Saturday, May 08, 2010

Which LibDems Would Serve in a Con-Lib Cabinet?

I'm surprised that very few people seem to have speculated on the makeup of a Tory-LibDem Cabinet yet. Well, let me step into the breach. First off, it remain unclear how many Cabinet seats David Cameron would offer the LibDems. I was told this morning that Cameron had offered the LibDems Home Secretary, Chief Secretary and Transport. An hour later, that was reported on the BBC by the estimable Laura Kuenssberg. The Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy tried to get confirmation from the LibDems, who weren't denying it. However, half an hour later Ms K appeared on our screens again to say that the Conservatives were officially denying it. Hmmm.

If I were a LibDem negotiator I'd probably be pushing for four seats around the Cabinet table on the basis of the seats they have in the Commons. There was some talk that the LibDems would argue that seats in the Cabinet should reflect the proportion of the actual national vote. On that basis the LibDems would say they wanted 8 seats. Fat chance. So let's work on the basis that they get 4 seats.

The next question is the position of Nick Clegg himself. When Paddy Ashdown was negotiating with Blair he made clear he didn't want a Cabinet position himself. Perhaps Clegg would take the same viewpoint. On the other hand, perhaps he would become Deputy Prime Minister without an actual department.

Assuming there are three other Cabinet positions available, who would take them, and would they be chosen by Nick Clegg on his own or in consultation with David Cameron?

There would no doubt be a public clamour for Vince Cable to be Chancellor, but I think it is safe to rule that out. There is just no way that he would be acceptable in that role to the Conservatives. Perhaps the same might be said of George Osborne to the LibDems, in which case I could just about foresee Ken Clarke being Chancellor with Vince Cable as Chief Secretary. They would rapidly become the Waldorf and Stadler of British politics, but they would be a very reasduring team to the British public in difficult economic times.

But I think that outcome is very unlikely to happen. A far more likely scenario is for David Laws to take on the Chief Secretary portfolio.

Other LibDem candidates for office might be Paddy Ashdown for Northern Ireland and Chris Huhne, but when you scan the list of the 57 LibDem MPs, you have to come to the conclusion that there aren't many other candidates for Cabinet posts. Sarah Teather? Ming Campbell would no doubt love to get the Foreign Office but I can see no way that Cameron would jettison William Hague from that post. Ed Davey would no doubt expect to be considered but even his colleagues in the LibDems don't rate him. Can anyone really imagine Simon Hughes in a Conservative dominated Cabinet? Not sure I can. Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone, Norman Lamb? All three are talented but I somehow can't see them in a Cabinet.

I'd love to hear from LibDem readers who they think should be their Cabinet nominees if it comes to it.

70 comments:

DespairingLiberal said...

"Ken Clarke being Chancellor with Vince Cable as Chief Secretary." I hope this is based on something real - for me, it would be absolutely ideal. I have never liked Osborne but I trust Clarke and so do a lot of other people.

tory boys never grow up said...

If Osborne and Cameron are the closet Thatcherites that I think they are the I very much doubt that the keynesian Cable would be let anywhere near an economic position - but I might be wrong and leopards really have changed their spots.

Given that they are already taliking about cabinet positions can we take it that the deal has already been done on matters of principle?

denverthen said...

I agree with Despairing Liberal.

Right Hon. said...

Why speculate? It ain't gonna happen.

Sara Scarlett said...

David Laws would be in, surely?

Tory Outcast said...

As have posted the Lib Dems will want one of the big 4 jobs. Suspect Cameron will offer Clegg Home office to take on personally. Gets to get rid of Grayling, is an area of big agreement and possibly a poison chalice

Sara Scarlett said...

Missed where you highlighted Laws for Chief Secretary - I think he'd get better though.

Thomas said...

You've forgotten David Laws - rather an obvious one I'd think!

The other one I'd say would be Susan Kramer if she accepted a peerage. (Or won in Thirsk and Malton ;)).

Ciraric said...

I'm upset that Julia Goldsworthy lost. You always need some window-dressing around the Cabinet table... at least that's Gordon's philosophy.

ChristalPalace said...

I can see Huhne or Clegg getting the Home Office. Cameron will want to send Chris Grayling packing now that the election is over.

Red Rag said...

Cannot wait for the first Cabinet meeting.Dave says to Nick "Nick, this is Andy he is our Communications Director, he is the one who orchestrated the personal smear campaign from Tory HQ against you....come on Nick let bygones be bygones".

It will last as long as an Ian Dale guarantee of running naked if the exit poll is right.

Simon Gardner said...

Probably a good idea to have Simon Hughes inside the tent, pissing out, actually.

Though I personally don’t see it happening at all. It’s going to be a Tory minority Government for however long it lasts.

DespairingLiberal said...

You didn't mention Defence, but Ming would be a far, far better Defence Secretary than the middling Liam Fox.

Paddy Ashdown could serve from the Lords as Fore-Sec and would do it so well. David Steel could chair the review of the political system.

I agree though that there is a paucity of top talent on the LibDem benches, but is it really sooo much better on the Tory ones?

Mr. James Alexander said...

An obvious possibility would be to make one of the Liberal MPs the Scottish Office job, assuming that the job isn't abolished.

Alistair Carmichael performed well in the Scottish TV debates and it has often been reported up here that Cameron is unhappy with the performance of the Scottish Tories (which he should be after Thursday!).

Given that the Scottish job is such a minor one nowadays it would have to be one of four posts.

Anoneumouse said...

"Waldorf and Stadler" only on the understanding that David Cameron honours the the LibDem manifesto promise to hold a European Union IN/OUT referendum!!

tony said...

Vince Cable For Chancellor!

Roger Thornhill said...

@DL ""Ken Clarke being Chancellor with Vince Cable as Chief Secretary." I hope this is based on something real - for me, it would be absolutely ideal. I have never liked Osborne but I trust Clarke and so do a lot of other people."

that would be madness - two Federasts.

ollie said...

Couple of things - there would be a Tory civil war if a die hard leftie like Cable was put in the cabinet. It would be an affront to every single person who voted Tory. Wasn't Cable wholly exposed in the run up to the election as a flip-flopping lightweight?

Secondly - Lynne Featherstone "talented"? You've set the bar very low there, Iain. There's only ONE lib dem I would even consider in a Tory cabinet, and that's David Laws. Please don't say Clegg - he is a student union leader at heart, and not much more.

Robert said...

Why no comment from you on why Dave failed to get a majority or are you going to do the post mortem later?

James said...

As the Alliance Party take the Lib Dem whip, surely Naomi Long would take the Northern Ireland brief if that department was given to us?

Mark Reckons said...

I don't know why you cannot imagine Norman Lamb in a Tory/LD cabinet Iain. When you interviewed him on 18 Doughty Street a few years ago you kept pointing out how similar he was to you. I think he would make a great Health Secretary.

Also, what about David Laws? He would be good in many portfolios IMO but especially something like Business for example.

CPR said...

Maybe the lack of speculation is due to many people treating the Lib Dems as a single-issue party on PR...?

Politicians having a food fight over the voting system while the economy has to be priority number one would be very sad. Whatever the circumstances if there was a vote on PR, then it would simply cause another general election later this year, whether it passes or not.

Will the Lib Dems be able to "get real" over economic reality though? Maybe the Conservatives will have to offer an elected upper house with some form of PR to get them on board...?

Lord Boswell said...

Agree with Despairing about the attraction of a Clarke/Cable combo. For me the failure to move Osborne aside in favour of Clarke was one of Cameron's fundamental errors in the lead up to this election.

Realistically though, I don't think they'll get as far as sharing a cabinet. It'll all fall to pieces over PR.

Matelot said...

I suspect that Home Secretary and Treasury posts may be a bit toxic for the Lib Dems - after all, they want to do better in the next election coming soon and wouldn't want to be tainted by cock-ups and savage spending cuts.

Josh said...

I think the Dems will look for quality of seats rather than quantity, which might also suit the Tories. I agree with the Clarke/Cable Treasury ticket. Clegg as home seccy would be the only other major Lib Dem spot. Then maybe Huhne or Laws in a health/education/work&pensions role and Campbell for International Development.

Christopher Thornton said...

Clegg as Deputy PM? I can't see that; a minority government would be more likely. Perhaps Clegg as Home Sec; Cable as Chief Sec. Transport, N Ireland, Scotland, Wales - all junior posts likely to be given away without too much pain.

boggartblog said...

What a pity Lembit will not be available to fill a specially created post, Miniter For Resisting Alien Invasions.

adrian said...

isn't the real issue for the libs a cast iron guarantee on voting reform? they'd be perceived as only wanting a ministerial car and trappings if they were obsessed with cabineat seats.

charlesbarry said...

I'm not a Lib Dem nor a Tory voter but a combination of Ken Clarke and Vince Cable in the Treasury would be a 'dream ticket'.

You seemed to have ruled out a combination of Vince as CST and George Osbourne as Chancellor. Why is this?

Ian said...

I would suggest that the Lib Dems be offered the position of Secretary of State for Scotland. After the dreadful performance of the Scottish Conservative Party, David Mundane doesn't deserve any Government office.

John said...

Clarke and Cable to the Treasury would help The Odd Couple sell this to their respective activists. What then for Osborne? Assuming Hague is nailed-on for the FCO, would Osborne settle for another department (BIS?) plus Deputy PM? Cleggy to the Home Office allows Cameron to dump Grayling.

And while we're on the subject of the Lib Dems, it's a shame Julia G lost her seat. Easily the tastiest MP in the last Parliament.

James Wallis said...

Sarah Teather is possibly the most irritating politician I can think of. She shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a tv studio let alone the cabinet!

UKViewer said...

PM - David Cameron
Dep PM - Nick Clegg
Home Secretary - Ken Clarke
Chancellor - Vince Cable
Chief Secretary - George Osborne
Justice - Norman Tebbit
Business Secretary - Lord Ashcroft
Board of Trade - Lord Digby-Jones
Defence - Liam Fox
Education - Jenny Browne
Communities & Local Government - Oliver Letwin
Culture & Sport - Chris Huhne
Energy & Climate Change - Greg Clark
Work & Pensions - Frank Field
DSS - Ian Duncan Smith
Foreign Secretary -William Hague
Northern Ireland - Lord Ashdown
Scottish Secretary - Malcolm Rifkin
Transport - Norman Baker
Cabinet Office Minister - Danny Alexander

nullo said...

did u forget to mention Kennedy because of his problem? Otherwise I think he is definitely good enough... then again, what does good enough mean anymore? I don't think it would have been conceptually possible to be in better electoral circumstances than Cameron was, and he still didnt get a majority. So HE aint good enough, for example.

Nowrin said...

Firstly I'd like to say after coming across your blog today and stopping to read, it's fantastic.

Secondly, I think Ken Clarke would be a good compromise of the two parties. Clarke, often seen as an "oliver branch to the left" embodies both the parties somewhat abd would be popular with the electorate, as a whole, as he is far more experienced and trusted. I hope this happens!

Battersea Boy said...

Why does Cameron have to offer Cabinet posts to LibDem MPs when there are several talented LibDem peers who might fit the bill?

Dave Winter said...

The cons are revolting enough already so having even one Liberal in the cabinet will cause Cameron to be put out to grass.

Jess The Dog said...

Clegg: Deputy PM or Home Secretary

Cable: Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Major transport or environmental portfolio as well.

If I were Cameron, I'd offer up Minister for Europe...Hoon's old job. That would be amusing....

I think Cameron is serious about this, about holding the Lib Dems close. Make them an offer they can't refuse, chance of a lifetime to seal the deal...only alternative is an attempt to join a minority or rainbow coalition with Labour that swiftly collapses.

Cameron and Clegg are quite similar and would be a good team...Clegg has a deep and wide streak of social conscience which would be valuable advocacy to have on board.

And, if Cameron can change the Tories from a Union torch into a blue and green tree, he can easily bring the Lib Dems on board.

anne riddle said...

Vince Cable as Chief Sec? I've always thought Phillip Hammond was an ideal person in that position.

Bardirect said...

Doesn't the LibDem constitution give their membership the say-so on every such issue?

It seems odd that they use this point to prevent a decision on supporting Con or Labour when the corollary must be that Clegg has no authority to do anything yet - so should do nothing except allow the normal consequence of the actual result - a minority administration. What authority do they have to say yes, but no but, er wait a bit, er may be, to delay that and keep Brown in, with his continued daily borrowing?

Cam should be looking to find a role for Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Gisela Stewart, and 13 or so more disaffected Labourites or others, sick of the prospect of more Brown (or Balls) who would actually give him a majority government "of national unity" without having to be held hostage to LibDem opportunism.

Iain Dale said...

Robert, I may well do a post on this in the next couple of days.

Iain Dale said...

Mark, I suggested Laws for Chief Sec.
Read again!

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Iain wash your fingers... please do not mention Sarah... no one that vile should be in cabinet. That voice for as long as the government lasts, ugh!

Peter Ruddick said...

I think David Laws would LOVE to be a Lib Dem in a Tory nominated Cabinet - just where he fits in! Don't totally write off Sarah Teather getting a junior Cabinet role - she plays well in the country for the Party - Simon Hughes is a def no, I don't think Huhne could stand it. Cable would but would he want a role other than a Treasury post? Couple of other possibles not been mentioned yet Nick Harvey and Steve Webb - both capable and I would imagine willing.

Class of 2010 said...

Cameron could safely offer Don Foster the Culture Media and Sport portfolio. Jeremy Hunt will presumably go somewhere else, and Lazy Vaizey is a joke. And please don't let Vince Cable anywhere near the Treasury. He is the most over-rated politician in the country.

anne riddle said...

Iain - If the boundry system didn,t favour the Labour party, would the Conservatives have had 326 seats?

John Trenchard said...

My guess is that the Lib Dems will get areas that they agree on with the Tories - specifically the "orange book" liberal wing of the LDs.

My guess is that you will see LDs in positions like health, education and work & pensions - this ties into the "broken society" meme of Cameron, which a lot of LDs agree with.

As for the chancellorship, I think Ken Clarke would be offered as compensation for Cable not getting it, but with Cable working closely with Clarke in a Chief Sec role.

We have to think long term here - my guess is that Cameron is thinking of the very very long term - in terms of transforming our entire society into a naturally centre-right society and to confine Labour socialism to the dustbin of history.

I think Cameron knows deep down that a true "Liberal Party" would be incredibly better for the country than a socialist Labour Party. He's aiming for the natural order of things to swing between Tory governments and true Liberal ones.

Martin said...

Hi Ian
Crikey the thought of Lynne Featherstone in any cabinet post is frightening. Have you heard her interviewed she can barely sytring together a coherent sentence. Watched her on Sat Newsnight before election she was a joke. Cable, Laws possibly but any other are likely to be minor posts
Martin

Tom said...

Clegg for Chancellor please. Think about it.

norman said...

The news is that Clegg is cleared to have further talks. I am glad on the Tory side there is Osborne, Haig and Letwin -very sensible men. I also would like Ken Clarke as the Chancellor of exche and Osborne as the business secretary. No problem with Clegg for Home, Paddy Ashdown for NI, Simon Highes for Culture and Huhne for Transport. The purpose of the DC and his team is to sink the Labour for ever so that Campbell and Lord Sleaze are banished and Brown returns to scotland. Labour will implode-post Foot failed election like.

Prodicus said...

What Ollie said.

And no Cable not no way not never. He is a flipflopping, vain old faker who belongs in the Labour Party but not on its right wing and not at its top level because everyone in Brown's cabinet is sharper than he. And that includes the postman.

And why does an economist with a PhD insist on the 'Doctor' thing? Half the Commons have PhDs, including Brown. It's undignified. Still, I suppose it impresses the fans of Strictly Dancing The Light Fandango and that's what counts when you are a political never-was-has-been who's looking for a regular fee from HIGNFY.

Rupert said...

Sarah Teather actually deserves a cabinet position. And muppett James Wallis can't have ever actually met her.

trevorsden said...

By all means put Clarke and Cable together if you want to --- but at Business, not the Treasury. You forget Laws was an investment banker. He could go to the treasury somewhere. But Hammond has been a good performer for the Tories.

Given that the executive is drawn from the parliamentary party then in a Cabinet of say 20 you would expect say 4 LDs in Cabinet at the most.

Given the position we are in, and whilst it might be better to start from somewhere else, the nation needs stability, certainly for 3 years at least. We do not need another election in 6 months, during which time nothing will be done.

As for the tory performance in the election: it has won more seats than for 80 years and Labour have lost more seats since basically for ever. Its a great performance and we can thank UKIP for it not being better.

Mark Reckons said...

Oops! Missed that paragraph for some reason. I thought it was an odd omission!

Dr Snuggles said...

I'd give David Laws something decent, Clegg something that sounds fancy but isn't (Vice PM) and Simon Hughes can clean the toilets. Ming is past it and the rest were never up to it.

jailhouselawyer said...

I think that Lord Lester of Herne Hill should be Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.

Surely the Tories are not seriously considering giving the post to Dominic Grieve?

tory boys never grow up said...

@ trevorsden

"You forget Laws was an investment banker. He could go to the treasury somewhere."

You forget that investment bankers create problems for the economy rather than solve them.

Charles said...

Cable is an over-rated windbag. A genius in his own mind (and the BBC) only.

Home Office - Clegg

Chief Secretary - Laws (I hadn't thought of this one, but it is a great idea: binds the LibDems into the cost cutting)
Welfare - Hammond: too good to lose & he deserves a promotion

Try bringing in Adonis at Transport (would he count as a LibDem?)

Alternatively, perhaps put one in at Justice and give them a mandate to pursue a liberty aagenda. Can't think of anyone else with the common sense and credibility then

Sean Haffey said...

I blogged this earlier today (6.30 am) here http://sean-haffey.blogspot.com/2010/05/diy-tips-how-to-build-cabinet.html

Chestcracker said...

Nobody has mentioned health. Now the election is over Cameron can forget his devotion to the hugely expensive and inefficient NHS and let Norman Lamb et al let rip by getting rid of strategic health authorities and other useless quangos.

Mirtha Tidville said...

which dum lubs???????..you are joking Iain..they dont have policies just wish lists...the thought of being propped up by the likes of Red Vince is truely nauseating...

forsyth said...

"There was some talk that the LibDems would argue that seats in the Cabinet should reflect the proportion of the actual national vote."

The Cabinet itself should be smaller in any case. Start as you mean to go on. I thought Liberals liked decentralisation, which must surely mean central government doing less, needing fewer cabinet ministers (also doing less).

Also, return to giving cabinet posts sensible names once more, rather than the weird Eastern Bloc style ("Children, Schools & Families").

Tim said...

Steve Webb is very talented and knows the DWP brief inside out and back to front.

Chris Huhne has real ability

I think you underestimate Norman Lamb.

Vince Cable for BIS, if George is Chancellor? Not sure what happens to Clarke, but Vince as a cutter at BIS would be in line with Con policy and LD policy?

Thomas said...

I think Clegg should go for the Foreign Office, just as the FDP normally do in Germany. The Home Office would just create endless problems.
The Scottish Office should definitely go to a LibDem, simply to make Scotland respect the new government -- the Tories can't do that.
Apart from that, I don't mind too much. Perhaps Transport, perhaps Environment, perhaps Justice.

Terry said...

Not a LibDim commenting but there is local interest here for me. I live 10 miles from Yeovil and am not a fan of David Laws; he's OKish but there's something about him i can't quite put my finger on that doesn't quite add up somehow. My own MP still is David Heath. Who? The LibDims shadow Leader of the House. He has a good record as a conscientious parliamentarian and is squeaky clean on expenses. Ms Rees-Mogg was unlucky to be on the receiving end of Heath's doubling his majority - to 1,600 only - this time; that's 4 losing Tories on the trot I've voted for!
Heath would be a safe pair of hands, reliable but he is an inveterate fence-squatter particularly over country matters. Despite living in a village which does not have mains water and his apparent countryside credentials he is not a countryman. Even so i would prefer to see him in the Cabinet to Laws.

Nigel said...

Well, there's surely going to be a vacancy at the Home Office...
http://tinyurl.com/3x9w4u2

Richard Gadsden said...

Thinking about the jobs rather than the people.

If there is a deal on PR, then a Lib Dem as Leader of the House of Commons to steer the legislation through?

Would there be two Government Chief Whips? Can't see the LDs accepting whipping from a Tory, or vice-versa.

Lib Dems would be very nervous that Tory back-benchers would try to kill the legislation on PR by parliamentary maneouvering and would want control of the process.

James D said...

Steve Webb should be a definite. If I were David Cameron, I should probably want to give him Health rather than Employment, but he'd do an excellent job (and take a lot of the inevitable blame) in either post.

But I think you are being optimistic with four. I think we're looking at five or possibly six to make the deal look good enough. I'm suspecting something like this:

DPM and Lord President: Nick Clegg
Home Secretary: Chris Huhne
President of the Board of Trade: Vince Cable
Health (or Employment): Steve Webb
Scotland: John, Viscount Thurso (or maybe Wales: Jenny Willott)

Will said...

Clegg, Huhne, Laws, Cable would surely be top 4.

It might be sensible to have someone from the left of the party too - Farron, Webb, Featherstone, Hughes or
Heath would all make excellent ministers, if not cabinet. Jeremy Browne would be very acceptable to the Tories, while Jenny Willott is excellent but underrated.

neil craig said...

A minor post the LDs must get is Scottish Secretary since, with only 1 seat no Tory could hold it credibly.

During the LibLab pact all the ministers were Labour but their shadows had full access & the de facto right to veto things. That may be better way to go than merely looking at the numbers in a conventional cabinet.

The thing that really worries me is the LDs "low carbon economy" ie windmillery. Cameron's willingness to offer that without prompting shows he wanted to do that anyway so a stand alone Tory government would be no better. However we are heading for massive blackouts & already have most of the world's most expensive electricity because of this windmilling cross-party Luddite lunacy. Oh well one problem at a time.