Author Archives: Paul Kohler

Taboo or Not Taboo… time for the Lib Dems to find their voice on coalitions and the EU?

According to former Lib Dem Press Secretary and current FT journalist, Miranda Green, “The great ‘Brexit’ and ‘coalition’ taboos are holding the Lib Dems back”. Whilst other commentators, including Matthew Parris and Daniel Finkelstein in the Times, have bemoaned our failure to set out a distinctive message on these issues.

In their defence, the party leadership is rightly sceptical of the siren voices to which we succumbed in 2019. It would be all too easy to say something that improves our national poll rating, but harms our prospects in the Blue Wall, where nearly all our realistic targets lie. Hubris did for us last time and we’re not about to repeat the mistake.

But that doesn’t mean we must speak in riddles when asked whether we would go into coalition with Labour or rejoin the EU.

Inevitably, Labour have weaponised the Lib Dems’ role in austerity (notwithstanding our success in stopping the Tories cutting as much as both they, and the Labour party, threatened in their 2010 manifestos!). The Party consequently tends to avoid mentioning our period in government, for fear of repelling Labour tactical voters, despite the coalition’s achievements and the positive view of many disillusioned Conservatives, who are rightly appalled at what came next. As for future intentions, our current line is to simply say we will not countenance a coalition with the Tories, but then refuse to answer the exact same hypothetical when the subject turns to Labour; which sounds unconvincing and does little to reassure wavering Conservatives.

Surely the lesson to be learnt from 2010-15 is that formal coalitions are incompatible with First Past the Post.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 49 Comments
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