Opinion: Clegg should hit the ejector button

Scott’s piece is a continuation of this post from yesterday.

Whilst most coalition disagreements to this point have remained contained, the AV referendum managed to trigger vocal friction. The Conservatives funded, and strongly supported, the ‘No’ campaign. The Lib Dems were passionately backing reform of the voting system through the ‘Yes’ campaign. Let the conflict begin. Initially, David Cameron agreed not to get involved in the referendum. However, following strong early support in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote, he chose to step in. He caused hostility by accusing his coalition partner of “broken promises” and urged the general public to keep the current first-past-the-post system in place. The Liberal Democrats were belittled, and their hopes of a successful referendum were lost.

The decisive victory of the ‘No’ campaign will undoubtedly lead to coalition fallout. The far-left of the party are demanding they pull out of the hybrid. Moreover, and perhaps more significantly, the party’s moderates are now beginning to question the collaboration. Many of the defeated councillors are insisting that Clegg either pulls out of the coalition or risk alienating the Liberal Democrats.

This is why drastic action must be taken immediately. Both Clegg and Cameron have come out and stated that the coalition will survive the full 5 years. Following the overwhelming rejection of voting reform, Clegg has claimed his party must “move on” and continue to “get on with what we have to do”. These words are noticeably vague. They lack commitment and hint at an upheaval. Over the last 12 months, Clegg has consistently appeared at his most candid and honest when speaking out of earshot of Mr Cameron. His liberal ideology is permitted an airing and reminds liberal supporters why it was they placed their faith in the man.

Now is the time for Clegg to hit the ejector button. If he is to rescue any credibility whatsoever, and allow his party an opportunity to salvage some self-respect and integrity, he must act now, and act swiftly. The rebirth must commence right away. While it is obvious and imperative that the Lib Dems leave government, the only remaining grey area concerns whether or not Mr Clegg should continue on as leader. It is too easy to shovel all the blame onto the party leader. The liberals should not forget who it was that gained them their popularity and forced them into such a powerful position.

Deputy Leader Simon Hughes stated that “radicals and progressives are alive and well” within the party, signalling that they have lost none of their far-left beliefs and principles. It is also easy to forget – among all the myths and mud throwing – just how well some of the Liberal Democrat MPs have performed in office. Politicians such as Chris Huhne, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, even Nick Clegg himself, have represented themselves well and epitomised what we all knew the Lib Dems were capable of. Added to that, party veterans such as Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy continue to make a significant contribution behind the scenes and help rally the cause.

Were the Liberal Democrats to leave the coalition, many – including the Conservatives – will accuse them of turning their backs on the country, abandoning it during what is unquestionably a delicate period. However, the local elections, and various opinion polls, suggest that were a general election to be called tomorrow, the Tories would stand a good chance of gaining an overall majority. This begs the question, would leaving not suit everyone?
Ed Miliband has failed to make headway since becoming leader of the Labour party. This allows the Lib Dems to mull the option of separating from government a lot more seriously. Had Labour gained significantly at the local elections, Conservatives would have had the ammunition to claim that a break-up of Downing Street’s amalgamation would more than likely result in a Labour government; a Labour government that only a year ago was rejected at the ballot box.

The events of last week have now granted the Lib Dems a plausible motive for escape. To leave would be to ensure a separate identity, to allow a seemingly popular Conservative government to continue ruling and avoid an ostracised Labour renaissance. To remain in government would ensure an even steeper decline of Lib Dem support, unavoidably leading to a two-party battle at the next general election. The impressive 2010 rise of liberalism would have been for nothing. A lost cause and a wasted opportunity. There may still be life left in this temporarily sidetracked liberal bandwagon. Here’s hoping.

Scott Hill is an independent journalist.

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69 Comments

  • Guy Patching 22nd May '11 - 6:00pm

    So we gain “our own identity” and we lose any influence in government? Allowing the Conservatives leeway to put their right foot forward on all those policies Liberal Democrats find abhorrent? I’m sorry, but that hardly seems like a fair trade.

    We’re also hardly likely to regain any of that disaffected left that thrives on opposition. We are now “tainted” by association with the Conservatives no matter what we do now. Sure we can make it worse, but I don’t think we can make it better.

    And it would bury the idea that Britain can deal with coalition politics. All of those scaremongering sorts who said coalition government would result in chaos would be proven right, which will forever damage our third party potential.

  • @Scott Hill
    “Deputy Leader Simon Hughes stated that “radicals and progressives are alive and well” within the party, signalling that they have lost none of their far-left beliefs and principles.”

    Eh?

    (Also happen to agree totally with what Guy, Andrew and Andrew have written)

  • “signalling that they have lost none of their far-left beliefs and principles”

    Sorry but as someone who has always felt myself centre left I would never have voted for the party had they been far left, and I’m not sure Simon Hughes would want to be considered so. The real far left have never been too keen on liberty let alone liberalism.

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '11 - 7:28pm

    The only good thing about this article is that it will never have any influence on the actions of any government. It isn’t really much of an argument – it’s just a series of outraged screams.

  • In answer to both Simon Shaw and Steve Way – it is extremely naive of individuals to assume that all party members and supporters think alike. Of course there are people within the Liberal Democrats who possess far-left ideology, who else are they going to support in Britain? Labour? The party that fully support war (a vile right-wing viewpoint) and have pushed the two extremes of British society – elites and working-class – further apart than ever before.

    Like all political parties, there is a spectrum. There are conservative liberals – whom I am starting to assume make up most of the party’s support judging by comments posted – there are center liberals and there are left-wing liberals – otherwise known as “radicals and progressives”. I myself fall into the later faction, clearly a minority.

    Basic research skills will enable you to find Simon Hughes’ statements.

  • @ Andrew Tennant – What is the point of a political party if not to govern and to advance the country through its policies?

    Andrew, I think one of the points made is that it would be indeed nice if the party was doing that instead of adopting and enabling a whole of right wing Conservative policies. I am talking about the major policies here.

    I think the point Scott Hill makes is valid. The LDs can either continue onwards and suffer severe damage or start to stand up, take a hit and rebuild. There may be little to rebuild from if things continue on the same track.

    I worry though that the there is so little disagreement at the top of the party because in the main, the Orange book Democrats are very close to Cameron’s free market obsessions. If that is the case, then the dye may be cast already. Maybe it is possible to stand up a for a definite identity but the Conservatives seem incredibly hostile to this development and do not respect that the LDs need to maintain a real and not PR created separate identity.

    This country desperately needs an effective and strong 3rd party and I am concerned of the way things are going that all with be left in 4 years will be Labour and a Conservative party and a rump of LDs in the South West and one or two dotted around in the rest of the country.

  • @Scott Hill
    “Of course there are people within the Liberal Democrats who possess far-left ideology”

    A tip, Scott: if you preface a dubious statement with the words “Of course ….” it is rather a flag that what follows is complete tosh.

    Of course, I may be being unfair, so could I ask you to provide some justification for that?

    BTW, I note that you “biog” states: “His approach to journalism is simple; “be honest, be clear and challenge” ”

    You might want to brush up a bit on the first of those.

  • Old Codger Chris 22nd May '11 - 10:27pm

    @Andrew Ducker
    “Either we believe in coalition governments, or we don’t. To start talking about abandoning one every time there might be an iota of advantage in it for the Lib Dems is politics of the worst sort”.

    Here here! I would just add that there wouldn’t be the slightest iota of advantage for the Lib Dems. The party could stop worrying about losing its identity as it would be wiped out – and deservedly so.

  • Andrew, glad you picked up the points. The problem is that the electorate perceives on the big issues of the economy, banks, student loans and privatisations that the Conservatives have got their way. The electorate perceive a Thatcherism in place that they didn’t vote for. The electorate went for a hung parliament to moderate the Conservative on all sides not just the obsessive anti EC, Clause 28 and bring back corporal punishment lobby but also the economic side, the whole deal . The electorate does not perceive that the bargain the LD leadership negotiated on everybody’s behalf was the correct one. Hence the loss of support and the ominous signs for the future.

    I would be interested as to how Social Liberal aims are being enabled by being hooked up to anti state ideologues such as Cameron and Osbourne ? They are actually taking the public state apart and aiming it hand it lock, stock and barrel to the private sector. What worries me is they aim to do it, whatever the evidence whether there is a positive outcome indicated or not.

    Does economic Liberal policies differ or chime with Cameron on this, as it appears the leadership don’t seem to be that different in actual practise. A lot of unpopular policies seems to be smuggled through under the guise of the coalition agreement that would not be agreed by Liberal Democrat members (or the electorate).

  • Sandra Folliot 22nd May '11 - 11:25pm

    You don’t hit the eject button if you don’t have a parachute!
    You try to land the plane more or less safely instead, at least there’s a chance.

    Leaving the coalition now would be pure suicide. Electors might be annoyed with us right now, but these things go around.. we’re just not used to be disliked because we never were able to DO something to be disliked.
    But if we leave, we simply have no more purpose than the Monster Raving Loony Party and I don’t see why anyone would ever bother voting for us again. Me included.

  • Barry George 22nd May '11 - 11:27pm

    What I find fascinating is that the party’s reputation is in tatters. Huge numbers of voters have turned their back on us. Nick Clegg is probably the most unpopular man in the country right now, yet when anyone questions the status quo on this site the loyal few will pounce on them like a rabid dog.

    My theory is that the more people turn away and switch off from the Lib Dems the higher the percentage of ‘loyalists’ that are left behind. Therefore the more people oppose the party’s position, the louder the loyalists get and through their growing majority (due to shrinking public support) they become increasingly convinced that they are correct and that the coalition was and is the right choice.

    If the polls are correct (and I am not claiming they are) then less than 1 in 10 people now support the party. Yet the loyalists here are more united than ever.

    We are in my opinion, watching the slow and painful disintegration of the party and as the ship sinks the remaining crew will become increasingly loyal to the end.

    There is considerably less dissent here now than there was a few months ago, so it is easy for those loyal to the coalition to circle the wagons and as they look around them they see nothing but fellow comrades or Labour trolls.

    Leaving the coalition becomes less likely by the day because before long the coalition will have almost 100 percent support from members who fail to realise that they now only represent a small ‘orange book supporting’ section of the public.

    The local election result suggests that there is no room on the centre right for the Lib Dems and we have lost the centre left almost entirely.

    You would think that we would be keen to get such voters back. But it appears not. If you are anywhere to the left of the current party position then you are most certainly unwelcome.

    That’s not to say that LDV is unwelcoming, They allow comments from all, but beware if you haven’t read the script..

    Which usually takes one of these forms and are rinsed and repeated to Ad nauseam…

    There was no choice/alternative to a coalition
    Its Labours fault because they ruined the economy
    Its Labours fault because they didn’t give us an alternative
    It’s better than it would be if we had let the Tory’s run on their own.
    We are the smaller party so we can’t expect to stay loyal to our commitments
    You are simply a Labour troll.

    If all else fails then like Simon above, you simply resort to Ad hominems like suggesting people should be more honest, or in simpler terms, accuse them of lying….

    It doesn’t seem to matter what tactics are employed as long as the dissenting voter is either hounded away or drowned out by irrelevant chaff.

  • In the logic stakes – this must be some kind of epic fail:
    However, the local elections, and various opinion polls, suggest that were a general election to be called tomorrow, the Tories would stand a good chance of gaining an overall majority. This begs the question, would leaving not suit everyone?”
    Er – no, an overall Tory Majority would suit the Tories and their supporters.

  • @Scott Hill
    Sorry but must totally disagree. Far Left is also far from Liberal. Yes there are those to the left of any party, but the phrase far left in politics is pretty certain in most peoples mind to be more akin to communism than liberalism. Far left viewpoints are more likely to be authoritarian than liberal (as are far right). There is undoubtedly a left wing of the Lib Dems (as with all parties there is a spectrum based around some central datum point), but at it’s leftmost point it will, in my opinion, be far from the politics of those such as Derek Hatton who sum up the far left for many of my age…..

  • Paul Griffiths 23rd May '11 - 12:00am

    @Barry George. It’s funny how perceptions differ. I plead guilty to accusations of loyalty, but I have felt just as unwelcome as you on this site in recent months.

  • Barry George 23rd May '11 - 12:11am

    Paul Griffiths

    It’s funny how perceptions differ. I plead guilty to accusations of loyalty, but I have felt just as unwelcome as you on this site in recent months.

    I am sorry that you feel that way Paul. I would prefer it if loyalists and coalition dissenters felt equally welcome.

    I can only speak as I find things and I have no doubt that you are doing so also…

  • Old Codger Chris 23rd May '11 - 12:44am

    @Barry George
    Many of us are deeply unhappy about some of the policies being pursued by this government – in my own case the Tuition Fees debacle prompted my resignation from the party. So I’m not sure that I count as a loyalist!

    But the Lib Dem leadership made its decision 12 months ago, and even those (deluded) souls who believe that a better option was available must surely recognise that the party has to stick with it – hopefully with fewer blunders and more success.

    Somebody has to govern the country. Should that be a Conservative party freed from whatever constraints the Lib Dems are imposing? Would that then lead to a Labour government in a few years time? That’s speculation – but it’s a racing certainty that the Lib Dems would be as powerless and irrelevant as they were in the 1950s. Unlike the 1950s, they wouldn’t even be the third largest party – they would lag behind the SNP for sure and UKIP quite possibly. They might just get a few more votes and seats than the Greens but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • Barry George 23rd May '11 - 1:17am

    Old Codger Chris

    But the Lib Dem leadership made its decision 12 months ago, and even those (deluded) souls who believe that a better option was available must surely recognise that the party has to stick with it

    I am afraid to say that I am ‘deluded’ Chris, But I am glad that I was informed of such so politely. That is a refreshing change :-)

    I am sorry you felt the need to resign from the party. In fact you are highlighting my point. As ‘sensible’ people like yourself leave the party, what is left is a consensus of people who are almost completely compliant to coalition policy.

    That is not healthy for the party and it is not good for democracy. The Liberal Democrats (like all party’s) used to be a broad church of opinion, ranging from the so called radicals to the so called Orange Bookers. And as such we could draw on public support from many different perspectives.

    Sadly, what I see these days is that diversity has left the party and been replaced with a system of pseudo logic that safely informs the (non listening) public that they are wrong and that despite their deep held convictions , they are in fact , suffering from nothing more serious than a case ‘delusion’

    That may or may not be true , but it certainly has zero possibility of convincing people to vote for us again. In fact I suspect that it may turn the voter off.

  • Scott Hill’s far too lengthy article ignores the fact that we are the ESSENTIAL moderating influence in this government.
    One only has to read the right wing press to see what would happen with majority Tory government in power with its reckless attitude to our institutuins . Wealthy Tories are secure in their private health schemes with their kids going to private education and the old pals act getting their prodigy jobs. They are immune from ordinary people’s problems. They would not get a2nd term but the country would be in the throes of serious unrest, including moderat ordinary Tories.

    No, we stick like glue to this government to keep them in check. But for us all hell will break loose. And don’t think changing the leader will alter things, Whoever is our leader will be subject to the same vicious attempts at character assassination as NIck . So stick at it Nick, and all the other MP’s and activists, and thank you all very much for doing a difficult job so well.

  • Old Codger Chris 23rd May '11 - 10:29am

    For the record, it was the bare-faced deception of the tuition fees u-turn, dressed up as an improvement on the previous fees policy – LOL – which prompted my resignation. Without that, I would have stayed.

    I might even be persuaded to return one day, but like – I suspect – many others, I’ll wait and see.

  • Well there’s 5 minutes I won’t get back again… At least some of the comments (from both sides) were worth reading.

  • Oops, hit ‘post’ too quickly… I meant to add that of all the many possible reasons why we should leave the coalition that have been suggested on this site, “because it would give the Conservatives an overall majority” has got to be the most hilarious!

  • I don’t think Liberal radicals are far-Left. They are not advocating state-capitalism or dictatorship by the proletariat. Nor do I believe the lost voters are far Left.
    To me the decision to stay in or leave the coalition should come down to whether or not it delivers a stronger economy and whether it can win voters over. I suspect, though I am far from certain, that it can’t do either.

  • David Allen 23rd May '11 - 1:46pm

    @Jedibeeftrix

    “You lost. The public decided you should lose. Deal with it.”

    Could you tell us which party you support, please? You have previously appeared to be a Lib Dem who just happens to advocate that the Lib Dems should support a number of right-wing policies. But now you have come out with some rude remarks about “you” Lib Dems. A bit of a slip perhaps?

  • David Allen 23rd May '11 - 5:19pm

    Jedibeeftrix,

    Fair enough. That’s an honest enough statement of where you stand – though I’m not sure whether “Twenty-First Century Whig” would really pull in yer typical modern voter….

    Actually, what upsets me is to see posters from all parties and none who come on to this site, present careful arguments against coalition policies, and get casually dismissed by a phalanx of Lib Dem loyalists as “Labour trolls”. Then you come along, frequently arguing that the coalition are not right-wing enough for your taste, and nobody dares suggest that you might be a “Tory troll”. Wonder why not!

  • Tony Dawson 23rd May '11 - 5:50pm

    I remain more-than-perturbed that it appears to be acceptable to some for a national ‘Lib Dem’ site, albeit ‘unofficial’ is prepared to host public statements suggesting that Simon Hughes and people like him hold ‘far left views’. This is totally outrageous (as well as stupid). In my view this brings the Liberal Democrats into disrepute.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd May '11 - 5:56pm

    “There are conservative liberals – whom I am starting to assume make up most of the party’s support judging by comments posted – there are center liberals and there are left-wing liberals – otherwise known as “radicals and progressives”. I myself fall into the later faction, clearly a minority.”

    But do you hold (or have you ever held) ‘far left beliefs’ as you relate in your article. If not, how do you label other Lib Dems as ‘far left’ and using what criteria? ‘Far left’ is generally considered pejorative, relating extremism. ‘progressive, radical. are words which some might not identify with but others do and are genuinely considered part of the ‘Lib Dem’ family. These terms are many miles away from ‘far left’ to most people who consider themselves progressive radicals (as opposed to the warped Toryism of the Labour Party)

  • Kevin Colwill 23rd May '11 - 8:19pm

    Jedibeeftrix is right…in both senses of the word! Tory toll or not (I’d say not by the way) his analysis of the Lib Dem shift to the right is spot on.

    As a left leaning Lib Dem voter I can honestly say I no longer feel betrayed – I just feel stupid! The reality I’ve accepted is that the Lib Dems, at least as far as economic policy is concerned, are a centre right party who share the Tories free market, private good/public bad analysis.

    Why would such a party want to leave the coalition? It’s not really about moderating the Tories right wing policy it’s about a genuine common project with a party that shares your core values.

    OK… there may be a great many Lib Dems who don’t share Tory free market ideals but they aren’t calling the shots these days, are they?

    I don’t think it’s about Clegg pressing the ejector button. I think the interesting point is when, if ever, the Lib Dems on the left press the ejector button.

  • I think Kevin Colwill (among many others) has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of coalition governments. The Liberal Democrats have not shifted to the right – what Liberal Democrat policies have been changed, exactly? The Coalition programme – which is a different matter entirely – was by necessity a mixture of Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy and therefore it is not the same as having Liberal Democrats in government on their own. This is such a basic and simple point, yet it seems to have passed by Kevin and others. The difference between having 8% of the MPs and having a majority in parliament is a very big one.

    If Lib Dems on the left do “press the ejector button” I fail to see how joining Labour or the Greens will advance any cause worth fighting for. Labour have surfed a wave of popular discontent about cuts they themselves would have to have made, but steadfastly deny out of sheer opportunism. They have yet to announce the results of their fabled “policy review” and when they do, they will show a party with a total lack of any answers to the UK’s underlying problems, which include the way we are governed. If they join Labour, they will be joining a party opposed to real political change which is content, along with the Tories, in maintaining the status quo. The Greens, meanwhile, as a result of the rejection of electoral reform, have just lost what little chance they could have had of having more than a single MP in the House of Commons.

    What we have to do is to observe four key principles:
    1) Make sure there are as many concrete Lib Dem policies nailed fully into place as we can;
    2) Stop the Tories from doing real damage, especially to the NHS;
    3) Prepare our “parachute” in terms of projecting a distinct Lib Dem identity. We need to have a series of policies e.g. personal allowance extended further to £12,000, no tax cuts for the rich, mansion tax etc. that are unpalatable to the Tories and set us clearly apart from them. We should start to trail them well in advance of the election.
    4) Make sure we get our fair share of credit for the recovery in public finances and the economy.

  • @R C

    I think most people though the lib dems were a pragmatic social liberal party like under Ming Campbell, broadly in the middle ground but preprared to make the right compromises not any compromises.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily the cuts that annoy people if it can be proven there is light at the end of the tunnel, more a matter of where the coalition is heading and the idological health reforms and free schools etc that have nothing to do with the deficit. What’s the end game here? The tories want a smaller state and most of the orange bookers seem to have no problem with the free market reforms in the NHS etc.

  • Furthermore I think it’s foolish of the lib dems to go along with lords reform as the tories will do anything they can to stop it and pin blame on Clegg if it runs into trouble etc. It’s futile, incremental change doesn’t work, far better to let the place become corrupt leading to public anger and demand for it’s abolition.

  • Kevin Colwill 23rd May '11 - 10:35pm

    @ RC…I’m not saying the Lib Dems shifted right in coalition (nor am I saying they haven’t). My point is I misunderstood what the Lib Dem’s circa 2010 stood for on core economic issues. I missed a shift to the right that had already taken place. Yes, I’m a typical slack jawed voter who went with gut feeling rather than detailed analysis.

    I also missed the bit about pluralism that said power or influence is more important than core beliefs. I think it’s quite legitimate to want pluralist government of the broad left whilst rejecting a coalition government of the broad right.

    My considered analysis, for what it’s worth, is that the Lib Dem’s betrayed no one. They, you, are a party of the economic right who are the natural allies of modern Tories. Your position on civil libertarian, green or European issues might differentiate you from the Tories but I care less about those issues.

    I conclude that although I have never voted for any party other than the Lib Dems I cannot support the Lib Dem’s in their current form. So if there was an election tomorrow I’d make a principled vote for the party that best reflects my views…probably Greens.

    It would be a “wasted” vote but I’m sure you’d urge me to make a principled vote for a Lib Dem even where they couldn’t win. So please allow me my principled vote for another party even where the Lib Dem could win.

  • Barry George 23rd May '11 - 10:55pm

    Kevin

    My considered analysis, for what it’s worth, is that the Lib Dem’s betrayed no one. They, you, are a party of the economic right who are the natural allies of modern Tories.

    I am slowly coming round to your way of thinking. I still feel betrayed because I believed the vote for us to keep the Tories out mantra. But I am beginning to accept that the new reality of a there being a new party on the right of centre in this country and that the Party who I have voted for all my adult life is now (to all effect) dead.

    Sadly , like you I have no real party to vote for anymore , so I am hanging on in the naive hope that this reincarnated Thatcherism will end and that the centre left will once again have a party to call home…

  • Kevin Colwill 23rd May '11 - 11:18pm

    @RC…another thought. Lib Dem policy, Tory policy, coalition government policy. Of course I “get” that the Lib Dems are very much the junior partner in the formulation of government policy. But, forgive my naivety; doesn’t signing up to the coalition bind you to supporting its policies? I thought that was one of the key differences between full coalition and the rather looser and rejected confidence and supply arrangement.

    Doesn’t supporting coalition policy sort of go with the seats in the cabinet, the speeches from the dispatch box and the MP’s whipped into the lobbies with the Tories?

    Isn’t it a tad having-it-both-ways to say it’s coalition policy but it’s not really our Lib Dem policy? Sort of crossing your fingers so it doesn’t count.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '11 - 11:59pm

    I have written article after article attacking Nick Clegg and those at the top of the Liberal Democrats for the incompetent way the party has been run for the past couple of years, and article after article criticising those who endorse a simplistic free market economy policy, and inm particular those on the fringe of the Liberal Democrats trying to take the party over and push it that way. Yet I also find myself writing article after article attacking people like Kevin Colwill and Barry George writing here. I am fed up with going round in circles with these people, they have nothing positive to say, they refuse to face reality and instead endlessly repeat their mantras about Liberal Democrat “betrayal” and denounce anyone who doesn’t agree with them as if that means they are 100% Cleggites and enthusiastic “Orange Bookers”.

    I do not know what else I can do to convince these people that I despise Clegg and I have no sympathy with those trying to push the Liberal Democrats down an extreme free market route. So, I suppose they will just accuse me of this again as, for the umpteenth time I repeat:

    1) There were not enough Labour and LibDem MPs (thanks to the First Past the Post electoral system – a PR system or even AV would have changed this) to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable.

    2) So the only alternative to a Conservative-LibDem coalition was a Conservative minority government.

    3) A Conservative minority governmenment without any long-term agreement to keep it in place would have resulted in another general election in a year, fought on the lines “Get rid of the Liberal Democrat MPs and the instability they are causing, and let us govern with a majority”.

    4) A “supply and confidence” agreement would have meant the Liberal Democrats voting for ALL the Conservative cuts (“supply”) and any other Conservative policy which the Conservatives decided to make a matter of confidence.

    We saw in the local elections this year how the result of the Liberal Democrats being attacked has been an INCREASE in Tory councillors in Tory areas, and we saw in the AV referendum how the two big parties were able successfully to put across the message that it’s better for all power to go to one party. From this I am ABSOLUTELY sure (not that I wasn’t before), that had an early general election been held, Camron would have won a big majority.

    So, the only alternative to the current coalition would have been a pure Conservative government. That is why I am so angry about the Kevin Colwill and Barry George types – they attack the Liberal Democrats for “jumping into bed with the the Tories”, but the reality is that the alternatives they are suggesting all lead to a 100% pure Conservative government without the small amount of moderating influence the Liberal Democrats are giving.

    It is most unfortunate that the British people voted as they did in 2010 to mean it has to be that way, but that IS how they voted. And to cap it, they voted by a HUGE MAJORITY to support the electoral system which twisted representation so much on favour of the Conservatives and so weakened the Liberal Democrats.

    Kevin Colwill insits the people knew what they were doing when they voted in favour of FPTP. Very well then – the main argument of the “No” campaign was that coalitions and compromises and the like are bad, and so to avoid that it is better to give all power to whoever wins the most votes even if that is well short of 50%. The party that won the most votes in the 2010 general election was the Conservatives, they won the election “First Past the Post” by having the most MPs. So by the “First Past the Post” principle,Cameron and the Conservatuves should be in complete power – and anyone who voted “No” in the referendum and knew what they were doing voted for that. It was FPTP whihc gave us the government we have now, which ensaured there was no alternative to it, so no-one who voted “No”, or by abstaining let “No” win, has ANY right to criticise the Liberal Democrats for supporting Conservative policies. The onlty thing they cokd do which is consistent with their support for the FPTP principle is to criticise the Liberal Democrats for anything they are doing which is blocking pure Conservative policy.

    Anyoebn who was REALLY opposed to the present government would have voted “Yes” in the referendum thus bringing down its legitimacy by attacking the electoral system which brought it into being. They would be cheering on the Liberal Democrats and promising the Liberal Democrats their vote in the next general election for what they are doing to stop pure Tory policy – because the more support the Liberal Democrats get for this, the more they will be emboldened to do it, and the more they can stand up to the Tories and tell them they aren’t afraid of an early general election if the Tories won’t give in.

  • Barry George 24th May '11 - 12:36am

    Mathew Huntbach

    Yet I also find myself writing article after article attacking people like Kevin Colwill and Barry George

    Way to go Mathew , That the way to bring the unhappy voters back :-) or don’t you want them back ?

    You completely misunderstand my stance , I have never denounced anyone on this site of being an ‘orange booker’ or accused anyone here of betrayal. I suggest that if you think I have then you present an example of one of the many many posts I have made on this site. I have no argument with the rank and file…

    My concern is with the direction the leadership have taken the party, As is yours…

    have written article after article attacking Nick Clegg and those at the top of the Liberal Democrats for the incompetent way the party has been run for the past couple of years, and article after article criticising those who endorse a simplistic free market economy policy

    And I have done also…

    I do not know what else I can do to convince these people that I despise Clegg and I have no sympathy with those trying to push the Liberal Democrats down an extreme free market route. So, I suppose they will just accuse me of this again as,

    Nothing I disagree with there… So you won’t find me accusing you of anything, I never have…

    AS for 1 , 2 , 3 , and 4 I disagree with your analysis , I am sure that is not a crime, is it ? I have argued many times that alternatives to the decision to join so strongly with the Tories did exist and still do exist. The party does not have to continue on this masochistic road to oblivion. There are choices , every day that the leadership could make , but they don’t . I believe they don’t because they are happy to align themselves with the Conservatives.

    I am not going to divert this thread into (yet another) debate on whether we did or didn’t have a choice to enter the coalition (and more specifically) behave in coalition the way we have. Please respect that my view is different to yours and understand that attacking me won’t make your argument any more convincing. I have spelt out my reasons many times and I have no desire to repeat them again.

    I have read your argument regarding why us dissenters should have voted YES in the referendum at least a dozen times on this site. You have made your point most clearly. Am I not permitted to digest your comments and disagree ?

    In short , My fight is with the leadership of the party and not the members here. Though I accept that I often reply to those who will defend Cleggs’ and other senior Lib Dem decisions to their death.

    I am sorry to inform you Mathew that I am closer to being an ally than your enemy. I am sure that does not please you but if we agree to disagree on what choices the party had and how we should have voted for AV then what we are left with is a dislike for the actions of the Clegg (and senior party members)

    If the saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is true…. then it looks like we are actually friends here… I am sure you will refute it and it may even make you feel sick to your stomach , but it is true nether the less :-)

  • I think the Left or Right arguments can get a little pointless when applied to posters.
    My main problem with the coalition and my main problem with Labour is that they both have capitulated to a narrative of economics based on a model of Free-market fundamentalist beliefs that have a track record of failure.
    The Western countries that pulled out of the recession quickest and strongest were actually the ones with deeper post WWII social liberal traditions. Notably Germany and France. But yet again we are being force fed the idea that
    cutting-red-tape, shrinking the size of government and low tax are the answer to everything. And yet again the results are lowered living standards, a stagnating economy. rampant inflation and no sign of real improvement.
    I voted Lib Dem because I am pro Europe, pro electoral change and pro-good government as big as it needs to be. I stopped voting Lib Dem when they looked like they were going to form a government with a Conservative Party I think are profoundly wrong about almost everything and who I believe will add to the economic and social woes of Britain.
    I will vote Lib Dem again when they grow a spine. If that spine grows in the Coalition, great. But four more years of backing economic failure and lower living standards. I don’t know. It isn’t for me.

  • Kevin Colwill 24th May '11 - 2:20am

    @ Matthew Huntbach…. One of the great strengths of this site is there are mix of Lib Dem activists and ordinary voters interested in and broadly sympathetic to the Lib Dems—plus a few trolls and trouble makers from across the political spectrum.

    Your analysis works from your perspective. I can completely understand why I must seem to be in a perpetual adolescent tantrum. For you the coalition was an inevitable consequence of electoral mathematics and what has happen since, although not handled well, does not mean that the principle of coalition was a mistake.

    For me the coalition initially felt like a betrayal. Please, if you accept none of my other arguments, give me the “it’s us or the Tories” bar charts look a bit ironic when the Lib Dems are sat around the cabinet table with….the Tories!

    After a somewhat more considered analysis I concluded I wasn’t betrayed I was just a bit thick. I didn’t see the extent of the Lib Dems had shifted to the economic liberal right and specifically the bias against the public sector in the provision of services.

    Are you going to deny that there is a lot of common ground between people like David Laws view of the economy and the economic analysis of the Tory party?

    I see that I can do two things when alone with my ballot paper. I can vote positively for the party that best matches the policies I would like to see enacted or I can vote tactically for the candidate most likely to block a party whose policies I don’t want to see. I’ve always (every election) voted Lib Dem- sometimes for the first reason, sometimes for the second.

    Right now I can’t use either reason to vote Lib Dem. That is my analysis, my perspective. I claim no prizes for intellect or political insight.

    I have one vote, you have one vote and how and why we express them is up to us. Democracy baby!

  • Barry George 24th May '11 - 4:41am

    Mathew,

    The party that won the most votes in the 2010 general election was the Conservatives, they won the election “First Past the Post” by having the most MPs. So by the “First Past the Post” principle,Cameron and the Conservatuves should be in complete power

    eh ?

    The post in ‘first past the post’ is 326 MP’s . The conservatives only managed 307. They did not win FPTP because they failed to get anywhere near the post ! The Conservatives should not be in complete power because they do not have a majority in parliament. We gave them that majority… The country voted that no party should have majority control of the house of commons and we decided that we would ignore that request from the people and go ahead and form a majority Government anyway…

    People such as George Kendall will argue that it was vital that we did because of the economic ‘crisis’ and a lack of confidence from our European counterparts. I don’t agree. However you cannot blame the voter for a Conservative led coalition. They never voted for that at all. It was a party decision to enter the coalition. It had nothing to do with the electorate.

    The people voted for a minority Conservative Government, held in check by 2 major opposition party’s

    I want the masses of the people to vote Liberal Democrat again and that isn’t going to happen if we go round blaming them for the planet sized hole that the leadership of the party decided to jump into.

  • Kevin Colwill: “For me the coalition initially felt like a betrayal. Please, if you accept none of my other arguments, give me the “it’s us or the Tories” bar charts look a bit ironic when the Lib Dems are sat around the cabinet table with….the Tories!”

    Kevin – its self evident that voting Lib Dem rather than Conservative (FPTP not withstanding) gives you more Lib Dem MPs. More Lib Dem MPs means less likelihood of Conservative majority government, delivering a different suite of policies than the current government which is a coalition.

    So yes, it is “us or the Tories”.

  • Kevin Colwill – “The reality I’ve accepted is that the Lib Dems, at least as far as economic policy is concerned, are a centre right party who share the Tories free market, private good/public bad analysis. ”

    Well, I can’t speak for others, but I see myself as firmly in the Centre, equally suspicious of market/state fundamentalists. The problem is that market/state fundamentalists hold sway in differing spheres. State fundamentalists won’t let the market anywhere near; market fundamentalists won’t let the state anywhere near.

    The outcome of this is too much monopolistic behaviour.

    There needs to be more regulation of markets AND there needs to be more open-ness in state monopoly provision.

    Vested interests on both sides stand in the way. We are there to remove them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 2:58pm

    Barry George

    The post in ‘first past the post’ is 326 MP’s . The conservatives only managed 307. They did not win FPTP because they failed to get anywhere near the post !

    Barry, I am VERY well aware of this. I fully agree that the term “First Past the Post” for the electoral system we currently have in Britain is a misnomer for just this reason, in fact it is the Alternative Vote system which has thwe actual post of 50%.

    However, as “First Past the Post” has become the established term for “Biggest on first preference votes wins, regardless of whether it has reached the 59% post”, to the point of being use on the referendum ballot papers, I am using it with that meaning. I think that was very obvious, therefore your reply to me was pointless.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 3:07pm

    Kevin Colwill

    Your analysis works from your perspective. I can completely understand why I must seem to be in a perpetual adolescent tantrum. For you the coalition was an inevitable consequence of electoral mathematics and what has happen since, although not handled well, does not mean that the principle of coalition was a mistake

    For something to be a “mistake”, there has to be an alternative choice that could have been made and was rejected. That is why I have prompted you to suggest it, and not just you and not just people who have been making this point since the elections and referendums this year, but since the coalition was formed last year. So far I have received NO satisfactory answer. Sorry, but I believe there is a deep moral principle here – if you are going to abuse somone or something for doing something “wrong”, you must be sure to have at least one different thing they could have done that was in your eyes “right”. When I was Leader of the Opposition in a London Borough, I stuck very firmly to this principle, because I have always been disgusted by opportunistic opposition politics who throw abuse at those in government when they know if they were there they would be doing much the same. Having seen the damage this can cause, I vowed never to do the same.

    I long for a more mature politics in this country where this principle is generally observed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 3:16pm

    Kevin Colwill

    For me the coalition initially felt like a betrayal. Please, if you accept none of my other arguments, give me the “it’s us or the Tories” bar charts look a bit ironic when the Lib Dems are sat around the cabinet table with….the Tories!

    Yes, but this libne would only be used in those constituencies where the main contenders were the Conservative and Liberal Democrats. So why the feeling of “betrayal”? Had the Liberal Democrats not won, the Tories would have won anyway. In many cases where this line was used, the Tories did still win anyway. Had more poeple voted Liberal Democrats, or had AV been in place which would have resulted in a few more Liberal Democrat gains from the Tories, there would be more Liberal Democrat MPs and fewer Tory MPs, so giving the Libweral Democrats more negotiating power. In particular, the Liberal Democrats would have had a MUCH greater negotiating power had there been enough Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs to make a Labour-LibDem coaltion viable. But there were not, thanks to the electoral system which YOU gave vocal support to.

    Your line would only make sense if had people not voted Liberal Democrat in all those southern, rural and suburban seats where the Liberal Democrats are the main challenegers to the Conservatives, more Labour MPs would have been elected, But they would not. Had more people voted for Labour candidates who were firmly in third palce, and fewer for Liberal Democrats, there would just be MORE Tory MPs. Had AV been in place, this would bnot have been a probnlem, because peope could have voted to show their true feelings and then used their second preference, so this “it’s us or the Tories” line would not have to be used. But as you are such a strong opponent of AV, it’s you and your like who stand against even this moest electoral reform, which forces that line to have to be used out of fairnmess to ensure people maximise theri voting power.

  • Barry George 24th May '11 - 3:25pm

    Mathew

    I think that was very obvious, therefore your reply to me was pointless.

    Clarification of your view is never pointless Mathew :-)

    I have met others on this site argue the same yet fail to accept that Conservatives did not win a majority of seats in the commons and as such they have no right to carte blanche. I was just clarifying that point….

  • Barry George 24th May '11 - 3:44pm

    Mathew

    If I can accept that it is now too late to go back in time and change the manner of the coalition, surely you can accept that the AV vote was lost and that it is time to move on from that. You are doing your keyboard no justice by repeating ad nauseam that we should have voted YES.

    It is over , finito , gone , dead , history…

    I would be fascinated to hear your views on where we should go from here but I fail to see what you hope to achieve (apart from typers cramp) by continuing to be so angry about the AV vote..

    Even if you a right , there is nothing that can be done about it. Your intellectual skills would be better placed if you focused on what we can do now or in the future to save the party or at least make it strong again…

    It seems you are obsessed with flogging a dead horse. You are clearly intelligent and capable of moving on from the disastrous AV result…

    I have never actually said on this site because it is was my personal decision.. but let me enlighten you…

    I voted YES to AV

    it was against my better judgement , I felt sick doing it , but I agreed that it was a better choice and that my extreme anger for the leadership of the party should not override progress…

    I made all the noises of a NO voter , but when I walked in to that booth I voted YES…

    So please , give me a break will you !

  • Kevin Colwill 24th May '11 - 11:09pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach… as a voter I experience politics filtered through my history, my family history, the local issues where I live and my own sense of self. (I’m not usually this pompous!) The best I can do is be true to my view of the world.

    I happen to live in a part of the world where Keir Hardie never touched a chord. Labour is nowhere in my rural idyll. A rural idyll as long as you overlook a few blemishes like a perennial problem of very low wages, lack of meaningful employment prospects, fuel poverty and a chronic housing shortage caused by the massive disparity between incomes and property prices- none of which I am inclined to overlook. It’s an old time Liberal/Tory marginal where tales are told of all manner of dark deeds of one side against the other.

    It’s a rare place, a land where voting Liberal is in the genes. It’s the default position for anyone who looks in the mirror and knows the person looking back isn’t a Tory. We are as close as you’ll ever find to a tribal vote that’ll turn up at the polling stations to vote as our parents, grandparents and generations before us voted since the humble working man was bestowed the voting franchise.

    I’m also a child (OK, if I’m honest a teenager) of Thatcher. I was at college in the North East of England in the mid-1980’s. I saw the destruction and despair. I also saw thumping great majorities for the Tories in election after election.
    My romantic response…a re-united left with Lib Dems, Greens and Labour forging a common cause to flush away the Tories and nail down the manhole cover so they couldn’t come back. Only the record Labour majority in 1997 sort of put paid to that one!

    So much for the personal history… what about now? I say again the coalition initially felt like a betrayal. A betrayal of the long history of being firmly against the Tories and a betrayal of my romantic view of a unified left holding hands as they walked into the sunset.

    With some more time, research and analysis I don’t feel betrayed but I do feel stupid. While you were telling me “it’s us or the Tories” you were telling others “ it’s us or Labour”. My imagined Lib Dem common cause with the broad left was just that…imagined. Or at least not shared by the whole of your party. Given the current leadership it was always likely you as a party would find more common cause with the modern Tories.

    As for AV… I don’t see it your way. I could see how AV has political advantages for a third party like the Lib Dems but I didn’t rate it as a system. I’m in favour of a more proportional system with no preference voting; a system where every vote counts and counts just once. That leads me to a form of open party list PR in multi member consistencies.

    You see the coalition thing has taught me one thing…sod pragmatism, argue and vote for what you believe in. These days that’s not the Lib Dems.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 11:22pm

    Kevin Colwill

    As for AV… I don’t see it your way. I could see how AV has political advantages for a third party like the Lib Dems but I didn’t rate it as a system. I’m in favour of a more proportional system with no preference voting; a system where every vote counts and counts just once. That leads me to a form of open party list PR in multi member consistencies.

    But here you go again, making assumptionsabout me which just are not true. What is this “my way” you are talking about? I think AV is an appallingly bad electoral system, I would much prefer a proportional system. However, I think FPTP is even worse than AV, and that is why I backed AV, because AV was all that was on offer apart from FPTP and it was clear that a “No” win in the referendum would be intepreted as a vote against even the small change of AV and most certainly not as a vote which said AV was too small a change.

    STV is a very much superior system to the single party list system you say you prefer, however. Under STV every voter may draw up their own preference list, under the list system people are forced to go for a limited range of preference lists. The list system you prefer is simply a very degenerate form of STV, one whihc FORCES voters into certain patterns instead of coming close to the ideal, as put forward by Thomas Hare, of every MP being elected directly by a quota of voters who choose that MP personally.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 11:31pm

    Kevin Colwill

    I’m also a child (OK, if I’m honest a teenager) of Thatcher. I was at college in the North East of England in the mid-1980’s. I saw the destruction and despair. I also saw thumping great majorities for the Tories in election after election.

    But Thatcher did NOT get “thumping great majorities” in terms of votes – her party when she led it never got near 50% of the votes. It was only the electoral system which Britain endorsed a few weeks ago that turned the minority support she had into “thumping great majorities”. And the argument that “No to AV” put was that this was GREAT, it was WONDERFUL that we have an electoral system which twists the representation of the largest party to give it “thumping great majorities” when it really had less than half the votes, because this gives us “decisive” government and that’s oh-so-better than compromise and coaltion.

    Well, we can see what that “decisive government” is now, as we could when Thatcher was Prime Minsiter. And a vote for “No” in the referendum was a vote to endorse it – a vote for “No” in the referendum was a vote for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, for David Cameron in the 2010s, and so on forever – extremists in power and unchallengeable thanks to the distortion of FPTP.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 11:44pm

    Kevin Colwill

    With some more time, research and analysis I don’t feel betrayed but I do feel stupid. While you were telling me “it’s us or the Tories” you were telling others “ it’s us or Labour”.

    Yes, and in other parts of the country, it was Tories saying “it’s us or Labour” or it was Labour saying “it’s us or the Tories” and both saying “a LibDem vote is a wasted vote”. That’s a consequence of the FPTP system which you so strongly endorsed – it forces people into this sort of tactical consideration where they may have to vote for their second preference because their real first preference is weak in that area so voting for it “splits the vote” and so “lets in” the one they like least. The Alternative Vote system – which you so strongly opposed – breaks this, and so stops all this “it’s X or Y, so don’t vote Z because Z is a wasted vote” rubbish.

    Kevin – why are you complaining about this “it’s X or Y, so don’t vote Z because Z is a wasted vote” when this is a consequence of the system YOU support and would go away if the system you condemned were in place? AV is isn’t proportional representation, so it still has this appalling “only local majorities get represenation” feature, but it does at least end the “it’s X or Y, so don’t vote Z because Z is a wasted vote” factor, and so allows people to vote as they really feel, and gives small parties a chance to grow by taking away that “don’t vote split the vote” fear.

    It is a simple matter of fact that there are some parts of the country where the two main contenders are the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, and there are other parts of the country where the two main contenders are Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This is not opinion, it’s fact. So it is just factual for Liberal Democrats to say in the former “it’s us or the Tories” and in the latter “it’s us or Labour”. So what’s your issue? You seem not to like facts, your arguments seem to come down to wishing the world was not as it is, while opposing the one thing – the introduction of AV – which was available and could have changed those facts you so dislike.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '11 - 11:58pm

    Barry George

    If I can accept that it is now too late to go back in time and change the manner of the coalition, surely you can accept that the AV vote was lost and that it is time to move on from that. You are doing your keyboard no justice by repeating ad nauseam that we should have voted YES.

    I do not believe people realised what they were doing when they voted “No” or let “No” win by abstaining. Let me repeat – a vote for “No” was a vote for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and a vote for David Cameron now – it was a vote for the distortion which gave those two people far more power than they deserve. I simply do not believe that all those places which voted “No” would have done so had they realised this.

    I am most angry with the useless people who ran the “Yes” campaign and would like to see them sacked from any position of influence they have in my party, thrown out in ignominy. They lost us this vital vote by their rubbish campaign, and I told them it was rubbish before other people even realised how rubbish it was. I spelt out why it was rubbish and told them it would result in us losing when all still looked rosy for us.

    All these right-wing ad-men and PR-people at the top of our party, who have somehow sneaked in and taken hold of it, all these clueless “celebrities” and public schoolboys who think they should be running things because they have a posh accent, Liberal Democrats – THROW THEM OUT! Instead, put in people who have come up through the ranks in our party, people who have long experience of grassroots campaiging, people who have lived real lives with real people, people who don’t see the world in terms of sales and marketing but who instead see things in decent human terms – good old fashioned Liberals.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th May '11 - 12:26am

    Kevin Colwill

    Are you going to deny that there is a lot of common ground between people like David Laws view of the economy and the economic analysis of the Tory party?

    No, why should I? The Liberal Democrats have a left wing and a right-wing, I am on the left wing, they are on the right. Because they are in the right, they get painted up by the right-wing press as if they are the only people who matter in the party, their views get constantly reported while the views of members like me hardly get reported at all. The right-wing of the party gets money thrown at it by City fat cats and the like to set up think tanks and to have members of those think tanks constantly reported in the media, whle the left-wing gets no such support. The right-wing press seems to think being right-wing equates with being clever, so Liberal Democrats right-wingers are always pushed forward by them as “obviously the next person to be leader” and so on, while those on the left of the party are hardly mentioned, or are written off.

    Well, now, the Liberal Democrats have done all the right-wing press says it should do, and where are we? In a disaster. Those oh-so-clever right-wingers have proved useless. All those claims that there was this big “libertarian” vote that would come out for us if only we got the image of being just about right-wing economics and got rid of any remaining sceptcism about the free cash market have been shown utterly wrong. We got the iamge they said we should have, it has lost us millions of votes. And the right-wing press, having pushed us this way, goes back to its old ways of abusing us and lying about us as mcuh as it ever did – it will NEVER really abandon the Tories and support us in any way.

    I have argued, yes, that the party balance in Parliament left us with no real option but to join in a coalition with the Conservatives, but that does NOT mean I agree with the “rose garden love in” and all that “we must own the coalition” stuff i.e. we must pretend we have more power in it than we really have and pretend we agree with all its policies. It was the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats, egged on by the right-wing press, which urged us to do all this, and look where it got us.

    From the start instead we should have played down what we could achieve, admit we were in a difficult situation with only a small bit of influence, tell the truth that it was the electoral system that so weakened us and so strengthened the Tories, so if people did not like the result, the first thing they should do is take the opportunity we gave them to change the electoral system. And this is what I said from Day 1 of the coalition being formed.

    Well, I can see why Tories might vote to keep the electoral system which so worked in their favour, but why should anyone else? Sorry to keep coming back to this, but to me it is lunatic, madness, illogical, and just plain stupid that so many people took the attitude “I hate the result given to us by the FPTP electoral system, so I’m going to vote against any change to it”. And it seems to me so obvious that it really marks how useless the people who ran the “Yes to AV” campaign were that they couldn’t get the electorate to see this.

    I agree with the call that Nick Clegg and those close to him and who advise him should all resign. They must take responsibility for all the presentation mistakes that have so damaged the party. Liberal Democrat members must stop taking their cue from the right-wing press when considering where talent lies in our party. I don’t, however, agree with Scott Hill that the coalition should be ended. I don’t like it, but it’s what the people voted for in 2010 and what they voted for even more strongly when in the referendum they endorsed the system that gave us it. As a democrat, I think people should have what they voted for, even if I personally don’t like it. I would want it ended only when the people make it clear they agree they made a mistake and when there is a better alternative in place and the polls suggest it will win. Right now, none of these hold.

  • Kevin Colwill 25th May '11 - 1:36am

    @ Matthew Huntbach…. we’re going around in circles mate. Interesting as it is I think we could go point and rebuttal for ages and I’ve got a feeling it’s only you, me and possibly Barry George still reading this thread!

    I’ve given you my best purple prose in trying to explain why I can’t support the Lib Dems at the moment.

    You’ve had a good go at trying to convince me I’m cutting off your nose to spite my face.

    On AV… I never meant to imply you loved the AV system but I believe you’re on record as saying that a no vote was, in effect, an endorsement of FPTP. When I said I didn’t see it your way I only meant I was not convinced to vote yes and I didn’t see my no vote as endorsing FPTP.

    With that I withdraw from this thread.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '11 - 2:35am

    Kevin Colwill

    On AV… I never meant to imply you loved the AV system but I believe you’re on record as saying that a no vote was, in effect, an endorsement of FPTP. When I said I didn’t see it your way I only meant I was not convinced to vote yes and I didn’t see my no vote as endorsing FPTP

    The arguments put against AV by the right-wing press and by the “No to AV” campaign were all along the lines that AV was a dangerously radical reform, and along the lines that the weakening of the two-party system that AV could bring as a very bad thing. Nowhere was it put by those working for a “No” vote that AV was bad because it was too minor a reform to be worthwhile. It was absolutely clear that a “No” victory in the referendum would be interpreted as the people voting against any form of electoral reform, as the people giving a ringing endorsement to the FPTP electoral system and the stranglehold on politics of the two biggest parties which that system leads to.

    So, you may not have intended it that way, but your “No” vote will certainly be interpreted that way. The result of the “No” win is ALREADY to cause a shutting down of any prospect of further constitutional reform. Pragmatists are saying it demonstrates that the people aren’t interested in that sort of thing, and that therefore it’s just a vote-loser to pursue it. As a result of the “No” victory, Liberal Democrats know that they cannot make a firm stand on constitutional issues because it will be thrown in their face “there you go, making a big fuss about these things which no-one but you care about”. We will not, should we again find ourselves in a no-majority Parliament, be able to insist that a move towards electoral reform be one of the things we insists a potential coalition partner grants us.

    I am myself absolutely certain that your “No” vote will have helped kill the chances of any sort of proportional repreenattion system being introduced in our lifetimes, and it will have helped seal politics in this country as Conservative v. Labour forever and ever, with the Conservatives winning most times. I.e., Kevin, you, and others who voted “No” did, in effect, voteTory. You voted Tory in a way even deeper and more profoundly Tory than by putting your X against the Conservative candidate on a ballot paper, because you voted to endorse a system that will always advantage the Tories and will, now as it did in Thatcher’s era, distort politics to enable an extreme right-wing Conservative party to dominate though it lacks true popular support.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '11 - 2:52pm

    jedibeeftrix

    Labour have no god-given right to dominate the left of politics, and there is no reason why the Lib-Dem’s cannot capitalise on the growing irrelevance of labours ossified ideology.

    FPTP means the dominant left-wing party can say “vote for us, otherwise you split the cote and let in the dominant right-wing party”, and the dominant right-wing party can say “vote for us, otherwise you split the cote and let in the dominant left-wing party”. The “don’t split the vote” factor erects a HUGE barrier against any other party managing to break into the system. If AV were in place, new parties could appeal “give us your first preference, if we get nowhere, you don’t lose because you can still use your second preference for whichever of the two dominant parties you prefer without splitting the vote”. That is why by voting against AV, the British people have voted against what might have ended the log-jam in British politics and voted instead for ossification. It is a crying shame, it is a crying shame, and I blame not just those fools who couldn’t see it on the “No” side, but also those fools who ran such a useless campaign in the “Yes” side. That is why my anger runs so high on this issue. To me, the “No” vote seals Britain’s decline, it is the end of hope that politics here may be reformed, it is a boot stamping on a human face forever in Orwell’s words.

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    @Theakes - today's Ashcroft poll is consistent with similar dire polls over a long period. The party is not prepared to listen. It prefers its...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 24th Nov - 10:51pm
    Stevan Rose But I would never have bothered to post at all had it not been for a small group ganging up and accusing those...
  • User AvatarJimble 24th Nov - 9:59pm
    Rennard's Rochester Verdict. Wonder what Clegg thinks? http://t.co/JjI7tJXBJd
  • User AvatarBolano 24th Nov - 9:40pm
    @John Roffey I increasingly find myself coming to the conclusion that NC is just, simply misunderstood: that he is a bureaucrat who has somehow deceived...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 24th Nov - 9:00pm
    Sally: Yes of course you are absolutely right and I detest all that sort of thing but I do not think any Government anywhere in...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 24th Nov - 8:44pm
    Re the above comments. I think you rather missed the point. I was simply stating that many though not all resented having to pay taxes...