Professor John Curtice: ‘Labour cannot afford simply to ignore the Liberal Democrats’

On Juncture, the website of the Institute of for Public Policy Research, psephologist Professor John Curtice provides some very interesting data which suggests Labour would do well to keep talking to the Liberal Democrats:

…the hung parliament brought about by the 2010 election was no accident. It was a consequence of long-term changes in pattern of party support that mean it is now persistently more difficult for either Labour or the Conservatives to win an overall majority. Meanwhile, although the current review of parliamentary boundaries will not deliver the Conservatives quite the bonus for which they were hoping, it will undoubtedly make winning an overall majority more difficult for Labour than it otherwise would have been.

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43 Comments

  • By merely crunching the numbers Prof. John Curtice may have a technical point. But I suspect he has missed the elephant in the room which explains the evaporation of LibDem support.
    Trust
    When many LibDem voters gave their vote, they did not expect Nick Clegg and Co. to snuggle up to Tories giving them almost free rein to pursue Tory policies, albeit with a lite LibDem side salad.
    Now John Curtice warns Labour not to shun the LibDems, because like the harlot they have become, they [LibDems], will readily snuggle into bed with anyone who gives them a sniff of power.
    So follow the logic. Why give LibDems a vote?, when there is a 50/50 chance that Nick Clegg will simply pass your vote to Cameron or Milliband?
    Depending on whether you are a right, or left, leaning Liberal, you may as well vote for UKIP or Tories (for right slanted policy), or Green or Labour (for left slanted policy). At least that way you are more likely to get a package of policies that you voted for, instead of letting Nick Clegg decide for you.

  • Richard Dean 21st May '12 - 3:02pm

    One always has to talke psephologists with a ton of salt.

  • “One always has to talke psephologists with a ton of salt.”

    Particularly as most of his analysis is based on the assumption that “support for Liberal Democrats and other parties remains at 2010 levels.” He does go on to consider what would happen if Lib Dem support remained at the level the polls have been showing for the last 18 months. Unsurprisingly, he finds that in those circumstances a hung parliament would require Labour and the Conservatives to be within 2 or 3 points of each other – something that last happened 38 years ago.

  • Old Codger Chris 21st May '12 - 3:43pm

    English Tories should be praying for Scottish independence.

  • Richard Dean 21st May '12 - 4:09pm

    Ray North. Since you asked, I think your fourth point is a good one. Except that the main objective of our policies should not be to be different, but to achieve realistic, credible, costed, and robust solutions.

  • @Ray North
    I’ve read your 5 point plan. They are good and very valid suggestions, and you are clearly in sync with LibDem’s new reality. (Unfortunately, too many other LibDems are still at the denial end of the Kubler Ross cycle).
    There is just one point I would add. If a garage tried to sell me a dodgy car, or a restaurant sold me a dodgy meal, I would never [NEVER], return to that establishment until I saw a sign outside saying…..
    “Under New Management”

  • Ray North, valid remarks.

    However, item three,.. were I a LibDem councillor, I’d want to keep Nick Clegg as far away as possible. The last thing an endangered species needs is an extra dose of a major cause of their near extinction.

  • @Ray North

    Four interesting points.

    First, I don’t necessarily agree with. OK, we must be careful to avoid sounding like the famous broken record, but I do wonder how you would plan to advertise the party without telling people about those positive things you mentioned.

    Second point I would agree with, by and large. We need a set of proposals and ideas and we need to be loud about how we’d have done it yesterday had we been in government without the Tories.

    Third point, maybe better to have a tour of senior party statesmen who are more popular with the activist base. Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Lynne Featherstone. Those sort of people.

    And finally the fourth point – I don’t think we should be thinking about banishing Yellow Book Liberals from the Party. And I would have thought Lloyd George’s old clique should have disappeared through simple attrition by now, anyway.

    Assuming though that you were talking about the Orange Bookers, I’m still not entirely convinced. The only one of the four on your list who I think really ought to be shuffled out is Danny Alexander, partly because he’s seen to be a lapdog but mainly because he doesn’t deal with the media particularly well. Unfortunate that a role like Chief Secretary to the Treasury should become such a media-focussed role, but there you go. Perhaps its also possible that a change there could signal a new economic strategy while allowing Cameron to avoid having to fire Osborne?

  • Richard Dean 21st May '12 - 6:09pm

    @Ray North. I have to confess that I can’t count. My previous comment referred to your final point, not your fourth one, that is ….

    “I would well and truly squash any notion that the coalition might be in this for a second term, and I would start the process right now of putting together a programme of policies that are fundamentally different from those of the Tories and I would start to put them into the public domain, under the heading this is what the Lib-Dems will do after the next election.”

  • @ Richard Dean

    “I would start the process right now of putting together a programme of policies that are fundamentally different from those of the Tories and I would start to put them into the public domain, under the heading this is what the Lib-Dems will do after the next election.”

    Er, didn’t we do that last time, only to be labelled as traitors when it turned out we actually had to negotiate with a much bigger party whose policies were often in fundamental disagreement with our own?

  • Richard Dean 21st May '12 - 7:15pm

    @RC. The people using the T word were and are ignorant. They didn’t, don’t, and probably won’t ever understand the practical P word that is embodied in the tough love of the C word.

  • “The people using the T word were and are ignorant.”

    Oh really? You don’t think that’s an appropriate description of someone who breaks a written promise?

  • Richard Dean 21st May '12 - 8:02pm

    @Chris. I don’t see it helping anyone. Particularly not the LibDem party, whose public in-fighting may well be the real cause of loss of voter confidence.

  • Richard

    Of course it doesn’t help the party. But breaking the promise in the first place was what really harmed the party.

    And it doesn’t mean the people who consider it treachery are “ignorant,” or have not understand. On the contrary, I think they understand perfectly well.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st May '12 - 11:36pm

    John Dunn

    By merely crunching the numbers Prof. John Curtice may have a technical point. But I suspect he has missed the elephant in the room which explains the evaporation of LibDem support.

    The phrase “elephant in the room” is supposed to mean something everyone is aware of but no-one talks about. But since we’ve heard lines like yours almost continuously from Labour and Labnur supporters since May 2010, it hardly falls under the category of something no-one talks about, does it?

    When many LibDem voters gave their vote, they did not expect Nick Clegg and Co. to snuggle up to Tories giving them almost free rein to pursue Tory policies, albeit with a lite LibDem side salad.
    Now John Curtice warns Labour not to shun the LibDems, because like the harlot they have become, they [LibDems], will readily snuggle into bed with anyone who gives them a sniff of power

    This is ridiculously overblown language. The reality is the distortions of the electoral system delivered, in 2010, a Parliament with five times as many Tory MPs as LibDem MPs (despite the Tories only getting one and a half times as many votes as the LibDems) and not enough Labour MPs to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable. The only viable stable government was the one we have now, the way it is very much skewed to the Tories an inevitable consequence of the weakness of the the LibDems in negotiations due to there being no alternative possible government and such an imbalance of MPs in favour of the Tories. Anyone who thinks that wrong should have voted “Yes” to electoral refrom in May 2011, yet the country voted “No” by two-to-one, with many prominent Labour politicians loud in their support of the “No” case, citing the distortions of the current system as its best feature. THEY are the true proppers up of the Tory government we have now.

    I am extremely critical of the current LibDem leadership for playing a strategy of over-emphasising what they can achieve in the current situation rather than being honest and admitting they can ony tinker on the fringes. This strategy lets people like John Dunn get away with their ridiculous claims. John Dunn is in effect arguing against representative democrary since representative democracy means people coming together and reaching a compromise which inevitably means giving up on their ideals. But we would have no government if all refused to compromise (see Greece right now). I am sorry the compromise is so skewed to the Tories, but what can one expect with 5 Tory MPs to every 1 LibDem MP? Plus a Tory Party more right wing than any governing party in over 100 years. Vince Cable’s action in stopping the “sack at will for no reason except you have taken against them” idea shows how roomg it is to accuse the LibDems of just letting the Tories get away with anything they want – and also just how very much more extreme this government would be if it really were a majority Tory government.

  • Elliot Bidgood 22nd May '12 - 12:08am

    As a Labour supporter, I must say that I agree with John Curtis’ conclusions here. As much as I hope for a Labour majority and while I believe it will be in Labour’s grasp by 2015, a hung parliament is nevertheless a possibility. Also, although it would be tough for Lib Dems to recover to their 2010 levels of support, I think that when Coalition ends in 2015 Lib Dems will see a few-point boost above the current 10% level, which could be critical in a close election. Lib Dems successfully denied the Tories a majority in 2010, they could deny either Labour or the Tories another in 2015. I supported Ed Miliband for the leadership in 2010 in part because he might forge a better relationship, eventually, between our two parties, as he distanced himself from some of the worst excesses of the previous Labour government that deepened the schism between our parties, such as Iraq and civil liberties. He’s also made conciliatory moves, such as including Richard Grayson in the Labour policy review, and although I know some Lib Dems understandably view these moves with some suspicion, I believe they’re valuable to forge more common ground on policy that we’ll need if it comes to coalition in 2015.

  • As someone who once tramped the streets delivering Focus newsletters, I just wonder how many LibDem rosettes will end up on the counting room floor before LibDems ‘get it’?

  • This whole argument presumes that the vote for parties other than the big three does not rise enough for any of them to win a significant number of seats.

    Is there anyone who believes that the SNP won’t win a lot more seats in 2015 than they did in 2010? And if there is, can I please place a bet with them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '12 - 10:57am

    John Dunn, just what point are you trying to make? I am a Liberal Democrat member, and I most certainly have “got it” and I rather think most other members have as well. Do you really suppose that after the last two years of local elections plus the Scottish and Welsh elections that most Liberal Democrat members think the party is doing really well and is very popular?

    I think the leadership of the party has played a disastrously wrong strategy from the time the coalition was formed. I have been writing continuously about this on Liberal Democrat Voice for those two years. I think they were wrong to over-emphasise the strength of the party in the coalition and make it look equal to the Conservatives since this is lining up to take the blame for policies which, given the Parliamentary balance are bound to be much more Tory than LibDem. They were wrong to push the line “Proud to be in government”, since this in reality just makes them look word-beginning-with-sm-and-rhyming-with-rug (I put it that way because I have been told LDV regard this word as unacceptable, and I have been accused of being insulting by using it), and feeds into the notion that all they wanted was to have well-paid posts. They have continued with wrong PR moves ever since, such as the insistence on pushing this “75% of our manifesto implemented” line, which as I said when I first heard it and have been saying ever since gives the impression that the current government is 75% Liberal Democrat in policy, so what it is doing is what the party wanted to do all along. The latest disastrous piece of bad PR was following up the local elections with a Cameron-Clegg love-in session at a tractor factory.

    Nevertheless, as I argued in my previous message I do accept that the party was put in a very difficult situation due to the balance resulting from the 2010 general election. I have been asking the question “OK, if you think what it did was a complete betrayal of its principles, what else should it have done that would have been better?” to countless numbers of people who have written here since May 2010 making similar comments to yours, and have not yet got back an sensible and workable answer. Please note that if your answer is “Make a supply and confidence agreement with a minority Tory government” (which is the answer that tends to come back when there is one) what that actually means is voting for the Tory budget with all its cuts (that is what is meant by “supply”) and voting for any other Tory policy which they or Labour choose to tack a “confidence” clause to (that is what is meant by “confidence”). The result would be that the LibDems would end up voting for even more right-wing policies than now, without the ability to amend details and win some concessions which they get from being in a formal coalition.

    The reality is that with Labour and the Tory right united in their wish to see the Liberal Democrats destroyed forever and forming an unholy alliance to do down the LibDems to this end, the only real influence the LibDems have in the coalition is when it suits Cameron to use them against those he opposes in his own party (that is, its socially conservative wing and its anti-EU wing). That is why the concessions they can win are small – but to suggest, as you have, that the LibDems have just accepted every policy coming from the Tories without question and have done so willingly as if they had a choice about the matter, is simply wrong. That is why, though I am very unhappy about the leadership, I simply cannot join people like you in the sort of of criticism you are making because it is nonsense.

    From my point of view I would like to put pressure on the leadership of the Liberal Democrats to change, and people like you are making it much more difficult to do that. If when the LibDem leadership does show a bit of strength and pushes against Tory policies all its gets from the likes of you is more of “they have given in to the Tories like harlots”, they are not going to be encouraged to do more, are they? If, thanks to people like you with your false allegations made against the motivations of all Liberal Democrat members, our vote has collapsed, the party has no outside strength it can call on to be more forceful against the Conservatives in negotiations.

    If your real aim is to destroy the Liberal Democrats forever so we can have a rubbish Labour government in 2015 (like the one we had 1997-2010) then a return to Tory government, but this time real majority Tory government after that, carry on – you’re doing a grand job. But if your real aim is to get the Liberal Democrats to change their leadership and rebuild towards the left, I assure you as someone who wants to see that, what you are doing is not going to work, it will have the reverse effect.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '12 - 11:12am

    jedibeeftrix

    @ Chris – how can you complain about breaking manifesto promises when you support a party that cheerleads for exactly the kind of proportional electoral system that will bring coalitions and compromises?j

    Well, this is a common line, but those who make it should consider what it means. If we don’t have coalitions, which inevitably means a compromise falling somewhere between the ideal positions of the coalition parties, we need a system, such as that put in place in Italy in 1922, which guarantees a majority for whichever party got the most votes regardless of whether it was a real majority. That indeed was the logic of the argument put forward by the “No” side in last year’s referendum. If we follow through that logic, what we should have now is a full Tory government created by adding enough extra Tory MPs to give the Tories a majority. That is the logic of those who say elections should be about each party putting forward a rigid five-year plan as a “manifesto” and whichever gets the most votes implementing that manifesto.

    So those complaining about coalitions and compromise now should be honest about the alternative they would have put in place. That alternative right now would be a full Tory government, putting in policies like allowing instant sacking from your job with no legal protection and no need even to state a reason. I say this in particular to those moaning about the fact we have a coalition and saying the LibDems have betrayed their principles by allowing it – show some intellectual honesty and admit that what you are really saying is right now we should have a pure Tory government. I don’t mean this in terms of what you really want, I mean it in terms of what the form of government you advocate would give us based on how people voted in 2010.

  • “how can you complain about breaking manifesto promises when you support a party that cheerleads for exactly the kind of proportional electoral system that will bring coalitions and compromises?”

    As has been pointed out about a thousand times, the pledge on tuition fees had nothing whatsoever to do with the Lib Dem manifesto. In fact it had nothing specifically to do with the Lib Dems. It was just that it was predominantly Lib Dem MPs who broke their word. You can find some information about the pledge here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vote_for_Students_pledge

    Oh, and the other small flaw in your reasoning is that I _don’t_ support the Lib Dems any more, and what’s happened in the last couple of years has made me very dubious about proportional representation. Not that AV is a proportional system, of course.

  • Matthew Huntbach writes :
    ‘John Dunn, just what point are you trying to make?’
    You then go on to list an absolute catalogue of errors that Nick Clegg has made, almost weekly since he joined the coalition.
    My point is that Nick Clegg is a disaster
    Voters don’t believe him. Voters don’t trust him. He has made a bonfire of any credibility that the LibDem brand had. Even local LibDem councillors, disassociate themselves from him, because he loses them votes. And the voters will make sure that Libems are consigned to history in 2015.
    LibDems have no future with Nick Clegg on the bridge of the ship.
    Is that point clear?
    If the LibDems are to secure any future, they must first find out who of the LibDems that the public/voters still have any semblance of trust for. Then that ‘ best trusted’ person, should be given much more air time, whilst at the same time Nick Clegg is given much less air time. Over a period of time the party should swap the trusted person for the non-trusted person, just in time for the next general election, and hope that the electorate have short memories or a readiness to forgive.
    You could do worse than letting Vince Cable take a stab at it.

  • Peter Watson 22nd May '12 - 7:55pm

    @Matthew
    “The result would be that the LibDems would end up voting for even more right-wing policies than now, without the ability to amend details and win some concessions which they get from being in a formal coalition.”
    You seem to assume that a minority conservative government would constantly have brought right-wing policies to the house and challenged us to vote them down. This is similar to the way some commentators on this site “know” that after 6 months of that a general election would have led to a majority conservative government. This is all speculation. Realisation that labour weren’t as unpopular, or the tories and LDs as popular, as people expected might have led to support returning to labour. A stubborn right-wing minority government without a mandate trying to impose its will on the majority might have lost support. A right-wing minority government without a mandate might have negotiated publicly with lib dems and others (even labour?) rather than do secret deals behind closed cabinet doors. These, and others, are all possible scenarios.
    There should only be one reason to have a right-wing government implementing the right-wing policies which many of us oppose, and that is if there were a majority conservative government. In that case they would have a mandate for it. But as a minority party in coalition with a smaller party they have no such mandate and we should not be giving it to them, otherwise we send out the message that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for nothing in particular.

  • “If we don’t have coalitions, which inevitably means a compromise falling somewhere between the ideal positions of the coalition parties …”

    Another thing that’s worth remembering is Andrew Lansley’s NHS ‘reforms’.

    They were obviously quite contrary to the compromise hammered out in the immediate aftermath of the election. Yet so far from fighting them, the Lib Dems rubber-stamped them,when they could instead have said “No, we have not agreed to this, and we do not agree to this.”

    It was only much later, when the extent of opposition – including the extent of much better informed opposition than anything the Lib Dems could muster – had become clear, that the party decided to adopt the colours of a moderating influence on the despicable intentions of the Tory party. How much better it would have been if, instead of ‘moderating’ this pernicious plan, they had simply vetoed it, as the coalition agreement gave them every right to do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '12 - 12:58am

    John Dunn

    ‘John Dunn, just what point are you trying to make?’
    You then go on to list an absolute catalogue of errors that Nick Clegg has made, almost weekly since he joined the coalition.
    My point is that Nick Clegg is a disaster

    No, that was NOT your point. If that was your only point, I would have agreed with you. However, instead of making that point you used words which attacked ALL Liberal Democrats. Instead of making a realistic and focused attack on Clegg, you littered your comments with unrealistic claims which refused to acknowledge the limitation on the LibDem position given by the May 2010 election result, and refused to acknowledge what LibDems have been able to achieve in that situation.

    When you write “LibDems have no future with Nick Clegg on the bridge of the ship. Is that point clear?” my answer is “Yes, I agree with you on that point, but no, it was not clear in your comments because your comme nts were not focused on Clegg and not limited to realistic attacks on his limitations and failings”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '12 - 1:30am

    Peter Watson

    You seem to assume that a minority conservative government would constantly have brought right-wing policies to the house and challenged us to vote them down. This is similar to the way some commentators on this site “know” that after 6 months of that a general election would have led to a majority conservative government.

    We have already seen how the right-wing of the Conservative Party is seething at what the Liberal Democrats are stopping them from doing. One need only look at the constant attacks on the LibDems in the right-wing press to see how nonsensical is the claim from people like John Dunn that the LibDems have just accepted whatever the Conservatives ask them to accept. What I find sad is that we get attacks like this from the right, and instead of support for what we are doing to try and limit them we get attacks from the left which refuse to acknowledge the reality which is that the Liberal Democrats aren’t in a position to make the Conservatives drop 100% of their policies and pick up 100% LibDem policies.

    I don’t think a minority Tory government would have carried on for years denying its instincts and in effect bringing forward Liberal Democrat policy, which is what you seem to be suggesting. Rather it would be constantly blaming the fact that it couldn’t properly govern because it lacked a majority for all that was going wrong in the economy. So, yes, I think the realistic scenario is that it would go for another general election pretty soon. Look at the situation in Grece where another general election looks likely t be held in months because every party is standing its ground rather than agreeing to compromise.

    There should only be one reason to have a right-wing government implementing the right-wing policies which many of us oppose, and that is if there were a majority conservative government. In that case they would have a mandate for it. But as a minority party in coalition with a smaller party they have no such mandate

    You agree that, and I agree that, but do the British public? No, they don’t – we had a referendum on that last year and by two-to-one the British public voted against electoral reform and in favour of the notion that it is better for represenattion to be distorted so that the largest party has complete control of government even if it comes nowhere near actual majority support in terms of votes. That was quite explicitly the line the “No” campaign was using, and the “No” side won with almost twice as many votes as the “Yes” side.

    If the Labour Party was backing the point you make here, and using the argument that the Tories with just 36% of the vote have no right to govern in the way they are, and that the LibDems with 23% of the vote should have far more influence in the government then they do have, we would be able to stand up and make that point. But Labour aren’t backing us on this, because Labour also want to be in the position of having absolute control of the government on a minority of the vote.

    If the Labour Party had come out and backed electoral reform and said clearly that the distortions of the current system which give the Tories nearly a majority on just over one third of the vote and which underrpresent the other parties to the point a coalition of them against the Tories is not viable, then what you suggest would work. It doesn’t work because we have no backing from Labour at all for that argument.

    In fact there is nothing coherent at all coming from Labour. Given the party balance in he Commons now is the same as it was in May 2010, if there really were an alternative government arrangement that would have worked then, Labour could be offering it now. Then they could legitimately crticise the LibDems for not accepting it. But they aren’t offering it because they know there isn’t a workable alternative. They refuse to use the line that the Tories have no right to impose their extreme policies on such a small share of the vote because they do not agree with that line. So they’d rather sit back and profit from the LibDems getting destroyed because they aren’t able in their position to convert the Conservatives to 100% LibDem policy.

  • Peter Watson 23rd May '12 - 8:28am

    @Matthew
    “by two-to-one the British public voted against electoral reform”
    Sadly I think they voted by two-to-one to give Nick Clegg a black eye. That is why I feel so let down by our leadership whose behaviour in coalition tarnished the whole concept in the mind of British voters. The anti-AV campaign focussed on Clegg’s u-turns on student fees and his hypocrisy in wanting people to support what he called a “miserable little compromise”. I don’t remember any arguments that were actually FOR the current system just those that were against AV and the Lib Dems.

    “In fact there is nothing coherent at all coming from Labour.”
    To all intents and purposes they’re an opposition in a traditional two-sided parliament so we should not expect anything else. We will have the current electoral system for decades and it favours two parties so Labour will do what is in their interest, not ours. Furthermore, if Labour genuinely believe that we are now tory-lite rather than a party of the left, and that we are fully supportive of the coalition government actions, then of course they will attack us rather than seek to work with us. If I were a labour strategist I would primarily be trying to poach LD members and voters, and later I would look to attract or work with defectors from the parliamentary party or the left-side of any split. This side of a general election I would be “not ruling out” rather than proposing coalition with our leaders, many of whom might be out of work after the election anyway.
    Alternative universes aside, we are where we are. Given that we face three years of hostility from labour and the tory right, we need to decide what is the best way forward. The dilemma for me is that I believe that the best way for the LDs to survive as a party in 2015 is on a coalition platform and an electoral pact with the conservatives, but this would be an LD party that I could not support unless the economy, NHS and education reforms proved that I was wrong to ever doubt our leaders.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '12 - 12:52pm

    Peter Watson

    “by two-to-one the British public voted against electoral reform”
    Sadly I think they voted by two-to-one to give Nick Clegg a black eye.

    Yes, OF COURSE I know that’s what many of them were really thinking they were doing. It was absolutely daft, somehow people seemed to believe we were responsible for the coalition and its right-wing policies, so if we did not exist and instead there was a majority Conservative government it would be practically social democrat. As we can see from today’s Tory press accusation of our two leading Parliamentarians being “socialist” and “communist” for daring to stand against right-wing Tory policy, if it seems bad now, it would be FAR, FAR worse if we really did have a majority Tory government in place now.

    As I have written elsewhere, this is what one gets from Labour, they are the world’s worst losers, when they lose they just lash out, they’d rather destroy us and have the most right-wing government in place imaginable than to build a credible left alternative which involves co-operation outside themselves. So that’s why they are happy to see us smashed rather than to give us any sort of support when we do stand up against the Tories, even though if they did give us that support we could achieve much more.

    The reason I am going on and on about the “No” victory in the referendum being a vote of endorsement for Tory domination is that first in reality it was, even if those who voted “No” didn’t see it that way – the only logical interpretation of where this country should be following the “No” campaign’s main point which is that it’s better to distort representation in favour of the largest party in order to get “decisive government” is that what we should have in place now is a pure Tory government. So the only logical criticism of the LibDems from anyone who voted “No” and endorsed the “No” campaign is that the LibDems have NOT just given in and let the Tories do whatever they want to do. The second reason for going on about it is to make people THINK. It is often a good ideas to jolt people’s complacency by making a point which is opposite to the one they expect, by pointing out logical holes in what they have taken for granted. If politics is to be changed in this country we need to get people to THINK rather than just take for granted the assumptions that have brought the country to the mess it is now in.

  • Matthew Huntbach writes :
    ‘It was absolutely daft, somehow people seemed to believe we were responsible for the coalition and its right-wing policies’
    If LibDems voted through Conservative led, right wing policies, then YES, LibDems WERE responsible, or jointly responsible, for the diabolical right wing policies that are now in place.
    I don’t think it’s appropriate to call voters daft because they’re miffed by the LibDem lies and pledge breaking.
    …… ‘so if we did not exist and instead there was a majority Conservative government it would be practically social democrat’
    Where do you get the notion that the alternative to coalition would have been a majority Conservative government? Do you have a crystal ball?
    By the way, I voted yes on AV, despite Nick Clegg’s sales pitch, calling it a measly little compromise. The AV idea was an unfortunate bastard version of PR, but my hope was that if it had been accepted, it could have been tweaked over time, into something more robust and sophisticated and closer to proper PR.
    But now we’ll never know…… because it was handled like an outing in a brewery.

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_westminster_hour/9722321.stm

    The BBC’s Westminster Hour picked up on this topic

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '12 - 1:04pm

    John Dunn

    If LibDems voted through Conservative led, right wing policies, then YES, LibDems WERE responsible, or jointly responsible, for the diabolical right wing policies that are now in place.

    That is what democracy is about – reaching a compromise. I’m sorry the only compromise that could be reached was one which – I quite agree – is full of diabolical right-wing policies. Unfortunately that’s what comes when more people vote for a diabolically right-wing party like the Conservatives than for any other party, and we ave an electoral system which twists representation of the largest party upwards and of smaller parties downwards.

    Where do you get the notion that the alternative to coalition would have been a majority Conservative government? Do you have a crystal ball?

    It’s my own considered judgment, based on many things such as having lived through a similar situation in 1974, having observed difficult balance of power situations in local government, having thought a lot about how balance of power might be handled over the 30+ years I have been a member of the UK’s third party, and having observed the nasty way in which the right-wing press which dominates political commentary in this country tends to distort things ti get what it wants. Does it help if I tell you one of the most appalling things it did in my mind is to push the third rate Mr Clegg into the leadership of my party?

    I would hope if you see what I have written elsewhere in LibDem Voice that I am very much NOT a “leadership-loyal” Liberal Democrat, and that I am VERY unhappy about this government and what it is doing. You appear to be attacking me on the supposition I’m a Clegg-supporter and I’m only saying what I’m saying because it’s what I like.

    I would like my party to be pulled back to the left, and I would like to see Clegg deposed form the leadership. OK? Now, following that, I am STILL of the opinion that people like you are making it much HARDER for people like me within the Liberal Democrats to get what we want. I am STILL of the opinion that you are living in a fantasy world where you are in effect denying how the people chose to cote in 2010 and 2011 and the consequences of that. Fine, we can agree to differ, but can you give me the courtesy of accepting my opinions are honestly arrived at and honestly expressed?

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '12 - 1:16pm

    John Dunn

    By the way, I voted yes on AV, despite Nick Clegg’s sales pitch, calling it a measly little compromise. The AV idea was an unfortunate bastard version of PR

    AV is not a version of PR. It is a measly little compromise, a relatively small change to correct an anomaly in our current electoral system. However, it became clear that the referendum was being treated as one on electoral reform – if AV fell no-one would draw the conclusion “the people want a more thorough reform”, rather the conclusion was drawn almost universally “that’s the end of electoral reform for a generation”.

    I voted for AV on those grounds and also in the grounds it ended the “Must vote for to stop Y” argument, which I actually think is a very significant point.

    Not only do I agree that the “Yes” campaign was handled very badly, I am on public record as having expressed this view well BEFORE the referendum, when the opinion polls were still showing “Yes” coming out on top. I was at the London Liberal Democrats regional conference a month or so before the referendum when we were treated to what I thought was a load of useless waffle and badly prepared material and a complacent message coming from on top. So I stood up in this gathering of the London Liberal Democrats, said who I was, denounced the uselessness of the “Yes” campaign, and said “Remember my name when we lose the referendum”.

    There are others who contribute to LibDem Voice who were there.

    I have given much advice to my party over the years. Most of it has been ignored, almost always to the party’s detriment. As you can see from what I am saying about how the coalition should be handled, that is still happening. My advice is given for free. The useless PR and marketing people the leadership chooses to listen to instead get paid handsomely for wrecking the party with their bad advice.

  • Matthew Huntbach writes :
    ‘That is what democracy is about – reaching a compromise.’
    It’s very creative to try to spin ‘lies’ into ‘compromise’. Try explaining that on the doorstep, to all those voters you earlier called daft.
    ‘ Unfortunately that’s what comes when more people vote for a diabolically right-wing party like the Conservatives’. Or….. foolishly vote LibDem, in which case you will still get right wing policies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '12 - 4:58pm

    John, I am sorry you are missing my point. We didn’t get right-wing policies because people voted LibDem, we got right-wing policies because people voted Tory. You seem to be supposing that somehow a government putting forward entirely Liberal Democrat policies could have been conjured up out of the Parliament resulting from the May 2010 general election. I do not think it could. If that is where we agree to differ, so be it.

  • Peter Watson 24th May '12 - 5:28pm

    @Matthew
    “We didn’t get right-wing policies because people voted LibDem, we got right-wing policies because people voted Tory.”
    I agree with and sympathise with a lot of what you have written, but I think it is fair to say we got right-wing policies because people voted Tory AND Lib-Dem. After all, that is where we are now. No single party had a mandate for its policies and I resent the fact that our leaders have yielded so much to the conservatives.
    It might be true to say that we got right-wing policies because not enough people voted for left-wing parties, but that would be disingenuous since many LD voters thought they were voting for a party with left-of-centre sensibilities.

  • Matthew Huntbach24th May ’12 – 4:58pm…………………..we got right-wing policies because people voted Tory………………….

    Only half right IMO. We got right wing policies because our Leadership, MPs and many peers went far further than the initial agreement we were sold.
    On NHS, Disabled legislation, etc. we had a choice. Voting against things over and above the initial agreement would have stopped them, abstaining would probably have allowed them to go through but as TORY not LibDem acts, voting for them ensured they were our policies too.
    However, our representatives went even further than just voting for them; they came out and told the media they were in favour of them. Don’t blame the electorate. Those that voted LibDem were entitled to believe that we were reluctant junior partners; instead we have listened to “75% of the policies are LibDem” (bear with me, Matthew. I know you hate that phrase as much as I)and the spectacle of Clegg and Alexander defending purely Tory policies.

  • I disagree with the suggestion that as the Liberal Democrats have less MPs they have to allow a lot of ideological Conservative policies through. The Conservatives did not declare a lot of their policies, such as the ‘reform’ of the NHS. This is why voters pulled back from giving a complete mandate. The electorate did not trust the Conservatives, with good reason as it turns out, and the Liberal Democrats were supported to prevent their potential worst excesses.

    Allowing these policies through, particularly those not agreed in the coalition agreement or which flatly contradicted the Liberal Democratic electoral platform accounts for the drop in support and was not good. There is no spin or disguise that can be placed on what happened.

    The Conservatives did have the most MPs but were not open about their plans and ideological nature of their policies. They did not receive a mandate on all the policies they kept hidden. So why should they be allowed through ? If these policies were tested in an election, how much support would they achieve ?

    There is an an assumption that the Conservatives would have won a fresh election a few month later. It is a very big assumption to say that the Conservatives would have won if they had even displayed a fraction of their real program. If the Liberal Democrats had respected the democratic will, and allowed a minority conservative government, then the electorate would have known that the Liberal Democrats stood by their word. The alternative vote may even have been won.

    Even then , if the Conservatives (or coalition) had won an election on the current program then a lot of us may not like it but at least there would have been a democratic mandate.

    British debt is not Greek debt and it is not correct to liken the two economies. The Liberal Democrat and Labour policies both contained some austerity and the electorate accepted some level of cuts. If the Liberal Democrats returned to their electoral mandated position, one which accepted the need for growth, then there may be a way back.

    Liberal Democrats need also to stop pinning the whole blame for the financial melt down on Labour as some of the major reason for the meltdown, weaknesses of the system of regulation of the market and structure of banks and hedge fund gambling are not addressed. As it stands, the same weaknesses persist.

    If Liberal Democrats held the balance of power again, then they should prevent some of the worst excesses of Labour such as their innate authoritarism. The electorate may then gain some trust or belief that coalition politics can respect the democratic will as expressed in an election .

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