John Pugh writes: is an apology in order?

There was little real choice about choosing to enter the coalition. There was little real choice about addressing the nation’s colossal budget. There was no way to avoid risking unpopularity.

As the Liberal Democrat councillors took the bullet for the coalition on local election day and Conservatives emerged relatively unscathed, it must be asked whether the extent of our defeats was avoidable. To put it another way could we have played the coalition game better – both in terms of presentation and in terms of policy?

The answer is unequivocally yes and for that reason MPs owe an apology to our council colleagues. Setting aside the policy disaster that was tuition fees and the lack of trust that emanated from that, we have been lured into the tribal politics that characterises Westminster and so suits Labour and Conservative alike.

It can seem to those who don’t follow politics closely that we have simply decamped and joined the Tory tribe. We are playing our political hand by the old rules with all the pointless, cross chamber point scoring and silly mantras that characterise the political tribalism we ordinarily reject. “Tory good; Labour bad or vice versa”

In consequence to many voters coalition politics has not looked like the ‘new politics’ simply a realignment of the tribes. That perception together with the lack of trust engendered through the tuition fees debate has been a lethal cocktail.

The thesis often advocated by my friend and colleague Jeremy Browne that we have simply lost the protest vote seems wholly inadequate to explain our current plight. After all, councillors in years gone by, up and down the country, have been able to solicit effectively support for tough difficult, local decisions without the sort of collateral damage suffered on May 5th. Some have had more experience of coalitions than MPs.

The stated consoling hope that a new category of voters who wouldn’t previously have considered us are just waiting to see more of the same before putting their X down for the Lib Dems seems born of desperation. “The Considerers” seem as elusive as the Borrowers in Mary Norton’s famous children’s story – very tiny and almost invisible.

The truth is that, collectively, the parliamentary party have made mistakes – some perhaps more than others – and for the sake of those whose dedicated campaigning came unstuck the first Thursday in May – we should say so.

John Pugh is MP for Southport

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60 Comments

  • Very good article.

    The trouble isn’t policy but communication – we simply aren’t effective at telling people what we’re doing.

    The tories have the papers, the millionaire backing, the press team whereas we have Focus leaflets and the very occasional appearance from Olly Grender on This Week.

    1. Stop apologising – this is as much our government as theirs 75% of our manifesto is in it and we should stop any opposition-like behaviour. We are not ‘stopping the Tories wrecking the NHS’, we are ensuring OUR plans get through!

    If we just call ourselves a brake on Tory idiocy we’ll get nowhere – we need to be proud of our own plans. (Trouble is, a lot of our ‘protest’ voters wouldn’t’ve liked our manifesto if they bothered to read it)

    2. Look out for the press – they’re all out to get us. Every single paper. We knew this when CCHQ ordered the right wing papers to smear Clegg during the debates. We have ourselves to blame for the ‘betrayal’ stories – our MPs didn’t rebut them, our seemingly nonexistent communications department didn’t do anything to counter the smears and lies.

    3. Be Relevant to people! Nobody cares about alternative voting – We cannot let ourselves just become a party which is seen to care about consititutional restructuring, Single transferrable votes, boundary changes or subsidiarity.

    We need to be absolutely clear that a voting reform referendum was not ‘the price of coalition’ – the danger is we become the party which ‘wins’ on all the complex niche interests like Lords reform, and the Tories get all the wins on real things like fuel duty, NHS, taxation, schools policy. policing etc… even though they were also our ideas.

    Our advantage over the other 2 parties is that we can appeal to both the North and the South, rural and urban, and cut across the outdated class hatred that drives the Labour party. Lets use it to our advantage and actually tell people that we are bothered about their job, their town, their family…..not just complicated academic structural issues like AV or lords reform.

    In the local elections in my district we ran a 95% local issues campaign – the only national issue we used was the £200 tax cut. We polled 20%+ above the national figure of 17%

  • The sad thing is that many people have been saying these things on this site since the coalition began. As a rule to raise such issues leads to being labelled a “Labour Troll”.

    The tone of the coalition needs to change, the tribal attacks on Labour need to end (even if it is not reciprocated I voted for a party that should be better than that). When Labour ask for input into policy development this should be grabbed and not derided. They may be playing games, but the party that advocates pluralism needs to show it is willing to engage. And engagement is not saying they will agree with the outcome, there should be differences between all three parties, but there are also areas of agreement. Any input may be able to curb some of Labour authoritarian tendancies and make a future coalition with them at least achievable.

    As for working with the Tories. It was the right decision and remains so. But it needs to be businesslike not a love in.

    Finally Tuition fees needs to be put to bed. But it can only be done by a proper apology and by some substantial curbs on the (now majority of) Universities proposing to charge the full amount. We were promised this would be the exception – this will be seen as another broken promise unless this is made to be the case. The MP’s who voted for the raise need to grasp that they have broken a personal pledge, not changed a manifesto item because of the hand the electorate has dealt them. If you break a promise you have made to someone you apologise, and do so without reservation. Clegg’s half hearted efforts of apology to date are cringeworthy.

    Finally whoever is advising Clegg on his media profile needs a P45. Most people agreed with him on internships, but only a fool wouldn’t have seen the cries of hypocrite in advance. Sitting behind Cameron at PMQ’s nodding and cheering at Tory policies, and the PM’s half answers is not going to convince left leaning floating voters to lend their vote in 2015.

  • @Steve Way

    Actually, the reason for that is that there actually are Labour trolls, they’ve died down in the last few weeks but they really stifled the quality of debate. As far as I’m aware they were only a handful of people but posting over multiple names. A couple of times they accidentally replied to their own posts under the same name.

    Unfortunately it’s just the case that legitimate posters were tarred with the same brush as actual trolls and, completely unintentionally (from all sides), legitimate points were lost. In any case, that’s what I see it as.

    Otherwise, I agree with every word you said. How on earth a party that was always going to be in coalition before having even the slightest chance of a whiff of majority government didn’t have a coalition strategy planned out in advance baffles me…

  • LondonLiberal 16th May '11 - 3:29pm

    Steve – quite agree on Clegg’s advisors. Whoever is suggesting things to him clearly has tiny political antennae. But it’s not helped from comments by the man himself such as ‘I don’t remember campaigning on them very much’ (re: why we shouldn’t be angry at him over tuition fees); and ‘in fairness we were reacting to very fast-moving events’ (re: why he didn’t really believe the economic policy he put forward at the time of the election but didn’t tell anyone).

    Clegg – sack your rubbish advisors and keep your head down for a while. Quietly build up support behind the scenes for Lords reform, and let Kennedy, Campbell, Farron and Hughes talk up the party for a little while. Plus, don’t over promise on the NHS – you are one broken commitment away from irredemable loathing from every one (as opposed to a general mistrust from most at the moment).

  • To begin to win back my trust (and the trust of many people in the North and Scotland) you could start by:

    Apologising for tuition fees

    Apologising for Clegg’s failure to tell us he changed his mind about deficit reduction while he continued to campaign on a deficit reduction platform that was more leftwing than Labour’s. I see this as fraud and I do mean that. If he changed his mind before the election, as he said, he had a duty to tell the voters he was courting.

    Drop the NHS reforms: tell Cameron unless serious changes are made, all LD MPs will vote against.

    Stop being a part of the Tories’ anti-disabled smear machine (which is causing greater violence, resentment and abuse against disabled people, as reported in the Observer) and press as hard as you can for amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill including the motion LD members passed at conference against dropping the mobility component of DLA (which you’ve not followed through on). Actually you’d do well to keep DLA in place as it is, contrary to Tory/tabloid lies, a low-fraud (0.5%), not out-of-work benefit that makes work possible for many disabled people like myself. The WCA is also not fit for purpose and this should be dealt with as well: I am seeing more and more very ill people, even terminally ill people with 6 months to live, being found “fit for work” not by doctors or specialists, but by ATOS’ “healthcare professionals”, most of whom know little about disability or illness. The WCA is a disgrace and is failing our most vulnerable.

    Continue to press for tougher action on climate change including renewable energy

    Take up the issue of civil liberties like you promised: the police are becoming more harsh, there were many “pre-crime” arrests before the royal wedding, kettling is a disgrace, and the plain-clothes snatch squads on the day of the royal wedding disgusted me. I don’t like the idea that because someone may be a squatter or anarchist they should be detained, even if no crime has been committed, just because plod thinks they “might” do something in the future.

    I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that really make me angry. As I keep saying, I am no Labour Troll, and I don’t know if I could ever vote for them again. LDs campaigned on a platform that was often more compassionate and social democratic than Labour: this is why I switched to LD and left Labour in 2005. If you want to win back the trust of millions of left-of-centre people like me, those above would be a good start.

    Personally I’d prefer you left the coalition altogether, but I know that won’t happen which is why I’m trying to be constructive.

  • I’m sorry but the idea that is being knocked about that Lib Dems had no choice may or may not be true, but you have to live by your decisions. Your messages may be being lost not by the lack of effectiveness of the message carriers but by the avalanche of pain in the wake of the cuts. The Lib Dems cheerfully swapped the AV referendum for George Osborne budget reduction plan. The country has given its verdict on this choice, and in the process rejected, especially in the North any pretension the LIb dems had to the label progressive. The Rose Garden seems a long way away, especially as many of those watching are either unemployed or are considerably worse off. You cannot have cake and eat it. Power costs and unfortuanately on May 5th only the Lib Dems did the paying.

  • Deliver on the economy and there is no need to apologise. If the coalition was formed to tackle the deficit and the after effects of a recession, then prove us skeptics wrong.
    The tuition fee debacle, is a done.. Any over-stated apology will simply re-open the issue and further weaken Lib Dem’s in the coalition. That is something that can only be dealt with once the coalition is over.

  • Tony Dawson 16th May '11 - 4:27pm

    “The Lib Dems cheerfully swapped the AV referendum for George Osborne budget reduction plan.”

    A clever and (so far) effective piece of spinning. Because there is a (maximum) 115 per cent difference between the published Labour plans for deficit reduction and the Lib Dem/Coalition ones accepted now, and because the introduction of these cutbacks agreed to date has hardly started yet, (due to the ‘turning around a tanker syndrome), most voters have had no [b]tangible[/b] reason to vote Labour in recent elections. The divergence in Lib Dem and Labour performance has been based almost entirely upon emotional ‘feel’ against Lib Dems generated by a mixture of the actions and presentations of certain Lib Dem MPs, relentless vitriol from reactionary and hurt Labour politicians of right and left, and the daily outpourings Murdoch Press and their Mail/Express/Mirror buddies.

  • Tony Dawson 16th May '11 - 4:31pm

    “Any over-stated apology will simply re-open the issue and further weaken Lib Dem’s in the coalition. That is something that can only be dealt with once the coalition is over.”

    Glenn, repeatedly-poor decision making by the same small set of people is something which needs to be addressed privately [b] before it ensures that the Coalition reaches a premature demise[/b]. This Party is NOT just a parliamentary party. Lib Dems’ ability to make real changes in their communities should not be unduly jeopardised by sloppy central decision-making which has only one agenda.

  • Steve – Labour are just playing games, we shouldn’t go anywhere near them.

    Anyone who has fought Labour at local or national level knows how they work – in the last General Election, Labour put out a leaflet with quotes from Lib Dems, Greens, Independents all “endorsing” him – the result of a series of ‘conversations’ that Labour had with other politicians.

    Labour have no need or desire to work with anybody else – their ultra left wing is bigger than the Conservative ultra right. And it’s more powerful as it secures all of their funding.

    On tuition fees, the government did the right thing and we need to make sure we get rid of the ridiculous ‘no fees’ policy from any future manifestos. It’s unfair and unaffordable.

  • Mr Pugh. The Parliamentary LibDems do owe an apology to those unfortunate councillors who lost their seats in the local elections through no fault of their own. BUT you also owe a big apology to the hundreds of thousands of honest voters who’s votes you as a party were happy to take, and then on 11 May 2010 agreed to do what these voters most definitely objected to, namely support a Tory party that had just “lost” (or failed to win) an election. You had no mandate to do that. You should have let the Tories govern as a minority government. You had no mandate for reducing the deficit the way you are – in fact 52% of the electorate voted for the “slower” deficit reduction, while 36% voted for the Tory party and the “quick” reduction. From the 11/5/2010 the behaviour of the LibDems in government has been the opposite of the “new politics” that many of us voted for. We have had double-speak; make-it-up-as-you-go; do the very opposite in government to what you promised in coalition; excuses, etc. All the behaviour from politicians that we voted against brought back courtesy of the LibDems.

  • I think that the Parliamentary Party does owe an apology to the activists on the ground. They are in a difficult and unenviable position, hounded by the right wing press etc but they have not stuck rigidly to our Liberal Democrat principles, that is not seen as ‘Real Politic’ to our media critics but it is what WE had hoped for.

  • @Mike
    “Steve – Labour are just playing games, we shouldn’t go anywhere near them.”

    If you believe in pluralism you’ll have to work with at some point. No one, and certainly not me, wants to get into a love in with them. If that is the attitude then the Lib Dems should state publically they will only work with the Tories – who of course never play games.

    But be aware that for every issue that Labour support is needed, for example HOL reform they will repay in kind. They have a vested interest in taking down the coalition, and will remain in that position until the polls recover (if they ever will).

    On the other hand, showing a willingness to work with Labour where policies overlap would help to regain some of the left leaning voters. If they see continued hostility towards Labour they will assume that you cannot work together and not vote Lib Dem for fear of letting the Tories in again. Remember no party can win a thing with just it’s members and core support. That’s why Hague and Howard lost for the Tories…

  • @Mike “On tuition fees, the government did the right thing…”. So you believe the Lib Dem policy, not to increase fees and to work towards their abolition, was wrong. Fair enough you are entitled to your opinion – but the policy was one properly and democratically arrived at (I trust). Why bother with any policies or manifesto commitments? Just tell Mr Clegg to make it all up as he goes along, something that many LibDem supporters believe has been happening for the last year.

  • tony dawson
    I agree that poor decision making needs to be adressed. I also Know that the lib dems don’t just exist a parlimentary entity. To be honest I was just trying to be fair..

  • paul barker 16th May '11 - 8:14pm

    Theres a possibly useful discussion to be had about how we have handled being in Coalition. The idea, however, that parts of the Party should apologise to other parts is both insulting & silly.

  • Mike says “Labour are just playing games, we shouldn’t go anywhere near them.”

    The latest issue of the Spectator reports a quote from a Tory adviser about the AV referendum “No” campaign: “It was a delicious foretaste of what we’ll do to the LibDems in 2015.”

    Don’t kid yourselves – your coalition “partners” are every bit as tribal as Labour and will do all they can to crush you, as soon as it suits their interests to do so.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 16th May '11 - 9:22pm

    @ Mike,

    Has it not occurred to you that many of those of us who have been fighting Tories at national and local level have exactly the same feelings and perceptions about the Tories as you do about Labour?

    Was anyone who is used to seeing the Tories in action surprised by the Tories’ behaviour in the recent referendum campaign?

    Cameron has us exactly where he wants us; on toast.

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th May '11 - 10:25pm

    @Mike “The trouble isn’t policy but communication”

    I understand that in general people are tired of this tuition fee topic, but the consequences of the tuition fee policy need to be faced before it can be put to bed. Many believe that this policy basically just means that everyone gets government loans and that only the very well-paid will ever pay most of it off. But being HE staff, I see quite a few people who are badly bitten by it.

    For example, I know a young lady whose degree is not recognised in this country, but who is not eligible for tuition fee loans because it is regarded as an ELQ. How can one dismiss the qualification, while at the same time refusing to allow the individual access to higher education so that they can remedy that? Personally I see it as a rather inhumane policy. With a 3k tuition fee, there was some hope of saving up to fix things. At 9k, with a young family, there’s no chance. Now maybe there’s some grant system for this type of situation, but noone has identified one yet.

    I know a chap who lost his sight and had to retrain into a new career. That was before ELQ legislation, so I’m very curious as to whether there is currently a tuition fee exemption when the student is motivated by changes in health/disability.

    On a similar note, there are some jobs that perhaps shouldn’t be a 45-year career, such as social work, which is extremely stressful. At 9k tuition fees, unsupported, very few social workers (average salary maybe 25k) will ever be able to afford to retrain into anything else. As a general point, people who feel trapped tend not to produce their best work.

    A final example: I know at least one newly minted STEM graduate (PhD) whose plans to qualify for a relevant medical course (he researched assistive device engineering, so there is some sense in it…) have been permanently shelved unless and until he wins the lottery, because it is regarded as an ELQ. Prior to this, he would have had a chance of financing his education, as some useful subjects such as medicine and STEM were protected from ELQ legislation. Graduate Entry Medicine is so common that there are entire websites dedicated to it and over a dozen UK universities offer it.

    Those who intended to return to ELQ study were, in recent years, usually faced with international fees. However, people who returned to university to specialise in Strategically Important and Vulnerable subjects were generally faced with the same tuition fee as first time undergrads, although they were not eligible for a tuition fee loan. Unlike the undergrads, they needed to save up the majority of the cash in advance. This seemed somewhat reasonable – harsh perhaps, as graduate entry medicine folks and the like needed to borrow or save maybe £8k/year total tuition fee/living cost, but achievable, and if you succeeded you still had some hope of making your money back. Furthermore, the NHS part-funded the last three years of graduate entry medicine (it is unclear whether this will still be the case in 2012. It seems doubtful). As a 2012 entrant, indications are that he would need to borrow/save about £14k/year minus whatever NHS contribution exists, and there comes a point at which it just isn’t a realistic aspiration.

    Bottom line: I assert that although it is relevant to relatively few people, the ability to specialize, or retrain, matters a great deal. Indeed I will also assert that as of 2007, when the ELQ legislation came in, both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives were sharply critical of it! Until now, it was expensive but more or less achievable for the very tenacious and driven, provided they were interested in SIV subjects. At £9k a year, it just isn’t achievable for most people. I would very much appreciate any indication that the Lib Dems have acknowledged this situation. Even if the Lib Dem reaction is, “Well, what’s anyone need an ELQ for? Perpetual students are a useless drain on the economy, and nobody should ever need to retrain”, I would very much appreciate it if anybody would point me to a recent statement on the matter.

  • Kevin Colwill 16th May '11 - 11:06pm

    The posters knocking Labour…let me guess, Labour is the main political rival in your area and/or you cut your political teeth fighting Labour.

    Tres pluralist, totally non-tribal there guys! – Call me a “troll” dare ya!

    The trouble is I’ll buy a message that goes, “better value for money than Labour” or “greener than Labour” or “more civil libertarian than Labour” as long as it’s accompanied with “well to the left of the Tories”.

    Hard, hard sell when you’re in coalition with the Tories and your boy Laws (prior to the little local difficulty) was poster boy for the impending cuts.

    Harder, harder sell when a long time (like always!) Lib Dem voters like me looks hard at your policies and your leadership and starts to wonder if you were to the left of the Tories even before the coalition compromises.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 12:07am

    The coalition is dominated by the Conservatives, which means its general sense of direction comes from the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats filling in some of the details. People who want to bring down the Liberal Democrats saying the party has “betrayed its principles” don’t make sense because if there were no Liberal Democrats, we would have a purely Conservative government anyway. If you think the Liberal Democrats are bad people for not doing enough to weaken the Conservative nature of the government, surely its is nutty then to try and weaken the Liberal Democrats yourself or to vote for FPTP which was explicitly promoted in the griounds it weakens the LIberal Democrats. All that is being done by this is bringing about the very situation you are moaning at the Liberal Democrats for allowing – purely Tory government.

    The reality is that whereas before the general election, a “hung parliament” was held up (more in the press thab by us) as meaning the Liberal Democrats would have all the power picking and choosing, we have seen it works nothing like that. Actually, junior coaltion artners don’t have much power and influence, particularly in the situation we have now where the second party does not have enough seats to give it and the third party together a majority. Much of the criticism of the Liberal Democrats seems to be based on still thinking that a “hung parliament” gives them incredible power. Had anyone at the top bothered to ask people who have been in similar situations in local government, they could have told them how it would work out, and advised the Liberal Democrat national leadership not to do all the stupid things it has done to make a difficult situation worse.

    What we should have done from the start is say that our power in the coalition is weak – instead our leaders did the opposite. We should continually be pointing out that we have what we have for two reasons – the people voted for it by giving more votes to the Tories than to any other party and by mostly voting for parties – Labour and Conservative – which agree to the idea that the party which has the most votes should have all the power even if they came well below half the votes. The people have now this year by a huge majority endorsed this principle, and I think having done that, they have a bloody cheek to moan at the Liberal Democrats for the fact they don’t have muich power to change what the Tory government is doing.

    We did say during the election that we would cut the deficit at not such a fast rate as the Tories. I think John Pugh is wrong to ignore that and make out the Tory rate and Tory way of doing it is the only way possible. What he should have said is that the Tories as by far the biggest party in the coalition get the say on macro-issues, and if you don’t like that you should not have voted Conservative, or voted Labnour since Labour suport the distortionsof our electoral system which weakened us and strengthened the Conservatives.

    I think people like Mike saying things like “this is as much our government as theirs 75% of our manifesto is in it and we should stop any opposition-like behaviour” are either daft or Tory trolls. The fact is that people are experiencing this government as right-wing Tory, at least when it comes to the central economic thrust, and we should do all we can not to take the blame for it. Even if you think it is necessary, why line up to take the blame for it when it’s mostly Tories who are in charge? My understanding is tha the 75% actually refers to a lot of small things we are getting, in exchange for the Tories dominating the big picture. It’s probably what to expect from a government with five times as many Tories as LibDems. However, the only alternative was a government all Tory and no LibDem. It seems some of the “you LibDems have betrayed your principles” moaners actually would prefer a purely Tory government. But why?

  • I don’t agree with the conclusions you draw Matthew.

    The Conservatives are in power and putting forward Thatcherite cuts. They did not get a majority, so should not be allowed to push through such brutal policies. The Liberal Democrats are enabling the Conservative government to be in power. There was no need to sign up to such a restrictive coalition agreement. You seem to forget that without Liberal Democrat votes they have not got a majority and arrogant Cameron would not be able to do what he is doing without Liberal Democrat votes. It is incredible what is happening considering the Conservatives did not get a majority.

    The NHS Bill was not part of any mandate and was not even in the coalition agreement. Why is it proceeding ? Conservative free market privatise everything ideology that unfortunately the Orange Book leadership of the Liberal Democrats seem to agree with.

    I think the leadership of the Liberal Democrats are not actually betraying their priniciples but are actually chime very strongly with Cameron. This seems to be very different to many members of the Liberal Democrats and definitely different to what people thought they were voting for. Hence the anger and dismay of the electorate in the recent elections.

    In terms of a hung parliament, or a minority government – The Conservatives would have come clean on their program in the event of any future election and there is no particular reason why they would have been able to form a majority government. The conservatives are stuck on 35%. Many in the electorate don’t trust them, and with good reason. In reality, the Liberal Democrats are efficiently enabling Conservative policies so what is the difference ? The only change is that the Conservative right are not talking about fox hunting or other minor issues that they would struggle to get through in any case.

    In terms of apologies, the real people who are owed an apology are the electorate who voted for the Liberal Democrats to moderate Conservative Thatcherite, private over public ideological obsessions.

    Tell me how many people who voted for the Liberal Democrats want the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS ?

    The Liberal Democrats are giving a ride to a Scorpion with the Conservatives. it will do no good to anybody, least at all the Liberal Democrats, and it could easily lead to the demise of a national party.

  • “There was little real choice about choosing to enter the coalition. There was little real choice about addressing the nation’s colossal budget. There was no way to avoid risking unpopularity. ”

    Can we please stop this lie. We didn’t have a choice, it is not our fault, please vote for us again. Ever heard of a country called Belgium? It has been without a government for 337 days, and yet Belgium is still there. People still go to work, the bins are still collected, and the bond markets haven’t punished them.

    That of course wouldn’t have happened here. If the Lib Dems had decided not to break their election promises, and sell out their left wing supporters; for some red boxes, and ministerial cars. A minority Tory government would have been the result, with the Conservatives having to persuade a majority of MPs to back their policies. The Tories would actually have to make a case for their policies, win the argument. MPs would have had to think for themselves, and represent their constituents. I can see why you wouldn’t want that, the Commons doing its job. Much easier to be a mindless sheep, doing exactly what the whips tell you.

    As for the deficit, economists are not in agreement about when to cut back or even if we need too. The school of economics you have choosen to follow is from the 19th century. The economic equivalent of bleeding and leeches. Cutting back in the middle of recession, absolute madness. Not that you will pay for your folly. It will be the millions trapped in permanent mass unemployment.

    Which brings us to the biggest problem with what the Lib Dems have done. Saying that the deficit needs to be cutback does not justify attacking the poor. Your cowardly government has no problem going after those that cannot fight back. The disabled, those on benefits, and the services that ordinary people rely on. What exactly have those who caused the crisis contributed? The city is bailed out, then it pays its self more bonuses. State owned banks use losses run up during the bail out years to avoid corporation tax. Capital gains is still much lower than income tax, but you had no problem putting up VAT which hits the poor. Your reforms of the city, the pathetic white wash that is project Merlin.

    Why are you attacking the poor, and letting off those who brought this country to the brink of ruin? How many Lib Dem MPs have second jobs in the city? How many hope to after they retire? Is that why you are not keen to make them pay up. Of course we should trust you and your colleagues are honourable members, the same way we could trust you not to steal from us using the expenses system.

  • Kevin Colwill 17th May '11 - 1:28am

    @Matthew Huntbach – Be a bit careful, the talk of “no alternative” has a terribly Thatcherite ring to it!
    Your analysis does everything but conclude the obvious – Coalition was a huge blunder. Or rather it was a huge blunder unless you actually support the broad thrust of Tory policy.

    You’re right to say the coalition would always be dominated by the Tories so if you don’t intellectually agree with them why the euphoric rush to leap into bed with them? – Particularly when this coalition was never going to deliver the cherished goal of electoral reform.

    You say, “why don’t you want us to impliment our policies where we can?”. I say if you don’t like the broad thrust of what’s happening you shouldn’t be supporting it. If you do like it – I don’t like you!

    I’d have accepted that the Tories had basically won in 2010, agreed not to wreck their budget and to keep the ship afloat until the economy had stabilised. A little thing called confidence and supply.

    No coalition, no cabinet jobs just a medium term political compromise that actually reflected the result (albeit the skewed FPTP result) of the election.

    The narrative of “the markets wouldn’t let us” and “we’re sacrificing ourselves for the good of the nation” rings a bit hollow. Many used-to-be Lib Dem voters are seeing the Lid Dems with fresh eyes and seeing a party with economic right wing analysis and a very great deal in common with the modern Tories.

    Convince me that the Lib Dems are a left of centre alternative to the major parties …you got a bit of time (although maybe less than you think) to do that before the next general election. If you can’t I’ll be voting Green or Labour despite (or perhaps to spite) all your bar charts showing me that only the Lib Dem or the Tory can win.

  • Simon McGrath 17th May '11 - 5:01am

    @Jack Timms
    “The Conservatives are in power and putting forward Thatcherite cuts”
    Public spending rose under mrs t.

  • I believe that in May 2010 various senior LIbDems, in particular Messrs Clegg, Alexander and Laws felt very comfortable with Conservatives’ policies and top Conservative politicians. I think this is still the case. This led to a “coming together” that was, and still is, viewed with varying degrees of disdain by the majority of LibDem voters. There are similarities with the situation in Labour 10 years ago when Tony Blair was seen as “to the right” of his party, the big and crucial difference then was that although Blair was alienating many in his party, he had the support of a few million extra voters. The reverse is true for the current LibDems, who have alienated permanently a proportion of their party and crucially many of their voters. This is potentially lethal, but the LibDem leadership seems still rather blase about this – they are still vey much in a comfort zone with the Tories. As I said, Lethal.

  • Lib Dem position on tuition fees: Scrap them
    Conservative position: There wasn’t one, other than waiting to see the Browne report
    Coalition Compromise: Triple tuition fees

    Lib Dem position on funding HE: Progressive taxation
    Conservative position: Not stated
    Coalition Compromise: Decrease teaching budget by 80% (funded through mostly progressive taxation) and replace it with increased fees which are fiscally regressive, meaning middle income graduates (social workers, etc) will pay far more as a percentage of their income over their lifetime than high-earning graduates or those that end up working in McDonalds.

    Lib Dem position on EMA: Keep EMA, but get rid of bonuses
    Conservative position: Avoided answering the question, but stated that EMA would not be scrapped
    Coalition Compromise: EMA scrapped

    Lib Dem position on VAT: Scare people about Tory VAT rise
    Conservative position: Let’s not mention it during the campaign
    Coalition Compromise: Introduce VAT rise that neither party campaigned for

    Lib Dem position on deficit: Slower pace of cuts than advocated by other two parties
    Conservative position: Faster pace than advocated by other two parties
    Coalition Compromise: Faster pace of cuts than advocated by any of the three main parties

    None of the above are actually compromises to anyone that understands the word compromise. In reality it appears that it is the Lib Dems that do not understand that coaltion governments involve compromise. In reality, the overwhelming weight of evidence tells us that we have ended up with a government that is more right-wing than the manifesto the Conservatives fought their election campaign on. How is that a compromise between the Conservative and Lib Dems’ manifestos?

    It seems that the only people still defending the Lib Dem party are party tribalists, incapable of listening to reason. They make things worse with the following nonsensical arguments:

    We are failing to communicate what we are doing (the public understand perfectly well what you’re not doing, that’s why they dislike you)
    The public don’t understand coaltion governments involve compromise (yes they do – they don’t understand why there haven’t been any compromises)

    We’ve implemented 75% of our manifesto (this is never qualified, so is meaningless – presumably the 75% of the manifesto that was identical to the tory’s manifesto then? The reason people vote for different parties is because of the difference in certain policies – those policy differences have been ignored during the coalition capitulaion. The 25% of policies, that actually persuaded people to vote Lib Dem rather than another party, have been binned (unless someone can correct me on this by telling me which policies are in the 75% and which are in the 25% – probably a bit too much to ask though isn’t it – just keep repeating 75% and it’ll get through our thick skulls).

    It’s clearly the electorate’s fault for not understanding the superiority of the Lib Dem’s narcissism.

  • “It seems some of the “you LibDems have betrayed your principles” moaners actually would prefer a purely Tory government. But why?”

    Perhaps because a purely Tory govt would be much weaker and would never have dared to tack quite so far to the right as the Coalition has. Look what the Tories are getting – a large majority they couldn’t possibly have achieved through the ballot box, the impression of broad consensus (spanning Simon Hughes to John Redwood) behind everything they do and the neutralisation of a large chunk of their natural opposition. Why is everything being done as such a frenetic pace? Because they know they have been gifted a once in a generation opportunity to transform Britain along the lines of US models. Why does the NHS have to be broken up and privatised? Not because it doesn’t work but because it does. As long as there are big, popular and effective social democratic institutions and achievements they can never fully realize the dream of neo-liberal hegemony.

    Of course there are some good Lib Dem wins here and there but in general they are the rocket fuel which has allowed the Tories to accelerate their project.

  • Surely John the problem for our left-leaning supporters, and many of our own activists who I know I are disgruntled is that too often we seem to be putting a very deliberate, positive libdem spin on what are very clearly Tory policies, and just not the policies that our conference has been voting on and our policy department working on for the past few years…not just Health, Schools and Higher Education, but in nearly every area of social policy – housing, benefits and welfare reform, access to justice, equalities etc

    ….I’ve been a campaigner and sometime candidate in many an election both local and Parliamentary, but lost faith in the leadership back in summer when Nick said that Libdem values ran through the comprehensive spending review like “the writing in a stick of rock”…my reading of the CSR (which has basically set certain policies in stone) was that the programmes and budgets which help the poorest and most vulnerable were those that were most ruthlessly targetted

  • As I always tell my son. Apologies are nice, but utterly pointless if you keep doing the things you’re apologising for.

  • Old Codger Chris 17th May '11 - 8:23pm

    Vince Cable should return to the back benches. David Laws should join the ranks of former MPs (if he refuses the Lib Dem whip should be withdrawn from him). Nick Clegg should apologise and say he has learned some hard lessons – he was in uncharted territory last May and who doesn’t make mistakes?

    That would be a start.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 10:36pm

    jack timms

    The Conservatives are in power and putting forward Thatcherite cuts. They did not get a majority, so should not be allowed to push through such brutal policies.

    Sorry, the people of this country have just voted to destroy that argument. The “No to AV” campaign argued that it is better to distort the representation of the largest party upwards beyond it share of the vote in order that it should govern alone and nort be weakened by having to make compromises with third parties. The “No to AV” campaign argued that it is good to have the power of third parties weakened by a distortional representation system. And the people of this country voted, by a massive majority, to support the “No” campaign.

    The Liberal Democrats are enabling the Conservative government to be in power. There was no need to sign up to such a restrictive coalition agreement. You seem to forget that without Liberal Democrat votes they have not got a majority and arrogant Cameron would not be able to do what he is doing without Liberal Democrat votes. It is incredible what is happening considering the Conservatives did not get a majority

    No, it is not incredible at all – it is what the “No to AV” campaign said was good – government dominated by one party, so more “decisive”. And, by a massive majority, the people of Britain voted to support that argument just a few days ago. They voted for an electoral system whose supporters said the best thing about it was that it weakened thrid parties and strengthened the biggest party. So, on May 5th 2011 the people of Britain gave a nmassive vote of confidence in David Cameron’s government – they voted for the electoral system which made it the only possible one, they voted for the idea that third parties should be weakened and thus rendered ineffective.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 10:46pm

    exdem

    Can we please stop this lie. We didn’t have a choice, it is not our fault, please vote for us again. Ever heard of a country called Belgium? It has been without a government for 337 days, and yet Belgium is still there. People still go to work, the bins are still collected, and the bond markets haven’t punished them.

    Well, if the people of Britain had wanted to be a country like Belgium where there are lots of parties thus making forming a government difficlt, they could have voted “Yes” on May 5th. But they did not – they voted “No”. They voted “No” after the “No to AV” campaign ran the argument that the good thing about the British electoral system was that it forced politics into a two-party model, thus making one-party decisive governments easy to form. As the larger of the two parties folowing the May 2010 election was the Conservsatives, in May 2011 the people of Britain voted for a Conservative government by voting “No” in the referendum. This was even more so given that many who voted “No” claimed to do so because tghey wanted to destoy the Liberal Democrats. Well, if there had been no Liberal Democrats in May 2010, Cameron would have had a majority anyway – so a Cameron government is what they voted for , and if they are honest and decent people their only complaint about the Liberal Democrats should be that they are stopping some Conservative policies.

    Please don’t think because I put this line that I agree with it. I do not – but I voted “Yes” on May 5th, and I was in the minority. As a democrat I have to accept what the majority say, and by voting “No” the majority voted to endorse the principle of distortion in favour of the biggest party and against third parties i.e. they voted for the government we have now. I disagree with them very deeply – but my side lost, tough.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:01pm

    Kevin Colwill

    @Matthew Huntbach – Be a bit careful, the talk of “no alternative” has a terribly Thatcherite ring to it!

    But this is a very sleight-of-hand usage. I am not saying, as Margaret Thatcher was, that there is “no alternative” in terms of alternative governmnt policies. I happen to believe that the current govrnment is pursuing disastrous policies, and that there are better alternatives. However, the people of Britain in May last year did not vote to allow any of those alternatives. More of them voted Conservative – a party whose policies are harder and deeper forms of the disatrous policies of the previous party in government – than any other party, and most of the rest voted Labour – which is opposed to proportional representation and so supports the principle that representation should be distorted in favour of tjhe biggest party and to weaken third parties. In May this year they voted, by a massive majority, to endorse this principle of distortion.

    So, I am not saying there is “no alternative” in the shape of there being no other policies any government could pursue, I am saying “no alternative” thanks to the way the British people voted and me being a democrat so I have to accept how they voted even if I think – as I do – they voted for a disaster.

    Sorry, that is is democracy. People get what they voted for. They had an opportunity just a few days ago to reject the system that gave them this, but by a massive majority they voted in favour of that system. I am a believer in letting people live with the consequences of poor decisions they made, in the hope they will learn a lesson. Next time when you have a vote, get it right! Don’t vote Tory, don’t vote Labour because Labour supports the electoral system which gives us a Tory-dominated government most of the time. If you vote Tory or Labour, you are voting to keeop this country as it is.

    Your analysis does everything but conclude the obvious – Coalition was a huge blunder. Or rather it was a huge blunder unless you actually support the broad thrust of Tory policy.

    Something can only be a “blunder” if there was another choice that could have been made that was less of a “blunder”. I don’t think there was for the Liberal Democrats in May 2010. It was very unfortunate that this was so, but that is how the people voted, and they voted to endorse the distortion which got us intoi that position just a few days ago.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:06pm

    Kevin Colwill

    I’d have accepted that the Tories had basically won in 2010, agreed not to wreck their budget and to keep the ship afloat until the economy had stabilised. A little thing called confidence and supply.

    Well, I keep saying this, but as people like you keep on bringing up this “confidence and supply” thing, I’ll say it again.

    By “supply” is meant voting for their budget i.e. all the Tory cuts. And by “confidence” is voting for anything the Tories or Labour choose to make a “vote of confidence” e.g. they could say “The Tory NHS reform are so fundamental to the government’s principles, that we regard suport for them as a matter of confidence in the government”.

    So, what you are actually calling for is for the Liberal Democrats to vote for pure Conservative policies all the time.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:11pm

    exdem

    If the Lib Dems had decided not to break their election promises, and sell out their left wing supporters; for some red boxes, and ministerial cars. A minority Tory government would have been the result, with the Conservatives having to persuade a majority of MPs to back their policies. The Tories would actually have to make a case for their policies, win the argument.

    No, they would say “we can’t govern with this uncertainty”, and call another general election saying “throw out the Liberal Democrats so we habve a majority”. That is what has ALWAYS happened when a government is elected with a very low majority – as in February 1974, 1964, 1950 etc – there has been another general election called well before the five-year term was up, explicitly “to get a government with a good majority”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:16pm

    Kevin Colwill

    You’re right to say the coalition would always be dominated by the Tories so if you don’t intellectually agree with them why the euphoric rush to leap into bed with them?

    I’ve argued the case that there was no realistic alternative but to accept formatiomnof the coalition, but I have never argued that the Liberal Democrats should have been euphoric about it. On the contrary I have made very clear my belief that the current leadership of the Liberal Democrats consists of incompetents, and one of the biggest signs of that is the way they went into the coaltion in a euphoric way, whereas they should right from the start have made clear they were onl doing it because the way the people voted and the electoral system distorted that vote forced it, and they accepted it meant their influence would be very limted.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “So, on May 5th 2011 the people of Britain gave a nmassive vote of confidence in David Cameron’s government – they voted for the electoral system which made it the only possible one, they voted for the idea that third parties should be weakened and thus rendered ineffective.”

    Or maybe they just voted against AV.
    Maybe they didn’t want a system that could be less proportional.
    Maybe they didn’t want their least worst option to be elected with their third preference vote.
    Or maybe the projection many on here made about the folly of holding it on the same day as the election had some impact.

    Perhaps if the third party had taken a business like approach to the coalition earlier then the public would have seen them as a good thing rather than a shortcut to betrayal.

    It’s easy to blame the public, keep doing it and we really will return to two party politics and that would be a disaster. The Lib Dems do have real power at the moment. The Tories would fear an election now, and probably at any time until the boundary changes are finalised.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:24pm

    exdem

    As for the deficit, economists are not in agreement about when to cut back or even if we need too. The school of economics you have choosen to follow is from the 19th century. The economic equivalent of bleeding and leeches. Cutting back in the middle of recession, absolute madness. Not that you will pay for your folly. It will be the millions trapped in permanent mass unemployment.

    Yes, but that’s not the point. There may be other workable policies in the current situation, but the people of this country did not elect a Parliament that would agree to them. They elected a Conservative-dominated Parliament, and then they voted to support the electoral system which led to this domination and closed off the alternaive. Had AV – a “miserable little compromise” – been in place in 2010, there wold have been fewer Conservatiove MPs and more LibDem MPs, enough to make a Labour-LibDem coalition possible. But the people of this country, jsut a few days ago voted to reject AV and did so by a huge majority. What could be clearer – they voted against the system that would have allowed an alternative? Therefore the people of this country, just a few days ago, gave a massive vote of confidence in favour of the Cameron government – they voted to say “No – we don’t want a system which would have given us an alternative”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:29pm

    Steve Way

    Perhaps if the third party had taken a business like approach to the coalition earlier then the public would have seen them as a good thing rather than a shortcut to betrayal

    Yes, I don’t disagre with this. Just because I argue that the balance in Parliament left no realistic alternative to a Conservative-LibDem coalition does not mean I support the strategy of the LibDem leadership within the coalition or that I support the publicity oline it has been using. I do not, nmy position is the opposite. I think the currrent leadership of the Liberal Democrats ia getting it disastrously wrong, it has made mistake after mistake after mistake, and I very much hope it gets voted out of a vote of no confidence by the membership of the Liberal Democrats very soon.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '11 - 11:37pm

    Steve Way

    Or maybe they just voted against AV.
    Maybe they didn’t want a system that could be less proportional.
    Maybe they didn’t want their least worst option to be elected with their third preference vote.

    Maybe, but the vote was between AV and FPTP, no other system was on offer. And the effect of FPTP is to distort represenattion to strengthen the biggest party and weaken third parties. We saw just that in the May 2010 election result – it was the distortions of FPTP which made a Conservative-LibDem coalition with only a weak LibDem influence the ony realistic possibility.

    So by your argument you are saying this distortion is better than the alternative. So fine, if that’s what you say, stop moaning about the consequences – the government we have now.

    Look, this is what I hate – people who make a choice and then act as if they had no responsibility for it by moaning about what it led to. That is why I will not listen to anyone who moans about the formation of the present government unless that person is very firmly a supporter of electoral reform. If you are not a supporter of electoral refrom, the present governemnt is the consequences of the system YOU support – so stop moaning.

  • Mathew
    people vote for all sorts of reasons. Ideological, personal. party political and tribal. The fact that they didn’t vote for AV means they didn’t vote for AV.
    The coalition is the choice of the Conservative and Lib Dem leadership. The idea that the people chose a coalition is disingenuous, because they simply voted for the political parties they voted. for. Virtually everyone who in one way or another argues in favour of coalition argues the same spurious idea that there was no choice or that a snap election would have definitely elected an even more right-wing government. The only known facts are that the Lib Dem’s have lost votes because of it, Labours membership has gone up and had the local elections been repeated in a general election the Conservatives would have had a smaller, not larger, majority at best, and more probably no majority at all. It’s sad that the Lib Dems have become the whipping boy, I’ve voted Lib Dem in the past and would vote for them again at some point, if they stopped accusing anyone who deserted them for Labour or The Greens of being tribal and not understanding the brave stand they are taking.. They saw an opportunity get bums on front-bench seats, it’s backfired and it will take years to rebuild the trust of their voters and potential voters..

  • “Yes, but that’s not the point. There may be other workable policies in the current situation, but the people of this country did not elect a Parliament that would agree to them. They elected a Conservative-dominated Parliament, and then they voted to support the electoral system which led to this domination and closed off the alternaive. Had AV – a “miserable little compromise” – been in place in 2010, there wold have been fewer Conservatiove MPs and more LibDem MPs, enough to make a Labour-LibDem coalition possible. But the people of this country, jsut a few days ago voted to reject AV and did so by a huge majority. What could be clearer – they voted against the system that would have allowed an alternative? Therefore the people of this country, just a few days ago, gave a massive vote of confidence in favour of the Cameron government – they voted to say “No – we don’t want a system which would have given us an alternative”.”

    What does AV have to with the results of the last general election? I doubt anybody had heard of it at that point. As for the people voting for a Conservative dominated Parliament, voting for the cuts. What load of non-sense. Cameron was running against one the most unpopular prime ministers ever, and a government whose light touch regulation of the city destroyed the economy. He should have walked the election, he didn’t. Largely after he outlined his program of cuts, and the electorate got cold feet. This was no endorsement of the Tories.

    I’m fed of dems, whining this is not our fault, we had no choice. Didn’t Clegg say that the dems had to own all the coalitions policies? Well the policies stink, and I oppose them. I don’t buy the idea we have to cut the deficit now, and even if we do, it should be the rich that pay. They caused the damn mess in the first place. I use to vote for the lib dems, because I thought they had principals, and collectively, a spine. It turns out I was wrong, they are just as bad as all the others. As a result, they won’t receive my support again.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “If you are not a supporter of electoral refrom, the present governemnt is the consequences of the system YOU support – so stop moaning.”

    Three things, firstly I am a supporter of reform, but not inneffective reform that I honestly believed was not an improvement. One of the real issues I had with the Yes campaign was their ability to insult all those who didn’t agree with them. Perhaps trying to make an attempt to convince people who supported reform but not AV on the merits would have helped. Secondly, I supported the coalition, it was the only feasible option. It is only the way it has been carried out I do not support.

    So before telling others to stop moaning try reading their posts. To quote myself “As for working with the Tories. It was the right decision and remains so. But it needs to be businesslike not a love in.”

    Thirdly, the present Government is not the result of a system I support, it is the result of a system I decided with the information available I preferred to the ONLY other one on offer. Big difference, and if the Clegg had negotiated better I may have got an option on a system I could support.

    The rubbish about AV being a stepping stone was just fairy stories. Clegg himself said that there could not be another referendum and this was before the result. There is no chance of a change being implemented without one so we could have been stuck with AV for generations with not guarantee of even a vote for a more proportional system. I have relatives who are now Australian citizens having lived there for 20 years. Speaking to them they confirm all the stories about party activists giving our lists of what order to rank candidates, they hate it. AV is a rubbish system, I would have been convinced to accept the elements I didn’t like if it was AV plus and would produce a proportional outcome.

  • Kevin Colwill 18th May '11 - 1:33am

    @Matthew Huntbach… almost everybody agrees the election result put the Lib Dems in an invidious position as it was clearly in the national interest to prevent a lengthy period of uncertainty.

    Coalition, entering government and being tied by collective responsibility, was not the only option. A looser arrangement consisting of a general agreement not to wreck the budget or bring down the government on a confidence motion could have been negotiated.

    OK, there’d have been no cabinet posts, no deputy PM, no referendum on AV and no Lib Dem policies being formally endorsed. ..But, think about it, would Cameron really want to play chicken by trying to push through a hard right agenda?

    Of course the Tories would have had the option to call an election when it suited them and that would be an obvious major advantage to them. Some argue that Cameron can still cut and run even now but I’m I see him staying the course. I’m just not so sure how being tied to the Tories for five years will work to the Lib Dems advantage.

    Offering support to create stability whilst maintaining your position outside government would have given the Lib Dems real influence if not the trappings of power. It might also have been politically easier to sell to anti-Tory voters!

    I understand that your “Coalition inevitable” analysis is shared by the vast majority amongst Lib Dems. I’ve no doubt most Lib Dems sincerely believe Coalition was and remains the best option but that’s really not the same as saying it was the only option available. It just wasn’t.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 10:55am

    Glenn

    The coalition is the choice of the Conservative and Lib Dem leadership.

    As I have argued there was no other choice, the arithmetic of the Commons saw to that. OK, there was the choice of a Conservative-Labour coalition, but Labour weren’t going for that.

    The reason there was no other choice and the reason the LibDems were weak was that we have an electoral system whose supporters say that is the best thing about it – it distorts representation in favour of the biggest party and against third parties. That is PRECISELY what we are seeing now – the results of that distortion, the decisive Tory right-wing policies, just what the “No to AV” campaign say is so wonderful i.e. the biggest party getting all its own way even if it had well under half the votes. Labour supports that electoral system, that is why I am saying a vote for Labour is a vote in favour of that distortion and so a vote for the current government because the distortion meant that government was the only possibility. The electoral system and so the government were given an additional big vote of confidence by the “No” vote in the referendum.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 10:59am

    Kevin Colwill

    Coalition, entering government and being tied by collective responsibility, was not the only option. A looser arrangement consisting of a general agreement not to wreck the budget or bring down the government on a confidence motion could have been negotiated.

    Well, we are going round in circles, so perhaps we must just agree to disagree. What you are calling for by your second sentence here is that instead of having a little influence on the government the LibDems should have agreed to have no influence but to vote for all its policies anyway. I keep saying it, are you listening? “Supply” means voting for its budget i.e. the cuts. “Confidence” means voting for everything else, as the government and opposition are free to decide what they will make a matter of confidene.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 11:02am

    exdem

    What does AV have to with the results of the last general election? I doubt anybody had heard of it at that point.

    Had the last election been under AV there would have been more LibDem MPs and fewer Tory MPs. It would have meant the LibDems were stronger in negotiating with the Tories, and it would have meant a Labour-LibDem coalition would have had a majority and so was more of a possibility. So, quite obviously, AV would have made a huge difference, and so the lack of even this modest reform is a KEY issue in what we have now.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 11:09am

    Steve Way

    So before telling others to stop moaning try reading their posts. To quote myself “As for working with the Tories. It was the right decision and remains so. But it needs to be businesslike not a love in.”

    Yes, that is the same position I take. I have made that very clear here and elsewhere. I am extremely fed up with people who read what I write as if I support the way Nick Clegg has worked in the coalition and the Clegg-inspired publicity put out by the people at the top of the Liberal Democrats. I don’t. Just because I came to the conclusion there was no realistic alternative to forming the coalition does not mean I support everything that has followed.


    The rubbish about AV being a stepping stone was just fairy stories.

    If I believe there was ANY chance a “No” victory would have been interpreted as “people rejected AV because they supported a more thorough-going reform” I would have supported “No” myself. It is quite plain and obvious that the “No” vote is being taken as a vote against ANY electoral reform, as a vote fully in support of “First Past the Post” and nothing else.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 11:13am

    exdem

    I’m fed of dems, whining this is not our fault, we had no choice. Didn’t Clegg say that the dems had to own all the coalitions policies?

    Yes, and I think he is wrong to say that and I have argued from day 1 of the coalition that this was the wrong approach. Look, how many times do I have to say it? Just because I came to the conclusion that a Conservative-LibDem coailtion was the only reasonable option following the election results does NOT mean I support all the LibDem leadership has been doing within the coalition. Quite the opposite, I think the Liberal Democrat leader has made mistake after mistake after mistake, I have been very open in my opinion about this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 11:19am

    Kevin Colwill

    OK, there’d have been no cabinet posts, no deputy PM, no referendum on AV and no Lib Dem policies being formally endorsed. ..But, think about it, would Cameron really want to play chicken by trying to push through a hard right agenda?

    Of course the Tories would have had the option to call an election when it suited them and that would be an obvious major advantage to them. Some argue that Cameron can still cut and run even now but I’m I see him staying the course. I’m just not so sure how being tied to the Tories for five years will work to the Lib Dems advantage.

    Oh, please go away and read some history books and see what ALWAYS has happened in this sort of situation. Cameron would have let it drift for a few months, not doing much, and blaming the LibDems for the poor state of the economy because “I do not have a majority therefore I cannot do what is needed to restore the country’s economic fortunes”. So the LibDems would STILL be taking all the blame.

    Sure, Cameron wouldn’t have pushed through his hard right agenda. He’d have waited a few months, called another general election, and done it after that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '11 - 11:26am

    Glenn

    Virtually everyone who in one way or another argues in favour of coalition argues the same spurious idea that there was no choice or that a snap election would have definitely elected an even more right-wing government.

    You need only see how the Tories, the right-wing press, and most of Labour have lined up against AV and to abuse the LibDems to see how it would go. As with the AV referendum Labour would joyfully join the chorus led by THE Sun and the Daily Mail, howling down the LibDems, blaming them for everything that was going wrong because if there being no majority government. That is what Labour is like, they HATE political pluralism, so they will always line up with the Tories against it. That is why they are full of crocodile tears now, because they WANT the Cameron government to continue so the LIbDems get smashed. So it is quiet clear that a snap general election would have gone as the AV referendum went – a massive vote in favour of Cameron aided by Labour’s crocodile tears and underhand support for the Tories due to their policy of seeing the LibDems as the enemy that is to be destroyed more so than the Conservatives.

  • Mathew
    This idea that the loss of the AV vote was a vote of confidence in David Cameron is just nonsense. It was a vote against AV as a system. There were even lib Dems who didn’t entire support it. Personally, I actually prefer it to proportional representation, because it was how i chose my sons secondary school. I chose five good ones and would have been pleased with any one of them.
    And I am sorry the Coalition was a choice. A minority government can seek a coalition or other arrangements with other political parties, but it can’t force them.
    I maintain that a snap election by a minority right-wing government would have had a reduced majority against any Labour leader other than Gordon Brown. I also believe that the majority of Conservatives suspected this, which is why they agreed to forming a coalition. This is in fact what the polls, local election results and approval figures suggest. The coalition was clearly a choice and a very unpopular one with the Lib Dems mostly centre left-social liberal voters, hence the leakage to the greens and to Labour.
    As a lapsed Lib Dem voter the results of this coalition genuinely pains me. Not least because, the leaderships amateurish attempt at adversarial politics are quite staggering in their weaseling lack of a vertebrate., “Labour are this, the Greens are that, we don’t mean it, really, it’s just that the big boys are forcing us things we don’t like, so please help us out and vote for AV”. Farcical. The Truth about AV is that it became a referendum on the Lib Dem leadership and 70% voters thought anything was better than giving them a stronger hold on power. Years of ground work, building local support, arguing intelligently for a new kind of politics, pluralist electoral reform. blown to be the least popular members of a basically unpopular government. Very Very sad.

  • Kevin Colwill 19th May '11 - 1:32am

    @ Matthew Huntbach…the thing with academic debates is we’ll never know who would have done what, at least until some big players get around to writing their auto-biographies.

    I don’t agree with Glenn’s analysis of AV but he makes very good general points.

    It’s not an original thought but as liberal minded lefty, cynical as it might seem, I can only conclude that Labour got far too any seats in ’97 and the Tories too few in 2010.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th May '11 - 1:53am

    Glenn

    This idea that the loss of the AV vote was a vote of confidence in David Cameron is just nonsense. It was a vote against AV as a system. There were even lib Dems who didn’t entire support it.

    I don’t entirely support AV. I think it is a hugely deficient electoral system. The only thing it has going for it is that it corrects one of the things in FPTP that makes FPTP even worse. However, we only had a choice between AV and FPTP. The arguments made against AV were all on the grounds that defended FPTP and not pn the gronds that it was too weak a reform. I most certainly would have voted “No” to AV if by doing so I thought I was opening the gates to STV, but I knew full well that a vicotyr for “No” would close the gates to STV.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th May '11 - 2:06am

    Glenn

    As a lapsed Lib Dem voter the results of this coalition genuinely pains me. Not least because, the leaderships amateurish attempt at adversarial politics are quite staggering in their weaseling lack of a vertebrate., “Labour are this, the Greens are that, we don’t mean it, really, it’s just that the big boys are forcing us things we don’t like, so please help us out and vote for AV”. Farcical. T

    I have argued vigorously against the current Liberal Democrat leader, a man I believe is completely incompetent, ever since he was put forward as “obviously the next leader”. So it is rather stupid of you and others to argue against me on the supposition that I support him.

    The Truth about AV is that it became a referendum on the Lib Dem leadership

    Well, you said it. I have just written a reply to someone using the mame “MacK” who insisted it wasn’t that but instead was a genuine vote against AV which understood AV. You are saying the exact opposite to MacK.

    70% voters thought anything was better than giving them a stronger hold on power.

    So, people are complaining that the Liberal Democrats are too weak in the coalition and the Tories too strong, and they do that by voting for an electoral system whose main virtue, according to its supporters, is that it strengthens the biggest party beyond its true electoral support and it weakens the third party? In other words, people are voting for an electiral system which does the very thing they say they are against, This is mad, it is illogical, it is stupid. Sorry if you are offended by that, but even if you make me shut up becaue you tell me it wins me no support for saying it, I shall still silently think it.

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