Lord Tony Greaves writes…Why a new coalition would be a bad idea

In my first piece about what happens after May 7th I worked on the basis that the result would be around Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1). Since then the numbers predicted by the polls have wobbled a bit around these numbers but the only consistent change has been to push up the SNP to perhaps 50 seats. And given the lack of a “late swing” of any size the LD number may be a bit high.

Given the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act it all still adds up to the likelihood – or the opportunity? – of a minority government (or democratic parliament?) that lasts several years, perhaps for the full five. Yet our official line is still that we want to join another Coalition. Officially we will negotiate with Tories or Labour, starting with the party with most seats (though in practice we will be talking to both simultaneously if that is what the numbers decree). Unofficially our leadership are reported to prefer another coalition with the Tories.

It’s no secret that this idea causes a severe onset of jitters in many parts of the party. With a week to go, the Times’ lead story reports “Lib Dems to revolt over fresh pact with Tories” (£). The story is pretty anecdotal, full of unattributed comments by “senior figures in the party” and the like (only Andrew George breaking cover), in general a typically flimsy piece of tabloid style journalism of the kind we see nowadays in the Times.

This does not mean the essence of the Times story is not true. Any attempt to go into coalition again with Cameron will be very controversial within the party. I don’t know whether activists will have enough energy after this election to start a civil war, but there will be widespread protests and, if it happens, a significant number of resignations. Whether it could get a two-thirds majority at a special conference is certainly not clear.

So the question should now be asked – why is it not a good idea? First, the numbers. Let’s say the Tories scrape to 300 seats and we get 27 (the current Guardian poll of polls estimate) – or it might be 290-35, the precise numbers don’t matter. Such a two–party coalition would have a tiny overall majority. (I am assuming that Liberal Democrats will not enter a government which includes or depends on the illiberal bigots of either UKIP or the DUP). This contrasts with the very comfortable majority at Dissolution of 66.

This would not be the Coalition We Have Known. It would mean a Commons in which the Government moved heaven and earth to get a majority on every single vote. It would attempt to impose iron and brutal discipline. All the opposition parties would be denied and marginalised. Trench warfare for five years. Not a pleasant place for Liberals. And one doomed to fail as the Government lost seats at by-elections.

Second, the Liberal Democrats would be far too few to “man up” all the departments, even with the help of such Liberal Democrat Lords as were still willing to take part. The idea of a “flat” coalition with a person placed in each department to Coalitionise or even Liberalise hard-line Tory measures would be out of the question. Yet a “deep” coalition in which Liberal Democrats took over a couple of departments would make matters much worse. Liberal Democrats in the Commons (and, I suspect, increasingly hopelessly in the Lords) would be whipped to push through a thorough Tory agenda with just a few goodies – a scatter of Liberal cherries to decorate the Tory pudding.

Third, such a Coalition would be in hock to the “bastards” on the Tory Right, with more of them than the Liberal Democrats. And finally, the basic problem with any new coalition with the Tories – the destruction of the Liberal Democrats in the country would continue apace. By the time of the next election 2020, we will have effectively closed down as a countryside campaigning force.

This is why the party must start listening to people like Bill le Breton who are arguing the case for a much more open, democratic and liberal set-up involving a minority Government that works with Parliament  instead of trying to dominate it in a majoritarian manner.

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117 Comments

  • Patrick Murray 30th Apr '15 - 4:47pm

    why does a second coalition have to be with the Tories? It seems to me that the only opportunity for any kind of stability would be a Lib-Lab coalition, relying on vote-by-vote support from SNP and others. Not very stable at all, but at least it would have a clear majority over the Tories, with the bulk of the rest of the parliament left-leaning. I don’t think the same kind of arrangement with the Tories will work because essentially the majority of the parliament (Lab, SNP, Plaid, Greens) would oppose it on most things.

  • Patrick Murray 30th Apr '15 - 4:58pm

    Just to add, I don’t think that is a very likely scenario, and would require Labour to overcome their natural tribalism (even more unlikely), but is probably a better coalition option than the Lib/Con possibility which you rightly point out would be quite a different beast than the past 5 years.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 5:06pm

    I was genuinely open minded to a Lib-Lab coalition until this past week, which in my opinion has demonstrated that the party’s left is in rebellion mode and is going to try to force a move significantly to the left.

    High taxes, high regulation and high borrowing. It would be harder to maintain the party’s unique identity in a coalition with Labour.

    A coalition with the Conservatives is probably a bad idea too, but I feel that in general the left needs to learn that outrage and overly simplistic laws are not enough for victory.

  • Roger Roberts 30th Apr '15 - 5:08pm

    I understand and share Tony’s unease at the very thought of a continuation of the present Coalition. I imagine that Lib Dem M.P.s and Peers will be meeting over the May 8th weekend. The offers will come from both larger parties and this time ,unlike 2010, we must take more time to consider any policy agreements (the banks must wait longer !) . In no way must we tie ourselves to an agenda which would involve us having to support, in both houses, illiberal measures. We cannot bargain away the liberalism to which so many of us have a lifelong commitment. It may be that a Coalition agreement cannot be achieved but some other arrangement must be made -so be it ! As for the very idea (promoted by some in the media) that we would be part of an agreement that included UKIP or the DUP that would see overnight the end of the Lib Dem party as it stands ! Okay, I sound like the Liberal loyalist (purist if you like) -am proud to be so !

  • Certainly an out come where Tories + Lib Dems is just over 322 would be a nightmare, because of the inevitable recriminations whatever the Party decided. I cannot believe that a new coalition of that sort would be passed by the Party, certainly not by two thirds. I would also be quite surprised if the MPs would be in favour. Although, journalists like to assume otherwise, I am far from certain that Nick Clegg and other senior figures who might be around would be keen.

    The difficulty, one DUP and the odd UKIPer are taken into account, would be that it would also render a Labour led administration virtually impossible. If it were possible for Labour with Lib Dem and SNP votes to muster a slender majority to pass legislation, this too would be appalling. It would only begin to become tolerable for us if Labour with SNP get a majority when Lib Dems abstain.

    To hope that Tony’s scenario would be “more open, democratic and liberal” seems to fly in the face of our experience over the last 5 years.

    In this light I think our attitude to SNP is flawed: I have written elsewhere how we may need to cooperate with the SNP, but in the direct aftermath, it would be better to pursue Nick Clegg’s logic of larger parties taking precedence and insist that SNP as third largest party should have talks with Conservatives and Labour before us. Why should we invite the pressure to be on us rather than on SNP?

    I also think that Nick Clegg should look for the earliest opportunity to initiate steps to find his successor and thereby at least play for time until the Autumn.

    Tony: must be absolutely right that 30 or fewer MPs is insufficient to staff a coalition, (unless participants were absolved of collective responsibility!) moreover the drop in our support would have fatally diminished the necessary authority for sustaining a coalition.

  • Paul Walter and Patrick Murray: Tony Greaves is putting forward a more likely nightmare where your wish is simply not available.

    This time last election many considered the possibility where Lib Dems could choose either way – King makers the media were saying – but it was not to be, it was a coalition with the Tories or a run on the banks, a Tory minority followed quickly by a new election in which only the most desperately deluded fantasists would see anything other than an outright Tory win.

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 5:23pm

    I think we have challenges whatever happens:
    – if in coalition with any side, do we have the energy, respect and numbers to make a real difference and will we end up being made the whipping boy again?
    – if either in a confidence or supply agreement, will we indeed garner all the negatives and none of the positives of coalition, as has been asserted?
    – If in opposition, particularly opposition to Labour, will we find ourselves drawn into the same ‘camp’ as the other main opposition party and associated with them by the media in the public mind? (I am particularly keen that we do not become seen for evermore as part of the centre-right)
    – What happens about the leadership in any of these situations? How long and NC hold on, and should he?
    – Is the party still, in a developing pluralist politics with polarising pressures (argh alliteration strikes), viable as one UK-wide party?

    I’d not seeking answers, so don’t, particularly not the last one. But these are the challenges after May 8.

  • Paul Walter and Patrick Murray: Tony Greaves is putting forward a more likely nightmare where your wish is simply not available.

    This time last election many considered the possibility where Lib Dems could choose either way – King makers the media were saying – but it was not to be, it was a coalition with the Tories or a run on the banks, a Tory minority followed quickly by a new election in which only the most desperate of phantasists would see anything other than an outright Tory win.

  • @matt (Bristol) we spent 13 years in opposition to Labour pre-2010 so I’m sure we can oppose them from a Liberal perspective.

  • @Martin “in the direct aftermath, it would be better to pursue Nick Clegg’s logic of larger parties taking precedence and insist that SNP as third largest party should have talks with Conservatives and Labour before us. Why should we invite the pressure to be on us rather than on SNP? ”

    I fully agree with this. We should let (and point out to the media) all the other options be explored first; Lab + Con, Con + SNP, Lab + SNP.

    If no coalition deal emerges from those options it strengthens our hand in 2 ways:

    1) there’s no other option for the larger parties to play us off against
    2) we can play them off against each other as we did last time
    3) its an easier sell to the public in the scenario where we’ve los 50% + of our seats “they’re asking us not vice versa”

  • That was of course “two ways” in the Spanish Inquisition sense.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr ’15 – 5:06pm ……I was genuinely open minded to a Lib-Lab coalition until this past week….

    Really? You managed to conceal it very well…

    As far as “Why a new coalition would be a bad idea” goes, I’ve always believed that the ‘old one’ wasn’t a good idea!

  • What Paul Walter said.

  • Ruth Bright 30th Apr '15 - 5:55pm

    What Paul Walter said.

  • David Allen 30th Apr '15 - 5:56pm

    Clegg has explicitly made coalition the key purpose of the Lib Dems. That line about providing a heart for the Tories or a brain for Labour is about the only bit of Lib Dem propaganda that has really got noticed. Clegg, Laws and Alexander have told everbody that they sincerely want to go on doing prestigious government jobs – and the people have believed that.

    Tony Greaves and Bill le Breton have much better ideas, but whether they can really make any headway within the Lib Dems I doubt. The donors and funders who set up the Orange Book and the “centrist” think tanks, in order to bankroll what Charles Kennedy called a “third conservative party”, have not gone away. No doubt they will bend with the wind, if there are disastrous losses and/or if Clegg loses. But they will bend with the wind (as, for example, Murdoch did when he closed down the News of the World) only in order to weather the storm, and then push their heads back above the parapet once they see the chance to do so. Seeking to move the Lib Dems out of the right-wing camp, and back to something like where they used to be, may now be simply unachievable.

  • If the Numbers allow Liberal Democrats to enter another coalition with the Tories with a very small majority,
    I do wonder how much clout Nick Clegg would have now putting forward an argument to the rest of the parliamentary party for another coalition, Especially if Nick Clegg only scrapes through in his own constituency on the back of the support of Conservative voters in last ditch attempt to save him.

    Clearly Clegg, Laws & Alexander will be fighting for a 2nd coalition with the Tories, I am just not so sure that the other Liberal Democrat MP’s who manage to survive the election will stomach it, especially if they see their own majorities slashed to the bone, loosing activists and at even more risk of losing their seat in an early 2nd election.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 6:14pm

    I’m more comfortable with a Con-Lib-Lab grand coalition, but I don’t think that is on the cards.

    I think it is usually best to disengage my personal preferences and just use my head. When I use my head I come to the conclusion of a grand coalition.

    Best regards

  • @matt (Bristol) 30th Apr ’15 – 5:23pm
    “– If in opposition, particularly opposition to Labour, will we find ourselves drawn into the same ‘camp’ as the other main opposition party and associated with them by the media in the public mind? (I am particularly keen that we do not become seen for evermore as part of the centre-right)
    – What happens about the leadership in any of these situations? How long and NC hold on, and should he?”

    Very good points. I think this argues for Clegg (and the retreat of the rest of the leadership) going under all foreseeable circumstances. A coalition with Labour is unfeasible with Clegg, Laws, etc in charge; one with the Tories is unfeasible with the expected level of MPs without extraordinary damage to the party; an opposition alongside the Tories will effectively repeat the damage that a coalition with the Tories would cause at a smaller level unless the party is differentiated enough from the past association. I can’t see any likely outcome that doesn’t require new blood at the top.

  • What about the party? Another coalition and there will not be one to talk of by 2020. We need to paddle our own canoe for a bit, however small it is and replenish everything we have lost over the past 5 years. ( I would think it must be 100-1 now for a bet on Alexander keeping his seat).
    I was a firm coalitionist, never thought it would damage the party so much. Friday May 8th may well go down in party history as the worst day in its 150 tear old history. It will certainly not been one of the three main parties in the new parliament..

  • I agree with Paul Walter, though this comment will probably be moderated like the others so why bother posting…

  • @Paul Walter 30th Apr ’15 – 6:07pm

    Just out of curiosity, who does fund these various libertarian think tanks?

  • i dont want a deal with anyone, I want Lib Dems to use the next few years setting out a radical agenda and allow the healing of the party in those large number of constituencies who have almost come to a full stop.

  • paul barker 30th Apr '15 - 6:44pm

    Well I dont agree that we know the result already, even in the broadest terms. I still think there is a strong possibility of a last minute Labour collapse & a Libdem recovery. That would make a stable LD/Con coalition without any DUP involvement possible numerically but I would still be against it unless they abandon most of the positions they have come out with in the last couple of weeks.
    The massive first obstacle is the plan for a Euro-Referendum, we should fight that tooth & nail. We cant compromise on that & I dont see how Cameron could survive dropping it.
    My general feeling is that we need time in opposition to recover & we need the flexibility to take advantage of the coming splits in both Con & Lab.

  • Stephen Hesketh 30th Apr '15 - 6:58pm

    Bolano 30th Apr ’15 – 6:28pm
    “Just out of curiosity, who does fund these various libertarian think tanks?”

    Bolano, I understand it is large multi-national corporations with the best interests of ordinary people and the spreading wealth and power as their core values.

    Ask TCO – he works for one.

  • Simon Mackley 30th Apr '15 - 7:01pm

    Participation in any coalition with a small/non-existent majority would be to court disaster – it’s highly unlikely that such an arrangement with either left or right would be able to deliver any substantial policy aims. Opposition to a minority administration would be more attractive: we could bail out the administration on certain votes when necessary in exchange for concessions on civil liberties/foreign policy/political reform, while at the same time striking out a clear, independent position and opposing measures we dislike on the floor of the Commons.

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 7:10pm

    Thank you for mentioning my ideas, Tony.

    These sketch how the coming Parliament could see the greatest transfer of power from Whitehall to Westminster and can be read and developed here https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-how-power-can-now-shift-from-whitehall-to-westminster-45564.html

    They could not have been arrived at without Tony’s spade work.

    Of course, there are forces probably already intent on ensuring that the next Parliament sees further entrenchment of power in the Executive and the Civil Service, and as far from pesky Westminster as possible.

  • Continuing in coalition with the Tories would be a disaster. (IMHO)

    The only worse option would be a coalition with Labour (with or without the SNP).

    We did what was right in 2010. We made substantial progress for the country, though not for the party!

    (It’s called putting country before party)

    But 2015-20 needs to be a period of developing the party, not being the junior scapegoat in coalition.

    I think.

  • Paul Walters

    “There is an overwhelming majority of the party who are loyal to the leadership elected democratically by the party. It is nothing to do with the Orange book or sections or some strange enchantment with Nick Clegg.”

    Not sure the leadership has “overwhelming” support from the party, but I’m absolutely sure that the party has seen a massive drop of support in the country during Clegg’s leadership. The party is going to get hammered next week, just as they have done in all recent elections and much of that loyalty – if it exists – is going to disappear.

  • A Con/Dem 2.0 coalition has the real potential to split whatever remains of the Parliamentary Party. If there’s no room for dissent on important liberal principles, and Party members are being whipped to support an ultra-Tory agenda, then some may simply choose to resign the whip.

  • The biggest, and almost entirely unaddressed, issue facing the country as we look to the years ahead is the growing imbalance in wealth between a small wealthy elite and the majority of the population, and between the older and younger generations. In coalition with the Tories it has proved impossible to address this, and (our side of) the government has fallen back on relying on dodgy statistics relating to changes in income, turning a blind eye to the massive windfall the rich have gained from the appreciating value of assets, as property becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and all the social progress since WWII (indeed WWI) is unwound in a few short years.

    Despite the fact that most of the policies that have delivered this wealth gain to the richest – such as QE and near-zero interest rates, commenced under Gordon Brown, Labour nowadays does at least ‘get’ the damage being done to society by the widening gulf between the richest and the rest (for example picking up our original policy of mansion taxes). The Tories, as ever, aren’t interested; indeed they exist to protect the entitlements of the ‘winners’ from the financial turmoil of the past seven years. This is why another coalition with the Tories is, in my view, out of the question, and I would struggle to remain within the party if we ever sought to entertain such a prospect.

  • Frank Furter 30th Apr '15 - 7:33pm

    The chance of a Lib Dem/Con coalition is close to zero, if not zero. Why do I say that? Because if I were a Conservative I would not want to be closely involved with a person who, breaches Cabinet Confidentiality for party politicical advantage – as Danny Alexander did today.

  • @David Allen what is the point of your fabled right wingers bankrolling the lib dems when. By all logic they could cut out the middleman and go straight to the Tories?

  • @Stephen Hesketh 30th Apr ’15 – 6:58pm

    “Bolano, I understand it is large multi-national corporations with the best interests of ordinary people and the spreading wealth and power as their core values.”

    Thanks, Stephen – that’s pretty much what I thought, too!

    “Ask TCO – he works for one.”

    Generous offer, but I’ll pass, thanks all the same.

  • “i dont want a deal with anyone,” (bob sayer 30th Apr ’15 – 6:43pm)

    The problem is that under the FTPA we either do do a deal to help one leader gain the “confidence of the House” or we do an alternative deal so as to get the necessary majority to rerun the election…

    However, I do thing that this time around the agreement could be more about who we prefer to have in No.10 and hence will tend to support on the critical votes, rather than a formal coalition where we stand side-by-side through thick-and-thin.

  • Tony – firstly this has been a terrific series of articles, many thanks for writing them.

    Whilst I am someone who has, for good or ill, supported the Coalition and doesn’t like the idea of sitting out government, I very much agree a coalition would be a bad idea given the expected results of the election.

    I worry greatly about what would happen under an SNP/Lab arrangement, but we are a liberal country – and such a country must have a strong Liberal party. We will end this five years bruised, but still viable and essential to the coutnry’s political fabric. I’m not sure this would be the case after five more years.

    So, for me, the queston is do we try and temper an unstable government for five years and risk our demise, or do we step to one side and make sure we have decades and decades ahead. Leaves me with litte choice but to think we should sit the next government out and prepare for 2020.

  • @Paul Walter 30th Apr ’15 – 6:56pm

    Thanks for making your point clearer with the amendment.

    I’d agree with your idea that a large number of party members might be loyal to Clegg, who has been elected democratically. However, I don’t think this necessarily invalidates a point about the influence of lobbyists, think tank members, corporate shills, etc: they do exist – some of them have written articles here. If they position themselves among the entirely democratic Clegg loyalists, then it’s hardly surprising if the two groups get confused.

  • I must admit that when I first saw the photograph at the head of the piece, the Walker Brothers singing ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ did spring unbidden to mind. Perhaps a new future career beckons for the duo.

  • @Bolano go on you know you want to

  • Stephen Hesketh 30th Apr '15 - 8:07pm

    Frank Furter 30th Apr ’15 – 7:33pm
    “The chance of a Lib Dem/Con coalition is close to zero, if not zero. Why do I say that? Because if I were a Conservative I would not want to be closely involved with a person who, breaches Cabinet Confidentiality for party politicical advantage – as Danny Alexander did today.”

    I sincerely hope you are right Mr Sausage – but by the same measure we would not now be in the dreadful position in which we find ourselves had Nick and his mates adopted a more business-like approach to dealing with the Tories from Day One of the coalition.

    As to what motivated this strategy, we can only guess. My own would be that it might have had something to do with attracting soft Tories and building a personally and societally liberal but economically centre-right party … some might describe it as ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’.

  • Not Who I Say I Am 30th Apr '15 - 8:54pm

    I have been asked to change my LDV identity until after the election. I will therefore be known as ‘Not Who I Say I Am’ for the next week 😉

  • Frank Furter 30th Apr '15 - 8:56pm

    Stephen Hesketh – 8.07pm
    Whatever the fundamental reason for Alexander’s action – even if done with good intent – it has destroyed trust between Lib Dems and Cons. It also makes any arrangement with another party difficult. Who can trust a person who takes a confidence and publishes it?

  • John Minard 30th Apr '15 - 9:06pm

    Let’s face it, there’s not many moderate Superheros – I can’t think of one! None with ginger hair and none whose ‘skill’ is negotiation or reform of government. Nope, this isn’t the election for moderate sensible voices and the finer points of policy details; the choices are relatively extreme and we are squeezed. We did our national service in 2010 – an “orrible” job passed on from the last lot and a thankless task. We were so successful(!) in fact I think we have put every other smaller party completely off the idea of formal coalition for good! Whilst I won’t be sad to see Cameron leave No:10, and the (never will see) Sun headline ‘It woz AV wot lost it!’ I would sense a certain justice that his sides assassination of Nick Clegg in the AV referendum (so soon after the Tuition Fees sacrifice) would result in the MP’s loss of office – a statesman he never was! Lib Dem seats will be lost, and I fear a great many. I don’t believe more than a very few Lib Dems will even recognise the idea that we have a ‘duty’ to serve in government after this election to “finish the job!”. Taking our place on the opposition benches (and not the 3rd party ones we used to hold) will be the right thing to do, and then to vote accordingly to our conscience. We all hoped that we would get publicity for our views and positions in coalition but alas our appeal became inundated by the ‘deep blue sea’. Time to be a new type of Superhero in the cold light of day after May 7th, and kingmaker policy by policy, superhero Sensible Negotiationman beckons!

  • Stevan Rose 30th Apr '15 - 9:11pm

    I have no problem with a second Coalition with the Tories but (a) pledges are red lines and red lines are not crossed, and (b) government collective responsibility applies only to the content of the Coalition Agreement and nothing else. Anything outside the Coalition Agreement is a party political matter and fair game should there be disagreement.

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 9:35pm

    TCO — “we spent 13 years in opposition to Labour pre-2010 so I’m sure we can oppose them from a Liberal perspective.”

    13 years which began and ended with strong rumours of possible Lib-Lab coalition and included multiple party figures serving the government in a variety of consultative roles, including Jenkins, Ashdown, Williams – oh and Lib-Lab coalition government in 2 devolved regions. I think it was pretty clear to many people that our parliamentary opposition to Blair and Brown was not on the same terms as Hague’s.

    I don’t know if our parliamentary opposition to Miliband (say) would be seen in the same way. Of course it would depend on how politics develops and what happens to the leadership in the Tory party too – but if people who sat together in Cabinet 6 weeks ago are standing up on the Opposition benches and opposing a centre-left government and defending the previous government in very similar language to each other, the conclusion could potentially be reasonably drawn that the new ‘centre-right’ opposition is a two-headed beast with one agenda. Our room to manoeuvre and find common cause with the several centre-left parties with whom we share common cause on reform of the constitution (if nothing else) would be severely impacted, and therefore our ability to independently drive forward changes we all want to see.

    I could be wrong, and I’m a long way ahead of myself. We shall see.

  • So after years of telling us that PR is the preferred voting system (that would inevitably result in coalition governments),at the first sign of a difficult coalition the Lib Dems run a mile.

  • @Kevin this Lib Dem doesn’t

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 30th Apr '15 - 10:37pm

    I find this “rule out a coalition” approach slightly baffling, and Kevin puts it pithily in the comment above.

    Shouldn’t we take this very simple approach: judge any potential deal on its merits.

    Why tie our hands now?

  • Eddie: I share your dismay at the lack of a focus on an enterprise economy, and the reflexive urge to tax and intervene. But I am not at all keen on a ‘grand coalition’. In a parliamentary democracy it is vital that we have a ‘loyal opposition’. Competition in politics is as important as competition in other spheres. I am not saying that the Lib Dems should rule out coalition; I’m saying that a coalition of the two largest parties would be unhealthy as well as unlikely.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Apr '15 - 10:57pm

    Nick Thornsby: you miss my point which is that the content of the deal will not be what matters most. That will be the context in which it is agreed. The politics of it for the next five years. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand much about real politics.

    kevin: don’t be silly. Just because we believe in PR does not mean we have to be part of every Coalition going, particularly when the election result is one thrown up by a horribly distorted electoral system.

    Martin: of course the last five years have not seen a huge increase in openness and democracy in the way the Commons works (though there has been some, notably in the internal workings of the LDs, which have been more open and participative than the other parties ever achieved in government). The reason for this is that the third of the 2010 Coalition agreements – the one that set out how the Coalition would work – was based on the premise that a two-party government worked in the same way as a one party government, and all that was needed was machinery at the top to get agreement between the two parties on policies. A minority government could open up a lot of changes for the better in the way that Parliament works.

    Tony

    Stevan Rose: I don’t think you understand the nature of a Coalition. If it’s a Coalition there has to be a considerable degree of collective responsibility (that’s what it means).

  • Coalition in a proportional system where the parties have seats roughly relative to their popular support is an entirely different thing to coalition in a system weighted to favour the larger parties. In the former case it’s possible for the parties to retain their identities despite compromising in government. In the latter and current case, the smaller gets devoured by the larger.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 11:11pm

    Interesting points Alex. Maybe not this time, but I still think next time a grand coalition needs to be on the cards. There is not much difference between the three main parties (at the top level).

    Tony, a bit of a personal attack on Nick there. I think he makes a fair point. Good article though.

    expats, I don’t want to talk about my opinions too much (don’t laugh), I just try to be as honest as possible.

  • TCO

    “@David Allen what is the point of your fabled right wingers bankrolling the lib dems when. By all logic they could cut out the middleman and go straight to the Tories?”

    Well, you’d have to ask Paul Marshall that question!

    However, my own view is that the donors have got mcuh better value for their investments than they would have gained by backing the Tories. Quite simply, they have bought up the key swing party, and thereby gained 5 years in power, 2010-2015. By contrast, if they had used their money to finance a lot of expensive Tory posters, they would probably have had next to no effect on the election results in 2010.

    A second point is that a donor to a big party gets lost amongst all the other donors. A donor to a small party really gets noticed by that party. It’s an entirely separate question, to be clear, but, crooks do sometimes targeted donating to the Lib Dems, and I suspect that is the reason.

  • Paul Waletr “The usual Allen paranoia.”

    The usual cautious, rational, gentle Paul Walter response. For the last five years, people have regularly predicted that the party is about to get tough with the Tories, and/or get rid of Clegg. It has not happened. Most recently, lots of people have jumped up to suggest that Tim Farron will soon be leader. As soon as that happened, the name of Norman Lamb got shoved into the limelight as the man the MPS will unite around, should Clegg leave, in order to maintain continuity with coalitionist politics. I haven’t invented that. It’s not paranoia. It’s facing reality.

  • Two points:
    a) Any post-election arrangement by the party leadership needs to bear the party’s survival in mind (if nothing else, the last five years have taught us that). I doubt anything else would gain the necessary 2/3rds support to get past the membership.
    b) I rather think that Farron would beat Lamb in a leadership contest. I have enormous respect for both, but with all due respect to Norman Lamb (and I do mean that), I’d vote for Farron, and I suspect a majority of the membership would too.

  • @David Allen “However, my own view is that the donors have got mcuh better value for their investments than they would have gained by backing the Tories. Quite simply, they have bought up the key swing party, and thereby gained 5 years in power, 2010-2015. By contrast, if they had used their money to finance a lot of expensive Tory posters, they would probably have had next to no effect on the election results in 2010.”

    But this was not clear in 2005, 2007 or even most of 2010. Business donors are hard headed and are not going to throw money at an irrelevance, which is what we were pre coalition. And the election was in the bag for Cameron until the Cleggasm

  • @John Grout ” I’d vote for Farron, and I suspect a majority of the membership would too.”

    With respect that’s supposition because you think other members must be like you. If the conspiracy theorists are correct the left leaning members have left over the coalition.

  • Matt (Bristol) 1st May '15 - 12:24am

    TCO, I wish to detract nothing from the ‘Cleggasm’, entertaining as it all-too-briefly was, but I cannot recall anyone producing hard evidence – or indeed claiming – that the last election was ‘in the bag’ for Cameron at any point in the election campaign. It was tight, as I recall, and we did not then know how Labour’s perceived advantage in Scotland and the cities would play out. Wikipedia’s record of polling before the election debates shows that some polls were showing 8-10 point leads for the Tories over Labour, but that this was not consistent. I think the Gillian Duffy incident was as significant as the TV debates and Cleggmania in swinging things away from Brown.

    … You’ve depressed me now, I was taken back to a strange land in which opinion polls showed us outpolling both the other two major parties (before the SNP could be considered to have a claim on that concept).

  • @ Bolano
    “What happens about the leadership in any of these situations? How long and NC hold on, and should he?”

    Another reason for us not to be in coalition after the general election, if Nick Clegg manages to hold on to Hallam, is because if he isn’t a member of the government then there will be a leadership election by 7th May next year.

    @ Paul Barker
    “I still think there is a strong possibility of a last minute Labour collapse & a Libdem recovery.”
    Have you placed a bet on this and if you did what odds did you get?

    @ David-1
    “A Con/Dem 2.0 coalition has the real potential to split whatever remains of the Parliamentary Party.”

    According to article 15.4 of our constitution the MPs have to agree the deal. Then two-thirds of a special conference has to agree. Even if the MPs do agree I am not convinced there will be the necessary two-third majority of the conference reps (especially if there is a large minority of MPs against).

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May '15 - 8:01am

    David-130th Apr ’15 – 11:03pm
    “Coalition in a proportional system where the parties have seats roughly relative to their popular support is an entirely different thing to coalition in a system weighted to favour the larger parties. In the former case it’s possible for the parties to retain their identities despite compromising in government. In the latter and current case, the smaller gets devoured by the larger.”

    You say that as if any professional politician worth his or her salt would recognise that and act accordingly from the outset.

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May '15 - 8:34am

    TCO30th Apr ’15 – 11:41pm
    [[@John Grout ” I’d vote for Farron, and I suspect a majority of the membership would too.” ]]

    “With respect that’s supposition because you think other members must be like you. If the conspiracy theorists are correct the left leaning members have left over the coalition.”

    With respect TCO, John Grout says he “suspects”. That is clearly not supposition.

    I suspect the majority of those who left did not depart over the coalition but in our direction and actions within it. This is very different.

    The active members of the party who work for their local candidates AND post here are just that. Interesting, most use their real names!

    I’m not sure how long you have been following LDV or if you are just here for the duration of the election but this forum has been witness to many public but very sad departures from this party. I would suggest however the evidence is that very many (probably the majority) of posters here remain traditional Social Liberals.

    I also suspect that a number of those who previously left have quietly returned so as to have their say in the forthcoming leadership election.

  • Ian Hurdley 1st May ’15 – 7:58am……………..we have too few MPs and Peers to be effective in coalition and so we will support or oppose on a case by case basis from the Opposition benches. Indeed, a coalition of opposition will probably be more effective…………..

    Strange that those of us who suggested this in 2010 were branded as unthinking…….

    Not Who I Say I Am 1st May ’15 – 8:34am ……………….I suspect the majority of those who left did not depart over the coalition but in our direction and actions within it. This is very different………

    That certainly applies to me…..From the earliest days when Nick said to Cameron, something along the lines of, “If we go on as we are, we’ll have nothing to argue about” I felt that our leadership had found their ‘spiritual home’…Their immediate acceptance of the NHS changes, the lack of any public ‘red lines’, etc. has done nothing to make me think otherwise…

  • Worst case scenario is we halve the number of MPs in a weeks time, and then again in a second election 6 months later. We should judge any coalition on its merits, the key thing is to replace Clegg with someone more suited to the job. Ie any of the other remaining MPs.

  • @Not ” I would suggest however the evidence is that very many (probably the majority) of posters here remain traditional Social Liberals.”

    I think you’re correct – the majority of posters here are. Which is why it often seems like an echo chamber.

    I’ve been observing this forum off and on since it started so I’m aware of what you’re talking about.

    Just be aware that it’s only my extremely contrarian nature that keeps me here. I suspect most others of my persuasion would or have gone away as anyone deviating from the narrow “no Clegg good, Nick Clegg bad” comment line is not made to feel welcome.

    I’m sure Farron will win any future leadership contest. Whether that means that everyone who voted for him is a social liberal in your sense is a moot point.

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May '15 - 9:09am

    expats1st May ’15 – 8:56am
    “That certainly applies to me…..From the earliest days when Nick said to Cameron, something along the lines of, “If we go on as we are, we’ll have nothing to argue about” I felt that our leadership had found their ‘spiritual home’…Their immediate acceptance of the NHS changes, the lack of any public ‘red lines’, etc. has done nothing to make me think otherwise…”

    I agree. I recall shouting NO!!! at the television. One of many 🙁

    I do hope you have quietly rejoined. We need people like you to ensure we return to the path of authentic Liberalism!

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May ’15 – 9:09am………… I do hope you have quietly rejoined. We need people like you to ensure we return to the path of authentic Liberalism!……..

    Sorry, I haven’t….I’m voting Labour (although the alternative, in my area, is Tory or UKIP so not too difficult a choice)… I’ll see what happens in the months post May before deciding on where I go….A great pity really, because (1997 excepted) in every election since1966 (I was a few months short of 21 in 1964) I’ve voted Lib(Dem)… I believer that Jo Grimond was searching ‘down the back of his sofa’ to fund the campaign so the result was not as I’d hoped for my first vote….

  • libDem from birth 1st May '15 - 9:42am

    I would back NC all the way to lead the liberal agenda in a next parliament, as he sees fit. He is a resolute parliamentarian and deserves the party behind him.

    Is there Any way we can find to let him share the confidence & supply positions vote by vote direct with the electorate this time and open up his thinking Step by step to win back the respect of the amamazing number of people who, like in 2010 Want to see the libdems succeed, but just won’t vote this time?

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May '15 - 10:25am

    libDem from birth1st May ’15 – 9:42am
    “Is there Any way we can find to let him share the confidence & supply positions vote by vote direct with the electorate this time and open up his thinking Step by step to win back the respect of the amamazing number of people who, like in 2010 Want to see the libdems succeed, but just won’t vote this time?”

    That has to be a resounding No! Not fit for purpose.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st May '15 - 10:28am

    Agree about not supporting the toxic Tories again but the other coalition seems to be on the rocks already – or is everyone posturing even more than usual?

  • David Evans 1st May '15 - 11:07am

    Sadly LibDem from birth, Nick has led his liberal agenda in this parliament, as he saw fit. He has ignored liberalism and two democratic votes in conference on Secret Courts, and supported the Conservative agenda so often that he has led the party to electoral disaster, year after year culminating in the fiasco of the debates with Nigel Farage and the loss of all but one of our MEPs. He has failed to use the great opportunity he had to show that Lib Dems could do in parliament what they have successfully done in so many local councils and squandered the hard work of so many Lib Dems over the last thirty years.

    And you want him to stay? if you get your wish I suggest you change your name to NoLibDems left before I die.

  • @Tony nobody wants to be the government; bad stuff ahead so best to let the others take the blame

  • Not Who I Say I Am 1st May '15 - 11:28am

    Tony Rowan-Wicks1st May ’15 – 10:28am
    “Agree about not supporting the toxic Tories again but the other coalition seems to be on the rocks already – or is everyone posturing even more than usual?”

    There appear to be so many red lines this time round – from Clegg, Cameron and Milliband – that it would prove very difficult to form stable coalition even if we were minded to.

    I can not see however how ANY formal coalition would benefit this party and its long term existence. It’s vote by vote for me … based on democratically agreed party positions (and certainly not Clegg’s random red line of the day).

  • Tony Greaves 1st May '15 - 11:43am

    Alistair – see my previous piece on the FTPA as to why an election in 6 months is not likely. If the Parliament elected next week cannot work, that will happen quite quickly along with a new election. But both larger parties are now quietly doing a lot of work on how a minority government can work (which is why Miliband is saying such politically stupid things about the SNP).

    TCO – just do not believe that. Both Cameron and Miliband are desperate to be PM.

    Generally – the alternative to a Coalition is NOT “Confidence and Supply” a la Lib-Lab Pact. It’s the worst option. The absolute maximum we should do is to allow a government to take office in return for two or three immediate goodies.

    Tony

  • matt (Bristol) 1st May '15 - 12:58pm

    Tony Greaves – so, to clarify, you are arguing that although people have been thinking that options for stable government are limited (ie, either majority government, majority coalition, confidence-and-supply), in fact the options are far wider (including ‘confidence only’ ie no deal or only a very limited deal on finance; and also including minority coalitions being backed by non-participating parties in either confidence and supply or confidence only arrangements)?

  • I agree another coalition would be a bad idea and would probably cause a further loss in seats come 2020. However a coalition with Labour would be even worse than a coalition with the Tories. After this election, like it or not, the vast majority of Lib Dem seats will be at least somewhat (some very) right of centre/ Tory friendly. Constituencies like Thornbury and Yate, Cheltenham, North Cornwall, Eastbourne etc. very likely will give the Lib Dems the benefit of the doubt this time but a coalition with Labour would send them scarpering back off to the Tories. Centre Left seats that used to have Lib Dem strength will probably not forgive the Lib Dems for this parliament so quickly despite any Lab-Lib coalition. Another Con-Lib coalition would probably cause the last remaining centre-left seats to fall to Labour but most of the remaining Tory facing/right of centre seats would probably stay Lib Dem. A period in opposition or even confidence and supply would do the party the world of good.

  • matt (Bristol) 1st May '15 - 1:46pm

    JJ, a change to the voting system would do the whole country the world of good and we could then stop the ridiculous reductionist expediency-driven habit of dividing seats into a ‘right / left’ binary.

  • I was wary about a future coalition before but now I know Tony Greaves is opposed I think it’s a great idea 😉

  • Matthew Hawley 1st May '15 - 2:09pm

    From the header article: “Unofficially our leadership are reported to prefer another coalition with the Tories.”

    The essence (as I see it) of this article is that the Lib Dems would have a diminished role in the new government. If, firstly, there is a preference for coalition with the Conservatives and secondly, Labour end up being actually stronger this time and lastly, taking into account Ed Miliband’s assertion that he will not be in government, (if that were to mean depending on SNP support), then there could be a situation of great unfairness towards a substantial number of the voters participating in this election which would last for 5 solid years.
    Yes I agree that a simple coalition has a number of drawbacks associated with it if the Lib Dems are the party of a “Fairer Society”

  • AC Trussell 1st May '15 - 2:15pm

    2010 was an emergency situation- This time it’s different.

  • Em quia ipsa loquitor

  • Nick Collins 1st May '15 - 2:41pm

    @ Expats and Not Who etc.
    “….I suspect the majority of those who left did not depart over the coalition but in our direction and actions within it. This is very different………

    That certainly applies to me…..From the earliest days when Nick said to Cameron, something along the lines of, “If we go on as we are, we’ll have nothing to argue about” I felt that our leadership had found their ‘spiritual home’…Their immediate acceptance of the NHS changes, the lack of any public ‘red lines’, etc. has done nothing to make me think otherwise…”

    Me too. I was one of the tiny few who voted against the coalition at the Birmingham Conference in May 2010 . I considered resigning there and then, but persuaded myself not to: largely as a result of the speeches by David Rendel, Linda Jack and Tony Greaves.

    A year later, for reasons succinctly put by Expats, I felt that I could no longer continue campaigning for the LibDems and that my membership sub could be better spent elsewhere.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st May '15 - 5:40pm

    Whatever we thought in 2010 we now know we cannot trust the Tories. Today the polls show the Tories will be the largest party but will have no representation in Scotland. The UK cannot stay united with the Tories in power. They are divisive. Some LDs might think we can turn Tories into One-Nation people. That will not happen and the one nation we believe in will move on to other parties the voters can trust. As the polls stand, there is no party we want to be allies in any form of government.

  • Stevan Rose 1st May '15 - 5:44pm

    “Stevan Rose: I don’t think you understand the nature of a Coalition. If it’s a Coalition there has to be a considerable degree of collective responsibility (that’s what it means).”

    Sorry Tony but I believe it is you that don’t understand the nature of a Coalition. The Coalition Agreement defines the areas where collective responsibility applies. Collective responsibility does not apply to individual party initiatives outside that agreement that have not been adopted by both parties. It means we do not take responsibility for Tory policies we have not agreed to. To suggest we should is ridiculous – coalition is not merger.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st May '15 - 6:57pm

    Steven Rose: Just to be clear, I think you were replying to Lord Tony Greaves. I am sure Tony Greaves fully knows about the nature of Coalition.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st May ’15 – 6:57pm
    “Steven Rose: Just to be clear, I think you were replying to Lord Tony Greaves. I am sure Tony Greaves fully knows about the nature of Coalition.”

    {I think it’s Stevan, not Steven}. Tony Greaves may know about Coalition but I would have thought a radical party such as the Lib Dems would not kow-tow to Establishment views of “collective responsibility” but would invent a much more sensible version which did not involve the junior party getting hammered. Aren’t you all in politics to change the status quo?

  • SIMON BANKS 1st May '15 - 7:33pm

    There would be another way of managing the situation Tony describes, and I fancy both Cameron and Miliband would be capable of it, though their parties would probably block them. It’s a way familiar from local government and from some other democratic countries. Instead of freezing out all the other parties and putting the coalition on a war footing, its leadership opens channels to the opposition parties and feels for proposals that would enjoy a sound majority, making small changes here and there where they tipped the balance for one small party or another. Actually that would be the best approach of a minority government. Tighten up already tight party discipline and at least in the Tories and the Lib Dems, there could well be resignations, which wouldn’t help.

    Some recent figures show the Tories on the up – something I expected and feared towards the end of the campaign. God willing they won’t get a majority. But if they’re closer to a majority than they were last time and Labour loses seats overall while UKIP gets a mere three or four and Tory plus UKIP plus DUP is short of a majority, the pressures for a Tory – Lib Dem coalition mark 2 will be enormous. Those of us who do not see the future of the party as a moderating appendage to the Tories will need to be ready for the fight, even if it delivers a Tory minority government – which could not get a single policy through that was not acceptable to a party not of the right.

  • Simon Banks,
    I agree, but I think the Tories are unlikely to get more seats than last time.

  • Neil Sandison 2nd May '15 - 9:14am

    As a member I am a shareholder in this party .I would expect nothing less than an extra-ordinary meeting of the members to decide which option we collectively support. If the leadership puts forward an unacceptable option then we can call for a vote of no confidence.in the leadership..
    At this time I could only support a supply and confidence position for the other party that had gained the most seats at the general election and we would reserve the right to vote down unfair welfare reforms ,cuts in education or the health service. or fiscal imprudence or hypothecated taxes that should in fact come out of general taxation

  • Not Who I Say I Am 2nd May '15 - 9:12pm

    Neil Sandison 2nd May ’15 – 9:14am
    “As a member I am a shareholder in this party .I would expect nothing less than an extra-ordinary meeting of the members to decide which option we collectively support. If the leadership puts forward an unacceptable option then we can call for a vote of no confidence.in the leadership..
    At this time I could only support a supply and confidence position for the other party that had gained the most seats at the general election and we would reserve the right to vote down unfair welfare reforms ,cuts in education or the health service. or fiscal imprudence or hypothecated taxes that should in fact come out of general taxation”

    1) Agree we are very much the shareholders in this party. We have invested years of our lives in this movement.

    2) Having electorally bankrupted the party, the leadership must go – no ifs or buts. Not fit for purpose.

    3) ” At this time I could only support a supply and confidence position for the other party that had gained the most seats at the general election “. Sorry but you are wrong on this. If (for some genuine reason) there was absolutely no alternative to coalition, we should talk to those who share the most policy aims with us but crucially those who offer the most Liberal outcomes.

    The Liberal Democrats exist to create a Liberal society – not to make up the numbers for anyone else.

  • Tony Greaves 3rd May '15 - 2:16pm

    CQ – sorry but I can’t help you there. But if you had the honesty and decency to say who you are we could have a civilised discussion. If all you are into is ad hominem sneering, I hope you are not a member of this party!

    Stevan Rose – of course you are right, a coalition could have quite different ground-rules. But what we know about is coalition as we have known it, as defined not by the Programme for Britain policy agreement, but the third agreement, the “Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform” which explicitly states that a 2-party government is run on the same rules as a one-party government. The difference is that disagreements between the two parties have to resolved – at the top, then the agreed line imposed form the top downwards. (The actual mechanism proposed was a Coalition Committee but that only met two or three times and was supplanted by the Quad – a top-down coup by the Treasury and Downing Street/DPM’s department).

    Simon Banks – what you suggest is exactly what Bill le Breton and I are suggesting.

    Tony

  • David Evans 3rd May '15 - 3:15pm

    Tony,

    Thanks for the clarification as to exactly where the “We have to look just like the Tories” line originated from. I hadn’t heard of the “Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform” but it is clear that this is the document where the farce of “Cabinet Collective Responsibility” has come from. As liberals I think most of us instinctively know that CCR is a great mechanism for both party leaders and the Civil Service. Leaders use it to impose their will first on any who are not onside in Cabinet and then to cascade it down on the rest of the MPs and ultimately the party as a whole and the Civil Service use it to give themselves an easy life because their advice is never subject to scrutiny by a wider forum than a few cabinet ministers and others near the centre who don’t have expertise (or indeed interest) in detail.

    All in all a recipe for illiberal and unaccountable bad government.

  • @Neil Sandison “As a member I am a shareholder in this party .I would expect nothing less than an extra-ordinary meeting of the members to decide which option we collectively support.”

    I agree – but this has to be a ballot of ALL party members; not some conference rep stitch-up.

  • David Evans 3rd May '15 - 5:11pm

    There you go again TCO. Have a pop at another group of hardworking Lib Dems. Any excuse to paint people who you think don’t agree with you in a bad light.

  • @David Evans please explain how I have “had a pop at hard working Lib Dems”.

    Any membership vote *has* to be a ballot of all members; conference representatives may not reflect accurately the view of the membership, which can only be gauged properly through a whole membership vote.

    Or are you suddenly against the principles of membership democracy – worried that the wider membership won’t deliver the result you want, perchance?

  • Nick Collins 3rd May '15 - 5:38pm

    Can someone confirm: am I right in believing that the coalition agreement in 2010 was pretty much a “done deal” prior to the Birmingham Conference, which was little more than a formality?

    Do you guys have a plan and process in place to ensure that “shareholders” have their say, this time, before any deal is done?

  • David Evans 3rd May '15 - 5:45pm

    TCO – The fact that you choose to ask silly questions like how you have “had a pop at hard working Lib Dems”, shows perfectly why it is not worth wasting time with you other than to refute what you say.

  • @David Evans I see you choose to ignore my substantive point. Perhaps you could share the reality of how conference reps are chosen in your constituency and i’ll do the same with mine, and then we can take a view as to how “representative” of membership views they are.

  • @ TCO
    “Perhaps you could share the reality of how conference reps are chosen”
    Currently Conference reps are chosen by the members of the local party. I think there are two methods:
    1) everyone who wants to be a conference rep becomes one;
    2) if there are more people wishing to be a conference rep there is a STV postal ballot of the whole membership of the local party to elect them.
    This system is of course much better than the new one where only the first method will be available. Currently if someone is seen as a bad conference rep they can be replaced by electing someone else, under the new system there is no way to replace them so long as they are a party member.

    Can you (TCO) answer a question from me?
    (I have answered a personal question from you recently.)
    Do you believe the solutions libertarianism offers especially with regard to economics and the size of the state are the best solutions for the whole population?

  • Tony Greaves 4th May '15 - 10:41am

    Nick Collins – the special conference in 2010 was far from being just a formality. The vote was overwhelming but that does not mean that it was a formality, just that the party was pretty united in agreeing to give it a go in the circumstances. There was a long and vigorous debate.

    The evident fact that a lot of people present have since regretted the way they voted, or (more of us) have been very critical of the way the leadership have handled the coalition, does not in any way change what happened then,

    Tony

  • @MichaelBG “Do you believe the solutions libertarianism offers especially with regard to economics and the size of the state are the best solutions for the whole population?”

    No.

    “Currently Conference reps are chosen by the members of the local party. I think there are two methods:
    1) everyone who wants to be a conference rep becomes one;
    2) if there are more people wishing to be a conference rep there is a STV postal ballot of the whole membership of the local party to elect them.
    This system is of course much better than the new one where only the first method will be available. Currently if someone is seen as a bad conference rep they can be replaced by electing someone else, under the new system there is no way to replace them so long as they are a party member.”

    My experience was of the former. I can’t remember how many reps were required, 5 I think, but none of them represented my views. In the majority of our constituencies this will be the case, and it makes a mockery of any claim to membership democracy.

    For conference reps to be representative they need to represent the views of local members and not their own agenda. In the vast majority of constituencies this will in practice mean left leaning self selected councillors.

    They are not elected and not mandated and cannot be said to represent membership views which in this day and age can easily be obtained online.

  • David Evans 4th May '15 - 11:45am

    I’m afraid I rather disagree with Tony on this one. Although there was indeed a long and vigorous debate on the Sunday, the debate was held five days after the media had announced that Lib Dems were entering coalition with the Conservatives, and Cameron had been to see the Queen to be appointed Prime Minister, and Nick was DPM. How could the party not vote to accept a deal that its negotiators and leader were saying was a great success in the press and elsewhere else? How would the public have reacted if we had voted it down? Fiasco, humiliation, chaos, and a party afraid of responsibility would have been some of the more polite expressions used in the media. We would have been destroyed as a party at the next election.

    I’m sorry, but the mechanisms we had in place were used to bounce the party into a particular decision, and the overwhelming vote it received gave Nick a green light to do it again and again over the next five years. We can’t afford to allow it to happen again.

  • David Evans 4th May '15 - 11:47am

    TCO – “I can’t remember how many reps were required, 5 I think, but none of them represented my views. ” Well there’s a surprise! 🙂 🙂

  • @David Evans nevertheless I am a party member and deserve to have my views reflected in any decision making.

    The decision to go into government or not us one that should reflect the views of ALL members; it is too important to be left to, as MichaelBG acknowledged on another thread, a self-selected militant cabal.

  • Nick Collins 4th May '15 - 12:24pm

    Tony Greaves, thank you. I did not mean to imply that it was a formality because the vote was so overwhelming..

    I certainly recall that the debate was long; the seats were very uncomfortable!

    My query was more about the timing of it. Was not the agreement with the Tories signed, sealed and all but delivered, before the conference was convened? And, with the Parliamentary Party and the Federal Policy Committee having already voted for the agreement by overwhelming majorities, what would have been the situation if the conference had rejected it?

    I’m not totally au fait with the terms of the “triple lock”, but I seem to recall that, at the time, it was stated that a special conference was not strictly required by the rules, but that one was being called “in order to let the membership have their say” and , because the leadership were confident of winning the vote, to give the deal that extra bit of legitimacy.

    Can you help me on those points; am I right or wrong?

    In retrospect, the conference was,of course, very helpful to the leadership since LibDem critics of the coalition have had to live with the fact that the votes in the Parliamentary Party , the FPC and the special conference were as they were.

    That’s why the important question is not so much about what happened last time as about what might happen in the weeks to come. Namely
    “:Do you guys have a plan and process in place to ensure that “shareholders” have their say, this time, before any
    deal is done?”

  • @Nick Collins it would seem not.

  • @ TCO
    How difficult is it to work for a libertarian think tank when you don’t think libertarianism is the best solution for the whole population?

    You seem not to understand how democracy works in Britain.
    Everyone can stand for election. If there are more candidates than positions then there is an election. If there are not more candidates than positions then everyone wishing to stand is elected. We have representative democracy so those elected are not mandated unlike in some trade unions where conference representatives have to vote in the same way as the branch has decided on the issues. (In many parish councils the councillors don’t have to face an election. In my Borough in the past there have been Conservative councillors who haven’t had to face an election. In the UK in the nineteenth century there were often MPs who didn’t face an election.)

    If your views where not represented you should have stood yourself or persuaded others who shared your view to stand. Just because I am represented in Parliament by a Conservative MP who does share my political philosophy does not mean that she is not the representative from my constituency.

    You may prefer direct democracy to a representative system but we have a representative system so those who are the representatives spent the time hearing the debated and deciding on our behalf so we can get on with other things in our lives.

    I have never posted anywhere that our conference representatives are “a self-selected militant cabal”. I don’t even think they are all social liberals either. Please TCO do not misrepresent what I have written.

  • @MichaelBG

    I’m talking about conference reps. If I’m not in a position to attend conference then I can’t be a rep. If only 5 other people put themselves forward they get to be the reps. There has been no election. If those 5 hold views that are different to mind then I, and anyone else who holds a similar view, have been disenfranchised.

    Call it what you like but it’s not democracy.

  • You may be represented by a Conservative MP but uou gad the opportunity to vote for someone more closely allied to your views. In the case of moribund local parties there is no election.

  • @ TCO
    When someone is elected unopposed that doesn’t mean that democracy didn’t work, it means that no one felt strongly enough to stand against that person. The idea because nobody actually voted for the person that that person is somehow not legitimate is silly.

    If there is an election where there is no Liberal Democrat standing your position seems to be that this reduces the legitimacy of the person elected. This is just silly. It is just as silly to say that because someone was elected unopposed they are in some way not legitimate.

    Democracy is about the people choosing their representative if there is no election because there were not enough candidates to hold one this means that the people have exercised their choice not to have an election.

  • Neil Sandison 6th May '15 - 4:25pm

    Please guys get back onto the substantive point .
    I/ The party should decide collectively
    2/ If there is a clear disagreement between the leadership and the rank and file what options are open to the party to
    a/ send the motion back or b/progress a motion of no confidence.

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