Author Archives: Tony Greaves

Lord Tony Greaves writes…Why a new coalition would be a bad idea

In my first piece about what happens after May 7th I worked on the basis that the result would be around Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1). Since then the numbers predicted by the polls have wobbled a bit around these numbers but the only consistent change has been to push up the SNP to perhaps 50 seats. And given the lack of a “late swing” of any size the LD number may be a bit high.

Given the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act it all still adds up to the likelihood – or the opportunity? – of a minority government (or democratic parliament?) that lasts several years, perhaps for the full five. Yet our official line is still that we want to join another Coalition. Officially we will negotiate with Tories or Labour, starting with the party with most seats (though in practice we will be talking to both simultaneously if that is what the numbers decree). Unofficially our leadership are reported to prefer another coalition with the Tories.

It’s no secret that this idea causes a severe onset of jitters in many parts of the party. With a week to go, the Times’ lead story reports “Lib Dems to revolt over fresh pact with Tories” (£). The story is pretty anecdotal, full of unattributed comments by “senior figures in the party” and the like (only Andrew George breaking cover), in general a typically flimsy piece of tabloid style journalism of the kind we see nowadays in the Times.

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Tony Greaves writes … Haggling over more than the haggis?

 

Let’s assume, as I did in previous pieces here and here, that no party will win a majority on May 7th, and that all the post-election pressure will be for a minority government with an arrangement with one or more other parties that falls short of coalition. On current polls the Liberal Democrats will not get enough seats for it to be practicable for us to enter coalition, and the third largest party will be the SNP who have made it clear they will not enter any coalition but will seek a looser agreement with Labour.

None of this may happen but the probability seems high enough to discuss how it might work. I am also assuming that, for reasons I’ve also set out previously here, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act will make it very difficult for anyone to force an early second election. In spite of this (or perhaps with some level of ignorance) both Labour and Conservative MPs seem to favour minority government. All this could mean that a minority government may not only be the short term outcome, but could last for some time – perhaps a full five years.

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Tony Greaves writes…Can’t poll, won’t poll?

I wrote about prospects for a minority government if no party gets an overall majority at the General Election, and some of the things that might need to change at Westminster if it’s to work. Moves away from its majoritarian and adversarial culture to one based much more on negotiation and mediation, compromises and trade-offs, and an acceptance of a more dominant role for Parliament as against the government. But will it last?

Traditionally the Prime Minister asked the Sovereign for a dissolution. In the modern era such requests were always granted. Sometimes the government had lost the confidence of the Commons (1924 and 1979), run out of steam (1951), or politics had been turned upside down and the new arrangements needed popular endorsement (1931).

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Tony Greaves writes: What happens if …?

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/There’s growing talk in Conservative and Labour circles about a minority government. Let’s make an assumption about numbers – not a prediction, just approximate numbers based on current polls: Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1).

Take out the Speaker and assume that Sinn Fein get five again, and the target for an overall majority is 323. On these numbers a majority Coalition looks hard to achieve – though don’t underestimate the ability of politicians to moderate or even overturn pre-election statements when it comes to getting into government. But add the heightened level of distaste in both Conservatives and Labour for both the concept of coalition and recent practice (at least in Westminster) and the idea of a minority government is not a fantasy.

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Lord Greaves writes… We must make the Lobbying Bill work

Big Ben Orange Blue 200It is rightly said that this Bill has had a disgraceful lack of scrutiny, and I agree with that. But we are where we are. The Government are not going to withdraw it, and it is not going to stop. If we can work together as a House and the Government can work with us, we can make a much better fist of this Bill than we have at the moment.

Tony Greaves writes on the Transparency of Lobbying, Third Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act, commonly known as the Lobbying Bill, drawing on his statements during the Second Reading on Tuesday. The committee stage begins on Tuesday 5th November, at which amendments will be tabled.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Lord Greaves writes…We must do more for wage-earners below income tax threshold

I have tabled an oral question in the Lords to ask the government what measures they will take to ensure that wage-earners who are below the income tax threshold will benefit from any future increases in the personal allowance.

In a little-noticed debate last September the Liberal Democrat conference debated social and economic inequality. Inequality, the conference decided in the obscure language motion-writers use, “is an obstacle to individuals determining their own destinies and reduces aspirations”.

The resolution also, equally clumsily, said that inequality “prevents talent from fulfilling its potential to the detriment of the economy and society”. And, more accessibly, that …

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Tony Greaves writes… The health and social care bill. The party has spoken. What happens now?

The next big event comes very soon and is nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats or the coalition per se – it’s the BMA’s Special Representative Meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) which they say “will form a key part of our activities to step up member engagement and lobbying”. I suspect it will also get a lot more publicity than the Liberal Democrat conference did.

There are some outrider motions of no confidence in Andrew Lansley and calls for “industrial action” which will result in a lot of press noise and no action, but there seems little doubt that the meeting …

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Tony Greaves writes: seeing the wood for the trees

Why did the Government drop its proposals for the Forestry Commission (FC) and the forests and woodlands it manages? I thought it would happen but I was astonished by the speed of it. It comes down to three things. An ill-considered and foolish policy. Incompetent presentation. And a stupendously successful and largely under the radar campaign which burst through with stunning effect.

The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) included a target of £100million from selling around 15% of the national forestry estate in England. This is the most that can be sold under existing legislation. But over the summer DEFRA Ministers …

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Tony Greaves writes: Coalition, Government and the Lords

We are in a new situation which started with the coalition being negotiated. Nobody in the political parties had thought it through. It had to be made up as they went along and it is still being made up, week by week, month by month. It has had a major effect on the resulting policies. It has also had an effect on the ongoing processes of government.

The coalition was put together in five days. An important lesson must be that future coalition-building in this country after an election really ought to take place at a slightly more measured pace, and …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged and | 46 Comments

Opinion: Post-election blues

This is the worst possible election result for Liberal Democrats but we have to make the best of it.

A majority for one party would have left us in our usual comfort zone of simple opposition.

The expected gain of 40 seats or more would have left us with real momentum and a genuine balance of power in the Commons – the chance to turn the screw in negotiations with the other two parties and act as the catalyst for substantial political reform including STV.

Even a Lib-Lab majority in the Commons, with no Lib-Con majority, would have provided the chance (and the …

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Tony Greaves writes… Abolish postal voting on demand

I want to abolish postal voting on demand, which was introduced in 2000 with the best of intentions. It has proved to be wide open to electoral fraud, corruption and fiddling, and is a thoroughly bad thing.

Ministers have talked about the “convenience” of voting. This is the word the Government used in the Electoral Administration Bill in 2006, when I was ploughing the same furrow. They talked about convenience and increasing turnout. Unfortunately there are unintended consequences, many of which are unavoidable.

The Electoral Commission report in August 2004, following the last European election – Delivering Democracy? The Future of

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAndrew 7th Jul - 1:19am
    As a slightly different pesrpective on the way forward I recommend the new pamphlet by David Howarth and Mark Pack. This says that campaigning on...
  • User AvatarAndrew 7th Jul - 1:10am
    I agree with Eddie actually that STV is quite hard to explain, and the ERS website by talking about "the quota" and a "single vote...
  • User Avatarkevin 7th Jul - 12:35am
    Best option would be to make the BBC a subscription channel and finally end the broadcasting poll tax. Free over 75's TV license issue solved...
  • User Avatarkevin 7th Jul - 12:28am
    'Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael applied for the session claiming the government had abused parliamentary process' Pot & kettle, clearly Carmichael doesn't do self awareness.
  • User AvatarKevin Manley 6th Jul - 11:59pm
    Good article -gets the scale of the problem. Kind of agree with theakes though -we just need to move on. The problem with talking about...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 6th Jul - 11:42pm
    Hi John, I don't think it makes clear whether it is a second preference or multi voting system. I had to find other websites in...
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