LibLink: Nick Thornsby – The coalition was the best option in May 2010, and it’s the best option now

Over at the New Statesman, Lib Dem blogger and Voice day editor Nick Thornsby has a piece setting out why he thinks the arguments for going into coalition remain as strong today as in May 2010.

Here’s an excerpt:

A coalition with Labour and a number of the smaller parties in Parliament was never a serious proposition, both because of the numerical difficulties and because of Labour’s intransigence. In hindsight it’s clear that most in the Labour party weren’t interested in joining a coalition. They’d rather be in opposition.

A confidence and supply arrangement was another option, but in my view those who think this would have been better for either the country or the Lib Dems are mistaken; it would have all the downsides of coalition with few of the benefits.

That left only a coalition or a minority Tory administration. Within weeks of forming a minority government, George Osborne would have produced the most populist, tax-cutting budget imaginable and, when it failed to get through the Commons, David Cameron would have visited Her Majesty, Parliament would have been dissolved and a new general election – probably in autumn 2010 – would have ensued. And at this point, both Labour and the Tories would have had one message: “it’s time for you to vote for one of us – the Lib Dems have rejected the option of power”. The Lib Dems would have been squeezed like never before; every marginal – virtually every Lib Dem seat – would be vulnerable. We’d have been reduced to a miniscule Parliamentary Party.

And the Tories would have got their majority. Even the most anti-coalition of Lib Dems can’t seriously say that that would have been a preferable option.

The combination of being in government and being members of a truly democratic party leaves Lib Dem members with an immense amount of influence. We should use it as best we can to make this government is fair and as liberal as possible – not blindly supporting but constructively engaging, working with Lib Dem ministers, who we know to be honest, caring liberals, to achieve as much as possible.

You can read Nick’s full piece here.

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2 Comments

  • Paul Catherall 10th Mar '12 - 3:31pm

    “The combination of being in government and being members of a truly democratic party leaves Lib Dem members with an immense amount of influence. ”

    I can see very little democratic choice when there is no social democratic option at the ballot box, where all three parties support roughtly the same neoliberal laissez faire approach to industry, disregard for careers and employability and obsession with expensive (and as seein in the care homes and work placement fiasco), often corruptly managed liberalization of services.

    If you asked a LibDem voter in 2010 if they thought LibDem ministers would be writing legislation on the triple fee, nuclear weapons programmes, EMA abolition, disability cuts, privatization of the police, NHS liberalization or expansion of primary and secondary academies, I’m sure many would have laughed in disbelief.

    It is a sobering thought that most flagship LibDem policies have been replaced with a U-Turn reversal into some of the most dreadful and unanticipated policies which LibDems fought for decades.

    Political parties sometimes need to make pragmatic changes in policy, but it is not sustainable to operate with such disregard for political integrity in the public sphere, which brings us back to the obvious implication of coalition with the Conservative party, i.e. if LibDem policy was fundamentally opposed to the Tory agenda then the LibDem leadership had a political duty to avoid such coalition.

    Much better would have been a caretaker unity government to satisfy the economic situation, followed by a new election the following year, and a new LibDem manifesto containing policies aligned with the Tories in the areas of education, health, welfare and stimulus cuts and service liberalization.

  • “EMA abolition” – still don’t get why there was such a huge fuss over that. I used to get £20 a week to go to the pub with. The only concern I have is over transport costs, suppose I was lucky though and, as it should be for all, I had a free bus pass.

    “Much better would have been a caretaker unity government to satisfy the economic situation, followed by a new election the following year” – this I find somewhat ludicrous. The following year has been and gone and the economic situation still isn’t much better. This coalition was and still is necessary, we just appear to be making a bit of a mess of it.

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