Thursday, 22 April 2010

Well, Clegg won't be foreign secretary

One outcome of tonight's debate on foreign affairs.

I can't see how Nick Clegg could now become Foreign Secretary in the (still rather unlikely) event that the Libdems were to be part of Brown or Cameron-led coalition if that was the outcome of a hung parliament, after the range of clashes over major international issues.

Home Secretary, perhaps, but not Foreign Secretary.

As the FT Westminster blog pointed out on Tuesday, that has been the role most often occupied by liberal politicians - and other junior partners - when part of the German government, currently held by FDP leader Guido Westerwelle, and for over decade, by Hans-Dietrich Genscher.


Alex C-D said...

Agreed - but why is it 'rather unlikely' that the Lib Dems will be part of a (Labour-led) coalition?

Jacob Christensen said...

Actually, there are a couple of other portfolios traditionally attracting the German Liberals, most notably Wirtschaft (which probably translates to Trade and Industry).

In Denmark, the Social Liberals managed to hold both the Foreign Office and Economic Planning between 1993 and 2000 with the party leader opting for Economic Planning.

If the LibDems get the Treasury (or Finance as we say on this side of the North Sea), holding two major economic portfolios may not be possible and so Home Office could be a realistic alternative.

Sunder Katwala said...

The reason it is still rather unlikely (less than a one in three chance)

- there could be a majority government. (the betting odds currently ave this as more likely than one-in-three, but less than 50%: eg 11/10 against).

- if there was a hung Parliament (current chances: over 50%, under 66%, eg 8/11), it is more likely than not that there would be a minority government than a coalition, and the most likely outcome is a Conservative-led minority govt if the party does win most votes, and esp if it wins most votes and seats.

(i) The Conservatives would quite strongly prefer a minority govt with outside support, and would do that where they had 'won' but were short of a majority. Eg lead of 6-7 points, 20 seats short but ahead.

(ii) The LibDems would mainly prefer external 'supply and confidence' support to joining a Tory-LD coalition. They would take a Tory-led coalition for eg electoral reform; the Conservatives would offer much less. The LDs may be against, at best divided, at the idea of a coalition which had nothing about that.

These calculations could change if the LDs did very well (30%+), and polls showed a strong feeling the public wanted them in gvt, but there are strong barriers to a C-LD coalition, (eg voting reform, Europe).

(iii) If a Labour-LD coalition is possible: Labour may be moving from preferring a minority gvt to a coalition. It might especially realise it would need a coalition if ahead on seats but second in the vote (and esp if third). The more that is the case, the more the LDs might be wary of whether they should form a coalition with Labou.

(iv) If there was a political earthquake and an LD-led government it would almost certainly be a coalition, unless they won an overall majority of seats. But Clegg would not then be Foreign Secretary either!

Alex C-D said...

Thanks for a great explanation, Sunder. I'd be interested on your take on this:

Personally I think Labour would still have a (very) strong claim to official Opposition status if it won many more seats than the Lib Dems but fewer votes overall. Do you agree?