Opinion: And now for the next steps

It still seems strange to think of the Liberal Democrat party being part of the Government with Liberal Democrats sitting in the Cabinet. The announcement of the coalition with the Conservative party was a bitter sweet moment – at last, we were entering Government, but we were doing so with a party we have long fought against.

It is a fantastic achievement to see long cherished Liberal Democrat policies being part of the Government’s legislative programme. There is disappointment though that other policies are not part of that programme. We must ensure that we continue to fight for these aims, such as abolishing university tuition fees, promoting equality, campaigning against nuclear weapons and many others. Above all else, we must continue to fight for electoral reform.

I have long believed in, and have previously written about, the need for electoral reform. I am hugely disappointed that we will only have a referendum on AV. However, as greater voices than mine have said, we must view this as the beginning, a step towards the goal of a fair, proportional and representative electoral system. AV is not the answer, but it is an, albeit minor, improvement on first past the post.

Therefore, albeit with a heavy heart, I am in favour of the coalition agreement that has been entered into. It is far better than the alternative, a minority Conservative administration which would soon call fresh elections and likely win a majority. With this coalition, we are seeing Liberal Democrat policies being implemented and we will hopefully see the first step taken towards a fairer electoral system. Also, this coalition shows we are capable of reaching agreements with other parties, something which will become a necessity under proportional representation. We are shown to be a responsible party.

What is important now is retaining the independence and integrity of our party. We must continue to campaign for all our policies and aims. We must promote our achievements. Our leadership must continue to publicly promote the liberal and democratic ideals our party is based on. Above all else, we must start to campaign for a yes vote in the referendum on AV. The future of the movement for electoral reform depends on winning this referendum.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “campaigning against nuclear weapons ”

    Were you not leading the public to believe that it was just a case of not buying the new Trident system (i.e. finding a cheaper nuclear deterrent). If that was the official policy, then you obviously haven’t lost a campaign against nukes, unless you were being dishonest of course?

  • @Chris_Sh “Were you not leading the public to believe that it was just a case of not buying the new Trident system (i.e. finding a cheaper nuclear deterrent).”

    Indeed, and what the coalition agreement says is more or less precisely what our manifesto says on this matter. And the defense review seems to agree: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/may/19/trident-savings-nuclear-deterrent

  • Thanks Andrea – I was fairly sure I was right in that belief. I just couldn’t understand why Simon seemed to think that you’d lost out on something that didn’t even appear to be a policy.

  • Gwen Copplestone 20th May '10 - 12:54pm

    I’m not a member of any party and feel relieved that we now have a coalition government which will cover a wider range of interests and provide checks and balances.

    I believe that it’s time to look to the best interests of the country as a whole. Intelligent people should be able to discuss their varying points of view in a civilized way and work rationally towards the best outcome. I think the country has had quite enough ideology, into which everything has to be made to fit, over the past 13 years.

    I also believe that the vast majority of voters (including myself) have been sleepwalking in relation to what has been happening to the country and that we should now ensure that we make our views known directly to the government at all times.

    Public involvement, a listening and responsive government, and cooperation without rancour within the parties, are vital if we are going to make improvements to our exhausted society. Infighting really has no place here.

  • Lubbock1884, this is the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8682959.stm trying to explain it, and they are pointing out that a lot of M.P.’s are having trouble understanding the difference that it makes.

    I can see a good case for how it is not a matter of Nick Clegg trying to keep his position, but an important way to try and keep a coalition government stable. That is a coalition, not the Coalition. It also in this case, comes along with Cameron being the first P.M. ever to give up the power to choose when the next election is, by fixing the term, and when fixed term parliaments were in the Lib Dem Manifesto. If the P.M. can choose when the next election is, he can arrange the timing to suit his/her party’s own interests, but Cameron and Clegg are talking about putting the country’s welfare before that of their parties, that was the basis they gave for having entered the Coalition in the first place. It is all supposed to be part of the end of “tribal politics”.

  • Going forward I do think we should put in future manifesto’s that we will not enter into any coalition talks without a referendum on PR.

    This way we would have a clear dividing line where we could say to Labour or the Conservatives, give us a referendum or face having to work with one another. If it comes up in an election campaign it’s also an easy one to defend. Our position should be that we find it odd that any party would gag the people from having a voice on electoral reform, but if they wanted to gag the people then they’d better get used to working with each other in a FIXED TERM PARLIAMENT.

  • Gwen Copplestone, I think if you went out to say that (everything in your post), to oh, as many of the British people as you can reach, that would be really helpful for the country. Just tell everybody who might listen, please.

  • Andrew Suffield 21st May '10 - 12:19am

    Going forward I do think we should put in future manifesto’s that we will not enter into any coalition talks without a referendum on PR.

    Maybe a bit too strong – there’s so much good stuff come out of it this time (like fixed term parliaments) that it’s really hard to argue for this.

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