LDV at 10: Pick of the posts: What we said when the Coalition was born

On 27th August, LDV will be 10 years old. In that time, we’ve brought you over 24,000 posts and published over 337,000 comments. Over the Summer holidays, we’ll take you on a nostalgic meander through a decade of Liberal Democrat history, seen through the eyes of our editors and contributors. We hope you enjoy our choices.

Cast your minds back to May 2010, when Nick Clegg walked along Downing Street as Deputy PM for the first time. How did LDV contributors take the news?

101 ways to win an election co-author Ed Maxfield described family tensions but looked at the opportunities the coalition offered. His comments about the way we campaign should probably have been more widely read:

Those entering government face an enormous responsibility – to deliver good government with a distinct liberal tone. But the wider party must also recognise this is potentially a moment of transformation. We have to start work now on winning the referendum on voting reform. We have to plan for the next election to be on radically different boundaries returning far fewer MPs (and on AV too). Hardest of all, perhaps, we have to ask whether the guerilla campaigning techniques that have served us so well for the last 40 years are ‘fit for purpose’ now.

I am unsettled but full of hope for the future today. Being in government is much harder than being in opposition.

Then co-editor Stephen Tall had said  before the election that Nick Clegg should rule out a coalition. What diid he make oft he deal that had been struck?

Whichever way the party turned, we were going to provoke outrage from some quarters. All of us knew this, and in a curious way it’s proved almost liberating. If you know that there’s no solution that’s going to be universally popular it allows you to focus fully on what you think is the right and responsible thing to do.

Make no mistake: Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are taking the riskiest, most courageous, decision of our political lives. It’s not such a big deal for the Tories: a coalition government doesn’t threaten their future. The Lib Dems are putting everything on the line for the sake of stable government and a real liberal influence in the years ahead. It could blow up in our faces. Or it could be the making of the party.

Helen Duffett talked about the lack of women in the Cabinet:

There’s been no word yet about any of the talented female Liberal Democrat MPs being offered a role in the new government. However, I can’t help noticing a correlation with the Lib Dem (all male) negotiating team, with all but Andrew Stunell getting cabinet posts.

I dislike tokenism – the best person should have the job. But I’d be surprised if all the male Conservative MPs were better qualified for cabinet posts than all the female MPs, whether Conservative or Liberal Democrat.

The question to ask now is if we knew then what we know now, would we have still done it?

I think that we would, but we’d have done it better. We’d have not had the Rose Garden. We’d have put our foot down more often at the start. We’d have gone about developing a much stronger campaigning . We’d  not have fallen into the tuition fees pledge trap in the first place and  if we had, we would have honoured our pledge.

We did some fantastic things in Government fro which we get zero credit at the moment. People are perhaps realising the sextant of the stability we gave to the coalition government and may in time appreciate our policy influence on everything from giving more money to disadvantaged kids in school to stopping the Tories making idiots of themselves over the EU, to Lynne Featherstone’s and Lindsay Northover’s work fo help women and girls around the world to the ground-breaking stuff we did on mental health and climate change. The Tories are dismantling much of it but, to airbrush us from history. We shouldn’t let them away with that.

LDV’s contributors at the time had an idea of the dangers  as well as the potential rewards. As our 10th anniversary approaches, we’ll  look at what  we said at key moments during the coalition years.










If you want to be part of the next decade on LDV, write for us!

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in From the LDV Archive.


  • With hindsight, It replaced the Labour manifesto of 1983 as “the longest suicide note in history”. And what were the long term permanent beneficial outcomes policy wise ?

  • Well it did indeed “blow up in our faces”. In speaking to Labour supporters I discovered Libs were hated because we were enabling the Tories cuts. It was odd to have to tell them that the Libs had planned far bigger cuts in their manifesto. However, as the new whipping boys for everything that went wrong in the country the Labour party, who got us into the mess and the Tories, whose manic de-industrialisation and banker cheer-leading had started the rot, were let off the hook.

    But then I always thought even the SDP-Liberal merger was a huge mistake. Separately we had 25%+ and some momentum but together we ended up with half that and returned to obscurity. I have long felt this merger was pettly forced through by David Steel merely because he felt humiliated by his representation in the puppet show ‘spitting image’.

  • While not being in the Lib*s at the time I got the impression the merger was less about Spitting Image and more about how – from the outside at least – the SDP project was dying on its proverbial.

    From 29 MPs to 6 to 5… Though more latterly I suppose Clegg would have given his right arm to lose a mere 23 MPs at a General Election!

  • Jen
    Whatever the problem was, the solution was not a merger, since we ended up with less of the vote and a more left-leaning joint party; therefore less able to attract Tory votes. Of course one might say hindsight is 20-20 but there was about 40-odd% opposition from both parties at the time and they had valid arguments that were just ignored.

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