Over on her New Statesman blog, Olly Grender, former Lib Dem Communications Director, tackles the tricky topic of mandates. It has become a familiar refrain that the current government has no mandate to implement this or that reform, despite the fact that it is one of the few in recent history which is made up of parties which received more than 50% of the (combined) vote at the last election.
Here’s Olly’s take on the subject:
When I hear the regular accusation about lack of a mandate, I have some sympathy. No, really — I do. But that begs several questions. How is it defined? Is a written constitution the only way of defining it? Until a Government is elected with over fifty per cent of the vote, does it lack a mandate? Is a simple Parliamentary majority sufficient? Or do we need a better voting system to reflect peoples’ wishes more accurately?
In Tony Blair’s autobiography he struggled with definitions of mandate following the 2005 general election:
“I couldn’t get the argument heard ……. It found insufficient echo among other Labour speakers and very little within the media. The result was a campaign and mandate that meant different things to different people. I was completely certain: the manifesto and the mandate was one for New Labour, but the absence of serious policy discussion meant there was no sense of that being so.”
For the last few weeks, I have tweeted asking for definitions of mandate. Replies have come back saying predominantly “not what this government is doing”, or “the scale of reform and the pace of change do not have any support’. But equally, I would argue that what is clear is that there was absolutely no mandate for keeping Labour in power.
You can read the whole piece, and contribute to the discussion, here.