Brown has burnt his bridges with the Lib Dems

Yesterday’s Guardian revelation that Gordon Brown had been talking to Menzies Campbell about bringing Lib Dems into the Government didn’t come totally out of the blue.

When the Lib Dems refused to join an SNP coalition after the Scottish elections, there were widespread rumours that this dialogue was a factor.

In Scotland, a rather convincing conspiracy theory is gaining
ground. This reports that an ambitious bargain has been struck between
the two "big beast" Scots at Westminster: Menzies Campbell, leader of the British Liberal Democrats, and Gordon Brown, soon to become Labour prime minister in succession to Tony Blair. The
terms would run like this. In Scotland, the Scottish Lib-Dems will
boycott all contacts with Alex Salmond and instead join an unofficial
"unionist bloc" of Labour, Tories and Lib-Dems at Holyrood. (Neal Ascherson, openDemocracy)

At the start of this month, I argued that such a deal was only viable
if offered the Lib Dems clear benefits  before the
election. We now know that something like this was being discussed.

Now that this Brown-Campbell dialogue appears to have collapsed into
acrimony, the SNP’s position in the Holyrood Parliament may be

Martin Kettle appears to think the whole episode has been a political masterstroke by Brown:

as well as making Brown look good with centrist voters and
liberal-minded voters, the move is a useful down-payment on
post-election talks in a future hung parliament. If Campbell gets a
call from Brown on the morning after the next election saying that the
offer he made back in 2007 is still open, the Lib Dem leader might find
it much harder to resist. (Comment is Free)

Apparently even though Kettle can muster ten reasons why he thinks Brown’s offer was not serious, he expects everyone else to behave as if it was a genuinely magnanimous gesture.

Brown didn’t offer Paddy Ashdown the Northern Ireland
job until yesterday, after the first Guardian story and after Campbell
had refused the offer of cabinet seats. That certainly does not look like a serious way of doing business

In reality, Brown has played the Lib Dems for fools, when he may need them after the next election, and they may have more options than him.

Update According to Nick Robinson, Brown offered junior ministries to a handful of Lib Dem peers on Monday. That just reinforces the impression that he wasn’t serious. There’s no way that the Lib Dems could hitch their fortunes to Labour without getting cabinet seats.







2 responses to “Brown has burnt his bridges with the Lib Dems”

  1. Tony avatar

    So the SCOTTISH Lib-Dem’s are not acting in the interests of the Scottish people. And the SCOTTISH soon to be PM wh’s favourite goal was against Scotland is plotting to effectively bring down the Scottish government. Good job wee Alex knew what he was getting himself into.

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    There’s no proof yet that Ascherson’s theory is correct, but there’s some interesting stuff surfacing about the Darling-Kirkwood back-channel between the two parties. I’ll try and post a bit more on it later on today.

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