Charles Kennedy: I’ve learned to love the coalition

In a piece for Prospect magazine, published today, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy gives his backing to the coalition government. Though Kennedy didn’t vote in favour of the coalition last May, abstaining instead, he now backs it:

I admit that this coalition wasn’t exactly my preferred option. I’ve always considered myself in the reforming, centre-left tradition, so a centre-right arrangement puts my compass in a spin … But those of us who genuinely wanted to explore other routes—from a rainbow coalition to a minority tory administration— were sunk when figures like David Blunkett and John Reid were so against it. I’m in no doubt that a sizeable swathe within Labour were happier in the luxury of opposition, knowing how hard economically things would be. Much of their outrage at coalition decisions they would have probably taken themselves is synthetic at best.

Kennedy also says the coalition is likely to last the full term (something I’ve also argued):

Once the deal was done, I was in no doubt it would endure for this parliament. Even Ed Miliband, despite some of his leadership campaign rhetoric, seems to have concluded he’s in long-haul opposition.

He expects the party to stay united despite the uncertainties about what the future will bring:

Despite recent setbacks, the Lib Dems are a much more resilient bunch than we are usually given credit for. We wouldn’t have survived otherwise. this calendar year is going to be a tough one, but the real fortunes of the party will hinge on the economic prognosis in the third and fourth years of this parliament. It is simply too early to tell what that will be.

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41 Comments

  • Sunder Katwala 21st Apr '11 - 8:00am

    As we point out on Next Left, the Prospect headline (repeated here by LDV) isn’t at all justified by the text.

    “There may be some consolation for Nick Clegg in a Prospect column from Charles Kennedy, though he ought not to get too excited by a headline “I’ve learned to love the Coalition” which does not really come particularly close to reflecting anything Kennedy writes in the text”.
    http://www.nextleft.org/2011/04/labour-moment-as-libdems-now-trail-by.html

    His very strongest statement of pro-coalition ardour in the piece is “once the deal was done … it is in everyone’s interest that it succeeds”,

  • I think the Labour decision to go into opposition was the correct one. Whilst I don’t buy the line that the crisis is all their fault, it happened on their watch, the lack of international regulation of the banks was their (and Tory) policy and the whole New Labour project was about increasing Government spending without frightening the middle classes by raising their taxes and we can say it doesn’t work. The Labour Party has to re-think policy and strategy which is impossible to do in Government. They certainly did good things as well but New Labour doesn’t work is the conclusion of the last 13 years.

    The Lib Dem position is more problematic a progressive partner of the most right wing Tory party in my Lifetime, They are predictably being used as cover for some extremely dangerous policies: NHS reforms, the regressive increase in tuition fees caused by the decision to cut higher education spending by 80%, the removal of EMA, the attack on benefits (we haven’t seen the increase in homelessness yet, we will). The gain is the soon to be lost vote on AV some minor civil liberties gains and the income tax changes which are trivial compared with the selling out of the manifesto economic policy. A Conservative minority government would have been a better option.

  • @ Robert:

    A conservative minority government would have been a better option? Really?
    That’s being said over and over again – but it doesn’t make it any more true. It’s always difficult to deal in counterfactual history – but in this case, I think, precedent and the political situation in May 2010 makes it pretty clear what is likely to have happened. And it’s not pretty.

    The Conservatives would not have put up with it for long: even in those heady days after the General election there was already talk of another election and to be sure, we’d have had another election in autumn 2010. It would have given the Tories a significant advantage: they could legitimately have asked the voters to produce a majority – and with Labour in debt, LibDems just keeping above water financially and Conservative rolling in Ashcroft Millions. Money does talk in elections, and the Tories would have made sure not to stir up to much fear and loathing among the electorate until October… At the same time, with Labour going through lengthy leadership elections and the LibDems having abdicated responsibility, things would have looked pretty good for the Tories anyway.

    So – with that scenario, we’d almost certainly be stuck with a Conservative majority government at this point – able to carry out Tory policies without anybody moderating their worst instincts.

    Yes, I am sure *that* would have made things better – is that really what you’d have wanted? It’s the obvious scenario, and it would have been awful. And the LibDems would rightly have been sunk for not shouldering the responsibility of government. If you think about it, it simply doesn’t make much sense to suggest that a Conservative minority government (with confidence & supply, presumably) would have been better for anybody except the rightwing backbenchers who’d almost certainly have been able to hold a Cameron government with a small majority to ransom. Do you prefer the likes of Eleanor Laing to hold the balance of power – or people like Tim Farron or Paddy Ashdown? I know who I prefer.

    I, for one, am relieved that the LibDems did decide last year to take on the risk and the responsibility and are now doing as much as can be done under very difficult circumstances.

  • Maria – thoughtful, well argues, and almost certainly correct.

    Robert – “the regressive increase in tuition fees.”

    You’re incorrect. Which is more regressive:

    – a fee of £3k that has to be paid up front regardless of ability to pay currently, or
    – a fee of £9k which only has to be paid back when your income has reached a certain threshold and at which the repayment rates are below commercial loan rates and are adjusted up and down according to circumstances

    The first is clearly a much bigger barrier to entry to HE than the second, which removes all the risk of paying fees until the student is earning.

    Besides, Milipede wants a graduate tax, which is option 2 without a time limit.

  • ‘a fee of £3k that has to be paid up front regardless of ability to pay currently’

    Wrong! I have been attending university for the past three years and have not had to pay so much as a penny ‘up front’.

  • LondonLiberal 21st Apr '11 - 11:00am

    well said, Maria. I think you make an excellent argument, and am as certain as i can be (given that we are dealing in ‘what if’ history) that what you write is what would have happened.

    If i may add to your argument that we would have had a rampant Tory press viciously attacking the libdems between last May and the second autumn general election, driving home the message that were not to be trusted, we abdicated responsibility, we caused market turmoil and, no doubt, that we killed JFK and Elvis, too. The party would, in those circumstances, have taken a massive battering, I suspect. And that would not have been good for liberal values in Britain.

  • @Tabman

    Current student loans are repaid above a threshold of earnings (£18k ish) at a rate of 9% of your salary above that level. A 3 year course will cost you £9000.

    The proposed scheme will see loans being repaid above £21,000 at a rate of 9% of your salary above that level. A 3 year course will cost £27,000 in fees.

    The system is virtually identical apart from the fact the fees are 3 times as much and the rate of interest charged will be higher.

  • @ Maria

    I understand and appreciate your scenario, however what is happening is the short to medium term association of the Liberal democrats with Tory Policies and a very clear problem for the Party in governing on a right wing economic agenda having campaigned on a centrist economic agenda. If we believe our manifesto and Vince Cable’s speeches and debating position in all the economic debates during the election then this current approach doesn’t work or if it works, in right wing terms, the damage to individuals will be very great, the 1980’s but worse..

    On top of that it is electorally suicidal, just think of why people vote Liberal and ask yourself what they are thinking at the moment. We really did lie to the electorate on so many things so how can we be trusted. If a coalition was essential re your scenario why did it have to be so extensive and include the truly loathsome policies mentioned above plus academies, the destruction of local government services to the big society agenda, the closing down of Surestart Centres , Youth clubs etc. etc. It looks like we are also going to have a messy war of our own. I would not be advising my children to go to University and come out with £50,000 of debt, while trying to get onto an over inflated housing market and somehow put money aside for a pension. The total debt accruing from the £ 50,000 will dwarf the extra earnings that most graduates will gain from their experience. I am advising my children to do what I had to under the Thatcher regime and emigrate until these policy decisions are reversed, thank goodness for the EU.

    The really important policy the government should be focusing on is the re-balancing of the economy to reduce our reliance on financial services and all I see that is addressing this is the previously failed Tory agenda of de-regulation and special economic zones. If this Government really was trying to deal with the crisis a strong Industrial development policy along with strong International efforts to regulate the banks (this is something individual countries can’t do alone as they would be subjected to the banks blackmailing tactic of moving where regulation is weaker and we can’t afford this at the moment). So you see I don’t believe that a government that is wasting its time laying waste to the Health Service, Higher Education, Local Government and relying on the magic of the market and private industry to create jobs is actually addressing the core problem.

    Finally I suspect at the end of 5 years the Tories will get the credit for any economic improvement we achieve (or at least can be persuaded to believe has been achieved ) and we will get the blame for the downside. Just watch the Local elections and the AV vote and tell me if I’m wrong. So your nightmare scenario will still occur we will have just delayed it for a while.

  • Maria – Whilst I would agree with the thrust of that, I would make four observations.

    1) My instinct is that a second 2010 election would likely have produced a Conservative majority, maybe a big one. Moreover, I suspect that confidence and supply would have lasted 6 months at most. But the perception of Lib Dems having abdicated responsibility is something I’m less convinced by. Some may well have seen the Lib Dems as somehow not serious, sure, but equally it could have played as principled. Either way a pretty horrible decision, but I don’t think it is entirely correct to say that a second 2010 election would have reduced the party to a rump.

    2) A Cameron single party government would not have been at the mercy of the right wing anymore than the Coalition is. A lot of people like to say it would be, but I can’t see it. How exactly is the Coalition not at the mercy of the tory right? My own view is that the Coalition is one row on Europe away from finding out and I really don’t think it is a row the Lib Dems would win.

    3) Whilst I take the point that really the Lib Dems probably got the best deal possible (assuming we treat fees as self-inflicted), I do worry that the amount of Lib Dem influence might be being over-egged. The sight of Clegg and Alexander cheering THAT budget is one that gave a lingering impression of confluence, not influence. If voters want to dwell on that image they are within their rights.

    Let me be clear, I am not a Clegg-hater, and I think that on balance the Coaltion Agreement was probably as good an option as it was ever going to be. But those from a certain political stance in the party have every right to be uncomfortable with events of the past year. I think they deserve a bit more than, ‘is that really what you’d have wanted.’

    4) Would I want Paddy Ashdown holding the balance of power? Having been to Ashdown’s Bosnia, my goodness me no.

  • @Tabman

    The tuition fees are unsustainable because the average is higher than ministers expected. They were warned about this publicly on many, many occasions since the policy was first proposed. They did not heed these warnings. Vince Cable and David Willets have presided over one of the worst set of policies any government has come up with during my lifetime, and that includes the poll tax. Expect massive changes just to make it workable and possible devastating long term effects.

  • Isabel / TimaK – wrong.

    At present part-time students (who are in the main form disadvantaged backgrounds) have to pay up front and are inelligble for loans. This changes with the new system.

    The current repayment threshold is £15k http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/RepayingStudentLoansCoursesStartingFrom1998/DG_10034867

  • g – the big problem is too many students. Fees is a crude way to tackle it; far better to do it meritocratically through entrance policy, but that would never have legs.

  • david thorpe 21st Apr '11 - 11:40am

    @ robert

    vince cable juystfied his economic outlook in the tradition of JM Keynes, a liberale conomist. Keynes would agree with most of the fiscal policies of this coalition.
    we campaigned on the basis of cuts, and thats whats happening.
    lib dems dont view things through the left/right paradigm.

  • @Tabman

    To many students? On what basis do you draw that conclusion? Full refs please.

  • Tabman/g –

    Actually, the Poll Tax is not a bad comparison. In principle, the poll tax was a great idea. Just it hit the rocks of problems that ministers called ‘unforseen’ but which in fact were entirely predictable.

    Where the poll tax was driven by little more than an ideological article of faith, so current fees policy dogmatically says that the market alone knows what is a good HE system is, and if it means sky-high fees to bring it about, that’s what it means because fees are the water that will float all boats. Great idea, but just not in the real world.

    Even leaving aside the personally signed pledges, the policy had a hole in the heart as big as the lack collectability that hobbled the poll tax. £9k was supposed to be, ‘exceptional.’ Yet a concurrent proposed 80% cut in teaching grants is pretty exceptional. We are in one breath told that debt is not off-putting, then in the next told we need bursaries and waivers to make things ‘accessible.’ If nothing else, at least the Browne Report acknowledged the need for some measure to reign in fees.

    Then, on top of all that, there is the off-balance sheet nature of it all.

    So what we have is the young loaded with debt, little if any cost-saving (some models say this is even more expensive), a load of instability in the system and a massive off-balance sheet debt. I do sometimes wonder if Cable and Willets think it is possible for 16 year olds to head down to the local nationalised industry factory for jobs and training subsidised by the state.

  • Jedibeeftrix “What you are really asking for is to keep the ideological purity that allows the Lib-Dem’s to seem nice to all things and all people, which is fine if you don’t aspire to government.

    There is a price to be paid, and Clegg et-al rightly judged it to be worth paying, as they want to see the Lib-Dem’s as more than the party of local government.”

    APPLAUSE

  • I don’t buy the idea the Tories were a shoe-in for a majority in October 2011. Even with the honeymoon period of a new government the Tories have not polled sufficiently high to get a majority. Why would things be different if they had governed as a minority govt for six months? There is a significant and quite bitter anti-Cameron faction in the Tory party that blame him for not winning in May. He would have struggled to contain them and might well have looked weak to the electorate. It’s also far from obvious that the more the Tories revealed their actual plans – rather than the tissue of lies and half-truths they got away with before May – the more popular they would have become.
    Labour, on the other hand, would almost certainly have had a short leadership election which would have favoured David Milliband. Having dodged their (deserved) annihilation the political momentum would be behind them and their new leader.

    I’m not pretending that Labour were in shoe-in either but I do think this idea that the Tories were certain to win a subsequent election is very far from obvious. I suspect it only seems so to some people because either they are the Tories ideological cousins or they can’t face up to the possibility that the party made a terrible, possibly terminal, mistake last May.

  • Sorry, should be October 2010 of course …

  • @ Tabman. Too many students, that is the Tory agenda. No wonder you are happy! What we need is a population of people educated to their highest achievable level and not some false meritocracy which gives all the prizes to the winner. This type of thinking is typical of our public school/Oxbridge elite who only know what they think has given them an advantage. The failing of the current, pre-Coalition, system is not the numbers but the subjects and possibly the level people were educated/trained to. However , with the current policy we will see a decline in the number of students and courses which doesn’t seem right in the current economy. Mind you our Industrial and other policies will lead to high levels of unemployment so why should we educate these people!

    @ David Thorpe, I suspect you may have quoted poor old Keynes wrongly. He certainly would not have been impressed with Labour running deficits in the boom years, one of the causes of the current predicament. On the other hand drastically cutting spending in a slump/depression wasn’t his idea of a good policy. We may be repeating the mistakes of the 1930’s, the jury is still out. The deficit does need to be addressed the only question is when. We didn’t campaign for this approach or maybe I misunderstood the manifesto.

    @london Liberal
    Possibly but I suspect the party would have recovered its position faster under this scenario than the tragic second end of Liberal England we are heading for.

  • Jedibeeftrix –

    ‘The Lib-Dem manifesto counts for precisely squat as long as the party remains in perpetual opposition.’

    The manifesto does, but that does not necessarily mean that Lib Dems (or any other party) will oppose all aspects of a government’s agenda.

    ‘What you are really asking for is to keep the ideological purity that allows the Lib-Dem’s to seem nice to all things and all people, which is fine if you don’t aspire to government.’

    I’d agree to a point. Thing is though that if anything, during the 2010 election it was a lack of ideology or narrative that was the problem. The closest we got to really nailing it down was Nick Clegg’s four points, which were really not much more than motherhood and apple pie.

    I was a bit uncomfortable at the time about being all things to all people – inevitably some were going to be disillusioned. It might well have been totally unintended, but really and truly it was forseeable. It may well be that some were too comfortable with permanent opposition, no question. But it does grate a bit to hear people skate very close to blaming the voters for the current polls.

    ‘There is a price to be paid, and Clegg et-al rightly judged it to be worth paying, as they want to see the Lib-Dem’s as more than the party of local government.’

    Again, much to agree with here. Indeed, fees aside, the Coalition Agreement was probably as good as it was ever likely to get. The issue I’d take here though is whether the model of coalition was the right one. I’d have preferred fewer Lib Dem ministers, but the party having one or two ministries totally. At the moment, complaints that there is a loaded collective responsibility are not totally wrong.

  • David Allen 21st Apr '11 - 1:16pm

    Maria,

    What you’re saying is that the disaster which has now happened to the Lib Dems must be considered a good thing, because all the alternative courses of action would have been even worse.

    Well now, it is true that a confidence-and-supply deal with the Lib Dems MIGHT have turned out to work well for Cameron. He might, quite possibly, have been able to play the Harold Wilson trick of being nice to everybody for six months and then calling a snap October 2010 election to win an absolute majority. Then again, it might have gone horribly wrong for Cameron. After all, Labour’s polling figures jumped 5% upwards as soon as Brown resigned, for obvious reasons! Unlike Wilson, Cameron was not in an economic position to bribe the voters with their own money. In a confidence-and-supply situation, our constant refrain would be that we had not been offered an adequate deal to make a long-term coalition agreement, but that we would provide confidence-and-supply in the interests of economic stability. If Cameron had then called a snap October 2010 election, we and everybody else would then have been able to vilify him for taking precisely the risks with our economic security that he had claimed to be so worried about!

    So, Cameron’s strategists will have warned him that a confidence-and-supply deal would be very much second best. In the words of Osborne, it made sense for the Tories to “pay the top price for the Turkish carpet” when securing a long term coalition deal with the Lib Dems.

    And what did that top price consist of? Why, a lot of seats in Government, a fancy title for Clegg, and what was thought to be an electoral bribe in the form of the AV referendum. Let’s think back to what our party has said over all the years about the theoretical options which might arise in negotiating a coalition. We have promised again and again that we would put implementation of our policies first, and that we would not be seduced by offers of Ministerial limousines. What did we actually do? The opposite. And the country knows it.

    We failed to recognise, and we are continuing to fail to recognise, the strength of our own bargaining position. We failed to achieve an adequate agreement on student fees, on the Health Service, on schools. When the coalition agreement was revealed as an inadequate document which failed to describe the major concessions which we were to be asked to make in those areas, we did nothing about it. I do not know to what extent this was down to a willingness to do anything to secure the AV referendum, to what extent it was down to excitement at being Ministers, to what extent it was down to exhaustion or timidity, or to what extent it was down to dishonesty amongst those of our leadership who had much more in common with the Conservatives than they chose to disclose to the voters. I do know that broad swathes of the public are disgusted with the consequences.

  • @Tabman

    So by “wrong” you actually mean “almost entirely correct apart from a small subset of the population”

  • @ David Allen Thanks for your well expressed confirmation of exactly why I think a confidence and supply agreement with the Tories would have been a better option for us.

    Your last paragraph which focuses on the compromises we have had to make, along with the main thrust of our economic policy is the answer to Jedibeeftrix’s comment about preferring purity over reality. I am a strong believer in practical politics which is why when the Lib Dems were formed from the old Liberal Party and the SDP I hesitated before joining as I wasn’t sure that this new Party would ever have influence.. I believe that a Political Party has to be a broad coalition and it has to be elected to implement its policies even in Coalition with other parties. So far we are all agreed. Here is where we are going to differ, I came into active politics to fight to alleviate the mess that the Thatcher Government had imposed on the country, that Government’s attack on public services was more one of malign neglect and underfunding rather than the current deliberate policy to wards small government and the “Big Society”. The things I mentioned in previous posts I am ideallogically opposed to, it isn’t just nuanced policy differences that are the problem with the Coalition and my wing of the Liberal Democrats it is the whole tenour and direction of the Government and this is why a Coalition with the Tories is not an option unless they become the whole nation party they say they are. I hoped that the Lib Dems could replace the Labour Party as the credible Party of the center left, unfortunately what has happened under the Coalition makes the reform of the Labour party,even if it takes 10 years, a more likely vehicle for people like me and I suspect there are a lot of us..

  • Robert – “What we need is a population of people educated to their highest achievable level”

    Yes, but that should be by maintaining the standards of that education, not by dropping them as has been hitherto the case.

    David Allen – “And what did that top price consist of? Why, a lot of seats in Government, a fancy title for Clegg, and what was thought to be an electoral bribe in the form of the AV referendum. Let’s think back to what our party has said over all the years about the theoretical options which might arise in negotiating a coalition. We have promised again and again that we would put implementation of our policies first, and that we would not be seduced by offers of Ministerial limousines. What did we actually do? The opposite. And the country knows it.”

    Er, no – you’re completely wrong. Look at our four election pledges. All implemented. And how many would we have implemented in your confidence and supply scenario (which, incidentally, you seem to misunderstand – Confidence means we agree not to vote the Government down whilst they implement their Queen’s Speech, so we’d be getting full Tory policies)? Precisely none.

  • Timak – “So by “wrong” you actually mean “almost entirely correct apart from a small subset of the population””

    No – I mean wrong. As in everyone is affected by the £15k repayment threshold (which under the new arrangements will be £21k).

  • Robert – “what has happened under the Coalition makes the reform of the Labour party,even if it takes 10 years, a more likely vehicle for people like me and I suspect there are a lot of us..”

    Are you a Liberal or are you not? Because the Labour Party is not, never has been, and never will be Liberal. It is wedded to top down state control, is in thrall to producer interests, is in hock to the Unions and has a controlling authoritarian streak. If that’s your bag, fine. But don’t look at it as some sort of “alternative”.

  • There’s a lot of naievety here about Confidence and Supply.

    Alternative scenario – Cameron and Osborne go to the house with their Budget. It isn’t passed. Cameron goes to Parliament and says “This Budget is required to sort out the mess of the previous Government and to keep the Bond markets onside. We’re therefore making it a confidence Budget.”

    What options would we then have? Abstain – we might as well have voted for it (and been involved in shaping it). Vote against – Cameron and the Tory press go to the country and say we need to do this or the economy is fcuked, look at the Lib Dems, too timid to come into Government, we need a majority.

  • @Tabman

    You going to get back to me with the evidence for too many students? Employment figures for grads vs non-grads should do it…

  • David Allen 21st Apr '11 - 5:16pm

    Tabman,

    No, I don’t misunderstand “confidence and supply”. You misunderstand, or perhaps you just haven’t really read, the point I am making about it.

    You are broadly right to say that “Confidence means we agree not to vote the Government down whilst they implement their Queen’s Speech”. (Though we could have tagged on to a confidence and supply agreement provisions such as a ban on changes to student fees and/or NHS structure while our confidence agreement was in place). I am not trying to claim that C&S would have meant Lib Dem heaven.

    The point I was making about C&S was that Cameron would not have been very happy with it. He would have been at risk of us ratting on him and withdrawing confidence, thus precipitating an election, at an inconvenient time. He would also not have been confident (I think) that he would be able to rat on us and win a snap election. Therefore, Cameron had abundant reasons to prefer a coalition. Therefore, we had lots of bargaining power in making a coalition. We didn’t use it well.

  • David Allen – I think you’re looking back at last May with rose-tinted spectacles. Who had the Momentum last May? (Hint – it wasn’t us, and it certainly wasn’t Labour). Cameron held all the cards, the biggest one being the pot of money he would have been able to fight a second election with. C&S would have been a gift especially to the Tory right.

    The atmosphere at the time was “Labour have made a mess that needs clearing up.” That still hasn’t changed, and if you look at the opinion polls, there’s a clear majority who blame Labour for the mess.

    Anything other than Coalition would have led at some point to a Tory majority; and at the same time confimred to all and sundry that (i) we were a perrenial party of protest afraid of taking tough decisions and (ii) a perennial adjunct of the Labour Party.

  • g – the evidence is in the dumbing down of exams and University courses over the last 20 years, but especially the last 13. More graduates from a static population simply means that the status of graduate has been devalued. Look at the evidence of recruitment; Russell Group graduates are still rated top of the tree, and others fight for the scraps.

  • “Anything other than Coalition would have led at some point to a Tory majority; and at the same time confimred to all and sundry that (i) we were a perrenial party of protest afraid of taking tough decisions and (ii) a perennial adjunct of the Labour Party.”

    That’s quite a crystal ball you have there. Far more likely of course that Cameron reached the high water mark of support in May 2010. With his strategy in tatters he would have come under enormous pressure to tack to the right and occupy the position from which they lost the previous 3 elections. Spend some time on Conservative Home. They think they didn’t win because they weren’t right wing enough!

    As to (i) people don’t think you are making tough decisions, they think you are going along with someone else’s tough decisions. You look like fools. And (ii) they now think you are a perennial adjunct of the Tories.

    Clegg is trying to do 3 things – a) To normalize and make respectable the idea of coalition government b) To project an image of the Lib Dems as a credible party of government c) Shift the parties center of political gravity to the right.
    The problem is these 3 things are not compatible. The third ambition fatally undermines the other two. 4.7 million former Lib Dem voters agree with me. Who agrees with you apart from Jediweetabix and other Tories?

  • @Tabman

    g – the evidence is in the dumbing down of exams and University courses over the last 20 years, but especially the last 13. More graduates from a static population simply means that the status of graduate has been devalued. Look at the evidence of recruitment; Russell Group graduates are still rated top of the tree, and others fight for the scraps.

    Where’s your supporting evidence?

  • Tabman
    I suspect this is too late . You are very good at characatures of both the education service and in fact the Liberal Democrats. You may not be able to remember but the Liberal democrats were formed from both the Liberal party and the SDP. I joined from the SDP and whilst I do subscribe to Liberal Social Policies and parts of the civil liberties agenda I am also very strongly in favour of state intervention where the market is unable to deliver and I suspect that should be much more extensive than it is now. I am also not anti Union, having experienced the private sector work place deteriorate for employees over the last 30 years. I believe that the Unions are essential to defend the employees from unscrupulous employment practices which are rife as the power has switched to employers. I accept that there is and should be a strong Liberal tradition in the Liberal democrats and this is well represented by the Orange Book authors and the current direction of the Party, however the strength of the Liberal democrats was that it was a broader party and as I have said before this wing of the party is the part that is disillusioned with the Coalition.

    For your information I formally left the party a month ago, I have no intention of joining another party until the current political situation works itself out. The problem I have with the Liberal Democrats is they will be forced to defend Tory policies for the next 4 years and there will be no critique of this Governments policies and by the next election a lot of these will have been seen to be divisive and in terms of the economic policy have failed. All I say about the Labour Party is that they are in a better position to reform, they might not be able to do it.

    As as your comments about education please do not talk about dumbing down (a Tory tabloid press reference) and then present no evidence only prejudice! My experience of Higher Education is of consistent improvement over the last 10 years, look at the world league tables of Universities. With the 80% reduction in funding I can’t see how this will continue.

  • angry voter 23rd Apr '11 - 8:23pm

    Isabel is right tabman

    and I should know, I’m in that position at the moment

  • One thing is for sure – if the Tories had run a minority administration and then gone back to the ballot boxes say – around now – Labour and the Lib Dems would have struggled to fund any kind of decent GE campaign with the finances they have now – the Tories on the other hand are well funded. The Lib Dems chose the only viable path to get any of their policies adopted.

  • I have read through the thread and am pleased that at least some liberal democrats acknowledge the reality of the Liberal Democratic unpopularity and the reasons for it.

    A few deniers of reality. The point of a Supply and Demand minority Tory Government is that they would not have been able to put in place their wilder unmandated policies such as privatisation of the NHS and everything else.

    That is the point, the Tories are only getting away with what they are doing with the connivance of the Liberal Democrats.

    It sickens me to my stomach when I see Danny Alexander parroting and completing word for word the Tory line on the economy when the Liberal Democrats stood for something completely different at the election.

    For all this we would have got a tory govenment later, there is no real proof of that particularly if the Tories had come clean on their actual policies rather than the ones that the Public Relation sales campaign spun to the electorate. If they had succeeded then at least they would have had a mandate for what they wanted to do.

    For a party such as the Liberal Democrats with its concern for proportional representation, the profoundly undemocratic nature of its deal with the Conservatives and change of policies is shocking. So much so that it has allowed the no to av campaign use it as a tool to undermine the AV vote and coalition governments in general.

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