A selection of blogger responses

Here’s a selection of what Liberal Democrat bloggers have been saying this afternoon and evening about the prospects for this coming Parliament:

All Four of Our Cast-Iron Priorities: Deal. Anything Less: No Deal. (Alex Wilcock) – ” If we do a deal, it has to be for a formal coalition, for a fixed term, published out in the open. Otherwise the Prime Minister can just cut and run with a new election for party advantage, and we’re stuffed.”

Selling STV in multi member constituencies to tribal Tories (Jennie Rigg) – “Multi member constituencies are the traditional British way of doing things.”

PR is a red line for me in any coalition (Mark Reckons) – “The fact that we increased our vote share by 1% to 23% yesterday but our number of seats fell by nearly 10% just underlines (yet again) how broken our electoral system is.”

Teaching our rivals how to negotiate (Mark Valladares) – “The Parliamentary Party and the Federal Executive appear to have carried out their responsibilities without leaking or public dissent, despite the pressure that they are under.”

Clegg’s Dilemma: what should happen next (Mat Bowles) – “The Lib Dems do not hold the balance of power. They don’t get to choose between parties. They can only choose between forming a stable Govt with some reform, and an unstable Govt with another election soon.”

The weakness of Cameron’s position (Peter Black) – “There is a fascinating article in today’s Independent that underlines just how weak Cameron’s position is within his own party and why his ability to get his feet under the table in 10 Downing Street is key to his survival as Tory Leader.”

Social Liberal Forum calls for a government of national unity – “First, we must demand an immediate referendum on a genuinely proportional voting system, for which there is clearly very widespread support among voters. Second, we need robust but fair action to deal with the financial crisis.”

And finally, this isn’t from a Liberal Democrat blogger but has a very thoughtful analysis: Why a Con-Lib coalition might be good for the Left (DonaldS on Liberal Conspiracy).

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  • We have to recognise that if we want PR we have to show that coalition government works. One option may be to do a deal on the alternative vote. This would be a kind of half way house but it would be a step forward which would lead to more hung parliaments and crucially a future opportunity to introduce STV.

  • I write respectfuly as a Conservative supporter.

    It seems to me that whatever your folk might prefer, Cameron is the only show in town for you, because you really can’t afford to shackle yourselves to the corpse that is Labour . You need such a breadth of parties in a coalition with them, that you cannot rely on them; the net result is that is likely to be a short term “solution” only, and in the next election you get tarred with all the bad associations that tough decisions bring. Meanwhile us guys say ” We told you so – you voted Clegg and got Brown” ( or similar). With the best will in the world, I can’t see this is a smart move. Take that road if you like but don;t say nobody warned you.

    Meanwhile, remember that you gave Brown the chance on election reform. You have to make a judgement; can you trust him? I’d say that what you’ve seen of Cameron so far at least earns him the right to a respectful consideration. Not wishing to be too pointed but David Cameron has made our Party more diverse than yours! That’s the plain truth so you have to work on the basis that this is a guy that does take risks and does what he says. We have about 50 – 60 Mp’s of various minorities – and you guys fall well short in comparison.

    But a word of caution. A good negotiator doesn’t overplay his hand. We could get through another election with reasonable confidence of better success; can you? Don’t tell me the answer – but do ask it of yourselves so you have a clear answer before you make a call. We want your support, but can do without you.

    Let me end on a positive note. I respect Clegg’s approach and he is clearly smart. If he says work with Cameron, don’t reject it out of hand.

  • Martin – re.”We want your support, but can do without you.” I think it’s truer to say that it’s the markets that (understandably) want a reasonably firm framework of support, and that the Lib Dems realise this as much as you do. The Conservatives don’t have a monopoly on wanting to see financial stability.

  • Andrew Suffield 8th May '10 - 11:37pm

    Meanwhile us guys say ” We told you so – you voted Clegg and got Brown”

    Somebody says that whatever happens.

    Not wishing to be too pointed but David Cameron has made our Party more diverse than yours!

    Only in the sense that it contains professional lobbyists, far-right fundie nutcases, and minor royalty, none of which are represented in the Lib Dem front benches.

    Multi member constituencies are the traditional British way of doing things

    Now this is interesting. I hadn’t picked up on that bit. It seems we had STV in several constituencies, and then it was abolished by Labour in favour of gerrymandering and vote-discarding. I don’t think many people realise this.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 12:04am

    MatGB comments on Liberal Conspiracy:
    “Much as I’d wish it otherwise, there aren’t enough MPs for a rainbow coalition, it’s a non-starter doomed to fail.”

    I really don’t understand that. There are demonstrably enough MPs for such an alliance – that’s just a matter of arithmetic. The “doomed to fail” judgment must be based on some other considerations.

    What strikes me is how short of potential allies the Tories are, if the Lib Dems turn them down. Basically they have the _chance_ of the DUP – though even they seem to be presenting themselves as “equidistant” at the moment. Otherwise, the Tories don’t seem to have a single natural ally in the House. Should the party really be seeing a Lib-Con deal as the only possible outcome?

  • Why are we still discussing what is best for the Lib Dems and the Left?

    The real question is, what is best for the country? The answer, to anyone who believes in the policies of fairness and equality put forward by the Lib Dems, has to be that a coalition government, with Lib Dem members in a position to blunt the worst of the Conservatives policies on social equality, the environment and the EU. This is the Lib Dems self given duty to the country. Nicks first speech after the result urged everyone to do what was in the best interest of the country, and not look to further their parties agenda. I expect the Lib Dems will be the only ones truly seeking to do that, but so what, to turn your back on your principles now would be shameful and worse than giving up the fight altogether.

    Yes political reform is something that should continually be fought for, but the best way to do that is to get the General public on side, by proving a coalition government works, and letting the public actually see someone other than a labour or Conservative MP in the cabinet, to show that others are just as capable.

  • Andrew – we also still have multi-member wards (albeit with the worst of both worlds and FPTP) at council level in much of the country.

    Does anyone have numbers on how many second place’s we have now? It would be interesting to see how much we could avoid the squeeze in a quick second election. Reading the papers today made me realize for the first time just how fragile the coalition within the conservative party is, not sure how this would effect things going forward but DonaldS makes some excellent points in his LC blog.

  • David Morton 9th May '10 - 12:19am

    My first set of thoughts on this situation is the most vulgar – what is in the party’s own best self interests? One perfectly respectable point of view is that it’s interest is always to be in power if it can because that is what parties are for.

    If you set that aside and accept the concept of delayed gratification its far to ask whether going straight into national government at the moment is likely to grow or shrink the party. To list just a few concerns

    1. We have had no time what so ever to adjust to analysis or respond to the quite remarkable explosion and then collpase of support for the party in the last three weeks of the campaign. The period after a major fall or head injury often isn’t the best time to make big decisions.

    2. Mervyn King has offered the perfectly reasonable assessment that who ever forms the next government will be out of power for a generation because the scale of the spending cuts. While that applies to all parties are there reasons to think we could be accutely effected? Think for a moment of every Focus you have ever delivered? How many have been about protecting and enhancing local services and how many have been about a radical reduction of state spending as a % of GDP with specific examples?

    3. Given the motif of the campaign was old politics and systemic reform how will it go down if we immeadiately facilitate the old model by agreeing that governments must always be majority executives with mandates to do unpopular things.

    4. Given the centrality to the party’s campaigns of “Local champions” and tactical voting has an impact assessment been made of making an existential choice and nbacking one side or another with all that would do to the national brand?

    5. Given the ratios in a Con/LD arrangements. 306 to 57 or just shy of 6 to 1 what assessment has been made of the possibility of responsibility without that much power?

    I could of course go on as we all could but if I have learned anything over the last 19 years since joining is that the party does have a tendency to be “reasonable” in situations like this which isn’t always in its own long term interest.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 12:28am

    “Why are we still discussing what is best for the Lib Dems and the Left?

    The real question is, what is best for the country? The answer, to anyone who believes in the policies of fairness and equality put forward by the Lib Dems, has to be that a coalition government, with Lib Dem members in a position to blunt the worst of the Conservatives policies on social equality, the environment and the EU.”

    That just begs the question, though.

    Why should a deal with the Tories be better for the country than a deal with Labour?

  • Martin, I actually think thing that we can do a deal with the Conservative party. Particularly with the moderates like David Cameron. Indeed I think that if a Coalition government could be formed then David Cameron would be in a better position as the Lib Dems would allow him to reign in some of the more extreme right wingers in the Tory party. This would be good for the country because if we do it right we could have 4 years of strong stable government to get the deficit under control and to carry through policies where I think we can easily work together. We could also carry the people with us when the tough decisions come.

    The press say we are different on areas like Europe and Immigration. But on those 2 areas we can work something out. On Europe maybe we simply agree to pursue a reform agenda rather than give or take any powers to or from Europe. And on Immigration, I don’t think dropping the Amnesty idea would be a big issue, but maybe some thought could be given to regional immigration as actually I suspect that Lib Dem thoughts on that wouldn’t be very controversial. Point is there is room to manoeuvre.

    But where the Conservatives need to seed some ground is on electoral reform. One way out would be to look at the alternative vote. Which isn’t a proportional representation system but a step forward from FPTP. Surely in the interest of the country this relatively small step is a step that a modern Conservative party would be willing to take. In return for maybe 4 years or so of strong effective Liberal-Conservative politics.

    Personally I think if the above could be worked out then this could be one of the great Governments of British history.

  • The comments in the blog of Jenny Rigg are very interesting, also, and should probably be offered to the Tories, especially the Bootle one.

  • Afterthought 9th May '10 - 4:36am

    What would be best for the country is a tripartite government of national unity, with moderates stuffing the nutters on the extremes in order to reign in both excess government expenditure as well as predatory capitalism. The country would also be better off under true PR, both in terms of government legitimacy in the eyes of the public, as well as better governmental performance.

    Nick Clegg has campaigned on that, and is ready to do that; Brown has no choice.

    What will Cameron do?

    His time is running short.

  • Agreed. We need a government of the Centre. One that is not wedded to ideologies of monpolistic capital or state.

  • I agree with those who say the Lib Dems and Tories can find ground and also that in fairness to both Cameron and Clegg are probably trying to put the country first. In this regard the economy and Monday’s markets are plainly first and what I was primarily doing was encouraging you to give your leader the respect for whatever judgement he makes in a tough situation as we must do for ours.

    I personally have a problem with PR in terms of delivering this sort of uncertainty with regularity but the mature answer must be to recognise your legitimate right to insist the question be put. We all know there are various options and it would make sense to have the question narrowed ( fairly) and clearly stated with options and for there to be a proper debate/referendum campaign. This is not like Brown promise and welch, I beleive Cameron is more a man of his word but you have to make your own decision on that. I just think we need to get teh questions right but would certainly argue on my side of the fenc ethat you deserve the chance to make your case.

    I just hope any leaders debate on that subject could be chaired by someone like David Starkey!

  • A deal with the Conservatives will be too toxic.

    At the moment David Cameron is not offering us anything except the few policy areas where we already agree on, they are likely to concede little or nothing on terms of political reform.

    the fact that a number of people in the Labour camp have now offered out a hand if we turn them down in favour of the Conservatives than any MP in Scotland, London,Manchester, Leeds, Redcar or those who are reliant on tactical votes such as Eastleigh will lose their seats. It is inconceivable that we could hold onto Manchester With or Brent Central if we prop up the Tories. Even in Lewes, we would see a collapse in votes (already I’m being told that they will never vote for us again if any deal goes through). Lastly, even if there is any formal long term contract, the Conservatives will try to break it to force an early election that we are unable to afford.

    A rainbow coaltion may become unstable, but that is a risk worth taking. if we are forced into an election after that we might be able to fight a limited battle looking to hold onto what we got and getting Labour voters to vote for us tactically in places we just lost last time like in Camborne and Falmouth, Oxford West and Montgomeryshire. Alternatively it might actually work and we might be able to make some limited political reform and other concessions.

    I can understand the calls for a ‘stable’ parliament, but i don’t see why we should have to sacrifice our Party in the process and suffer a collapse as seen in the 1920s.

  • Hopefully Labour will push Gordon Brown soon.

  • I read Will Hutton today in the Guardian reminding us that if there is another election the only party with any cash to pay for it is the Tory party. The others are almost bankrupt already and would not be able to match Tory funding and the vicious press which would lie and lie and lie about why we have a new election. That is a factor which everyone has to consider but in the end I think the Lib Dems have to make it a sticking point. If they don’t they will be represented as a party which does not really believe in PR and which will trade its basic principles to get a few arses on to Cabinet seats. That would kill the dream. And , moreover , that characterisation would be used immediately by the press and the Liberal influence in the Government would suffer accordingly

  • I’m looking forward to a referendum on PR. Let’s get on with it.

  • I am writing as a proud member of the Labour party. I really can not understand, nor can my political colleagues for that matter, why the Lib Dems want to go in to coalition with the Conservatives. If my party ever did that I would immediately cancel my membership.

    How can Nick Clegg argue on TV that his party is different to the Tories then become joined at the hip with them. Perhaps a Lib Dem member can explain why a ‘progressive’ Lib Dem party thinks it can work in harmony with a Tory non-progressive party!

  • Mark,

    “I am writing as a proud member of the Labour party.”

    Are you proud of the Iraq war?

  • No it was a mistake. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that I am a proud member of a party that believes in equality. Are you a Lib Dem, if so can you answer previous question re coalition.

  • Mark,

    “But that doesn’t lessen the fact that I am a proud member of a party that believes in equality.”

    If the Labour Party believes in equality, how is it that under 13 years of Labour government, the gap between rich and poor has widened?

    And how do you explain Peter Mandelson’s statement that New Labour is incredibly relaxed about people getting filthy rich?

  • Sesenco

    All I asked was why the Lib Dems would want to join a party which is supposedly the ‘polar opposite’ to itself. Nick Clegg went to great lengths to point the differences. No wonder the electorate think that all parties are the same. Can you answer that?

  • Thank you for the reply

    However,I don’t want to get in to any war of words that ends in insults. I just wanted to know why a party so different to the Tories would want to join them. A party that claims to want a fairer society. Fairness and equality is not something that the Tories are known for – not unless they have really changed and I doubt it!

    Do you really believe it is your only chance of power, is that why you have joined them? I think it may well be the end of the Lib Dems you will be linked to a govt that has to make very unpopular decisions and you will be blamed for them.

    I always hoped PR would mean we would see the last of any future right wing govts, I got that wrong!

  • I take it that there is no answer to my question or it may be that ‘Liberals/Cons’ find it too embarassing.
    I thought Nick Clegg and Cameron for that matter looked very uncomfortable sitting in parliament today – may be they have realised just how difficult their situation is going to become. They have inherited a poison chalice. I think there was never a truer word spoken than by a reporter the other day who said that the electorate will soon be realising just how good it was under Brown. it’s true to say that you only miss something good when it has gone!

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