in hindsight it was certainly not appropriate.”

Johnston confirmed that he would be resigning as secretary of the university Conservatives. He said: “I trust the group will accept my resignation in the correct manner.”

The director of the Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, Jatin Haria, condemned Johnston and Harris’s stunt.

He said: “While appreciating that this was a social event, the slave trade is no laughing matter.

“To trivialise it shows either appalling ignorance or total disregard for the suffering caused by slavery. We call on leaders of all political parties to condemn such behaviour.

“In Scotland, it is important that we recognise our own distinct role in the slave trade.

For example, by the beginning of the 19th century, Scots owned almost a third of the slaves in Jamaica.

“We have called for an unreserved apology for Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade and its continuing effects, both at home and abroad.”

WERE you at the party where the photos we re taken? Call the Record on 0141 309 3348.