Opinion: Coalition politics

Going into a coalition government with another party was always going to be hard, particularly with the Tories! It feels to me like a trip to the dentist. Something I know is the right thing to do for the long term, but very painful in the short term.

I supported the coalition. Given that I spent the last eight years as a relatively high profile Liberal Democrat in Liverpool, a city that judges it’s people and particularly it’s politicians by how much you hate the Tories, it was a brave thing to do!

I supported it for two reasons.

Firstly, my liberalism is built on a desire to empower people. To do this we have to change our electoral system to take power from the political parties and give it to the voters. We can only do this with electoral reform. The referendum on the Alternative Vote system is a step in the right direction, but a small step on a long road.

But, much more importantly is the demonstration that coalition government can work in Britain. For so long, opponents to electoral reform have used the need for stable strong government as the central pillar of their argument. If we can demonstrate through this government that coalitions can work, and that political parties and politicians can compromise and work together, the road to electoral and political reform will be a much wider and smoother one.

The second reason for my support for the coalition was far more pragmatic and strategic. The alternative to the coalition was surely a minority Conservative government. I never bought the idea that a coalition of all others could be achieved and would have lasted. A minority Conservative government would surely have only lasted a few months and we would then have another election, something that the country did not want, the economy would have responded badly to and something the Liberal Democrats could not afford.

So we have a coalition. But the reality is that the compromise and fusion of ideas that reformers have often desired is hard to take in reality. Some in the Liberal Democrats are finding life in Government tough. I personally remain a staunch opponent of tuition fees. Even if you accept the premise that students should pay, something I do not, surely there are fairer systems to a flat rate fee? Something which is regressive and which will only benefit the very wealthy who can afford to pay up-front and leave university debt free.

But after three generations in the wilderness we must remember why we went into Government and make sure that in 2015, when we next face the country at a general election, we have delivered. We can’t allow our individual opposition to individual policies to shake our resolve or divide us.

Colin Eldridge is a former Liverpool PPC and City Councillor.

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24 Comments

  • LibDemKitty 30th Oct '10 - 6:29pm

    What you are missing is that Cable has already said there will be mechanisms in place to add levies to those wanting to pay upfront/pay off early

  • Andrew Suffield 30th Oct '10 - 7:16pm

    Going into a coalition government with another party was always going to be hard, particularly with the Tories!

    I’m curious: who thinks that propping up Brown would have been any easier?

  • You really have no idea, do you? Come next election your party is finished. The carnage will be without precedent, as people can’t wait to dish out their punishment for the great betrayal.

  • Rob K
    “You really have no idea, do you? Come next election your party is finished.”
    It’s really you who have no idea. There have already been lots of “next elections” since the Coalition Government was formed – there have been council by-elections virtually every week since the General Election in May.

    In the last 6 months there have been over 140 such by-elections in “principal councils” (i.e. above parish council level).

    If, as you claim, the Lib Dems are “finished” electorally, how do you explain that we have actually gained more seats than we have lost?

  • “Going into a coalition government with another party was always going to be hard, particularly with the Tories!”

    What do you expect would be the outcome of PR then?

  • “A minority Conservative government would surely have only lasted a few months and we would then have another election, something that the country did not want, the economy would have responded badly to and something the Liberal Democrats could not afford.”

    Am I alone in noticing a glaring contradiction here? If the country did not want an election, and the economy would have responded badly, how could the Conservatives have called one and hope to win outright?

    Rob K,

    As a matter of interest, are you Elijah or Isaiah?

  • Oh how the people of Liverpool must love you ,how do you know what the country wanted .How about this if the people wanted the Tories they would have voted for them to be in power.You and all Lib Dem mps have sold their soles for POWER,
    What is Liberal in taking more money of the disabled than the bankers ,remember the vat poster ,the nus pledge ,the cuts wee didn,t vote for” that a 9 year old could see were stupid”,i wonder who said that ,just wait till you go to peoples doors once the cuts do take hold ,what has the Torie ever done for Liverpool ,

    you should be ashamed of yourself

    not one policy fully implemented or one proper cabinet job ,what have you got out of this appart from selling any Liberal values i thought your party had ,you know this is bad or you are kidding yourself ,your from Liverpool M8 are you mad the Tories have done nothing for people like you and me ,you are at 8% up in Scotland are not liked for what you have done ,the people now you had the books before the election, so the old “we didn,t now how bad it was” will not wash.

    keep your head in the clouds if you want
    Andy Edinburgh

  • Norfolk Boy 30th Oct '10 - 9:43pm

    “But after three generations in the wilderness we must remember why we went into Government and make sure that in 2015, when we next face the country at a general election, we have delivered. We can’t allow our individual opposition to individual policies to shake our resolve or divide us.”

    Good luck sunshine…

  • Andrew Suffield 30th Oct '10 - 9:49pm

    If the country did not want an election, and the economy would have responded badly, how could the Conservatives have called one and hope to win outright?

    Hubris? It’s a safe bet that the right-wing elements of the party would have demanded it (and thrown more millions into campaigning), and that the result would probably not have been what they were hoping for (tax cuts for rich people). That would have been a disaster, as the international markets would have yawned and all that cheap government borrowing really would have gone away.

    You really have no idea, do you? Come next election your party is finished. The carnage will be without precedent, as people can’t wait to dish out their punishment for the great betrayal.

    And lo, the black goat of the woods with a thousand young shall come forth, and their screams shall be legend. Hamming it up, much?

  • Hi Colin.

    I understand your views. I too supported the Coalition. I won’t go into why, it’s your article after all. But I supported it and hoped, prayed it would work.

    Since then, I have left the Party and joined Labour. Whereas your article is impassioned, intelligent and reasoned, it is self-defeating. You’re talking to those on your side, and yet offer no conclusions. You cannot offer such wholesale support to the Tories and expect the electorate to differentiate you.

    To me, its simple. I was a LD activist as I believed that party could make people’s lives better. Since Clegg, Danny Alexander, Cable Huhne et al went into Coalition, they have acted as if they are in power, purely for power’s sake.

  • I voted for your party. I got the Tory party. Never again. I said never again. “We are all in this together” will go down in history with Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” as one of the most ludicrous and nauseating political slogans ever. At least poor old Chamberlain is thought to have believed what he said. Cameron and Clegg are surely joking. Will the private medicine used by the wealthy cabinet members suffer cuts? Will Eton, so beloved of Osborne and co., suffer cuts to its building programme? The recent huge rise in directors’ pay seems to suggest the directors are not quite “in this together”. And all this is happening courtesy of the Liberal Democrats, and my vote helped them do it.

  • But, much more importantly is the demonstration that coalition government can work in Britain.

    If you think the current arrangement is going to endear the British public to the concept of coalition government then I’ll have some of what you’re smoking.

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 9:05am

    @ Sesenco
    Fully agree . the aruments put for a coalition at the time was that there would be an election in Oct and the tories would get a large majority a (clearly not the case ). Not having an election because the markets might not like it is pathetic and probily incorrect .

    THERE WAS ME THINKING WE WERE A DEMOCRACY

  • Does anyone actually the various trolls claiming to have let the Lib dems and joined Labour?
    Just remember ‘don’t mention the (illegal) war’

  • Hi SMcG.

    Call me a troll, call me a liar, call me tribalist, call me whatever you like frankly. I’m a big boy and can take such barbs. As for the illegal war comment, I didn’t support Iraq and believe it to be an abhorrent stain on British Society.

    But please, move on. The Party has got into bed with the Tories – who as a proportion voted for the war in larger numbers than Labour.

    I can differentiate Iraq from other issues to do with Labour. You can obviously do it with the Tories if you support the Coalition. Fine. But when your Party says cut slowly on May 1st but then cut quicker on May 12th; when you set out to abolish welfare to the poorest which will make millions of people’s lives in this Country miserable; when your party campaigns to abolish tuition fees in opposition but then campaigns to raise them in power; when your party campaigns against nuclear then adopts it in office; when you campaign to introduce a Pupil Premium on top of school budgets but then introduce it out of existing budgets; when your leadership opposes Control Orders but supports the government to keep them at 28 days; when you celebrate the closure of Yarl’s Wood but still reside over it’s operation etc etc etc … you need to change direction.

  • @SMcG
    “Does anyone actually the various trolls claiming to have let the Lib dems and joined Labour?
    Just remember ‘don’t mention the (illegal) war’2

    The Tories supported the war(s). You are now in coalition with them and as you have u-turned on everything else?
    Please do not try to stifle criticism by labelling people as trolls because they have been so disallusioned as to leave their party. More will leave because of this attitude I hope that they can influence Labour more than they could the Lib Dems as I do not trust Labour either because of their attacks on the sick and disabled (ATOS!) as well as the wars amongst other things. It would be interesting to see the Lib Dem party membership figures now and how many have left since the coalition was formed, not all would have gone to Labour. Could you tell us please?

  • I think you are wide of the mark. Rather than blame the electoral system for LibDems years of wilderness, you might ask yourself why the Libs have been out of power for so long in the first place. It wasn’t always the case. Your argument for coalition government is spurious. There is nothing inherently more stable about a coalition government. A strong government does not necessarily equate to GOOD government. Had there been a minority govt perhaps more thought would be put into each policy than at present. The LibDems have been taken for a ride by the Tories and will be dropped as soon as they have served their purpose. Two parties stood at the election to resist deep, rapid and damaging cuts. One of them, the LibDems whom I voted for, had abandoned this position. I do not feel empowered but disenfranchised and very, very annoyed at being duped. I shall never vote for this lot again.

  • The funny thing is people dont have a clue what an election is for in our constitution.

    We do not vote for who we want as Prime Minister, we do not vote for which party we want to govern instead we vote for a candidate that will best represent our interests in the House of Commons.

    It is then the Queen who asks the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the commons to form the government however there is nothing in the constitution that states that the party leader has to select ministers from his own party even.

    Has this coalition made mistakes – Yes

    Did it need to take action to tackle the deficit – Yes

    Is it starting to restructure the benefit system so that people are not forced into a life of benefit and dependency – Yes

    So a reasonable person looking at the record of this government wouldnt see betrayal but instead would see beacons of hope and reform being lit although they would have some concerns that some of the changes and cuts needed more consideration.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Oct '10 - 10:10am

    “Does anyone actually the various trolls claiming to have let the Lib dems and joined Labour?”

    Why not pause for a few seconds before hitting the “Submit” button, just to check people will be able to make sense of your comment?

  • Good luck getting anything resembling liberal democracy with the Labour party,guys. They did SOOOO well while in government. And they are showing EVERY SIGN of doing mature grown up politics now, aren’t they?

  • Looks like the next sellout will be on control orders
    The fierce battle behind the scenes for the Coalition’s soul

    @SMcG – Why don’t you just admit that you are a Tory?

  • If a member of my family or indeed any innocent person might be saved by the application of a control order, I support these orders, if not I remain opposed.

    I am also opposed to any increase in tuition fees and nuclear power unless I am in government in which case I am keen on both these policies and I pledge to support universal child benefits, and housing benefit unless I subsequently decide that these benefits are not fair in which case I am opposed to them.

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