Lib Dem candidate: there will not be another coalition with the Tories

Big Ben, Westminster

Another coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is not going to happen, Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the highly marginal seat of St Ives has declared.

His leader, Nick Clegg, has insisted his party is determined to form a coalition with either the Tories or Labour. Clegg is due to campaign in the seat for George on Tuesday 21 April.

But George told a public meeting a second coalition with the Tories was not going to happen.

“We have had enough of it. The Tories would not want it and I am sure my party would not go for it,” he said.

He told a meeting of the consumer group Healthwatch: “When we went into this before, there was no question that entering such a coalition in 2010 it was going to toxify the Liberal Democrats.

“When the nice party formed some kind of arrangement with the nasty party you tend to get toxified as a result of it, but we felt we were doing it for the good of the country, rather than for the good of the party.

“We knew it was going to result in some damage to our party as a result of doing such a thing. I argued we were going into it too quickly and too deeply, and in fact there were better ways of doing coalition.”

Asked a second time at the meeting in the Methodist chapel in Penzance to confirm there would be no coalition with the Tories, he said: “I have told you: it is not going to happen.”

He also predicted no party would secure an overall majority in the Commons, but it would be better for the differences between the parties to be aired in open in parliament, and not through back room deals.

He said parties should not try, where they disagreed with one another, “to reach back room deals and ask whips to try and force issues through – that is what parliament is there for”.

He added: “I am a great believer and passionate advocate of the role of parliament. Let parliament decide. Don’t sort it out through the back door. Let the whole of the country be involved in that debate. What we have seen, where the differences are played out, it has actually engaged a wider public.

“I think whatever the outcome, and no one party is going to end up in charge, it’s a great opportunity for is all to engage in the political process.”

Asked about George’s comments, Clegg said the candidate was not pretending to represent “the collective views of Liberal Democrats”.

Clegg said that party officials had already had “words” with George. Clegg said he would also speak to him about the remarks on a visit to the constituency on Tuesday. Clegg said he had known George for years and that he was well-known for “shooting from the hip”.

“Andrew is one voice but he doesn’t represented the Liberal Democrat stance on this,” said Clegg. “Nor is it his decision. He’s entirely entitled to his own view. I lead a political party not a sect. And if and when we need to make a decision we’ll take a decision collectively.”

Clegg said he wasn’t “gagging” for the Liberal Democrats to be in power at all costs.

“I think you lose your soul if that’s what you want to do. All I’m saying is, stating the flaming obvious, that if the British people say that nobody wins an outright majority, it would be bizarre for a party, that has advocated pluralism in British politics for as long as I’ve been alive, to now start ruling out the possibility of entering into coalition politics, given we’ve done it for the last half a decade.”

Speaking ahead of a visit to a school in Newquay to set out his party’s five-point plan for teachers and parents, Clegg repeated that he would want stronger Lib Dem involvement in the Department for Education in a future coalition government.

“Particularly having wasted a lot of time dealing with a lot of zany, ideological gimmicks from Michael Gove and his team, it would be a good thing if the Liberal Democrats were able to run education policy on our own terms,” he said.

“Not least because we are the only party which is prepared to give the schools, colleges and nurseries the means that they need to absorb 400,000 new youngsters in our education system over the next five years.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Wintour Political editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th April 2015 16.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010