Strange bedfellows

It is quite extraordinary that the first past the post system delivered a PR outcome.

Yes – lots of emails against coalition with the Tories. Yes – lots of emails supporting coalition.

I could never have imagined a long week ago in politics – the outcome that has now arrived – coalition with the Tories.

I was very keen on opening up talks with Labour as, like many others, I had a long cherished vision of a realignment of the left of politics and a progressive alliance. Those talks were opened on that request.

Given most people will now have seen the events unfurl – it became clear that Labour either didn’t wish to realign with us or were not capable of doing so – even though Gordon Brown stepped aside to make it possible. To all those who are angry about a coalition with the Conservative – why not email Labour to ask why they didn’t want to offer a viable alternative?

A huge disappointment – leaving on the table the Conservative offer. In policy terms the offer is just about as good as it could be – short of PR! Sadly – that was not achievable with either of the other parties.

But if you believe in PR – then it is about working with other parties. No – not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) did I ever think this would be the end game. But it is.

There is a spirit of hope and cooperation – and yes – compromise on both sides. To those who hate this outcome – perhaps some comfort in having LibDems in coalition to temper any worst fears.

This is uncharted territory – and all I can say is that if low earners are taken out of income tax, our children in Haringey get fair funding, we move to a sustainable green economy and politics is reformed – then that is a deal worth doing.

And meanwhile, whatever the challenges and dangers we encounter in order to  gain these measures and a stable government to hold the country safe as we pursue recovery – they are challenges that we must meet.

0 thoughts on “Strange bedfellows

  1. Just a quick point on the 55% deal – there seems to be a division in the media commentary on whether this is a way of blocking majority votes of no-confidence to keep the Tories in power if the Libs jump ship or simply a guarantee for the Lib Dems that the Conservatives (who have about 47% of MPs) can’t dissolve parliament and call an election without their backing.
    It’s one to scrutinise carefully when the actual legislation is drawn up. The devil, as always, will be in the detail.
    Looks like this blog’s dead – it’ll be interesting to see what’s posted tomorrow…

  2. Thanks Lynne, it’s reassuring to hear you say all this. Pity you haven’t been offered a ministerial post!

    I did email Labour and tell them how devastated I was at what I see as a huge betrayal. I guess the only thing to do now is wait and see what the next few months hold…

  3. I think you are a bit too keen to throw all the blame for the failure of a Lib/Lab pact at the door of Labour. It is quite clear the numbers for a stable coalition were never really there. The backbenches of Labour had too many rebellious types to give it the numbers and it would have meant relying upon the SNP – hardly reliable bedfellows.

    You write: ‘If you believe in PR – then it is about working with other parties’. You might believe in PR but it will now never happen. The Tories might offer a referendum on AV – much less than Labour were offering – but that will be it. After AV there will be no more offers. Incidentally, AV would have given the Lib Dems 79 seats at last week’s election.

    So PR has been abandoned on the altar of power.

    You talk about the ‘spirit of hope and cooperation and compromise’ on both sides; howe far does compromise go before it becomes abandoning one’s principles.

    Lib Dems will abstain on married tax allowances – married people are apparently worth more than the unmarried in the new world.

    Nuclear power will get the go ahead, by Chris Huhne of all people.

    Trident will be replaced no matter what the Lib Dems do. I’m delighted to see the ‘compromise’ is it will be ‘scrutinised to ensure value for money’.

    Before the election Cable bemoaned George Osborne for being ‘out of his depth’ (his tweets are still online) and attacked the cuts the Tories planned this year saying they were likely to plunge the economy back into recession. Now Laws will be carrying out the cuts, Cable guilty by association. There will be no shouts of ‘Tory cuts’ now.

    I have voted Lib Dem in the past but never again. It is perfectly apparent that what the party claimed were its beliefs were little more than idle hobbies.

  4. Nobody is slagging Lynne off. I, for one, greatly respect her and admire her work as a constituency MP and have congratulated her on her win more than once on this forum. What I, for one, am questioning is the longer-term wisdom of this deal for the party, individual candidates and the UK.

    Also, it seems to me, that nobody here is confused by the concept of collective decision making and how this is different from shopping at a supermarket as one of your posters suggests. I would like to question though, whether this deal follows from a sensible reading of the mandate given to the Liberal Democrats at the election.

    It seems to me that the LDs have been given a mandate to stand up for some very important principles. For instance, take AV. Nick has been assigned with implementing a referendum on AV which is not PR and all further ambition for STV or even AV+ has been dropped. If this goes ahead the country will either vote for AV or not but will feel that the question of PR and the voting system has been resolved and will resent any further campaigning from the LDs. This deal, therefore, seems to represent the death of the key first principle of the LDs’ agenda. Of course, a coalition involves compromise but is this worth it?

    Consider the proposed £20bn cut in the NHS. We all know that cuts are necessary but the devil is going to be in the detail and this detail is likely to be contentious. Lynne spoke very sensibly about outsourcing at the hustings against a rather gung-ho conservative candidate, for instance. If this cut involves further poorly managed outsourcing, how will Lynne be able to fight for the services in the area when she takes the coalition whip? Is scrutiny of these changes going to be just left to Labour?

    What is wrong with asking these questions?


  5. Ben C

    To be honest I don’t really see it as a issue at all – well ok it is an issue if there was bus crash and ten by-elections were needed – and looking at the stats for the last parliament there were 14 or 15 by elections – so the arithmatic could change. But frankly there would need to be rather a lot of deaths/resignations (I would say scandals but scandalous MPs don’t resign in general) and the government to be doing well – or terribly badly – for the arithmatic to swing sufficiently to make it an issue.

    But personally I see it as a pragmatic and sensible deal for both sides – a trust building excersise if you like.

    The question no one seems to be asking with regard to this, is how many times does a government face a motion of no confidence? I’m wracking my brains to think of one off hand – the closest I can think of was the Maestricht debate, which was for all intents and purposes a vote of confidence in Major’s government. Oh maybe Callaghan in the 1970’s when they wheeled in the sick and dying to prop up the government… but that was thirty years ago.

    If the situation were to reach the stage when it really mattered whether it were 55% or 50.whatever% – I can’t work out the exact percentage of what 323 MP’s voting against the government would be (assuming Sein Fein weren’t there) – but the point being the government would be finished anyway – remembering that this is a coalition and there would be no party loyalty, and the chances are the Lib Dems would have left the government long before – or a rump of the Tory party – or both.

    I find it interesting that you say ‘if the Tories had done this’ or Labour. Sure if they had a majority and simply announced they were going to do it, I might raise an eyebrow – but as I say – votes of confidence occur so seldomly that it hardly matters.

    I do wonder how much of this debate is simply a Labour smokescreen to cover the lack of ideas and leadership within their party. After all if you look at the declared aims of the coalition it is clear that the Lib dems have had a massive influence on policy – assuming that it gets through – the most obvious being airport expansion and Lords reform – but there are other areas too in which it is clear there have been joint thinking – ID cards, DNA database – and also on the issue of nuclear power, where as I understand it the Tories are not opposed to expansion but they don’t want it paid for out of public finances – which will upset Gordon Brown’s brother, and possibly Yvette Coopers father, and maybe Gordon Brown’s brother’s neighbour Kirsty Wark – which effectively scuppers the deal.

    So for people to get hung up on 50% + 1 or 55% on something that hardly ever happens seems to me perfect for Labour, but pointless for everyone else.

    After all under proposals you are to be allowed to peacefully protest without neeeding a police licence and being filmed and treated as a potential terrorist, and if you really feel so strongly about the voting potential of six or eight MPs – or whatever the difference is to make 50% + 1 or 55% – then paint up a banner – for God’s sake don’t take a preprinted one by the Socialist Workers, it just makes you look sheeplike and uninformed – and take to the streets… at least apparently very soon no one will be stopping you – unlike now.

    God it really is strange times when I find myself defending the declared policies of an apparently libertarian government as if they were the Nuremburg Laws and we stand on the precipice of concentration camps and a new holocaust.

    What kind of country have people been living in until now – haven’t they noticed the rocketing prison population, the cost of living, increase in surveilance, the bogus statistics and management culture of targets that are completely – meaningless (except for the bonus of the boss), the culture of low interest rates that made the value of money worthless, the increase of poverty and the lack of social advancement; in short the whole rotten stinking edifice of lies and deceit, with it’s accompanying patronising tone and know better attitude?

    So no I don’t think 55% is a big a deal.

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  7. @transfattyacid

    May I respectfully suggest that you are missing the point with regard to the “55%” issue. Surely legislation so fundamental to the unwritten constitution of this country should not be altered simply to cement a coalition for one term of office? Perhaps we should think slightly less short-term?

    There has already been negative comment on this issue from not just a Labour minister, but a Tory minister too. I cannot see this legislation passing through the Commons, let alone the House of Lords.

  8. I joined the labour party today, I cant ever imagine voting LibDem ever again and wish I could take back my vote.

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