Miliband rebuffs Clegg overture about potential coalition with Labour

Deputy prime minister says Labour has changed for the better since 2010 election

Britain’s deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (right) and Labour leader Ed Miliband in a file photograph from April 2013. Clegg has fuelled speculation that he is positioning for coalition with Labour next year by saying he believes Miliband’s party has ‘changed’. Photograph: Olivia Harris

Britain’s deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (right) and Labour leader Ed Miliband in a file photograph from April 2013. Clegg has fuelled speculation that he is positioning for coalition with Labour next year by saying he believes Miliband’s party has ‘changed’. Photograph: Olivia Harris

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 19:06

Labour leader Ed Miliband has spurned an overture from Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg on a potential Labour/Lib Dems coalition after the 2015 general election.

In a BBC Radio 4 documentary Mr Clegg , the deputy prime minister, said Labour had changed for the better since its defeat in 2010, while the Conservatives had changed for the worse, becoming more ideological in their views about the EU, crime and immigration.

Mr Miliband rebuffed Mr Clegg, saying: “What I’m looking for is a majority Labour government.” .

Up to now, the Liberal Democrats leader has always kept his electoral options open, though he previously left many with the feeling that he would favour the Conservatives over Labour if faced with the choice. Now, however, this language has softened.

“I think there’s nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again, and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others, is realising that it might have to,” he said, in the documentary broadcast on Monday night.

Mr Clegg’s remarks are significant, since they will poison the increasingly-fractious relationship between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats — one that still has another 16 months to run.

However, there is a debate going on inside Labour which, unlike the Conservatives, had made no preparations in 2010 for a possible coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s language towards Mr Clegg has mellowed. Shortly after his election as Labour leader, Mr Miliband said Mr Clegg’s actions in government made “things very difficult” — which was interpreted as saying that the Liberal Democats leader would have to quit if a deal with Labour was to be done.