Coalition demolition? Lib Dems rule out 2nd Tory alliance over human rights policy
Nick Clegg’s comments come as significant cracks are emerging in the coalition, with the parties clashing in a pre-electoral race to attract voters in the run up to the general election in May.
Cameron’s Conservative Party hardened its position on Europe last week, declaring a plan to leave the ECHR unless Britain’s parliament secures the power to override its rulings.
Under the radical plans, a majority Tory government would terminate Britain’s allegiance to the Strasbourg court by granting the British parliament the capacity to veto its judgments.
Reflecting on the Conservatives’ controversial proposals, Clegg warned the Liberal Democrats would refuse to be part of a government that removed Britain from the ECHR - an institution long-hailed by human rights groups as a bedrock of social, economic and legal protection for Europeans.
Speaking at the Lib Dem’s annual conference in Glasgow, Clegg told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show the Conservatives’ radical proposals for human rights law reform in Britain are politically-motivated.
“Trashing human rights basically in order to cater for or to go after UKIP votes is a legally illiterate thing to do and is not in keeping with fine British tradition,” he said.
The Conservative’s move to reform human rights law in Britain has also been criticized as a political maneuver by Labour. Cameron, who is striving to stave off a growing threat from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), sharply criticized the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday, suggesting it counters Britain’s national interest by delaying the deportation of foreign terrorists and calling for prisoners’ voting rights.
Initially elected on a pledge of a firm determination to counter strangulating austerity measures in Britain, Clegg’s party has hemorrhaged support in the wake of a multitude of broken promises. Since coming into power, the Liberal Democrats have been party to policies that have bred further privatization of the NHS, the entrenchment of public sector cuts, the rise of university education fees and increased inequality.
As Britain’s upcoming general election draws ever closer, the most recent opinion polls show that public faith in the Lib Dems remains paltry at best. Support for Clegg’s party is currently trailing behind the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP at a mere 7 percent. While the Conservatives lead the polls at 36 percent, Labour is close behind at 34 percent. Meanwhile, UKIP continues to gain ground and currently stands at 13 percent.
Nevertheless, Clegg’s party continues to hold sway in Britain’s pre-electoral terrain. With current opinion polls indicating the May 15 vote will culminate in a close battle between the Conservatives and Labour, political analysts suggest the ultimate balance of power could still rest with the Lib Dems.
In a strategic ploy to increase support for his party, Clegg warned of the dire consequences a majority Labour or Conservative government would reap for Britain.
Speaking at a Lib Dem gathering on Saturday evening, Clegg stressed the Tories’ policies resembled a fusion of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s determination to crush Britain’s trade unions and UKIP’s anti-immigration, right wing nationalism.
“Imagine again what it will be like in 2020, but this time with the Conservatives in government on their own,” he warned.
“A [Conservative] party leadership in hock to their right wing, desperately running after and pandering to UKIP’s ugly nationalism. A prime minister trapped between being a poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and a rich man's Nigel Farage.”
Fraught political landscape
Speaking to the audience at the Lib Dem conference, the deputy PM said only his centrist party could rescue Britain from left and right-wing extremes threatening to dominate Britain’s political landscape.
Clegg has suggested tensions in the coalition are on the rise, following Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May’s recent assertion the Liberal Democrats had endangered lives by opposing a Communications Data Bill, which would have increased UK state authorities’ surveillance powers.
In a move designed to hit back at the Conservative Party, Clegg accused Cameron of pandering to Britons on middle- and higher-income salaries in a BBC interview on Monday. He denounced the PM for issuing unsubstantiated “moon-on-a-stick-type promises” relating to tax cuts.
Clegg has also been scathingly critical of Chancellor George Osborne’s recently-unveiled proposal to freeze benefits. He said a majority Tory government would ensure that Britain’s struggling individuals of working age would be forced to shoulder a socio-economic burden created by financiers prior to the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, embarrassment for the Tories at the hands of UKIP is expected to continue, with Cameron’s party like to endure a second defeat by Farage’s party at an upcoming election sparked by former Conservative Mark Reckless’ recent defection.