Agree coalition split - Campbell

Hampshire Chronicle: Sir Menzies Campbell says a panel of backbench Government MPs should discuss how the coalition could split Sir Menzies Campbell says a panel of backbench Government MPs should discuss how the coalition could split

A committee of backbench Government MPs should be formed to agree how the coalition should split while ministers keep working at keeping the administration running, a former Liberal Democrat leader has said.

Sir Menzies Campbell said three MPs from each party who have never been in Government should sit down to negotiate an amicable end to the alliance.

But in an interview with Total Politics magazine, the outgoing North East Fife MP conceded he had yet to convince anyone of the merits of his proposal.

He said: "The ministers will have to keep going to the very end. Why? Because the country has to be governed.

"But I think we should accept that the point's going to come at which politically we may be together governmentally, but politically we're going to start - well it's started with differentiation - moving away from each other.

"And we should do that without recrimination or acrimony or intimidation or anything of that kind. Why? Because it is very damaging for both parties if it breaks up in a row, or a series of rows. But more to the point, it would have a considerable impact on the creditability of coalition."

Sir Menzies said his pitch was "not a job application" and that choosing the representatives for each side should be left to Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

In other comments to the magazine, 72-year-old Sir Menzies warned it was "very foolish" for the parties to rely entirely on 45-year-olds as leaders.

"I think it's very, very foolish of political parties to think that the only way in which you can run a successful political system is to have 45-year-olds. Doesn't work. I was 46 (when I was elected)," he said.

"I'd done about 18 years at the bar ... I prosecuted serious crime, I defended serious crime. I did a lot of matrimonial work in the early days. By doing that, one had a pretty good idea of the kind of stresses and strains which people have to face in their daily lives."

Current Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg is 46, while the Prime Minister is 47.

Sir Menzies added: "(More senior MPs) give a depth of, if you like, corporate knowledge for Parliament. I think it's becoming increasingly clear that people won't do 20-odd years, or very rarely, particularly on the Conservative side. People may come in for two or three parliaments."

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