Going off to the Liberal Democrat special conference in Birmingham today. This is the opportunity for Liberal Democrats in the wider party circle to give their views on the new coalition – and I am sure that they will be vocal and heartfelt. No doubt that some party members are upset – but the vast majority – just as the Parliamentary Party and the Federal Executive – will hear the facts and the offers from the negotiations – and I believe will arrive at the same conclusion as we all did. The vote in the Parliamentary Party (PP) and the Federal Executive (FE) passed overwhelmingly with only one vote (from an FE member) against.
Locally in Hornsey & Wood Green, one of my councillors has been out and about for the last two days taking the temperature of local people to this new arrangement. Initially quite hostile – he reports that the mood has changed to a much more positive one where the majority of people seem to be saying that this was the only viable option and give it a chance (concise analysis). This correlates with the analysis I read in the paper today – where they say 7 out of 10 people think it is the right thing – but don’t know if it will work.
Listening to the radio – apparently Charles Kennedy has revealed in the Observer today that he believes this puts an end to the long cherished dream of a realignment of the left and a progressive coalition and therefore felt unable to back it – albeit would also not vote against it. What I have discovered over this last week of tumultuous political change – is that there was not a progressive alliance with Labour to be had. I suppose I should have realised a lot earlier that whilst there is a part of the Labour family who are genuinely committed to this – it certainly wasn’t the whole party. Witnessing the parade of Labour MPs on the media burying it with their words of dismissal for such an alliance as well as their opposition to Proportional Representation – Charles’ dream was never going to become a reality.
Like the 7 out of 10 – I agree this was the only viable option. Whether it will work – that is the challenge. A party like the Liberal Democrats who believe in Proportional Representation have a particular onus to give it our best. After all – if we had PR – coalition government would always be the result. I do believe in this. I hadn’t expected it to be with the Conservatives – but it is. I go forward with a good heart to give it my best efforts. If we cannot demonstrate that this ‘new politics’ works – then our cherished dream of PR somewhere down the line – will never be realised.