Has Cameron set a trap for the new Lib Dem leader?

Has Cameron set a trap for the new Lib Dem leader?

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    Should the LDs now work with the 45% Tories to fight Brown?

On the day of the best Tory poll figures for 15 years and only two days before the Lib Dems get their new leader there’s an audacious move by Cameron which could prove problematic for Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne.

For in an initiative calculated to put the new leader on the spot immediately Cameron has offered to join forces with the third party to forge a “new progressive alliance’ to challenge Gordon Brown.”

The offer comes in an article by the Tory leader on his website in which he says “I’ve always believed that political parties, even though they may have serious disagreements over many aspects of policy, should work together in areas where they agree..So I hope than in 2008 the Liberal Democrats and the Green party will join us in putting pressure on the government to decentralise power, and that together we can create a new progressive alliance to decentralise British politics.”

This is quite challenging for the Lib Dems. If they rule it out of hand then immediately Cameron can portray them as being ready to prop up Labour as its popularity moves into a steep decline. But accepting the Cameron plan, even by only a token, could play havoc with the new leader’s relationship with the membership and the activist base.

The question of “which side are you really on” is one that the Lib Dems always have to find ways of avoiding an answer. Cameron’s move appears to have been designed them on the spot.

The YouGov data table from today’s poll sets out a lot of the problem – for it shows that even after everything that Labour has gone through in recent weeks Lib Dem supporters are more inclined to favour Brown over Cameron.

Cameron’s objective is, surely, to make sure that 2005 Lib Dem voters, who now say that they support his party will not drift back with the new leadership.

Mike Smithson

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