Public will "react badly" to Nick Clegg's overture to Labour

Nick Clegg's suggestion he is softening towards the idea of a Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition is an attempt to ensure his party does not lose its influence at the next election, but the move might play badly with the public, according to public affairs experts.

Nick Clegg: talking of potential coalition with Labour
Nick Clegg: talking of potential coalition with Labour

The Deputy Prime Minister told a BBC documentary that Labour is realising it might have to share power with others, and that the Liberal Democrats would be open to a coalition if Labour changed its attitude to public spending. The programme, 'Nick Clegg: The Liberal Who Came To Power', will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 8pm tonight.

Nick Williams, FleishmanHillard head of public affairs and a former adviser to the Labour Party, said: "Given the current state of the opinion polls this is a clear power play from Nick Clegg to ensure the Lib Dems are in an influential position whatever the outcome of the general election. Clegg has always been a master of realpolitik and he is planning accordingly."

Sean Worth of Quiller Consultants, a special adviser to the Prime Minister until last year, added that Clegg was anxious not to close off any options. "He’s got to appeal to both sides – otherwise the Lib Dems will be completely wiped out," he said.

However, the move was unlikely to play well with the public, he added: "It’s way too early to be talking about a potential coalition and the public will react badly. The polling suggests people want a majority government. You can’t campaign for a coalition, you have to campaign for a win."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has responded that he is not interested in discussing the possibility of a coalition and is aiming for a majority Labour government.

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