LibLink: James Graham – Refusal to enter Lib Dem coalition was Labour’s final failure

Over at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website, Lib Dem blogger James Graham offers his take on the deal between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. He describes his sense of betrayal by Labour:

Over the weekend, it would appear, Labour’s appetite for power evaporated … The fact that two of the things the Labour negotiating team would not even contemplate was dismantling the database state and ending the detention of immigrant children makes you realise quite how corrupted the party has become in office.

And his fears for the Lib Dems’ future popularity:

… as students of political systems where balanced parliaments are the norm, we are well aware that junior partners of coalitions are typically punished at the ballot box. The fact that this government will have to preside over the toughest deficit reduction spending round in decades makes this look even more likely. … Of the 57 MPs who unanimously endorsed this plan early this morning, most did so in the knowledge that there is a strong possibility they were voting for their own political annihilation.

James outlines three specific areas of concern he has about the deal, but concludes optimistically:

But overall, the deal looks like it is a good one, and a liberal one. If we can make this of all coalition governments work, then the case against hung parliaments – and thus one of the strongest arguments against electoral reform – will have been destroyed. I worry for my party, but am immensely proud of it this morning.

You can read his post in full here.

Steve Webb, another Lib Dem identified with the social liberal wing of the party, has set out his reasons for agreeing to the deal on his own blog here. Here’s his final concluding paragraph:

Clearly, the jointly agreed programme does not give us everything we want as Lib Dems. But it means that a lot more Liberal Democrat policy and principles will be put into practice in government than any of us could have dreamed just a few weeks ago. Let us hope that we can now demonstrate that different political parties can work together for the good of the country.

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  • Ruth Bright 12th May '10 - 5:03pm

    Re welfare reform. The frequent portrayals of IDS as bogey-man are silly and simplistic. Some of the IDS report is thoughtful and innovative eg the idea of front-loading child benefit and other support in the first three years when the strain on parents is the greatest.

    However, the review of incapacity benefit is already biting hard. Even the terminally ill are being asked to justify their claims already. Single parents of young children are being asked to go back to work (often menial work) but without proper funding for childcare to make it possible. As James Graham points out this isn’t going to be pretty.

  • kevin hassett 12th May '10 - 5:07pm

    A Google search using the words Lib Dems next election toast yields 42,100 references

  • And a Google search using the words Labour next election toast yields 359,000 references…

  • Duncan Crowe 12th May '10 - 5:26pm

    @Stephen – That’s because Labour’s successor policy to the Child Trust Fund has now been announced; the Child Toast Fund – they are going to give every 18 year old three pieces of toast and two slices of cheese on polling day (not means tested). Now how dare we say Labour aren’t serious about child poverty?

  • Nick Clegg/David Cameron acting like old public school buddies, vile.

  • Afterthought 12th May '10 - 5:28pm

    The socialists are afraid their government cheese will be curtailed.

    Only one question to them: did you pull the lever for a party that waged an illegal war in Iraq and propped up the parasitic banks that are strangling the economy?

    Labour bloggers: as rotten as the Labour MPs.

  • Labour were put into a no win position by Nick when he said he would not prop up a government with Gordon Brown as PM in a hung parliament, essentially saying we cannot deal with Labour, most Labour knew this even when Nick asked for talks between Lib Dem and Labour, so please don’t put the spin that Labour failed, when it never had a chance… or are you saying Nick would have done business with an unknown PM? That would be a joke…

    Something to think about… over 8400 have joined the Labour party since polling day, in my humble opinion it will rise a lot higher over the next few months, oh these are registered as joining, how many will just change votes a lot more than 8400 I think, I wonder where these are all coming from?

    There is only one opposition party against the blue tide of conservatism and that would be… not the Lib Dem party.

  • Conservatives supported the war on Iraq, Labour did not strangle the economy, the sub prime mortgage crisis in America had a little something to do with global economic downturn.

  • Look guys when my 9 year old tells me that the big boys made him do it, I don’t believe him. Our leaders chose to go into a coalition with the Tories willingly and enthusiastically. Saying the big, bad Labour boys made us is ridiculously immature.

  • I have to say I’m bemused about these so called former Lib Dem voters, who presumably believed in PR, then throwing their toys out the pram when a typical result of PR manifests itself – a hung parliament leading to a coalition government. Or did they think that in the case of a hung parliament the Lib Dems would always support Labour? If some people are wedded to always siding with Labour in the case of a coalition then I’m only surprised they haven’t been advocating a merger between the two parties.

    As it happened, Labour didn’t want to be part of a coalition and abdicated their responsbility to their voters.

    In contrast the Lib Dems have tried to get as much of their manifesto implemented as possible, whilst being acutely aware that this arrangement has the potential to damage them more than any other party. But better that we as a party are damaged, then the country has 4/5 years of Tory rule. And I may be accused of being ’smug’ saying that but some of us really do put the country before our own political party. That’s actually why we’re inolved in politics.

  • Hi there,

    Are all you Lib Dems blind to the blindingly obvious???

    Mandelson and campbell played you, there never was any deal. They did it for political positioning to try and tear your “progressive left” off from the rest and into the loving arms of Labour.

    I watched TV non stop for the last few days and have heard every statement.

    Since your talks broke down with Labour, I heard Mandelson and others say, “we really wanted to enter a progressive alliance but it was obvious the Lib Dems had made their mind up and were clearly much more keen to enter into an alliance with the Torys”

    1 ex labour ministers said on TV – “We really hoped to have a progressive coaltion, but now the Lib Dems chose the Torys, Labour are officially the only progressive party”

    and another ex minister

    “on one side of the commons you have the Tory/lib dem alliance and on the other is the progressive oppostion”.

    This is obvioulsy a Labour strategy and it seems to have started to work. I read today some Lib Dems had joined Labour.

    This is the dark and devious art of Mandelson, he was never interested in dealing with you, he knew it was impossible, he and campbell were only interested in trying to tie you up as

    “rejected progressive (left) in favour of Tory (right)”.

    He is cunningly trying to split what may deemed are your progressive left supporters – off from centrists of your party and to get them to join Labour.

    Did nobody else see it??

  • James why did you not mention an upper house elected by PR? I think that was spectacular, along with fixed-term parliaments & the AV referendum.

    Dismantling the NuLabour surveillance datastate is best of all.

  • @ Afterhtought –
    we don’t pull levers to vote – shows you know nothing about how elections are run in the UK!!

  • Tory Frank is not wrong here. The SDP defection still smarts among many old Labourites.

  • tonygreaves 12th May '10 - 5:50pm

    It’s a remarkably good deal. Hardened negotiators such as Andrew Stunell (the world expert on UK local government NOCs), Jim Wallace (one of the team’s close advisers), David Laws (who was such a person on the first Scottish coalition negotiations), appear to have completely oumanoevred the likes of Letwin and Osborne (who I don’t suppose have ever had to negotiate anything in their privileged lives!)

    When I have to hold my nose and vote for some things I would rather not in the next few months I will think of all the children who are no longer locked up in detention centres.

    Tony Greaves

  • The Third Runway has already gone, according to the BBC.

    Let’s hope the Tories stick to the good things in the Agreement, like scrapping ID cards and getting rid of the Mandatory Retirement Age.

    I will give it six months to a year before either, the Lib Dem ministers get sick of trying to work with their hard-right colleagues and getting nowhere, or the even harder right in the Tory Party calls time on it. Back in opposition, we can then point to the positive things we achieved, and explain to the electorate why they have to boot out Cameron’s hard right. Well, something along those lines.

  • i think you’re being unfair. mandelson wanted it to work as well as ashdown but they would have been at the mercy of smaller nationalist parties all the time as well as labours awkward squad types like kate hoey. kate will probably have more time to go fox hunting now.
    i think you’re trying to blame labour to excuse you getting in bed with the tories. it was the only coalition that could work. but for how long. and what will become of the tory right?

  • Labour membership is growing at an alarming rate, can not be good for the Lib Dems!

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th May '10 - 9:53pm

    Tory Frank

    Mandelson and campbell played you, there never was any deal. They did it for political positioning to try and tear your “progressive left” off from the rest and into the loving arms of Labour

    I’m afraid the ugly anti-pluralist mentality shown by Labour over this situation, particularly most of the Labour left (which is the part of Labour I most sympathise with on other things) has very much put paid to any chance of that from me. They have displayed to the full all that I hate about Labour and caused me to become and stay a firm Liberal.

    Unlike Tony Greaves I don’t think this is at all a good deal, it falls far short of what he himself set out as conditions for a coalition just a few days ago. But, OK, I accept he being closer to what’s happening as a member of Parliament (albeit the other house) knows more than I do and has heard the arguments which I guess were that this was the best that could be done and it was hard enough to get that.

  • George Smith 13th May '10 - 9:05pm

    Don’t turn this onto us! This was your decision, you have made your bed so go to it and sleep with the nasty party.

  • Largely agree with Mattthew Huntbach’s first paragraph in reply to Tory Frank. As for Matthew’s next paragraph, I think we have to give it time and keep our fingers crossed both for the country and our party (the LDs). Obviously, Labour look like they will be a major force by the time the next election comes around, but, as we all know, a week is a long time in politics.

    What really surprised me during the last week of the election was not that our vote was lower than the polls predicted (though I thought it quite conceivable we would ‘only’ get @24.5% of the vote and @69 seats –sadly, I was wrong) but that the Labour vote held up relatively well. The reality I think is that @17-18% of the electorate still vote Labour completely regardless of their policies, while I suspect that @ 7% of the electorate will always vote LD almost regardless of policy. Yes, we all know loyalty to the Lab and Tory parties is not what it once was, but it is still very real. They have a helluva head start over us in any GE campaign.

  • Oops. The penultimate sentence should have concluded ‘…I suspect that @ 7% of the electorate will almost always vote LD virtually regardless of policy’.

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