Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead?

A couple of days ago, I suggested Lib Dems needed to think about how we rescue the idea of coalition as an effective form of government. Right on cue, former Labour cabinet minister Lord (Andrew) Adonis has slated the concept, arguing in The Guardian that:

Giving huge power to a very small party that is very unclear about what it wants to achieve in politics – I’m trying to be diplomatic about the Lib Dems – isn’t, to my mind, the best way forward. The best way forward would be to have a majority Labour government.

There are at least four interesting things about this statement:

1. Andrew Adonis was a member of the SDP, a founding member of the Lib Dems, an Oxford city councillor for a while and a prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate. However, despite or perhaps because of this background he’s not the least tribal of politicians, as I’ve noted before here and here.

2. It’s interesting to see that, according to Lord Adonis’s statement, the Lib Dems wield “huge power”. That’s not the most common accusation levelled at the party by Labour folk, but it’s interesting what sometimes slips out.

3. Lord Adonis suggests the Lib Dems are “very unclear” about our policies. This seems odd, to say the least (I’m trying to be diplomatic). It is, after all, the Lib Dems which have been the coherent party in this Coalition Government while the Tories have proved themselves to be little more than an inchoate shower, with David Cameron unable to unite his backbench MPs and his party tirn apart by internal civil war on issues such as wind farms, equal marriage and Europe.

4. Whatever happened to Labour pluralism? If even ostensibly reasonable liberal/left politicians like Andrew Adonis now decry the very idea of coalition, what are the prospects for future relations with the Lib Dems? It’s true that coalitions are driven more by the realities of election results — “we take our marching orders from the public,” as Nick Clegg would say — but initially this Coalition had also a uniting, driving purpose, not just on the economy but also on civil liberties. Yes, the hand we are dealt by the voters will decide what we are able (or unable) to do post-2015. But there needs to be a dab of uniting vision, too.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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38 Comments

  • Liberal Neil 9th Dec '12 - 4:25pm

    “a [very small] party that is very unclear about what it wants to achieve in politics”

    Is an interesting accusation coming from a Labour politician.

    Labour seem to be a party that believes that there is nothing wrong with people becoming very wealthy while at the same time attacking the coalition for not taxing the rich enough, that is campaigning against the coailtion’s welfare reforms while refusing to say that they would do things any differently, thinks the coalition has allowed debt to rise too much while advocating more borrowing etc. etc.

    It seems to me that the Lib Dems have been pretty clear about what they stand for but are unable to deliver it all because they are in coalition. Labour seem to hold contradictory positions on every major issue.

  • Lord Adonis suggests the Lib Dems are “very unclear” about our policies. This seems odd, to say the least …</i?

    Well, after supporting the changes to the NHS I'm not so sure that charge against the party is very odd at all.

  • I am much more negative about the idea of socialism now.

  • Peter Watson 9th Dec '12 - 5:20pm

    @Liberal Neil “It seems to me that the Lib Dems have been pretty clear about what they stand for but are unable to deliver it all because they are in coalition”
    Unfortunately I have to disagree with this. In coalition, it is not clear what parliamentary Lib Dems stand for. Whilst I would respect the approach of “We wanted A, they wanted B, we compromised on C” or even “We wanted A, they wanted B, as the minor partner we had to accept B”. Instead, Clegg et al seem to have reduced coalition government to “We wanted A, they wanted B, now we think B is brilliant.” It is not clear if Lib Dems stand for the same things as we did before May 2010.

  • jenny barnes 9th Dec '12 - 5:41pm

    It was pretty clear at conference that most of the “leadership”of the party have a rather different idea of what the party stands for than the bulk of the activists in the hall. I didn’t think I had joined a neo-liberal party, but it appears that’s what the MPs think it is.

  • Liberal Neil 9th Dec '12 - 5:46pm

    @Peter – there certainly are some examples of that, and @Jenny -there are certainly one or two issues where that is the case – but overall I think we can demonstrate that our leadership have worked to deliver the priorities in our last manifesto, including raising the basic threshold, investing in a green economy and supporting children to get a good start at school. These were all on the front of our manifesto last time and I don’t think anyone believes they would have been priorities for a Tory Government.

  • “Clegg et al seem to have reduced coalition government to “We wanted A, they wanted B, now we think B is brilliant.””

    Followed by, in one case (after they refused to give him C), “Did I say brilliant? I meant terrible.”

  • Liberal Neil – it was already clear in the party’s 2010 manifesto that it had taken a move to the right economically, and especially in prioritising tax cuts over public spending. But the party, and especially including former party supporters, is split economically, and it is not really accurate to try to argue, as Stephen does, that Tories are much more split than Lib Dems. Yes, of course, Tories are split on Europe, on the economy, and on social issues (for a start). I also take issue with Andrew Adonis – to cite split parties as a reason for opposing coalition seems counter – intuitive. Surely, one of the best arguments for coalition is that people have a whole variety of different ideas, and coalition gives an opportunity for this diversity to flower.

  • I suspect the “huge power” of which Adonis speaks is not the intrinsic power of the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government, but simply their potential power to be kingmakers in a divided parliament. However, that possibility (low as its probabilities may be) is not going to go away without some sort of major constitutional change. It would be interesting to ask Adonis what he has in mind. Perhaps he’d like to ban 3rd parties altogether?

    I’m pretty sure, however, that if Labour had to choose between a stand against coalition governments “on principle”, and being out of power for another 5 years, they’d opt for the coalition.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Dec '12 - 11:07pm

    Well, after supporting the changes to the NHS I’m not so sure that charge against the party is very odd at all.

    Why? A lot of the NHS reforms were in the manifesto. Promised and delivered.

  • Are you asking the right questions Stephen ?

    Look back to the threads on this site where cross party talks on policy areas where there is synergy were broadly discounted. Those within the Lib Dems who were positive were roundly criticised. And then there was Lords reform where the issue was dropped rather than engage with Labour.

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-why-would-any-sane-progressive-give-labour-a-second-glance-22383.html

    Surely the mood music needs to go both ways ?

  • Labour will never be able to achieve much whether they are clear about it of not. The British economy lacks strengh and under Labour there is little sign that will ever change.

  • David Wilkinson 10th Dec '12 - 8:49am

    I have seen Labour ‘puralism’ in action for the 33 years I have been in the party.
    It goes like this ‘do as we tell you ‘ or else.
    It seems a few Lib Dems have forgotton so quickly the comments made by Labour about the Lib Dems after the general election and the rainbow coalition.
    As we have found out compromise in any relationship like the coaliation is difficult, something Labour don’t like to do.

  • Richard Swales 10th Dec '12 - 9:37am

    Neither of the larger parties will enter a coalition if they don’t have to. Unless it is part of some strategy like Labour in 2010 (based on Laws’ book) not negotiating seriously because (my analysis) it suits them better to sit out 5 years of tough decisions before they take over the redistribution machine again in 2015, then in normal circumstances they will both be willing to enter a coalition if there is no other choice. How they feel about it is not important.

  • If Labour wanted power after the last election they had the opportunity, like the Conservatives, of negotiating a programme for government that would have enabled BOTH them and the Liberal Democrats achieve much of their respective policy objectives.

    At the time though, those members of Labour who were prepared to consider such a deal were very much a minority. Most members of the Lbour parliamentary party seemed to prefer to sit out cleaning up the mess after the financial crash, no doubt on the basis that power would drop into their laps after the next GE.

    That cynical political calculation may well turn out to have been correct in due course. In the meantime though, Lord Adonis should be reminded that Labour had power within their grasp and lacked the mettle to seize it.

  • Michael Parsons 10th Dec '12 - 10:40am

    “Being unclear about policies” etc is a natural consequence of a “coalition” cobbled together AFTER an election, when voting is not by proportional representation and the aims of the supposed “coalition” were not spelled out beforehand so people could make a choice. No one could possibly have voted for something that did not exist , so it all looks much too like a rich kids behind the scenes stitch-up after a game of tickly-wiggly in the dorm. Oligarchic manoeuvres really don’;t have much relevance to discussions of pluralism except to undermine it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '12 - 11:52am

    Andrew Adonis

    Giving huge power to a very small party that is very unclear about what it wants to achieve in politics – I’m trying to be diplomatic about the Lib Dems – isn’t, to my mind, the best way forward.

    Well that’s how the inevitable coalition the success of the Liberal Democrats (and the Liberal/SDP alliance before0 would lead to was always painted: as if our party would be an an immensely powerful situation, able to dictate its terms, with the other two begging and pleading and throwing concessions to get “in government”. That’s why it was always the Liberal Democrat leader asked “Who would you go into coalition with?” rather than the leaders of the other two parties asked “Would you form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and if so, under what terms, if there was a no-majority Parliament”.

    As we have now see, it doesn’t work like that – the possible coalitions and the concessions that have to be made depend on things that won’t be known until the election is over. We would be in a better position if we had made that clear, a lot of the abuse thrown at us supposes we could have formed a coalition with Labour but chose not to, which is simply not true, but fits in with what was always said before May 2010.

    The classic “kingmaker” junior coalition partners tend to be those with a strong “tribal” support, whose voters aren’t focused on overall policy, just on a few issues which matter much to them if not much to anyone else, and who will ALWAYS vote for their tribal party regardless of wider poltical issues. Examples are the Israeli religious parties, but also the Northern Ireland Unionists. The latter case shows that FPTP does not diminish the power of such parties so long as their support is geographically concentrated. But the Liberal Democrats are the opposite of this on both accounts.

    I am pretty sure that Adonis knows very well that we don’t have “huge power” in the coalition and never did, due to the circumstances under which it came about. However, it suits his propaganda line to suggest we do and did. Which again suggests that when our leaders said similarly, with boasts which sounded we were so dominant that the coalition was 75% Liberal Democrat in policy, they were doing us no favour – in fact they were echoing the lines our opponents use knowing they are lines which damage us.

  • Michael Parsons 10th Dec '12 - 11:55am

    Simon yes – in Germany for example there is a 2-vote and small-party (5 %) inclusion system I think; with proportionality, and parties standing as coalitions to start with, or announcing possible coalitions (popular fronts etc) Coalition government may well work.
    But that is not what our system is – it is oligarchic and the people are increasingly withdrawing their consent from it and turning to groups that can influence the Executive on their behalf,(like the Badger Lovers) instead.. The problem of Liberal political theory seems to be how do we explain why people allow governmental domination by a tiny group who have different rules to the rest of us,;za submissiveness worsened, not reduced, by the Coalition and its anti-people, pro-banker austerity, and one hopefully coming to a close. The reports that some 6% of students are resorting to prostitution, pole-dancing and the like to meet the costs arising from the financialisation of education – and so giving the Universities some £3 million per year if true – is a deep stain and everlasting shame on our “coalition” leadership’s failure to make the bankers pay and to imprison the worst of them. By forming this “coalition” Clegg has stifles legitimate liberal and democratic criticisms.

  • David Allen 10th Dec '12 - 1:11pm

    Pots and kettles! We have been clueless. Labour are clueless. The only thing we can all agree is that the Tories have been even more clueless.

    Perhaps the place to start is to accept that austerity will not end in 2018. It will not end, full stop. Gordon Brown was right! We have abolished boom and bust. We have only bust. With dwindling resources and growing populations, the only way forwards for this planet is downwards.

    So we can stop this meaningless argument as to who has the economic cure, because the answer is that nobody does. Our aim should be to try to avoid worldwide conflict, famine and pestilence. It’s probably too big an ask, but it is what we should be aiming for.

  • What is this ‘very small party’ in coalition which Lord Adonis speaks of?

    The results of the 2010 general election were plain for all to see, and the government was formed by two parties, which recorded 36% and 23% of the vote respectively.

    Lord Adonis’ has obviously forgotten these results, results in which his own party recorded 29%.

    So either Lord Adonis’ measurements are faulty, or his comment applies equally to Labour and he actually thinks his side can’t be trusted with power: either Lord Adonis’ analysis is wrong, or he’s trying to escape the logic of his own argument.

    Lord Adonis is obviously confused. It is a shame that a person of his high regard cannot get a proofreader.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '12 - 2:40pm

    Andrew Adonis (as quoted by the Guardian)

    That may be true. My view on coalitions has become a lot more negative. The experience of the last two and a half years seems to suggest that. There has been very little positive that has happened as a result of the coalition. What we have essentially had, let’s be clear, is the Tories’ economic policy and a seriously failed attempt by the Lib Dems to inject some constitutional reform into a Tory government.

    So there is not a great infusion of ideas and policies that they would bring that would make this a better government. On the contrary, I think the real danger, which we’ve seen over the last two and a half years, is that you would have constant wrangling and argument about the implementation of the government’s programme issue by issue without any productive result from it.

    So Adonis is saying that the Liberal Democrats have simultaneously done nothing, been too quiet, just sat back and let the Tories get on with Tory policy, and they’ve been too interfering, getting in the way, trying to change things instead of letting the Tories get on with Tory policy?

    On failure to get constitutional reform through, can Adonis think back and suggest WHY that might be? Might it not have something to do with the Labour Party scuppering any Liberal Democrat initiative? Which party was it that blocked House of Lords reform, going back on their manifesto promise? Which party was it that blocked the Alternative Vote by its leading members either opposing it or remaining silent on it in order that it should seem a purely LibDem thing and so get turned down by the kneejerk Labour tanky vote? What is the word for people who do nothing to help and then complain nothing got done?

  • Charles Beaumont 10th Dec '12 - 3:45pm

    There is less chance of Labour needing the Lib Dems to form a government due to electoral maths. So whether or not they want to be in coalition is a bit of a red herring. I think the real problem is that lots of Lib Dem members would be happier in a coalition with Labour as it’s closer to their ideological preferences.

  • Michael Parsons 10th Dec '12 - 3:52pm

    Dave Allen: Permanent decline? Never: we have been here before in the 30′s – even the “coalition”- and already know the answers from experience. You have moved me to verse!!

    On Reading Mr B’s Mortgage Letter
    Your mortgage statement is enclosed here
    So please ensure you check it carefully,
    And keep it in a safe place; below are F.A.Q’s,
    The answers printed here should help you …….

    Granting loans for buying houses
    Means that banks are charging interest—
    Grabbing cash where there’s no output,
    Nought produced by mortgaged dwelling:
    Nought produced from starveling’s foodstuffs,
    Nought produced by widow’s weeping,
    That Is USURY they’re taking
    Taking from the needy public.

    Banks receiving a deposit
    Lend it on, so round it goes,
    Till through normal circulation
    Back it comes, again is counted
    Totted up a second, third time
    Endlessly in upward spiral—
    Starts with hundreds, ends with millions
    Charged at interest, making money
    Making money out of nothing,
    Spinning lies from spawn of devil.

    “You should plan for what will happen
    If your interest charge increases,
    Find another cheaper lender?”

    Banks in fact have no real assets,
    Assets none and little substance,
    Northern Rock turned Northern Rocky
    Once we asked to see its coinage.
    Borrow short and lend it long, with
    Fingers crossed if all goes wrong,
    Then create their own incomings,
    Fixing funds through money markets.
    Dogs that make their own deposits.

    What is cash but empty promise?
    “Pay the bearer on demand” but
    Pay him what? Go on, demand it
    You’ll be quickly shown the exit.
    Bank notes are mere legal tender—
    Not real money in the strong room—
    Till receipts from tills now empty.

    “Every question must be answered
    All the small print must be read”

    What is it that bankers lend you?
    Lend you for your mortgaged houses?
    Bees that sting but have no honey,
    Bees that own your future income
    Own your work and future savings
    Years and years while you pay interest—
    That is what the banks are lending!
    Lending what was yours to start with
    Lending at inflated value.

    “If you should have payment problems
    Contact us, please do so quickly,
    There is lots that we can do.
    Phone calls cost three pence a minute:”

    Buy and sell you all unknowing.
    Buy and sell your bonds of mortgage,
    Bundled up for speculation,
    Free to sell your home beneath you
    Now marked up in CCD’s,
    Till that paper market falters
    Till the dot com bubble’s bursting
    Till the sovereign debt is failing
    Till the house price boom is busting
    Till you find your future’s empty.
    Every question must be answered
    All their small print checked and queried.

    “If you should have payment problems
    There’s a duty to inform us”

    You owe twice your homestead’s pricing,
    Owe as much to buy your homestead
    As it costs to build and make it,
    That’s the charge for funny money
    Money spun from banker’s nothing—
    Tax their sales and stop this evil!

    “We will send you market leaflets
    Further offers with your mortgage:”

    All transactions pay them interest,
    Using bankers’ debt as money.
    All the ATM’s are clicking
    Skimming off the gains of business
    Business busy making value
    (Though they’re sometimes over charging?)
    Value seized by banking charges,
    All at interest double treble—
    Till the banks are asked their assets.
    ‘Show the colour of your money’
    Usury!!
    Now the workman’s bench is silent
    Now the housewives’ wombs are empty
    Children all postponed, forgotten
    Welfare cutbacks leave us broken.
    Broken lives are now increasing
    Suicides are now increasing,
    Unemployment now increasing
    Odd-time work, that’s even worse -
    Worse because of swindling usury -
    Worse when payday loans are begged for,
    All because of bankers’ gambling.

    Said the Master, said John Maynard
    “Money banks create ex nihil
    Extra money, just lies idle”;
    But by increased public spending
    We could build without their lending;
    Full employment, firms expanding,
    Target cash on what is needed,
    Take control of making money
    Use it for our nation’s welfare.
    Don’t rely on interest charges.
    If the engine needs restarting
    If the youth are wasted idling
    Don’t throw spanners in the engine!
    Don’t cut wages by a quarter.
    Debt black holes are just a slush fund!
    Don’t waste tax on bankers’ losses.

    “We remind you of your duties
    Pay insurance on our funding:”

    Men no longer hold their heads up,
    Standing proudly in their doorways,
    Men with mortgages on dwellings,
    Interest double, debts are mounting,
    Poor and homeless hand in hand.
    All their future faked and stolen,
    Litter piled on vacant lots.

    Now the workman’s tools are rusting,
    Art’s made just for rapid selling,
    Maidens give themselves to dotards
    Because usury runs our country;
    Few men find a site to dwell in,
    Spinner’s hand has lost its cunning
    While our looms are rotting silent,
    Crafts and craftsmen rot together
    Usury brings a corps to banquets!

    “Experiencing difficulties?… Please check your statement……
    Contact our website or write us below…..
    We would like to remind you of your responsibilities…..
    An important document…. competitive deal……
    Lenders have tightened their lending criteria……
    Have a nice day!
    How does that make you feel?”

    Let the bankers take their medicine!

    Call us if you’d like more details—
    Details of some schemes to help us

    http://brechtforum.org/economywatch/occupys-debt-strike-campaign

  • David Allen 10th Dec '12 - 4:25pm

    Michael Parsons: OK, economic downturns caused by financial factors can eventually be reversed by Keynesian economics, debt cancellation or war. However, Keynes stops working when the supply of resources runs out, and that’s where we haven’t seen it all before in the 1930s. It is a new situation now.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec '12 - 7:25pm

    @Andrew Suffield :

    ” A lot of the NHS reforms were in the manifesto. Promised and delivered.”

    In the Tory manifesto, yes. And implementing the massive Tory bits negated the usefulness of the Lib Dem bits. It is only the clear unambiguous opposition to that particular disaster which keeps Lib Dems in some areas popular with their voters.

  • Labour are having fun now but they will pay for it in 2015. The fact is there are still a lot more voters who blame the recession on labour than on the coalition parties, that will hang round labours neck at the next election.
    On the question of what to do next labour are currently saying nothing & it looks as though they have nothing to say.
    As we enter the next election campaign labours poll ratings will fall back & they will start to blame each other & poor old Ed M, thats what happened the last time & it will happen again.
    We need to keep our nerve.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '12 - 11:23pm

    Michael Parsons

    But that is not what our system is – it is oligarchic and the people are increasingly withdrawing their consent from it and turning to groups that can influence the Executive on their behalf,(like the Badger Lovers) instead.. The problem of Liberal political theory seems to be how do we explain why people allow governmental domination by a tiny group who have different rules to the rest of us

    Maybe because they have been persuaded that instead of getting active in electoral politics and so helping get elected people who are like them, they should instead write off politics as “not for the likes of us” and instead get involved in pressure groups begging and pleading to politicians who are assumed to be some sort of fixed aristocracy, rather than just changing the politicians if you don’t like them.

    Your comment of badger lovers says it all – we give up the idea of fundamentally changing society to make it fairer to all and instead settle for not killing a few badgers. Pressure group politics has failed, apart from those pressure groups whose members are small in number but have very large amounts of money to push their politics. The rise in pressure groups has coincided with the shift to the right in politics, because the politics of the left relies on large scale active membership to counter the power of money. If people become active in pressure groups dedicated to saving a few badgers while letting the political right win elections by default because there’s not enough activists in electoral politics to put the other side, well, if there’s money to be made in killing badgers, they’ll be killed anyway.

  • @paul barker

    I don’t think that is necessarily true at all.

    Most of the UK acknowledges the fact that we suffered a global recession, not just a UK Recession.

    They are also well aware that it was the Global Banking system that caused the collapse.

    The Labour Party failed to reign in the banks, but the same is true for almost every government in every banking system in every country. And the Tories were calling for less regulation of the banks before the collapse.

    All parties have allowed themselves to be dominated by the banks and allowed fears of the markets to dictate policies.

    The UK’s economy is failing miserably now because of the coalitions economic strategies. As others have pointed out on here previously, the problem is no longer supply, but demand.

    People are reluctant to spend and make financial commitments, hence the reason we are seeing some major high street chains going bust i.e Comet.

    People no longer feel safe in their jobs, especially since the coalition seems to be going out of it’s way to further remove employee rights.

    Most home owners are mortgaged to the hilt and find themselves trapped in SVR mortgages,

    Peoples incomes are not rising in line with the rising costs of living, especially when it comes to essentials like food and energy prices.

    The governments current economic plans already stretch passed 2018 and judging by the warnings coming from the likes of the IMF, things are likely to get a heck of lot worse and not better.

    Come 2015, The majority of this country { The low and middle paid } disabled and unemployed will be sick and tired of being disproportionately targeted to pay down the deficit.
    On top of the coalitions economic strategy failures, there will be a great deal of voters who are angry with the NHS reforms.

    Labour are in opposition, their job is to hold her majesty’s government to account, not to give details of all their policies, Once an election is called, then will be the time for the Labour Government to put it’s polices and mandate to the electorate, that’s how things work with government and opposition.

    I certainly don’t see the Tories being in government in 2015. And if things continue down the same path as it is now, I seriously doubt the Liberal Democrats would be a part of another coalition

  • “We need to keep our nerve.”

    It’s interesting that an opinion poll by TNS-BMRB today shows the Lib Dems not only in fourth place, but eight points behind UKIP.

    I’m starting to think that if you really concentrate hard enough on keeping your nerve, you will succeed in annihilating the party altogether.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '12 - 1:13pm

    Chris

    It’s interesting that an opinion poll by TNS-BMRB today shows the Lib Dems not only in fourth place, but eight points behind UKIP.

    Ah yes, people are angry with the Liberal Democrats because they think they have abandoned their previous polices and sided instead with the extreme free market policies of the Conservatives. So they switch to supporting UKIP – who believe one of the biggest problems with the Conservatives are that they are not extreme enough in free market economics.

  • David Allen 11th Dec '12 - 1:32pm

    Matthew, if Arkle faddles a fetlock and drops back, then Dobbin may overtake. It does not follow that Arkle’s race team have switched their support to Dobbin.

  • Michael Parsons 11th Dec '12 - 11:25pm

    Dav e Allen
    I hardly think that the closure of functioning industries, the wrecking of our railways and infra structure by neo-liberal policies and the failure to employ our population means “resources are running out”. With our insolvent banks supported by a small group of politicians and complicit regulators diverting enormous amounts of tax away from productive development the case for a Keynesian anti-banker revolution is overwhelming.
    If the existing oligarchy is to be overturned that change will come from the grass-roots by a withdrawal of popular consent , and the realisation that we can in fact do better ourselves through deliberative democracy. If you oppose that as well as oppose right-wing group agitation then you are against both rats and rat-catchers!

  • “Ah yes, people are angry with the Liberal Democrats because they think they have abandoned their previous polices and sided instead with the extreme free market policies of the Conservatives. So they switch to supporting UKIP – who believe one of the biggest problems with the Conservatives are that they are not extreme enough in free market economics.”

    As David points out, it’s silly to assume that former Lib Dem supporters have switched en masse to UKIP. On the other hand, it’s quite believable that the part of the previous Lib Dem support that consisted of an anti-establishment protest vote may have switched to UKIP.

    The most recent YouGov poll shows the Lib Dems back in third place, so that 8-point UKIP lead was probably just a statistical freak. Not that that means the “keep your nerve” brigade aren’t going to annihilate the party, or at least reduce it to its old pre-Alliance proportions.

  • Simon Hebditch 12th Dec '12 - 10:49am

    It is certainly a pity that Andrew Adonis has switched away from considering the possibility of a new alliance between Labour and the Lib Dems. Such a possibility is the only route for the centre left of the Lib Dems to want to pursue. But the reality is that by signing up to an economic policy and strategy in alignment with the Tories until 2018, we have identified that a continuing Tory/Lib Dem coalition is the tactical aim of the Lib Dem leadership. You simply cannot sign up to the economic direction of the autumn statement now and then say in a general election that we have changed. Our manifesto, if it is to be coherent and reflect the present government’s policies, will have to put forward a similar set of economic and fiscal objectives as our partners.

    Now, I am aware from Nick Clegg’s speech at the conference that he doesn’t care a fig whether those who identify with a centre left perspective leave the party. So, unfortunately there is a stark choice facing such members – either there has to be radical change in leadership and direction sometime before the next election or they have to contemplate leaving the party they have worked in for years. The only other option, of course, is to wait for disaster in 2015 and then participate in a long term rebuilding exercise based on a rejection of the failed experiment in centre right positioning.

    Of course, that provides a moral problem in the meantime. For one, I cannot envisaged voting Lib Dem myself under the present circumstances.

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    Yes, it's childish and ridiculous. I feel even a bit embarrassed by grown men and women spending their time with jokes like that but really,...
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 20th Apr - 4:29pm
    Chocolate Teapot was my suggestion for a representation of the coalition. Not sure if that is why my earlier comment was blocked?
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 20th Apr - 3:45pm
    Heck there's someone here pointing out they bet on us getting more than 1 MEP. Wow!! I am so encouraged by such reckless optimism. However...
  • User AvatarPaul In Twickenham 20th Apr - 3:26pm
    @Peter Watson - I have already done that, and believe me I am not a starry-eyed optimist, but a clear-headed realist. I bet on >...