It is rumoured that David Cameron insisted on approving a draft of Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem Conference speech. Of course I am neither able to affirm or deny this. Perhaps, if true, the conversation went something like this.
Sit down Nick, do. This speech of your’s. I have some suggestions and I have made some amendments. Andy can help you with a redraft. Thanks Dave, I’m grateful. (pause). There is a lot of this red ink, Dave. It will take me some time to absorb it. It’s pretty simple really, we have agreed that neither of us is going to engage in criticism of each other. If we do, the game is lost. We can argue in this room for as long as you please but once outside the Coalition speaks as one. Or to be more accurate, you and I speak as one. If we don’t we are going to have a growing anarchy in both our parties with everyone feeling they can policy cherry pick. Well I understand that but we do need to have safety valves with room for a few mavericks to sound off. Of course so long as it is understood that the mavericks do not represent the Coalition.
And another thing Nick don’t overstate your claims. What do you mean? Bashing the bankers, Nick. Tone it down. We need them- whatever I or you say in public – to move us out of this depression business. We have a world leadership position in financial services. We need these City guys to motor us forward. No future in widget production Nick. And another thing, don’t make too much of the benefits of closing off tax evasion. That idiot Danny Alexander keeps talking about tax avoidance. That’s legal Nick. You and I and most of our friends practice it. I’ve looked at the figures. Every Government goes on about closing tax loopholes and they try to no avail. Nothing in it Nick. We must not look like idiots. How did you put it Andy? The first rule of politics is never to believe your opponent’s propaganda, and the second is not to believe your own. (laughter).
Look, Nick, I think of us as friends as as well as colleagues. There is no future for you in your sandal and beard brigade. They will drop away. What will be left is you and me and our friends. They can go their own way. They will be happier in a wilderness. But not you Nick and not me.We can go on for a very long time. Keep it simple. Be brave and rely on Labour to shoot itself in its own foot. They are good at that.
It’s a big gamble, Dave. A very big one. They could get rid of me if things turn out badly. Come, come, Nick. The’ve never had it so good.