Opinion: It is time to get out of the Coalition

The time is now right for the Coalition to come to a natural end. It has given the country a period of stability in difficult economic times, however Tories and Lib Dems are not natural long term bed fellows.

We have done our duty in the national interest to pick up the economic mess left by Labour, which I agree was vital at the time.

My call comes in the light of comments by Ministers in the last few days, including Vince Cable. Here in Sussex, Norman Baker has spoken of the toll on his family being in government has taken. Such honesty is refreshing from a Minister and should be applauded.

In other democracies fresh elections would now be called to allow a party a majority. Under Miliband Labour remains weak and would not easily form a Government, and the Lib Dems can still rally their natural support base before it is lost forever.

Coalition government is a natural outcome of the reform of the voting system which we have long argued. But to many of us at a local level it seems that we get the blame for what goes wrong and Cameron gets the credit for what goes right. The Lib Dems are paying a heavy price for co-operation. Too heavy.

I was never a great supporter of the Coalition but agree it has done some good. It was right for a moment of national uncertainty, but they have now had long enough to stabilise the economy. The Lib Dems did their duty at a difficult time, the Tories have now had long enough.

There have been too many serious policy flaws. Increasing Labour’s Tuition Fees for students will become the Lib Dem poll tax and the forthcoming VAT increase is a truly retrograde step. Such serious cuts to local government and public services will also take years to repair.

But there has been good progress on other issues too. The AV referendum is welcome, as is the end of child rendition. The pupil premium is also a good step forward. However, the Lib Dems in Government are completely failing to put any kind of case for these.

I haven’t been overwhelmed by people locally saying they are leaving the Lib Dems, indeed our membership has increased since May. However, our natural support will gradually be lost for a generation if we do not start ensuring an active and campaigning Liberal Democrat party, which has been smothered by the Coalition.

Someone in the party leadership must surely be noticing the poor opinion poll ratings? Yes, of course these can be addressed, but come May many first class councillors could be lost if this situation is not turned around.

Rather than just leaving the party, I have taken the view that I am best positioned inside the party to fight with others to regain the internal policy agenda. Those on the traditional social liberal radical wing of the party have a vital role to play in reclaiming the party before it is lost for another generation.

For us locally, there is no other liberal alternative in Brighton and Hove, and I still believe that our city needs a liberal agenda more than ever.

* Paul Elgood is a Lib Dem councillor in Brighton and Hove.

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  • I recently joined the Lib Dems. On the whole I like what they are doing on such issues as political reform, defending civil liberties and taking the lowest earners out of income tax. There have also been mistakes such as tuition fees and the increase in VAT. Lib Dems should push for the VAT increase to be dropped. Make an issue out of it. If the 50p top rate is just tempoary as Osborne has said why should the VAT increase be permanent as he has also said?

    If we left now, why do you seem to think the AV vote would still go ahead?

  • Generally agree with this. Local activist haven’t got much out of the coalition and lost their campaigning party. It was ok for a bit, now better out than in.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Dec '10 - 9:07am

    “Norman Baker has spoken of the toll on his family being in government has taken”
    Are you seriously suggesting this is a reason for ending the Coalition!!

    I’m sure Clegg can find someone else to do the job if Norman is finding it too much.

  • the AV vote is a watered down lib dem policy. we always should have pushed for full PR or nothing. too big a price is being paid for the wrong referendum if comments by Andrew Stunnell are to be believed.

  • This would be madness, The Lib Dems need to campaign from within government, that the coalition have disagreements is how it should work, parties have disagreements on their own, grow some backbone here.

  • Grammar Police 23rd Dec '10 - 9:19am

    We support a reform of the electoral system that would see coalitions more-likely-than not; we’ve been in coalition and seen coalitions in Wales and Scotland. We are in coalitions up and down the country in local Government.
    I have no love for the Tories, but I’d rather a Lib – Con coalition than a minority Tory Govt in hock to its right wing, or even worse, a majority Tory Govt in hock to its right wing.

    Do you think things like the AV referendum, House of Lords reform, increasing the personal allowance, reforming the justice and welfare systems in ways we like, would go ahead if the coalition ended now.

    If we pulled out now, the resulting General Election would wipe us out (poor polling and worse for being the people causing the Govt to collapse).

    Where would Brighton’s liberal agenda be then?

  • AV or bust, mate, AV or bust. Cowley Street should be donating all the money they have to non-partisan Yes2AV groups.

  • As I have said elsewhere LibDems also have the option of ‘confidence and supply’ support for the Tories which would certainly muzzle their savage ideological attacks on the poor and disadvantaged of our society. They might not be LibDem voters but I have enough faith in the decency of social liberals to do the right thing by them.

    The middle class and lower middle class are being squeezed from every side and they are LibDem voters but they must be close to breaking as the pressure mounts on them. I watched a TV interview the other night with a couple of bank employees who had been made redundant.

    I knew the area they lived in – good solid suburban – a nice house, nicely furnished and a lovely couple. They had worked at the same bank and recently both made redundant from it.

    They hadn’t been able to get any other work and you could see the fear in their eyes as they contemplated a life on the dole after their redundo ran out. They are just one example of the hundreds of thousands of decent caring people who are going to be destroyed by the Coalition economic policy which is not only flawed but a total gamble.

    If it comes off the Tories will ditch the LibDems anyway so they can claim all the benefit. If it fails the Tories will engineer a Coalition split where they can blame the LibDems and go to the country.

    Political and electoral reform and civil liberties are not burning issues to millions in this country who are staring into a financial abyss. Yes they are important but the electorate won’t, in general, be voting LibDem or anything else on the back of them.

    All Labour has to do is its job and that’s to hold the Government accountable for its policies – the public aren’t bothered whether they have a policy blank paper. Ordinary people know the realities and that is that the Tories aided by the LibDems are laying into them with a big stick and that the only people supporting them are Labour.

    I know I’m getting on but like everyone else I just yawn with the LibDem/Tory mantra that everything under Labour was wrong and/or a failure. What people want and need is to be protected and a belief that things will get better – please note I know that things were never as bad as claimed by the Coalition and when that eventually percolates through to the voters its cheerio time for them.

    Just so there is no mistake I am a LP voter and supporter and have spent many interesting years as a member of the LP which I left when Blair became leader. However, come the New Year I am rejoining the party as the Tories have got to be removed. If the LibDems continue to fly with them then they’ll be shot with the vultures.

    That would be a great pity as I truly believe there is an important place in our democracy for a strong LibDem party with principled social liberalism dear to its core. Let the Orange Bookers join the Tories as that’s their natural home anyway.

  • Utter rubbish. For the first time LibDems are actually making a difference and it’s a very very important difference. Politics is about achieving something. Not sniping from the sidelines.

  • @chris For the first time LibDems are actually making a difference and it’s a very very important difference. Politics is about achieving something

    But what difference with what importance and at what price…..?

  • No, no, and thrice no.

    There have been rumblings and murmerings and people leaving the party about going into coalition. THis would be as nothing to the effect if we walked out of it. The sound of party cards being cut up would be defeaning, and mine would be one of the first.

    I came into politcs, along with thousands of others, to help my party be elected to Government and do the things it wants to do. if we run away at the first signs of discomfort we will (rightly) be cast aside as irrelevent.

    Mr Elgood – local politicians get punished for discontent at the national level; always have done, always will do. That’s part and parcel of politics. Calling to leave the coalition looks awfully like trying to preserve your local position at the expense of the national interest. I suggest you go away and reflect on that; it won’t help you get re-elected in May. Going out and telling people about how you’ve made a difference just might.

  • It’s too early for the Thatcherite Orange bookers to face up to the truth as they will need to be shown in May that things won’t get magically better and will in fact get worse.

    For those echoing Thatcher with “there is no alternative”, you might think the polls and the situation is bad now, but they can and will get far worse the longer Nick remains joined at the hip to Cameron.
    Ireland is on the verge of a complete wipe out of a Party with a far bigger base than the Lbieral Democrats because of their austerity measures, so those thinking it will be fine if you wait long enough are going to be in for a shock. It won’t. It will get far worse. Afte five years of this coalition with Nick acting as a human shield the Party will be lucky to have enough MPs to fit in the back of a taxi.

    If the formal coalition ends Cameron would also keep going for a while with a minority government as he would not want a snap election just as the cuts hit and he is behind in the polls. There would be a period to re-establish a more credible and trusted Liberal Democratic Leadership by drawing a line beneath Clegg and all he has done. We all know that would mean a new leader just as we all know Clegg is far too toxic to ever fight another general election. And I’m afraid Clegg and his Orange bookers around him can have no complaints about that as they stuck the knife into Menzies quickly enough without a flicker of remorse. What goes around comes around Nick.

    The incredible irony is that Nick and Cameron are actually still trying to rally support around a formal merger and combined election campaign in five years time.
    This just makes Nick look desperate to save his own job and his ‘concern’ for the Party at large and the grassroots looks more and more like a bad joke.

  • I completely disagree with the sentiment and principles of this article. This is the worst possible time to end the coalition – both for the party and the country.

    For the party, arguing that low poll ratings are a reason to go to the polls is like saying you should cash shares when they are low in case they get lower. An election now would almost certainly create a Conservative majority government and probably fewer Lib Dem MPs.

    But for the country, the new Conservative majority would still be a coalition, but instead of being a coalition with the Lib Dems, it would be a coalition with the tory hard right. Instead of making Liberal policy concessions to us, Cameronn and Osborne would have to make policy concessions to John Redwood and the like. Is that really what we want?

    This article starts by saying the coalition has given stability in the difficult economic period, as if it has some how ended. The work to set the economy and government budgets on a stable footing is just begining. Pulling out now will see it all happen without Lib Dem input.

    Ultimately pulling out would shoot what credibility we have. We lost our protest vote when we showed we could be a party of government. Pulling out would lose the support of people who want us to be in government. Don’t think for one second that the protest vote will sweep back to us.

  • I think that the coalition is still the only game in town. What needs to happen is that it needs to be a coalition not a single entity. Ministers should be allowed to disagree with policies openly. Lib Dems in Government should remeber the values they portrayed at the election, and the values of their voters. We would all accept voting for a policy they disagreed with (due to the reality of coalition) if they publically stated this.

    Leaving the coalition now will lead to electoral collapse. I certainly would not vote Lib Dem again at the moment. Should there be big changes in how the coalition runs I may be tempted, but firmly believe Clegg would have to go before I could wholeheartedly support them again. He just sounds and acts increasingly like a Tory.

    Todays revelations show a bigger problem though, some Ministers voted for Tuition fees even though they disagreed. This is actually in flagrant disregard of the coalition agreement. They should have abstained (although personally I stil believe this would damage their personal integrity due to the personal pledge they signed).

    It is going to be a really uncomfortable time in the commons. Look at how much hay the coalition made with Johnson and Milliband disagreeing over the graduate tax. Milliband will now have a long list of quotes that will last him until Easter….

    AV or bust”

    I’m afraid it’s likely to be bust then…..

  • I’ve voted LD, or Alliance/SDP beforehand, at every election since I could vote. Although never a party member, I did actually believe that you were different. I can see now that I was wrong. I do not intend to vote for you again.

    Like many others, I’m tired of the mantra LD’s keep trotting out that there was no alternative post GE, and that economic stability demanded it etc., etc. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t any more true now for the constant repetition. The basic flaw with the Coalition is that you sold yourselves short: the price should have been much higher – full STV not AV, cancellation of Trident, no tuition fees, slower deficit reduction, increased taxes on the rich, reform of the taxation system to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. If the Tories had demurred, you should have left them to it, and cleaned up at the inevitable GE when their minority administration fell apart.

    Instead, you didn’t just reluctantly go into Coalition….you bent over, grabbed your ankles, and told the Tories you loved them; it’s nauseating.

    I wish you luck in your calls for the Coalition to be ended, ‘cos I think you are going to need it. You say your membership has grown, but I’d lay money that nationally you have lost many more than you have gained, and as you say yourself many like me will be unlikely to EVER support you again.

    It is absolutely tragic that you have allowed Clegg and his colleagues to lead you into this disasterous Coalition. The only hope is that the AV referendum can be won, then (hopefully) I can vote for a party that actually has some principles without it being a wasted vote.

  • @Grammar Police 23rd December 2010 at 9:19 am

    Cameron won’t go to the country quite simply because he can’t win. At best he is back in a Coalition situation but this time the LibDems would negotiate a much tighter Coalition Agreement or go for Confidence and Supply support.

    At worst, for Cameron, Labour would win and Cameron would be removed and just be one of the plethora of failed former Tory leaders – some of them are still itching for another go and what they say about Cameron will be much worse than what LibDem Ministers have said.

    This coalition won’t go the full term as that doesn’t suit Cameron’s longer term strategy – OK he might have to change it but I think it unlikely. He will have his exit plan from the Coalition with blame laid on the LibDems, If the economy has turned he won’t want to go into a GE with the LibDems claiming any credit and he will believe he can win a working majority on his own and he may well be right.

    But if the economy doesn’t turn around then he needs a scapegoat and that’s the LibDems. I don’t really think IMHO that Clegg and Alexander have the abilility or even the will to outhink/outfox Cameron.

    Grammar Police – I see the policies you trumpet – well I don’t think the economically hard-pressed electorate gives a monkey for most. AV referendum, House of Lords reform, reforming the justice system are not what occupies their mind and they aren’t priorities. Reforming welfare well fair’s fair that belongs to IDS and the question still to be answered is will it actually happen and will people on benefit get less – jury’s out on that one and I think it will be for some time.

    Phased annual increases in personal tax allowances – Erm there’s something new about that? In any case, any benefit will be more than swallowed up by the VAT increase and increased NI contributions. I also see that you have ignored all the swingeing cuts which are financially hammering millions of families all over the UK and which the LibDems support in Coalition.

    These are the issues which the LibDems will be judged on by the public – not control orders and the like.

    The LibDems have so much to learn about being in Government – they are not there to placate party activists by ticking off a wish list of cherished policies in the teeth of a savage onslaught against poor; working and middle class households. To be fair to Clegg and Alexander they recognise that to govern you need more than the votes of party activists – you need the public vote and to get that you need policies that appeal to the majority of voters.

    Yea, I know it’s a pain but that’s the reality. I think Clegg and Alexander have got it wrong by supporting the cuts but then the problem with them is that I don’t think the LibDems is their natural home any longer.

    So irrespective of the Coalition politics I have the feeling that big changes are underway for the LibDems and this is where the party activists are important because they by and large can determine which direction the party goes in policy-wise.

  • I am glad that we are having this debate. It is easy for @chris and @tabman to foolishly to dismiss the views out of hand, but surely the party said all along that we should debate and review the coalition and listen to the grassroots. And the point is well made by @matt (that is a different matt and not me by the way!) that only 54% of previous supporters now vote Lib Dem – surely that has to be addressed somewhere by the party?

  • @ Niklas Smith

    It’d be a pleasure to take your money Niklas! 😉

  • @Niklas Smith

    On the membership issue there was a very intersting post here regarding how membership was counted at HQ. The thrust of the post was that officially even people who had advised party HQ that they were resigning would remain as a member on the party books until 15 months later.

    I can’t remember all the details of the explanation but it sounded as if the poster knew exactly how the system worked.

    I can see a party wanting to hide a flood of resignations but the peoblem that is then created is at some stage it will become public and it may well be at a possibly worse ‘political’ moment for the party than they are currently suffering – that is the gamble that party HQ takes.

    Of course there is another issue with not telling party members the truth and that can have a very corrosive effect when it comes out.

    Party members ain’t daft – they will see a drop-off at meetings and more significantly they will see huge gaps in the ranks come elections although I think this will be ‘masked’ at a one-off election like Saddleworth,

    But HQ must be looking at the income side and putting their own pressure on Clegg which in normal times would be good and might work. But will it matter to people whose sights are fixed elsewhere? I doubt it and politically it might suit them to leave a bankrupted LibDem party in their wake as they head for a new political destination.

  • @Galen10
    @Niklas Smith

    I don’t gamble on anything but I would suggest you read my post about membership because the deck would appear to be rigged.


  • I’ll send you an email.

    Perhaps we can open a book on it, and donate the proceeds to charity? 😉

  • @ Paul Walter

    It hardly seems much of a strategy to carry on with a course which sees you heading for single figures in the polls, and losing whole swathes of your voter base though does it?

    In the long run it may not actually matter that much: no party has a right to exist….. let us just hope the LD’s apparent death wish doesn’t do for electoral reform first eh?

  • I absolutely disagree. Despite being a lib dem member, the country is more important than the party. To pull out now would be terrible. The economy has only been temporarily stablised because Nick Clegg and his team are working closely with the conservatives. The markets are still swirling around Spain, Portugal etc. I for one do not want to see our interest repayments sky rocket, forcing us to make more cuts. And without the Lib Dems you can bet that extra cuts won’t be falling rich or those with the broadest shoulders, but on the poorest. We need to knuckle down to work – and if Norman Baker finds government too much, lets get other good MPs promoted – and concentrate on generating growth.

  • Isn’t coalition a logical outcome of the voting reform we have long campaigned for? And presumably the assumption isn’t that we would be permanently tied to a StalinBeanEsque Labour Party? So that means …. yes. We would be in coalition with the Conservatives. Like we are/have been in some local local authorities over many years without facing extinction in those areas because it was the sensible thing to do. The fact we were in coalition with Labour in Scotland and Wales hasn’t done any harm and probably the reverse. Perhaps we should grow a thick skin and stop confusing the tirade of psychopathic abuse from the Guardian and the Daily Mirror as representative of any genuine long term public opinion. Lib Dem ministers and MPs likewise have been facing a very steep learning curve about being in government. The lessons were always going to be hard, the habits of permament opposition hard to drop, and there were always going to be casualties But at some point it has to be faced if the party is ever going to be again a credible party of Government whether senior or junior partner. We should just hold our nerve and remember it is well within living memory that we had five MPs, less than 400 councillors and a general election result of 2%. We’ve come a very long way since.

  • @Paul Walter

    One of the things that has really nauseated me about every ‘stung’ Minister is watching them on TV apologising for what they said, denying they actually meant it and pledging eternal support to the Coalition.

    Thank goodness we don’t have to build a social revolution with these ‘shock’ troops 🙂

    I agree Paul that no one forced them to be Ministers but it would appear that now they are there, despite their gaffes, they will eat enormous amounts of humble pie to retain their position. I really am puzzled at the faith some activists are placing on these very weak reeds.

    To be fair there wasn’t a lot of choice on the LibDem back benches that Cameron had to pick from and that is what really rankles with ambitious and competent Tory backbenchers who see themself being passed over, There will be an organised reaction from them in the New Year as they are a very interesting new intake

    I don’t think your marriage/business analogy holds-up. For any government to operate there has to be ministerial collective responsibility on policy decisions and if you can’t abide by that then you do the honourable thing and resign

    I am amazed that LibDem Ministers of the Crown have been caught-out and no better than gossiping fish-wives. Good grief where is their judgement in unburdening themselves to absolute strangers. People go to MP surgeries because they have personal problems they want fixed not to hear Westminster tittle-tattle. It’s all a bit strange and bizarre.

  • Cut and run eh, seems amazing that there are so many people who are willing to stay in “opposition” because the burden of being in a position where we can actually do some good is far too terrifying, are we a pressure group or a political party? Some people seem believe the former, make no mistake we have gotten far more out of this coalition deal than we would have with Labour, Cameron is constantly having to make moves to keep the party on side, if we were in a Coalition with Labour we all know EXACTLY what it would be like, “Like it or lump it” why? Because they’d assume that we’d have no other option. “Who you going to run too? The Tories! haha” etc, with a concentrated assassination campaign by Labour HQ at any lib dem that strays off message.

  • Do you want another general election next year?

  • Grant Williams 23rd Dec '10 - 11:17am

    I really despair sometimes. We are at the start of a very challenging Parliament, making the hard decisions early, in the national interest. I shudder to think what the implications would be of our withdrawal after such a short period of time.

    The nation would suffer as there would be apparent political instability, inevitably increasing the cost of borrowing to the Government, requiring much stronger measures to be put into place than the already challenging austerity plans being rolled out.

    The party’s reputation would suffer considerable harm. I get really frustrated / irritated / annoyed when people write in absolute terms. Few things are irretrievable. Poor opinion poll ratings are nothing unusual for us in this part of the Parliamentary cycle. Some of us were around at merger (I was in the SDP then “defected” to the Liberals, some career move!), and I remember the humiliating result in the subsequent European elections.

    We have built from that low base, and this year was the first time in many elections that we have seen a small decline in our representation in the House of Commons. Some excruciatingly tight contests, although we do at least have a second bite at one of them.

    I am no great psephologist, but I don’t see any particular party taking an unassailable lead – Labour clearly has some work to do on the policy front, and Mr Milliband is expecting that to take a couple of years. The Conservatives didn’t get a majority last time, but might do a little better if they went to the country on the basis of putting an end to the political instability that our withdrawal would inevitably create.

    We would look like a right bunch of chumps, and rightly so.

    I first got involved in politics some 29 years ago, so I have been around long enough to see the ebb and flow. Today’s crisis becomes blunted within weeks, and relegated to background chatter soon after.

    Politics is a tough business. We must stay focussed on what we are aiming to achieve. I quite agree that the presentation at times has been poor. We did ourselves a great deal of no good over tuition fees, and whilst the new system is in many ways better than its predecessor, it is still some way removed from the pledge that many candidates signed, or indeed our manifesto.

    That particular omlette saw rather more eggs broken than was strictly necessary, but even so, we can ride that storm and with luck by the tail end of the Parliament if we have done the right things now there may be some scope for change.

    What we absolutely cannot afford to do is to have such a fundamental betrayal of public trust, having said for decades that we believe parties should act together in the national interest, having promoted electoral reform that appears to make balanced / hung Parliaments far more likely, throw our hands in the air and walk away.

    Who in their right minds would vote for us again? It is by going through the fire of austerity and economic renewal that the party will be tempered into one which is genuinely deserving of government. Nobody said it would be easy. Only a couple of dozen people voted against the Coalition Agreement at the special conference in Birmingham. We made a comittment based on the national interest, and it is incumbent upon us now to carry that out.

    I see comment that describes the party as irrevocably split between the “orange bookers” and the rest. I read and hear the kind of introspection one might expect if we had been reduced to our 1950s level of representation.

    Some people honestly and sincerely hold those views. Whilst I respect their right to hold and express them, I do think that right now we would be far better working on amplify the presentation of our achievements, to proclaim the liberal values now in government compared to the pseudo Stalinist nanny-state under New Labour.

    We may have made mistakes. I can guarantee that we will make others. We’re human. But please let us not make the mistake of causing serious and long-term damage to a movement that some of us have spent our entire adult lives working within.

  • I agree with most of the article. We should leave the “coalition” and force the Tories to govern as a minority, though perhaps accompanied by a semi-formal arrangement to hammer out compromises and cooperate on specific issues. Cameron will not call a general election unless he is reasonably certain that his party can win. The Tories will go on governing, but with one hand tied behind their backs, and the Liberal Democrats will be free to promote Liberal Democrat policies and values rather than “coalition” ones. Not ideal, but the best arrangement the arithmetic gives us.

    The “coalition” has done great damage to our party, and has hurt the reputations of several of our Parliamentarians, but we are very far from the point of no return. With an enthusiastic team united behind a new leader, we could be back in contention within months.

  • @ Moggy

    It frankly puzzles me that so many people within the LD’s are so sanguine about the current situation, or try to excuse it by saying that those (like me) who are horrified with the direction of Coalition are being unrealistic, or expecting too much. My issue is not that I oppose Coalitions per se (I don’t), or that I can’t see the need to compromise (I can).

    The REAL issue is whether this Coalition is the right one in the first place, were the terms for entering it right, is it now pursuing the correct path, and finally is it in the long term interests of the country and the LD’s. I would argue that the answer to all of these questions is a resunding NO, which is actually quite an achievement when you think about it!

    The decisions made by the party leadership were hasty, ill-considered and gave Cameron a huge boost. You should have argued for and achieved MUCH more… the relative % of votes demanded it, you should not have been swayed by the differential in number of seats, as that is simply a function of an electoral system you are pledged to get rid of. This isn’t a Colaition of equals, it’s a Tory administration being enabled by the LD’s.

  • @Galen10

    “it’s a Tory administration being enabled by the LD’s.”

    You and I see different realities. The biggest indication that this is not a “Tory Administration” is the attitude of the Tory backbenchers not all of them screaming right-wingers, and their fellow travellers at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

    But only time will tell. Either we LibDems represent a genuine thread in British political life and opinion or we don’t.

  • I joined the party after we formed the coalition, as have, apparently, many others. We are in government, doing good in Westminster for the first time since our party’s creation. If a general election were called soon, I struggle to imagine we’d get more than about 15% of the national vote. We’d be looking at several of our frontbench MP’s losing their seats. I fail to see how that is something we should look forward to.

  • @Galen

    I agree with most of what you said and would observe that I have always been amazed that at such a turbulent period economically that the Coalition Agreement appears to have been carved in stone and for such a long period.

    That’s really what has totally emasculated the LibDems as well as my oft-repeated belief that the Tory National Interest is well the Tory one and not necessarily that of others.

    I know some will argue that the coalition agreement had to be like that but pleasssssssssse with no cut-outs, no reviewing mechanism, no nothing except blind adherence or you will be destroyed. It was the same with the tuition fee pledge. It really is all too simplistic.

    Humbling though it may be to party hacks of all colours – the electorate passed a judgement that none of them were fit to govern the country. The fact that two of the losers stitched a deal together to take power doesn’t give them any electoral legitimacy and that seems to be getting lost somewhere. They don’t even have Manifesto authority for many of the most savage attacks that are being rushed through at breakneck speed with little detail on the policy and almost no thought to consequential effects.

    Don’t be kidded btw – no one in the LibDems from the top to the bottom is sanguine at the destruction being wrought on their party. The problem is that active opposition has yet to coalesce into a formal grouping with enough power to curb Clegg and his Tory-leaning clique. If that comes about I actually wonder if Cameron will have any further use for the LibDems.

    It is very interesting times for anyone interested in democracy and politics and who isn’t a party hack toeing and spouting the party line. If it wasn’t so pathetic it would be amusing – they never actually debate all they do is read the mantra from the prepared script and just keep repeating it. A bit like doing lines at school and as effective 🙂

    There are many decent LibDems out there struggling with their consciences but once they make their mind up I have every confidence in their innate decency to make the right decisions to protect society from Tory ideology and take very decisive action although the LibDem party will change as a result.

  • Man on the Bus 23rd Dec '10 - 11:49am

    “By the way, ignore the polls. We always go down between elections. We were an asterisk in 1989.”

    And now you’re ****

    That’s what I call progress!

  • @Niklas Smith who said: ‘a confidence and supply or minority government arrangement was rejected because the party realised that the Tories would take the credit for everything and would make sure we got the full share of the blame for everything we voted for, along with all of the blame for preventing things from being passed.’

    Erm? And this is different from the current coalition agreement?

  • Jeremy Ambache 23rd Dec '10 - 11:53am

    I voted for the coalition but ………

    Why does ‘Cabinet responsibility’ mean that Minister have to pretend to support policies that they do not actually believe in? Telling such ‘untruths’ brings politics and politicians into disrepute. What’s wrong with Ministers saying they support this or that as part of this as part of a compromise with their coalition partners.

    Surely, the notion of ‘Cabinet responsibility’ needs to be updated the context of a coalition?

    The policies Lib Dem Minister’s have supported that are counter to our democratically agreed party policy.

    · Promoting free schools,
    · Tripling the level of tuition fees – which we promised to abolish,
    · Restructuring the NHS
    · The increased rate of tackling the deficit reduction,
    · Huge budget and service cuts across the whole of Local Government
    · Benefits cuts in Housing, disability and children’s benefits

    I am concerned that all the above policies will hit the poorest hardest; and I find it impossible to square with our commitment to ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’

  • @ Rich

    Irrespective of my little wager with Niklas, I still reckon that you are looking at a net loss rather than gain. However, even if I am wrong, which is quite possible, the more serious point is that you are losing huge amounts of supporters outside the party. The decision to go into Coalition may have been unavoidable, or at least be seen as “good for the country” (altho’ even that is arguable I’d say), but the performance of the LD’s in government has been a train wreck and contains the real risk of rolling your party back to pre-Alliance days in terms of MP’s and % of the vote, or even splitting it altogether.

    You’re right..it isn’t something you should look forward to……. you should be doing something about it, and the solution is unlikely to be staying the course and hoping that things get better.

  • @Rich

    Yea things are going great for the Libdems at the moment and my New Year prediction will be that things will get warmer as the year progresses.

    But I love optimism and I agree that if there was a GE now that you would struggle to get more than 15 per cent of the national vote. I think the reality is you would struggle to get more than 5 per cent but don’t worry about losing a few front-benchers as they’ll all be gone which is equality of a sort I suppose and perhaps some kind of justice as well.

  • @EcoJon

    Exactly: the scant scraps which have been tossed the way of the LD’s by the Tories do not make up for the rest of the deeply regressive measures you are being forced to accept.

    Those in favour of the Coalition keep using the same argument as Niklas, i.e. things would have been worse…. however it is now quite evident that either a confidence and supply arrangement, or a minority Tory administration, would actually have been no worse, and probably significantly better, an outcome than the current fiasco.

  • @Jeremy Ambache

    I think what has to be done here is differentiate between ‘Cabinet Responsibility’ and the workings of coalitions in general and the particulat coalition agreement reached here.

    Governments can’t actually govern without ‘cabinet responsibility’ which recognises that some members won’t agree with every policy but allows them to argue against that policy within the Cabinet. But once a policy is agreed by the majority all Cabinet members are duty-bound to support it in public and that actually includes to party members and even journos turning up at a surgery. The majority vote binding is a basic building block of democracy although if a serious principle is involved then a minister has the option of resignation.

    I think we have to be careful not to confuse personal likes and dislikes between individuals with policy issues – yea it’s obvious that Osborne is a noxious pest and I was shocked at the nasty anti-gay jibe he threw at a Labour MP in the house the other day. But that’s Osborne – you’re classic upper class bully boy.

    However, for a Minister to tell people not to trust the PM he works for – that isn’t personal and that Minister should go and if he stays well he has no credibility as a person let alone a Minister.

    In terms of coalitions I think if the parties are close in ideological grounds it may be possible to construct a wish-list agreeement but it is a wish-list not cast in stone and will be affected by prevailing circumstances as they arise but flexible enough to accommodate them.

    When the coalition parties aren’t close in ideology then I think you really have to head more for the ‘confidence and supply’ route which I really believe should have happened here.

    There is also the time-scale element of any agreement which may actually be of more importance than some of the policy objectives in a party political sense. This is one of the strategies that Cameron has used to bind the LibDems to him and now he holds then in thrall, frightened to blink in case the house of cards comes tumbling down.

    Many of these issue cross the party political divide and may well become of much more importance in future and in that sense the train-wreck of this coalition will provide valuable pointers to build future coalitions which do more to protect the ‘soul’ of a party and the people who voted for it.

  • I was never a great supporter of the Coalition but agree it has done some good. It was right for a moment of national uncertainty, but they have now had long enough to stabilise the economy.

    Well, Labour can’t have made that bad a mess of things if it was that easy to stabilise it so quickly…

    Enough of the hypocrisy. The overwhelming impression being given by Lib Dems in the cabinet is that they’re way too comfortable with the luxury of opposition. They seem to think that it’s enough to whine about their new colleagues behind their backs but lack the courage to stand up for Liberal Democrat values when it comes to actions or even public speech. That’s a cowardly way of appeasing your own consciences while happily sacrificing the people you are meant to be representing.

    I don’t need to highlight the many flaws of the Labour party here (the hatred many Lib Dems feel for that party always astonishes me) but it is getting to the point where Polly Toynbee’s infamous “hold your nose and vote Labour” may be the only option for people who genuinely care about the less well off in society.

    (Disclaimer: first time and probably last time Lib Dem voter so feel free to dismiss me as a Labour troll if this makes you uncomfortable.)

  • Niklas Smith,

    “The Tories would be no more constrained than they are now and we would have even less of a leg to stand on when the next election happens.”

    Wrong. We would have been able to promote our own policies and values, and we would have been able to take credit for constraining the Tories. We would have had the best of both worlds. In “coalition”, we have the worst of both. The elephant in the room, of course, is the fact that a few Liberal Democrats (some of them in prominent positions) don’t actually find the Tories at all distasteful.

  • I’d find the ‘let the Tories run a minority’ voices more convincing if confidence and supply delivered a decent amount of Liberal policy in the 70s pact. Notoriously, it really didn’t, though like the coalition it helped to stabilise an economy freshly wrecked by Labour and the Unions. As things stand, we take more of the rap, but we actually get some liberal things onto the statute book for the first time most of us can remember: and along the way we undo the Labour and Tory lies about how coalitions are unstable, can’t make serious decisions etc. Stay in.

  • Interesting post at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/23/tories-enemy-liberal-democrat-backbencher
    especially the way that it refers to apartheid and fair play to Adrian Sanders who I don’t think will be apologising publicly on TV for telling the truth.

    It really is turning into a Xmas Panto – Oh Yes you said it. Oh No I didn’t. Oh yes you did. Ok but I didn’t mean it.

    It’s nauseating watching the sycophancy going on here with Ministers caught-out in their ramblings trying to cling onto the keys of the Ministerial Mondeo. If they believed what they said why are they apologising. If they didn’t why were they telling porkies to ‘constituents’. Obviously they are embarassed for being caught but did they tell the truth or not?

  • @Jen

    70s – different times, different era, different politics – I think it’s hard to make a real comparism

    What about the 8 year coalition in Scotland with Labour – was that all a failure as well?

  • @Grant Williams who mentioned: ‘challenging austerity plans being rolled out’.

    I take it you mean the savage all-out attack – driven by Tory ideology and aided by the LibDem Coalition – against millions of your fellow Citizens who are sick with worry about what the New Year is bringing. These aren’t families who rightly or wrongly haven’t worked for generations. These are ordinary hard-working people who had a dream which has been turned into a nightmare.

    Happy Xmas Grant and when you think of the less fortunate perhaps you might make a New Year resolution to do something constructive to help them and I don’t mean setting up soup kitchens.

    No one argues that cuts have to be made but there’s always choices that can be made in areas and timing and most importantly in creating a robust strategy for growth which appears to be missing from the Coalition box of tricks.

  • @EcoJon

    On this issue of membership, I can tell you that even though I resigned in summer 2009 (due to Clegg’s talk of coalition with the Tories and lack of clarification that this wouldn’t happen under the current electoral system) I continued to be treated as a member with local ‘official’ LibDem MP Christmas cards, election packs, etc right up until after the election in May.

    I don’t know what my official status actually was but it did seem strange to be treated as a member even though I wasn’t.

  • Philip Rolle 23rd Dec '10 - 2:06pm

    Lib Dems are stuck with the coalition for now.

    The best course is to argue more strenuously for policy changes consistent with fairness. Lib Dems must moderate the benefit changes so as to increase the impact on the middle class and reduce the impact on the poor and disabled.

  • Ed Maxfield 23rd Dec '10 - 2:09pm

    Anyone who thinks the Tories would watch us walk out on a coalition and then happily negotiate a confidence and supply deal with us is living in a dream world. Cameron would resign and demand a general election on a ‘we have proved we can govern but neither of the other lot has’ ticket. One reason he would want an election is that it would be the only way he would avoid a leadership challenge from David Davis. After an election in January the Lib Dems wouldnt have enough MPs left for anyone to need to worry about coalition negotiations with them.

    I broadly agree with Ian Ridley – its more damaging to lie about supporting something you disagree with than to disagree with it openly (and it makes for a better democracy too). But even under that regime Lib Dems would have to accept that they cannot disagree with every single reform to public services which seems to be the favoured position of some.

    As for Vince piloting tuition fee changes through, well, he knew that was in the job description when he took the job so he had a choice back in May (as did the negotiating party, the MPs, the FE and the special conference…)

  • @Paul (Walter)

    I know it’s a fair point that the LibDem polling numbers have traditionally gone quiet in between elections but that’s because the media used to concentrate on the two main parties largely ignoring the LibDems.

    This time it’s different – nobody can say the LibDems have been ignored by the media!

    Personally, I think the poll ratings are very worrying and reflect the fact that something is going very wrong – at least in the eyes of the voter. The fact that Nick Clegg’s personal approval rating stands at -23 is disastrous – it’s time for LibDems to look outside their own membership bunker of approval and think about voters, the LibDem ‘brand’ is being eroded.

  • George Kendall,

    “- If Labour won, I shudder to think of the consequences.”

    Er… If there was the remotest possibility of that happening, Cameron would be as likely to call a general election as fill his swimming-pool with pig manure.

    If we forced the Tories to govern as a minority, we would be in a position to dictate terms and get none of the blame for the terrible things they do.

    BTW, Parliament is elected on the basis of what the people, not the markets, want.

    “- The only option that would provide stability would be a Tory majority.”

    Which, I guess, is the default position for the Orange Book tendency once the Liberal Democrats reassert their centre-left credentials.

    “Our vote would utterly collapse.”

    That’s what will happen if we continue with the “coalition”. Look at the opinion polls.

    “A minority Tory government would also mean that the Tories had all the non-legislative power that ministers have. We’d have no one in cabinet to argue our corner, and wouldn’t have the information we now have.”

    And we would hammer them for every bad thing they did.

    “It would be a catastrophe for the party.”

    Continuing with the “coalition” would be a catastorphe for the party, as the opinion-polls indicate. Clearly, you genuinely believe that the Tory deficit reduction strategy is right, and the Liberal Democrat strategy is wrong. But the uncomfortable fact for deficit hawks like yourself (not all of them Orange Bookers, btw) is that the party fought the election on the basis that early cuts would harm the recovery and the the Tory policy was “irrational”.

  • Ed Maxfield,

    “Cameron would resign and demand a general election on a ‘we have proved we can govern but neither of the other lot has’ ticket.”

    Ah, rather like Ted Heath did. Do you think Cameron relishes the prospect of spending his retirement as a grumpy old curmudgeon in a cathedral close?

    Cameron will only call a general election if he is certain that his party will win. If the opinion-polls are the slightest bit dodgy, he won’t dare.

  • @Sesenco

    “Continuing with the “coalition” would be a catastrophe for the party….”

    I agree and felt this to be the case from the word go.

    Ok, my reasoning was only based upon simple things but the main two were that:

    1) every other LibDem voter around here (Twickenham constituency which is a straightforward LibDem/Tory battle) felt that a coalition with the Tories was not what they’d voted for…. people locally would have voted Tory if they wanted a Tory government (with some ignored though important LibDem concessions). There was a sense of betrayal and people voiced this to me as I’d had a ‘Vote Vince’ sign in my window.

    2) The Tories were essentially running the media side of things, albeit with a little LibDem help, my feeling at the time was that the LibDems would lose their ‘message’ and this was proved fairly early on with LibDem ministers dropping the moderate media such as C4 news, Guardian, Independent etc for the right wing outlets (I exclude the BBC on the basis that it’s a must regardless of your party).

    This has continued with Nick Clegg entertaining Fraser Nelson and other right wingers at Chevening House for weekends (according to Private eye).

  • There are – and always have been – many people in our party who prefer perpetual opposition. There are such extreme purists in other parties as well of course, but whenever a party is dominated by that philosophy it has to stay within natural (and pretty small) limits of support. 

    But there are others in the party – myself included – who got involved in politics to try and make a difference, to try and make life a bit better for people, to try and improve our country and our place in the wider international community, to try and deliver even a few steps towards a more liberal world. 

    Either we’re a party of protest or we’re a party of government. We can’t be both – no party can be both.

    Either we take this opportunity to fight to implement as many LD policies as is possible, or we return to carping from the sidelines. We can’t do both.

    Either we’re an independent party with liberal guiding principles – in which case we should be open to coalition with either of the main parties – or we’re a minor disaffected adjuct to the labour party. We can’t be both.

    I don’t know which way the debate will ultimately go, though I get the impression that there are more realists in our party than you’d think from the comment threads on LDV. Personally, I’d leave the party in an instant if I thought we’d drop the coalition in order to return to our constituencies and prepare for irrelevance.

  • @ Catherine

    You already ARE preparing for irrelevance! The problem with your “Either we’re a party of protest or we’re a party of government” line is that it isn’t worth being a party of government at ANY cost. There were other choices, and even if you accept that the Coalition was a good idea (which is by no means certain given the current chaotic situation), the fact is you still sold yourselves too cheaply, and gained too little in the bargaining.

    Since you sowed the wind, be prepared for the hurricane of public disapproval. Outside of your LD bubble, the voting public are preparing to consign you to the dustbin of history unless the party decides to grow a pair.

  • @Paul Elgood

    That’s right. Having propped up the Tories, who had no mandate to govern, and allowed them to use you as a Trojan Horse for their destruction of this country’s social infrastructure, Liberal Democrats should now retire and try to reclaim the moral high ground and save their paltry little council seats. No wonder the people of this country hold Liberal Democrats in contempt. As a member of the Labour Party I would love to see the Lib Dems leave the coalition. But, strategically, if Lib Dems MPs are to avoid meltdown they should remain in coalition and do a lot more resigning over the issues which they disagree with morally and politically. Cameron will then be in a cleft stick: he won’t like to keep losing votes and he won’t be in a position to make severe concessions because his back benchers won’t allow it. And next year, especially after the contrastingly inconsistent and unequal punishment handed out to Cable and Lord Young, Cameron’s back benchers will be much more powerful and vocal. Result? Cameron will have to call a General Election and you will be able to leave the coalition: but at least you won’t be accused of being frit and characterised as a party that can’t handle being in government because all those nasty socialists don’t understand the sacrifices you’re making in the national interest! You should heed the old maxim which the public well knowe: “Quitters never win and winners never quit!’

  • @ MacK

    Yeah….’cos moral lessons from the toxic brand that is Labour will no doubt convince people to vote for them……

    …… if they suffered from total amnesia for the past 13 years!

    Come back and tell us more when Labour is a progressive, radical force again, with a platform that people on the centre-left could actually support.

  • @ Niklas

    Some people probably do think that no coalition with the Tories would be acceptable, but I don’t think that is the real problem here. The issue is that a large number of your supporters (as opposed to members) do not think THIS particular deal is a good one; given the current situation, and the collapse in LD support, that’s not exactly surprising is it?

  • @ Oranjepan

    “After all, how can we expect the public to trust us if we don’t even trust ourselves?”

    The thing is, you have demonstrated in spades that you aren’t to be trusted. You sold yourselves short from the get go; SVT should have been a non-negotiable pre-condition for entering a Coalition. Your boys simply dilated and gave the Tories most of what they want, even though the difference in national vote wasn’t that great.

    You didn’t even manage to get a single major cabinet position!!

    By insisting on persevering with this train wreck of a relationship, you are simply signing the death warrant of your party. If you and your leadership can’t see that, you don’t deserve to survive anyway!

  • @Galen
    “Yeah….’cos moral lessons from the toxic brand that is Labour will no doubt convince people to vote for them……

    …… if they suffered from total amnesia for the past 13 years!

    Come back and tell us more when Labour is a progressive, radical force again, with a platform that people on the centre-left could actually support.”

    Funny then that we are leading the polls so soon after the General Election. It took the Tories years to get to that position. I think you’ll find that compared to the present Tory led government ordinary punters on the Centre Left will find us a very attractive alternative at the next general election. They will only have to reflect on what the Lib Dem Cons have taken away from them materially and culturally. And we have a front bench that are not all millionaires. That’ll make us look different for a start.

  • @ Oranjepan

    Throwing the epithet “troll” about in this case is a sure indication that you are losing the argument.

    As I’ve noted, I’m not against the concept of coalition, or compromise. I AM against this Coalition, because it was flawed from the start. Obviously I think the result I have posited is more likely than the wishful thinking going on in here, but I’m quite capable of seeing it might go another way.

    Your response is as weak as the rationale for staying shackled to the corpse of the Coalition.

  • @ MacK

    One might have hoped for something a tad more pro-active than studiously doing nothing, and taking the credit for not being “New” Labour. You still have a long way to go before you have de-toxified the brand enough.

    Your lead in the polls isn’t actually THAT impressive given the train wreck going on in the Coalition. The interim report card would have to be; “must try harder”.

  • @Galen

    The fact is that now we’ve got a Tory government people don’t like it, they don’t feel safe anymore.

    As time progresses, I think the majority of people will be screaming for Labour in the not too distant future so we can argue about luxuries like human rights, what he said about her while still on ‘mic’, etc, etc, etc.

    Do you remember the good old days?

  • David Allen 23rd Dec '10 - 5:24pm

    I have every sympathy with the post. However, ending the coalition now is not going to happen. The party is divided, and though many would contemplate abandoning the coalition, many would not. In any case, any attempt to break up the love-in will be over Clegg’s dead body. Clegg is not dead yet, and whatever we might want to be the case, we have to recognise the reality.

    So, what we need to do now is to think about what realistic demand we can actually make. It is equally now the reality that we must make demands. The declining pro-coalition group do not have the strength to maintain the status quo.

    We can argue endlessly about “confidence and supply”. In hindsight, the serious risks which that would have entailed might nevertheless have been less damaging than the appalling risks of the course we did choose. However, we cannot just wind the clock back.

    We cannot realistically call for Clegg’s head. A party gets rid of its leader when there is a consensus that the leader has failed. We do not yet have a consensus.

    What we can do is to demand that the coalition agreement be renegotiated. To those Tories who cry foul, we should point out the overwhelming view of the public that we did not get anything like a fair deal. We should demand that decisions be made over all the major topics like free schools and health service “reform” which were omitted from the original dodgy dossier. We should demand a reinterpretation of the basis of collective cabinet responsibility, which cannot work in a coalition the same way as it works in single party government.

    We must do this soon. The only serious concession we won from the Tories was the AV referendum, and that will soon happen. Once it has happened, win or lose, the Tories will say that we have gone beyond the point at which there could be any renegotiation. We have to let the Tories treat the referendum as a negotiating card. We have to accept that a renegotitation will not just be a one-way shift in our favour.

    The process of demanding and then carrying through an effective renegotiation will itself be a critical test for Clegg. If he fails it, he will face the consequences.

  • @ Frank

    In general, the old days were rarely as good as people remember them! I’ve been voting for the LD’s and their predecessors since 1980; this time I actually thought we might be getting somewhere….. and now what doe we see?

    Seldom can so many have been let down by so few.

  • @George Kendall

    I see you’re obviously well and truly sold with the Osborne ‘plan’, the same sort of plan that has totally immasculated Ireland.

    Come on, you know there are numerous serious counter arguments to this ‘plan’. I just worry that it might be awful to see the ‘markets’ respond to a bit more bad news from our ‘numbers’ like increasing joblessness, a hike in interest rates dampening significantly dampening growth, Europe (our main export market) buying even less from us than they are now, etc, etc.

    As for Labour not having a plan, that’s likely to be rubbish too because any party with any sense wouldn’t show their cards unless they had too (eg – nearer an election). The simple reason being that they’d be rubbished by the Tories if they didn’t like anything, and anything they did like, they’d steal it then take the credit – that’s what happened to the LibDems remember – and some might say continue to happens?

    Finally, can we please remember that the ‘markets’ are Fitch, Moody’s and S&P who gave out AAA ratings to all those structured products that then turned to mush? They should not be treated with the type of Chicago School-deferrence (the ‘there is no god only the markets’ mentality which has caused pain and suffering over the years to much of the world).

  • @matt

    Thanks for the link, I was skimming back through the comments looking for it so that I could refer George to it.

  • @Galen

    “In general, the old days were rarely as good as people remember them!”

    Yes, you’re right, the only difference is that people have got trouble in their own back yards now (pay freezes, spectre of rise in borrowing, no job or job insecurity, child benefit because you earn slightly over the threshold and your partner looks after your young children, etc).

    Most of this government simply does not understand what’s precious to ordinary people because they’ve never been ordinary. They haven’t ever had to truly worry about money including Clegg because he lives in the same goldfish bowl.

  • Frank – “the only difference is that people have got trouble in their own back yards now (pay freezes, spectre of rise in borrowing, no job or job insecurity”

    Those of us that work in the private sector have had this particular set of troubles since 2008 (when Labour were in power, and the cause of many of our woes), and may be forgiven for a certain sense of schadenfreude that it’s now finally hitting home in the public sector too.

  • Matt – and who should have properly regulated the banks, rather than cosying up to them?

  • All we are seeing here is why coalitions are intrinsically a bad thing, because they inevitably lead to duplicitousness. Politicians campaign on one set of principles knowing they will not be carried out, then have to support policies they despise, so inevitably you get a huge split between private and public pronouncements which mean that the public trust politicians even less. I don’t mean to hark back to tuition fees but when you pledge to abolish something, then crrate the legislation to triple it, then say you might abstain, then vote in favour how do you expect the British people to ever believe what you say again? That seems to me to be the natural condition in coalitions where nobody can ever do what they say and we have to suffer eternal fudges, obfuscations and double speak.

  • “In other democracies fresh elections would now be called to allow a party a majority.”

    This is untrue. I hesitate to say “a lie”, but the motivation on the author’s part is certainly there. In almost all other democracies, a coalition would seek to serve as long as possible, i.e. until there were some insuperable difference of opinion.

    Of course, these democracies almost all use PR. Many anti-government Liberal Democrats have forgotten that PR involves coalitions, and have instead decided that they would only like to govern with a majority and would never ever ever participate in any coalition. Except it it’s with lovely Labour, of course. Many people in the Lib Dem party have made it clear that their main aim in politics is to keep the Tories out, which is an admirable aim in and of itself, but which when taken to the extreme of anti-any coalition with the Tories makes the party simply a spare wheel to Labour.

  • Matt – horse, bolted, stable door.

    Edward – “Many anti-government Liberal Democrats have forgotten that PR involves coalitions, and have instead decided that they would only like to govern with a majority and would never ever ever participate in any coalition. Except it it’s with lovely Labour, of course. Many people in the Lib Dem party have made it clear that their main aim in politics is to keep the Tories out, which is an admirable aim in and of itself, but which when taken to the extreme of anti-any coalition with the Tories makes the party simply a spare wheel to Labour.”

    Comment of the day.

  • Whilst the cuts are going to be painful, spending is going to go down to 06-07 levels I think. I don’t remember at that time people saying there wasn’t enough spending.

    I personally think the coalition is doing well on the whole. There are things it could do better, and there are things that I passionately believe would make a big difference to society that neither the Lib Dems or Tories advocate so I wasn’t expecting some things to improve anyway.

    I think the people who want to leave the coalition are hoping that the next election would lead to a coalition with Labour. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some Machiavellian maneuverings going on on the left of the party to try and hasten that.

    If the coalition breaks up, and a Lab-Lib coalition is formed that is regressive and increases the power of the state then I very much doubt I would vote Lib Dem again.

  • @Niklas Smith 23rd December 2010 at 4:11 pm

    The question was most certainly rhetorical 🙂

    The reason the Scottish coalition worked so well was the closer ideologicasl ‘fit’ between LibDems and Labour than currently between LibDems and Tories. I also have begun to suspect that the Scottish LibDems are just a tad more amenable to Labour than their southern cousins.

    Not sure why that is so or even if my assumption is correct – could be old Scottish Liberal tradition or might be a kind of mirror image of the differences that exist between Labour in Scotland and England for former Scottish SDP members. Also an assembly designed to run on a coalition basis by Dewar and a PR voting element. Whatever it was it worked and I think it terribly important to look at how well opposition personalities can work together and the trust level between them.

    Will a coalition only work for the LibDems if it is with Labour. I don’t have an answer to that although it might be answered, in part, when we see the eventual outcome of the current coalition.

    Why is the current coalition wiping out your identity – well ultimately it all depends on where Clegg and his clique are taking your party and what their intentions are for its future. I am an outsider looking in, not to make political capital but more out of political curiosity although I’m afraid my anti-Tory roots do flare up on occasion as does my disdain for party apologists who don’t engage in actual debate but parrot the script they’ve been handed.

    Obviously a huge weaknes is the lack of transparency as to what LibDem Ministers are up to and what they are achieving. I think this is the one factor causing the biggest damage to your party both in terms of activists and the general public who see you as a mere cypher rubber-stamping Tory economic policies. I have to say that I have had my eyes opened at just how many right-wingers exist in your party who would make some Tories look like political poodles.

    Local coalitions can be good, bad and middling and tend to be one-offs so it all depends whether the members are in coalition for their own political survival or for the good of their constituents.

    I hear what you say about coalitions v. confidence and supply in a European context and agree with most of it. But I think you have to remember that in Europe there is no real pressure on time re formation of the actual coalition but that really is perceived to be an issue here caused by a totally shallow media who seek sensationalism at every level rather than providing non-sexy informed reporting,

    I think from what you say we are in basic agreement that confidence and supply is a solution where there are serious ideological differences between possible coalition partners. I would contend that this is the model that should have been used by the LibDems.

    Of course perhaps the ideological differences are not as vast as I think – only the LibDem membership can ultimately supply the judgement on that one. I also don’t know what Cameron’s negotiators were told by Clegg’s team prior to the GE when informal meetings were taking place as to just how receptive the LibDem membership would be. The last thing Cameron wants is a LibDem membership in revolt and decrying Tory economic policies.

    In general I despair at just how naieve many LibDems are re the Tories – they really don’t get just how driven they are to support the uber-rich. They are on a different planet but sadly when taken into the club it is easy to get starry-eyed and I have watched many erstwhile socialists sell their political souls and principles for the stardust. Sadly, it is part of human nature for some people and LibDems are not immune to it.

    I have tried to answer your points but as we are in uncharted waters I don’t have the answers but I always know when I’m out of my depth because i put my toe down now and again to check and I would commend Clegg to do the same if he actually wishes his party to survive after Cameron casts it aside.

  • paul barker 23rd Dec '10 - 6:54pm

    Its no good, Ive got a cold I just cant be bothered to reply to an article as silly & irresponsible as this. Merry Xmas.

  • Despite my deep dislike of the Tory party and Conservative philosophy, I think it would be insane to leave the Coalition. We have a chance to do something, may be not everything, but something and we should take it with both hands.

  • james sandbach 23rd Dec '10 - 7:31pm

    Well done to Paul for raising this option. It would be drastic – a last resort if we can’t punch our weight in Government and sell our achievements in coalition, but peversely it just might be the only (“cutting ones’ losses”) way to reclaim liberalism, our values and the Party from the Tories…all of the revelations of the last two days suggest that our Ministerial team all recognise the dangers we have fallen into of being too closely identified with Conservative party policies.

    Where we are now is a long way from the coalition agreement, which was by it’s nature vague, aspirational, warm and very short on policy detail – couched in “we will reform etc..” type language with some sections reflecting our unique manifesto priorities. By contrast the CSR (which our Ministers signed off on without a whiff of public disgreement) is a very detailed policy programme for each department which boxes our Ministers in to delivering overwhelmingly Tory policies and plans – with many policies that we have spent years campaigning against as Adrian Sanders notes in his blog.

    We warned during the General Election that a spending cuts programme of such speed, scale and magnitude of such as the one we are now implementing would not have legitimacy and could cause civil strife (we certainly called that one right!!) and that the better approach was a longer term fiscal rebalancing programme which would involve proper consultation.

    Indeed our selling of coalition as good model of Government is that it requires consensus and consultation to succeed with ideology playing a secondary role to public interest – but I just don’t see that we’re getting a different model of Government at the moment, just a very Tory centralised type of Government that is hyperbolic with new initiatives and legislation, driving everything from the Treasury and running away with the shibolith that a 20% smaller state is better for everyone.

  • @Tabman

    “Those of us that work in the private sector have had this particular set of troubles since 2008 (when Labour were in power, and the cause of many of our woes), and may be forgiven for a certain sense of schadenfreude that it’s now finally hitting home in the public sector too.”

    This shows a great deal of ignorance and thankfully Matt has already spoon-fed it to you.

    Also @ Tabman

    “Comment of the day.”

    In your humble fact-lite opinion presumably????

    I’m pro-PR, LibDem voting and anti coalition. This coalition was always going to be totally unbalanced because although the LibDems won 23% of the vote to the Tories 36.1% they are treated as the much smaller partner due to only having 57 MPs.

    Sure, I’m all up for coalition but only when we have an electoral system that fairly reflects a party’s support in parliament. The ‘leadership’ should never have considered it because it’s not fair to the party and those who voted LibDem.

  • Frank – “This shows a great deal of ignorance and thankfully Matt has already spoon-fed it to you.”

    Ignorance of what? The creation of a house-price led inflationary boom (pointed out by St Vince, no less), was nothign to do with Labour, was it?

    Someone further up the thread has got this about right. We’ve got a split between purists and pragamatists. its pretty clear where you sit.

  • @George Kendall, there is no need to cut the deficit so quickly, it simply does not need to happen this way, the risks to this plan are massive, hence why two of the three main parties were arguing against cutting the deficit so quickly.

    We need growth. Ireland’s problems may well be greater, but the cuts aren’t working there. The Tories have made this mistake before.

  • @ Galen 10
    “One might have hoped for something a tad more pro-active than studiously doing nothing, and taking the credit for not being “New” Labour. You still have a long way to go before you have de-toxified the brand enough.

    Your lead in the polls isn’t actually THAT impressive given the train wreck going on in the Coalition. The interim report card would have to be; “must try harder”.”

    But why should we give you detailed information about what we plan to do right now? You’ll only adopt our policies or get your friends in your sycophantic media to rubbish us. There’s bound to be a general election in the next few months and we’ll let you know what our policies are then. But we have plenty of them, make no mistake. And then we’ll liberate this country from the right wing, vindictive members of your coalition, who are grinding the faces of the poor, the disabled and those who are powerless to stop your Thatcherite onslaughts against their basic level of subsistence. Your brand has become toxic after only a few months.

  • As a Conservative(boo..hiss..hiss!!),I find your ‘angle’ interesting.
    It reveals a lot about MP’s like Mr Baker. His being in government has taken it’s toll on his family?
    Why would that be? His family should be proud his years in politics have finally got him into government,but no,Mr Baker would much rather sit on the sidelines griping,collecting his salary/expenses and not have very much to do with anything too pressing.
    I think some Lib Dems have really let your party down. They have let the country down,by being so negative.
    The fact that Cable disliked someone so much he would block a deal is a disgrace.He was placed in a position of trust,that personal or political feelings would be put to one side and he would deal with each case impartially.

    You are ‘getting the blame’ for this because it is Lib Dems who are spouting their mouths off to virtual strangers.
    You got the flack from the tuition fees rise because it was Lib Dems who spouted their mouths off with messy,
    (At the time)point scoring,pledge signing.
    Your membership increased because people trusted you,you appeared to be behaving responsibly in government
    Cable & Co will lose you more votes than the tuition fees would have.
    The public do not expect two polar parties to be all lovey dovey,but we do expect some descretion.
    I find it very odd that Mr Cable would start telling two ‘strangers’ how he was treating Murdock. How many voters out there are going into their MP’s surgery and asking questions about media tycoons? That should have triggered his mute button,NOT a detailed confession about how he has abused his power and position.
    I have been very supportive and defended your party many many times,I am disappointed that some Lib Dem’s have had me fooled.
    The strentgh of character in Clegg over some very hard choices has impressed me and many others,I shouldn’t wonder,yet the rest of you veer off in the opposite direction.This is fine when in opposition,but when in government
    you sometimes have to zip it.
    I hope the coalition is a long term thing.I also think that two polar opposite parties can become a great good for Britain,because somewhere in all our differences there is a compromise.
    I also think both the Lib Dems AND the Conservatives will be better,stronger and very different parties at the next general election. Both will have learned from each other,both will grow and both should sometimes hold their tongues.
    From an ordinary ‘Jane’ we have choices at an election.
    Labour have proved to be the biggest outright liars,spinners and opportunists going.
    The Lib Dems have(TEMPORARILY) dented our trust that they can be responsible in government and govern in an upright way.
    That leaves us thinking there is only one major party who is consistent,decisive and willing to face the flack,to get this country back on her feet,…Conservatives.
    Take a step back,believe in what you are doing in coalition,TALK to your Conservative partners where you have differences and
    Have yourself a Very Merry Christmas.

  • I see that Sarah Teather appears to be happy with the coalition and amazingly is the only one of the 10 Ministers visited who held the line when interviewed by the two female undercover journos. Wonder why the 9 male Ministers opened up their hearts to the giggling duo 🙂

    Interestingly Teather told the reporters that the new tuition fees system was “the closest we could get to a graduate tax.” What is that all about? Still a gold star for Teather and a promotion in the forthcoming reshuffle methinks – not sure if she’ll be able to hold down 9 ministerial jobs though.

    Vince witters on in his local paper about democracy coming to an end cos he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and the destruction of the confidentiality of the surgery confessional. Maybe someone should tell him that the confidentiality doesn’t actually apply to the constituents but applies to the MP who shouldn’t discuss the constituent’s details with an unauthorised third party – gawd the good burghers of Twickenham will be shaking in their boots wondering whether he can keep his mouth shut about them if the reporters come calling again. Vince makes no mention in the paper about his early Xmas pressie to Murdoch – seems to be a short-term memory problem there.

    Two of the other ministers I note said they were opposed to the tuition fees increase but voted for it – well gold stars for them as well as standard bearers for those revolting students lol. Just as well theyt didn’t abstain that might let them keep the Mondeo – still I think Teather has a better claim.

    OK going to go and read about the LibDem take on Tories and their pals in Europe – could be interesting. Seems the DT only did 10 ministers so the rest can sleep easy tonight.

  • EcoJon,

    As a matter of curiosity, what is your take on Rupert Murdoch?

    The reason I ask is that leading figures in your party have spent the last 20 odd years doing everything in their power to ingratiate themselves with this North American oligarch, in sharp contrast to the (largely justified) howls of newspaper persecution from the left of old.

    Labour attitudes towards Murdoch are interesting, because they have the potential to separate those Labourites who are genuine progressives (albeit of a somewhat paternalist bent) and those who simply seek power and glory and are willing to sell their souls to the Devil to get it.

    I don’t get the impression that you fall into the second camp, so I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the Dirty Digger.

    Back to the topic.

    There isn’t going to be a general election any time soon. Cameron knows perfectly well that if he calls an election and loses, the Tories will put him on a spit and roast him. I cannot imagine that his backers (including those in Washington) would let him take such a risk. Don’t believe those Cleggmaniacs who warn of the dangers of an immediate general election. They are trying to scare us and we mustn’t fall for it. Cameron will only call an election if he is certain his party can win.

    The task for Liberal Democrats is to extricate ourselves from this “coalition” mess, find a new leader, get out there and start campaigning. Let’s learn from the “coalition” phase in our history and move on.

  • Well, interesting to read what Jeremy Browne had to say about Europe and the Tories to the undercover DT reporters.

    Even more interesting was his statement that the LibDem party was bound to the Coalition because if it withdrew “we’d never be in government again”. A helluva lot of hard-hit UK families would actually be celebrating if that turned out to be the case with LibDem MPs giving a legitimacy to the Tories to make deeper and more draconian cuts and savage attacks on the poorer and vulnerable sections of this society. But they don’t vote LibDem so I don’t suppose it matters a lot unless you are into social liberalism.

    Clinging onto power is as good a reason as any to be in a dodgy coatiion but it’s so old-style politics. I seem to remember a gruff Scot with a similar surname being pilloried by LibDems and Tories for the same offence, before new politics arrived of course.

  • Obviously the Lib Dems need to do a lot of work now to repair the damage they’ve caused if they wish to remain in the coalition. Cameron is in a strong position to start dropping Lib Dem ministers and replacing them with his own people, Clegg doesn’t have very many suitable substitutes to replace any sent-off. Some of his team are already second-rate, as recent events have shown. No one is going to be enthused if he has to nominate third-rate replacements. There are plenty of Tories desperate to be given a chance and they’re probably warming-up already, eager to demonstrate their ambitions. The next six months will be interesting.

  • Bag of Crap!!!!!!

    what have Lib-Con done so far????

    1- Increasing VAT which they were against it?
    2- Increasing Student fees which they were against it?
    3- Increasing Demonstrations in streets of London
    4- Pushing for cutting number of Police of the streets to rise number of crimes to double?
    5- Making 1 Million people redundant by next 4 years who were paying Tax to economy?
    6- Bringing down Export to record Low in UK history?
    7- Making GBP weakest currency in world market?

    all this crap decisions has been taken in last 6 month and if Lib-Con stay in power for another 53 month which
    no one believes and is true, Good luck British people,

    I would be happy to see people who voted for them suffer hard times then they never do same mistake again.

    Nick Clegg sold his party and himself for one chair which called Deputy Leader, I know his heart is burning but is too late and 2 month ago when Chris Huhne said that in future Lib Dem might take Labour deal for coalition,


    don’t tell me about economy it is in it’s worst times now than ever before,

    2013 will be UK’s worst year with black economy, YOU WILL SEE!!!!!!

    I hope poor people survive but Lib-Con politician should be in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting with Terrorist not in No 10, is just not right place for them,

  • Daniel Furr 24th Dec '10 - 8:37am

    I completely disagree with this article. You cannot be in favour of coalition governments, but only on our terms – we do have to work with other parties. It would be economic suicide to call an election now – the markets would react in panic. Either we are a party that aspires to govern the country we love or a protest movement.

    We cannot be both.

    As someone articulated above, a few posts up, the country is more important than any political party.

  • @ MacK

    It’s not “my” Coalition, nor am I a party member. As a “social democrat” I voted LD partly because I couldn’t bring myself to vote Labour, still less New Labour, and partly because they were the only hope of getting the Tories out in my true blue constituency.

    People who are still suspicious of “Newer” Labour like me aren’t expecting detailed policy announcemnts; we ARE expecting you to show us the body of New Labour, and tell us how you differ. So far you haven’t so. Your party is still full of the usual suspects, who are quite unapologetic about the whole nauseating New Labour experiment, and of course took a starring role in scuppering a Lab/Lib deal ost election.

    I doubt you’ll get your hoped for election anytime soon; turkeys don’t vote for Xmas.

  • @ Galen 10
    Funny that the “nauseating New Labour experiment” as you call it, won three General Elections. Er, just remind me how many Social Democrats/Liberal Democrats have done that? Large numbers of the electorate obviously do not find us as nauseating as you do. Those who received the minimum wage perhaps? Gays who can engage in civil partnerships, perhaps. (More needs to be done there of course) Those, who received Educational Maintenance Allowance, perhaps. (Until your lot scuppered it) Need I go on?

  • @ Daniel Furr

    As many others above, and indeed outside this site, your doomsday scenario is only one of many possible outcomes, and by no means the most likely still less inevitable.

    No sensible person in favour of electoral reform would argue that coalitions should only be entered into on your own terms. It isn’t a zero-sum game, and compromise is naturally required. The issue here is whether this particular Coalition represents a good deal. It’s hardly surprising given recent events that many (perhaps even a majority) of your supporters feel that it does not.

    Predicting that there would be economic chaos is you withdrew from the coalition now (or hadn’t entered it in the first place) is just so much hot air. In many other places colaition deals take months to hammer out- your party was bounced into this one by such scare mongering in the first place, and is now reaping the whirlwind as a result. The sky isn’t going to fall down just because of short term politcal instability.

    If you truly believed the country was more important than party, you might give some thought to the argument that the country would be a lot better off if you’d never entered the colaition in the first place, had negotiated a better deal once you decided to do it, or abandoned the chaotic shambles we now find ourselves in. Very manu of us find the latter a much more fitting description of where we are than your determination to go down with a sinking ship!

    You may be sanguine about the prospects of steering your party onto the political rocks in the name of aspiring to government, but many others don’t think power is an end in itself, or should be attained at ANY cost.

  • Jason Shouler 24th Dec '10 - 10:15am

    Must check it’s Christmas Eve and not April 1st as this surely has to be a joke!

    In first time since I can remember this party is actually doing something good for the country and apart from the previous Lib-Lab pack, it’s the only time my Liberal (LibDem) vote has counted.

    Nick’s doing a superb job and should be given all the encouragement possible.

    The very thing this party requires now is strength to finish the job. Show weakness now and the party will be utterly devastated in future polls.

  • @ MacK

    You will hardly be surprised if those of us who regarded “New” Labour with distaste only raise two cheers for the good things achieved, and offset them against the many bad things, and perhaps even believe that they outweigh them? Whatever else New Labour was, it wasn’t progressive or radical; in fact you allowed your party to be hi-jacked by a bunch of authoritarian, spin obssessed, crypto-Tories.

    The fact that thet enjoyed electoral success says more about the weakness of the opposition than the strength of people’s commitment to the New Labour ideal…. which certainly seems to have died a death recently doesn’t it…? I don’t hear much from the usual suspects about continuing the New Labour brand… could that have been because it is now recognised as having been a huge mistake perhaps?

  • @ Jason

    I think the joke is probably on you if you think things are going so swimmingly!

    I suppose you always get a few self-deluding “bitter-enders” insisting all in the garden is rosy despite the chaotic shambles surrounding them.

  • No-one south of the border seems to remember that the coalition between LibDem and Labour in Scotland was on the whole a success. When the SNP became the largest party but without a majority, Scottish LibDems refused to join them – its the choice of partner that is the problem now.

  • What stability are we talking about here?

    Let me tell you something, there are thousands of fragile families dreading the turn of the year, they are worried about thier jobs, mortgages and their childrens futures and that is solely down to the reckless cuts imposed by the nasty party and their lap dogs.

    You are right about one thing though, this coalition needs to end now and the Lib Dems need to relaunch themselves again with a differet leadership team.

  • @Sesenco

    I have made a number of references to Murdoch in various posts.

    To sum up my position – I used to work for a paper he bought and trashed but I had left before then although I have never really got over the ‘death’ of a great newspaper at the hands of his bean counters. I picketed against him at Wapping and Glasgow as an active NUJ member and office bearer.

    I have parted company with newspaper employers on a number of occasions, over the years, on points of principle and had to work as a freelance for long stretches to survive financially. During these periods I never worked a shift for Murdoch nor did I ever sell or provide his organisation with a story, even when it wasn’t an exclusive but being distributed to everyone else.

    I am old-fashioned in lots of ways and I believe that standing up for your principles – especially if they are based on equality of opportunity, fairness, caring and protecting ‘weaker’ members of society, often comes at a personal ‘cost’.

    I was a very active member of the LP for decades but have had my problems with the party over the years and finally left ‘for good’ when Blair became Leader as I have never accepted that he falls within my definition of socialist.

    As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that a lot of my ‘problems’ with the LP weren’t actually as ideological as I originally thought but more structural in an organisational sense and more to do with the ‘character’ and personal motivation of elected reps and other controlling the levers of power throughout the party levels.

    So though I was no longer a member I still worked hard for individuals that I judged to be honest and most importantly ‘democrats’ in that they recognised that democracy in itself is more important than ‘party’ on most occasions. The ‘party’ to me has shrunk from the be-all and end-all to a mere device to channel and marshall the hopes and aspirations of the many to bring about a democratic society that carries out the functions I touched-on above. But so many elected members, at all levels, are parasites motivated by personal gain or self-importance or aggrandisement and this is not peculiarly a LP problem but cross-party. Btw I do believe in the mixed-economy and have no problem with profit per se and have been a self-employed businessman.

    However, I digress and what I say may see simplistic but it has been a long hard road politically for me to form my view but made easier because I never wished public office. This of course made it very difficult to ‘control’ me with the baubles of power and that’s why I am so contemptuous of those who cling to ministerial office for all the wrong reasons.

    As to Murdoch, I think what happens next is very interesting and I like the thought that Cameron might actually show how different a Tory he is by refusing the deal. But, Cameron is in thrall to the faceless ones and I really don’t believe he can do it because he knows they will extract their revenge. He could even be replaced by Clegg as he is much more pliable. I say this in all seriousness btw. In any case, I don’t think Murdoch can be stopped legally and Cameron knows if he stood against him Murdoch would switch back to supporting Labour or at least hold that as a threat over his head.

    What would Milliband do in these circumstances, well if it happens that will be a real test of Milliband but I do believe that he will acquit himself better than Blair and even dear Gordon who is one of the most intelligent, genuine and honest individuals I know but gawd what a bad-tempered sod 🙂 and a socialist to his core – my definition of course 🙂

    And this takes me back to my position – I am highly impressed with Milliband and I do believe he is ‘different’ and I think he will most definitely grow on the general public. He has impressed me enough to rejoin the LP because I truly believe that the ‘weak’ in our society are under the biggest threat since Thatcher. I cannot sit idly by and do nothing. I am an experienced campaigner and I will use my skills to help throw out this odious Tory Government and the right-wing of your party who cling to its coat-tails.

    I have made it clear in many previous postings that my ‘democracy’ requires a strong and healthy Liberal Party – I don’t want the sterility of a two-party state which is so reminiscent of the fixed-position trench warfare of WWI. But the fate of the LibDems is not in my hands, it is in the hands of its members who must decide what it is and where it is going.

    They also have to decided if the overiding goal is ‘power’ at all and any cost. I used to believe that it was and now I don’t because I truly believe that in a historical perspective many of the ‘burning’ issues of today won’t even rate as a single match flickering in the dark when seen against the backdrop of the night sky with its multitude panoply of stars, planets and other solar systems.

    However, as I read more and more LibDem blogs I am convinced that a split will take place in the LibDems – I think the realities of government has exposed it more quickly than being in opposition would have but these things happen and ain’t always bad or terminal.

    As to the future electoral benefits of Coalition – btw I do not accept the mantra that it was ALL Labour’s fault or that the crisis is as economically damaging as portayed. Let’s assume that the Tories turn the economic-crisis corner
    and the question is how will they be rewarded at the polls?

    Well, I think that is a real poser. It might well be that the public say great you’ve saved the country but at what cost as you have made my life hell for 5 years so I’m not voting for you. Obviously we have the wild-card of possible AV voting as well.

    It’s always worth keeping in mind the fate of Winston Churchill, at the hands of the electorate, after delivering the country from the greatest danger it has faced in modern times.

  • @Galen 10

    “in fact you allowed your party to be hi-jacked by a bunch of authoritarian, spin obssessed, crypto-Tories.”

    You must be talking about the Liberal Democrats, surely? Sounds just like the Orange Bookmen.

    “Whatever else New Labour was, it wasn’t progressive or radical;”

    The introduction of the minimum wage, tax credits, EMA, the New Deal, child trust funds, winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, increased housing benefit, Sure Start centres, not progressive?

    The Freedom of Information Act, Removal of the Bulk of the Hereditary Peers, Devolution for England and Wales, The Foxhunting Ban, NHS Waiting Lists slashed, Treatment Guarantees, The Civil Partnership Act. Abolition of Clause 28; Nationalisation of some of the banks, £50,000 guarantee for savers and Mortgage Protection, not radical?

    And that’s just for starters! We innovated. All that this gang can do is cut!

    Really! Where have you been for the past 13 years?

  • @MacK

    As I said, the good things achieved don’t somehow excuse all the bad things your are so keen to avoid. Many of the things on the list were in any case things previous Labour administrations OUGHT to have tackled years ago, and the fact still remains that New Labour was illiberal, threw large amounts of money about hoping it would do some good (which obviously worked up to a point…), continued with many regressive Tory policies, hooked itself up with a neo-con war in Iraq, and fully supported a “light touch” approach to the financial sector which helped get us into this mess.

    And of course to top it all, New Labour would have been cutting just as assiduously had they retained power… the only difference would have been in degree.

    As I said earlier..come back when you’ve cleaned out yur own Augean stable and you might convince more disaffected people on the centre left you are worth voting for.

    I am sure you are aware that although this post has 140 or so comments, it has only about 40 individual contributors.
    Of these only about 4 are female; It is also clear that some posters are not LD members.
    Add to this that a dozen of the contributors are regular, repeat commentators on all posts.

    I mention this because when you come to choose the “golden dozen”, I think it is done on the basis of “most read” .
    The inference from MOST READ status is that here is a topic that most LDs hold as their number one concern.

    The contributor count shows that the comments cannot be taken as representative of LD Party opinion.
    Some of the posters are content to give their views, once, and leave it at that. This includes the few girls who write.
    Others use the thread in a different way, some for debate, some for mischief.
    This concerns me as a grass root, on grounds of party democracy.
    We all get emails from the party TELLING us what we already know from press reports. But no one ASKS the party membership. And the post comment count reflects the views of only a few members.


    What’s the problem?

    I’m not an LD member, but I have voted for the party at every election since I could vote…. so now when the opinions expressed aren’t to you taste you propose what…? Silencing them?

    So much for open-ness and debating the issues that are of concern eh! As for the fact that only “about 4” are female….what possible relevance does that have…and indeed how do you know what gender some of the posters are?! Is it site polices for comments to be strictly rationed in proportion to the relative nos. of men and women in the population…? How odd.

    Of course, rahter than make spurious appeals on the grounds of party democracy, you could always try engaging with the issues people have about your party’s betrayal of its principles.

  • @ matt

    Exactly… now who was it that talked about people being “frit” again…? 😉

  • If we pulled the plug on the Coalition because we are finding it hard going, why would anyone vote for us at the ensuing General Election? I’d struggle to find a justification to vote for us, and I was a candidate in May! Either we are in politics to govern and implement (at least some of) our policies, or we are all wasting our time.

  • @ Stuart

    I hope your principles keep you warm when the party is big enough to hold meetings in a phone box…’cos that’s where you are heading. Have you actually tried to guage support for what you are doing amongst non-members?

  • @Galen10: Next April the Liberal Democrats will abolish income tax for 880,000 of the lowest-paid working people (whilst Labour cut inheritance tax); in that same month, we will re-establish the basic state pension to earnings (which Labour failed to do); and only this week we saved nigh on a billion by abolishing Labour’s stupid ID cards. I am incredibly proud of those – and many other – achievements.

    I may be wrong, but I am guessing you’re a Labour supporter… I assume this is the latest stage of grief that you are experiencing after we had the intelligence and independence not to prop up your dying government back in May. Thank goodness we did; Labour would have ruined this country if it had not had its hands torn from the levers of power.

  • @ Stuart

    You are indeed wrong. As I pointed out above, I’ve voted LD or precursors ever since I could vote. I detest the whole nauseating New Labour project, almost as much as I do Tories of any stripe. Feel free however to continue your doomed narrative that anyone who is against you must be a Labourite.

    Have you even looked at the polls recently? Presumably you don’t think they are correct, or if you accept they are you think the problem is you haven’t explained yourselves sufficiently clearly? The LD’s are beginning to remind me of the Tories in Scotland before they got wiped out…. they think it’s all false consciousness on the part of their audience, and that if they only shout loudly enough, and keep doing it, people will see they are right.

    Don’t think the odd policy success will save you from a final reckoning: it won’t. There must be thousands of people like me, long term supporters and voters who will abandon you for good unless you change tack.

    This isn’t about being against all coalitions, or even against the Tories…it’s about the fact you have sold yourselves short, got too little from the bargain, and are now propping up a regressive Tory administration including voting for policies you rubbished whilst in opposition.

    Stop obfuscating, and start listening to the people who helped build the LD’s from a fringe party to where it is now; the alternative is regression to the number of MP’s and % of vote the old Liberals “enjoyed” in the 60’s and 70’s. Don’t expect credit for staying the course, and enabling a Tory administration most of us find deeply repugnant.

  • I see that this post is as I expected, in the top 5 MOST READ for this week.
    It confirms my earlier comments about MOST READ as a very doubtful criterion for measuring party opinion/interest.

    Some non-members try to high- jack the site under very thin disguises, but they should remember that the site is called “LIBDEM VOICE” OUR PLACE TO TALK! And they should respect this.
    I am surprised that they feel comfortable here; I certainly do not join the comments people on, say, The Spectator, The Mail, or Guido Fawkes, because they are usually SO uncharitable to us in their language and views that I would feel as unwelcome as a political leper.
    Each to their own.

  • Norfolk Boy 24th Dec '10 - 8:53pm


    I am not a member but I did vote LD in the GE and have done on at least a couple of other occasions. I get fed up with reading posts like the above from people like Elizabeth. Either make the site one you have to join – and for LD members only who have no gripes with anything their party ever does – or moderate dozy comments like hers.

    Carry on people…

  • @Elizabeth

    Elizabeth – this site is open to anyone to post comment as long as their contributions remain within acceptable limits.

    They don’t need to be a party member although the facility exists for party members to discuss matters within a private forum which is fine and no one argues with that.

    However to ban external comment on a very strange ‘each to their own’ basis is actually very strange and very illiberal. When we all know that we are absolutely correct in what we believe and brook no discussion or conter-argument then we are well on the road to dictatorship.

    Democrats value discussion with other democrats of contrary/differing viewpoints because, hopefully, we all learn more about each other in the process and through that find solutions that benefit the majority and strengthen democracy in the process. Democracy isn’t set in stone – it’s a living breathing entity which evolves and debate and discussion provide the oxygen not only to sustain it but to ensure that its roots are strong.

    I would therefore urge you Elizabeth to think again and open yourself up to the possibility of a mind-changing experience rather than be fixated on a narrow tramline where your views, no matter how honestly held, might not be the only solution.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Dec '10 - 10:16pm


    The basic flaw with the Coalition is that you sold yourselves short: the price should have been much higher – full STV not AV, cancellation of Trident, no tuition fees, slower deficit reduction, increased taxes on the rich, reform of the taxation system to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. If the Tories had demurred, you should have left them to it, and cleaned up at the inevitable GE when their minority administration fell apart.

    Unfortunately, this is fantasy politics. The situation in May 2010 wasn’t like that. We were in a situation of weakness because:

    1) The electoral system worked as its supporters in the Labour and Conservative Parties praise it for working: it twisted the representation of the biggest party up and of the third party down. So our number of MPs was very much smaller than the Conservatives and this weakened our negotiating power. You can be sure the right-wing press would have mocked our pretensions, quoting the number of MPs (but not the actual share of vote), had we tried to force all this through.

    2) There were not enough Labour MPs for that to be a viable alternative coaltion.

    3) We were the biggest losers in the general election campaign. We ended very much on a downward trajectory, so we had the most to lose in early general election.

    4) People were getting restless when no government was formed. The economy was in a bad way, and we would get the blame for the instability had we left the country waiting while trying to gain more before agreeing.

    Had there been a minority Tory government, there’d a have been a new general election very soon on the theme “Get rid of the LibDem MPs so we can have a clear stable one-party government”.

    The problem is NOT the coalition, it’s the appalling bad leadership our party has had since we went into it. It has made every mistake in the book. Sensible peolpe who have held balance of power in local government could have told them that, but thosee at the top – Clegg and those he has chosen as his advisers – would not listen.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I read what you say – but at the end of the day the party approved the Coalition aggreement – it wasn’t just the MPs.

    It would have been the simplest thing in the world to have told the electorate that you had been unable to secure enough safeguards, for ordinary people, to go into a coalition with the Tories and the election would need to be re-run.

    It would have fitted so well and if there hadn’t been this desperate rush to power by Clegg then I am convinced the LibDems would have been stronger if there had been a re-run.

  • @ EcoJon and Norfolk Boy in response to Elizabeth.

    Hear, hear!

    It does kind of make you wonder what they are scared of doesn’t it? Obviously non-members who don’t slavishly agree with the party line aren’t actually welcome to the purists in here.

    Well, Elizabeth, I have news for you: I may not be a member but as a long term supporter and voter I bitterly resent your attempts to close down a perfectly valid discussion as to the wisdom of the party’s current direction.

    You end your post with “each to his own”, but the tenor of your posts is that you are more interested in a cosy, self supporting love-in which brooks no opposing views. How sad.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    LD ultras keep using this mantra that there was no alternative, and that the sky was going to fall. It’s a point of view of course, but continual repetition doesn’t accord it the status of fact. It is quite possible to argue the contrary, and maintain that the LD’s were bounced into an over hasty deal, and that they exacted too few concessions.

    1) Surely the whole point of insisting on electoral reform is that you don’t accept the gerrymandered current system? So what if you got many fewer seats than the Tories? The % differential in popular vote was MUCH closer, and you could and should have insisted on a much greater share of the spoils. If the Tories said no, you should have walked away; that’s political hard ball, and the weaklings leading your party utterly failed you, whether thru inexperience, cowardice, or an inbuilt propensity towards the Tories is hard to judge; perhaps it is all three. Experience has shown since the GE that the quality of your front bench team is pretty mediocre.

    2) An alternative coalition, whilst difficult, was not impossible. Again this is another “truism” supporters of the Coalition keep trotting out which is simply not true. New Labour were of course largely at fault for this, but it would still have been preferable to what we have now.

    3) Possibly…. but how much better are things looking for you now? Again you make the claim that there was no real alternative, which is just that, it’s a claim, not what would actually have happened. It is equally (probably more ) likely that if you had stood aside, you would now be in a MUCH better position than you are now.

    4) The sky wasn’t going to fall down, then or now. If you are trying to convince people that coalitions are the way to go, you can’t make the hysteria of the right wing press in the immediate aftermath of an election your yard stick. Another way round this would have been to be much clearer about what your “price” was prior to the election… you didn’t do that either.

    I agree with your assessment of your disastrous and second rate party leadership; but THIS particular Coalition is a huge part of the problem, not the concept of Coalition per se. I agree that they have made just about every mistake in the book since entering power.

    However, the biggest mistake was not setting out well before the GE what the “headline” price was for a full Coalition (which ought to have been MUCH higher than what they achieved), and in failing miserably to screw a better deal out of the Tories, who don’t forget were in a terrible mess having “failed to win” an election that ought to have been a shoo-in.

  • George Kendall 25th Dec '10 - 10:48pm

    @matt “I have to say, going by the Friday Five Live, that used to publish the most active private forum titles, it did always appear as though Liberal Democrats where failing to get priorities right.”

    Matt, after you raised this issue a while back, I raised it in the forum. It turned out that the section for forum titles had never been the most active threads, but a sample of some interesting threads. Because the title was misleading, it was changed, but the way threads are selected for the Friday Five hasn’t.

    @Elizabeth “Some non-members try to high-jack the site under very thin disguises, but they should remember that the site is called “LIBDEM VOICE” OUR PLACE TO TALK! And they should respect this.”

    Elizabeth, In part, I agree with your sentiment. Whenever I visit a website of a group whose values I disagree with, I feel an obligation behave as a guest, and be especially careful to be polite when expressing my disagreement. Apart from anything else, I know that’s the only way I’ll persuade anyone to consider my point of view.

    But, if some of our visitors don’t feel the same way, nothing you or I say is going to make any difference. Essentially, they do have the right to post, as long as they don’t stray too far over the boundary into personal abuse.

    And I wouldn’t worry too much. Anyone who uses internet discussion forums is perfectly well aware that comments on a website are unrepresentative of the public as a whole.

    @Everyone, whatever your political views
    Hope you are having a great time with people you care about this Christmas. And very best wishes for the coming New Year, for you, and for the country.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Dec '10 - 12:49am


    LD ultras keep using this mantra that there was no alternative, and that the sky was going to fall. It’s a point of view of course, but continual repetition doesn’t accord it the status of fact.

    Am I a “LD ultra”? You may notice I have been extremely critical of Nick Clegg’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats, before the election as well as after, here and elsewhere in public. I use my own name, it is an unusual one so easily recalled and Googled. I have probably scuppered any chance of a political career within the Liberal Democrats by being so outspoken against the party’s leader (I was the Leader of the Opposition in a London Borough council for several years, so I do have some record of service in the party). I despise the “economic liberal” trend that has appeared in our party in recent years, and that has been, I believe, instrumental in giving an ideological push towards the disastrous way the coalition has been handled by Clegg.

    So I hope you will respect the fact that when I say I feel the coalition was the only viable outcome following the May 2010 election, it is not through any sort of loyalty to Clegg or his agenda.

    The first thing I would like to make clear, and of course Clegg and his supporters in the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party don’t want to make clear, is that agreement to the formation of the coalition does NOT imply support for the way Clegg has led the party in the coalition after it was formed. My own feeling is that our party should have made it clear from the start we were going into this ONLY because it was what the British people, in great foolishness voted for, and because the economic situation demanded a stable government. So far as I am concerned, a vote for Labour was a vote for the coalition – or for what it is in reality, an extreme right-wing Tory government with a little Liberal tinge where that tinge doesn’t affect big business screwing the life out of this country, which is essentially what the Conservative Party is about – because Labour supports the current electoral system on the grounds it twists representation of the largest party upwards, and it was this twisting which meant the Liberal Democrats had little negotiating strength in the coalition. Labour wants politics to be either a Labour government or a Tory government, and it wasn’t going to be a Labour government after the 2010 election, so Labour voters have what they voted for – a Tory government.

    Our whole aim in the coalition should be to say to the British people “See – this is what you get when you vote Tory and not Liberal Democrat, our support for it is purely because we are democrats so we believe you should have what you voted for”.

    I have been in politics long enough to know that had we held out for weeks saying we would only be going into coalition if STV etc was offered to us, we would be completely rubbished by the press as loonies who were letting the country go to ruin over obscure policies no-one is interested in. Eventually, Tories and Labour would get together and say “end all this – get back to a two party system, have another general election and get rid of all the LibDem MPs that are holding things up”. Indeed, we have already seen something of this where what liberal concessions we have been able to wring out of the coalition situation are somewhat technical, of interest only to a few particularly liberal-minded people, so have not saved us from the opinion poll slump.

    If it hadn’t been for the rubbish election campaign run by Clegg and his inner clique, we might at least have been able to face a new general election looking upwards. But Clegg’s flat performance in the TV debates threw away the lead that LibDem activists had built up by their work just prior to the lection which was – falsely – attributed to Clegg’s first TV appearance. I’m sorry, but my opinion, and I judge it also by conversations I had with ordinary people at that time, was that if we did not go into the coalition we went into, there would have been another general election in months, and the Liberal Democrats would have been slaughtered in that election.

    The Labour Party had no interest in forming a coalition with us, not only because there weren’t enough of their MPs to make it viable, but also because they could see a period of opposition for them, and the LibDems getting slaughtered thanks to going into coalition with the Tories, or not (and thus being blamed for instability), would eventually win them back into power and end the threat the LibDems had challenged them with.

    What we needed going into coalition was a very tough leader, who would not succumb to Tory love-bombing tactics, or to the right-wing press sweet-talking him into the idea that being in coalition meant almost a merger of the parties, and who had a very firm basis across the Liberal Democrat party and saw his job as pushing their views into the coalition rather than trying to push Tory views onto the Liberal Democrats. In Clegg we have the exact opposite to that.

    But, thanks to the Daily Telegraph of all all things, we now know Clegg is almost alone in being a true supporter in the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party, of all the coalition is doing. The previous line which both the right-wing and Labour supporting press had put forward – that Liberal Democrat MPs had tasted power and hence had become keen supporters of Cameron’s “Maoist” policies is now revealed as rot. Rejoice!

    The next step is clear – Clegg’s our patsy, we can pull the rug on him and the coalition when it suits us. Following the Telegraph revelations, I just don’t think he has the credibility to remain as leader. The Parliamentary Party must take the lead on this, particularly after the humiliation dealt out to Vince Cable. Someone there senior enough to lead it needs to say “We don’t agree with Nick and the way he is running our party”. What a marvellous demonstration of democracy and the power of party membership it will then be to see ordinary party members vote him out in a vote of no confidence. The choice then is to carry on with the coalition, but with a tough leader who is on the side of the party, or to say “We tried, but now you’ve seen what the Tories are like, we have got rid of our Tory sympathisers, vote for a true radical Liberal Party in the general election which will now take place”. Another choice would be to form the coalition you say could have been made with Labour, but, sorry, it isn’t viable and Labour don’t want it. If it was viable, there’s nothing stopping Labour offering it tomorrow. Labour and Labour supporters are utter hypocrites if they blame the Liberal Democrats for “propping up theTories” but then won’t offer what – if there were any decency in their criticism – is the alternative that is implicit in those criticisms.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I’m happy to acknowledge that you are, it seems, not amongst the LD ultras – although I still consider your reasons for supporting the formation of the coalition flawed.

    Unlike you, I am not as sanguine that the LD membership or leading lights will do the right thing and require Clegg to fall on his sword. I fear there are too many vested interests now at work. For what it is worth, I actually agree with one of the posters above; I think the disastrous way this Coalition has been handled by the LD leadership in particular will almost inevitably lead to a split. The LD’s have always been fairly schizophrenic in my view, a bolting together of classical liberals and social democrats that never really “gelled”.

    I think this is more apparent now than ever before; I don’t think many social democrats would find it easy to reconcile themselves to alliances and/or coalitions with the forces of the political right.

    As for whether we should as you say rejoice that it is now revealed that only Clegg truly supports the Coalition, I think you are getting carried away big time.

    I’d like to think your party will show it’s teeth, but I remain unconvinced; I fear you are locked in, and that even those opposed to the Coalition will keep their heads down in hope things will somehow turn themselves around. Who knows, perhaps you are right. I actually wish you well…. but it is not a journey I can share. I think there are many others who share my view, whether within or outside the party. Historically I think the few days in May and the rush to Coalition will be looked upon as a huge mistake.

    Here’s hoping 2011 is better than 2010!

  • I am fascinated with the LDs blaming labour, now don’t get me wrong I can understand some of it, now I read in this thread that it was labour who would not talk about a coalition, I certainly thought by all the media reports before the election that the LD leadership had ruled out doing business with LP, my impression was there was not a chance in hell as far as the LD leadership were concerned, the same leadership that is now supporting (cough) in coalition with Cons government which is what I find fascinating.

    I was very concerned that coalition talks took very little time, as though preliminary talks had already taken place, which again suggested more than what was being said.
    For the good of the country indeed, it was rushed and ill thought out, and if it turns out talks had taken place before the election, well, I will let you decide what the electorate will understand/think of that.

    In the future when memoirs get released we will find that the truth may not be what it appears, but that may not be as long as some would like it to be, I suspect someone will release what actually happened sooner than later, especially if it looks like that someone is going to lose their job/seat.
    The first to cash in will make quite a bit… nowt like greed.

  • @Jim

    One thing we do know is that the LibDems set-up a small group of those loyal to Clegg, pre election, to look at party policies that might be affected post-election by the formation of a Coalition Government. One of the caualties of this was tuition fees with the exception of the inclusion of some part-time students.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that very high-level onofficial talks would also have been taking place between Tories and LibDems about how it might all work. Cameron and Clegg wouldn’t have been directly involved so that deniability could be maintained but obviously they would be who were reported to.

    Were these talks a good or bad thing in the circumstances – well in the absence of a written constitution I don’t think there is a definitive answer to that. But what is most certainly bad is the secrecy especially after the GE has passed and no possible electoral effect exists. Or do the participants believe it was all ‘tacky’ and not quite British and should remain a State Secret? It will out of course as you say, in memoirs or wherever.

    Possibly more important, will it now become part of future politics in Britain and anacceptable part of the fabric?


    I think the most important DT revelation is the lates viz the running of Coalition candidates at the next GE as ‘leaked’ by a Tory Minister close to Cameron who has in recent days been ‘warm’ to the idea.

    I now believe that we may have the germ of the DT political reasoning in ‘outing’ the LibDem Ministers it did and most definitely why Vince was the main target. It could be that Cameron wants the social and economic wings of the LibDems to split and what better way to do this than prepare the feeling of a groundswell of coalition dissent from the ‘left’ followed by rage at the LibDem identity being subsumed into Coalition Candidates.

    It would all make it more easier for the LibDem ‘right’ to merge seamlessly with the Tories. We already see the Tories trying to leave the way open in Saddleworth as a means of demonstrating how well colations candidates might do.

    Yes we live in interesting political times which will soon become even more interesting and I wonder whether LibDEm men and women of principle will fight for what they believe in or accept the myth that political power, at any cost, is the prize that must be fought for.

  • @EcoJon

    “I wonder whether LibDEm men and women of principle will fight for what they believe in or accept the myth that political power, at any cost, is the prize that must be fought for.”

    I fear that ship may already have sailed; perhaps the LD’s will evolve into a right of centre, social liberal movement, whether following a split in their ranks, or simply by dint of a change in direction/outlook which sees them being more comfortable hitching themselves to the Tories. I think that would be fairly tragic, but perhaps it is inevitable?

    As noted above I’m not a party member or activist, but I know if I HAD joined I wouldn’t have been able to stomach what they have done recently, or approve of what they are doing. It’s obvious there are plenty within the party who feel very equivocal too, and I’m not sure how many on the centre left would feel able to stay if the party moved in the direction you speculate about above. It will be interesting to see where such people go politically; I suspect many will feel a tad lost – I for one am not about to support Labour, and I’m not sure the Greens are worth a vote. It’s all rather sad.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Dec '10 - 11:55pm


    Unlike you, I am not as sanguine that the LD membership or leading lights will do the right thing and require Clegg to fall on his sword. I fear there are too many vested interests now at work. For what it is worth, I actually agree with one of the posters above; I think the disastrous way this Coalition has been handled by the LD leadership in particular will almost inevitably lead to a split. The LD’s have always been fairly schizophrenic in my view, a bolting together of classical liberals and social democrats that never really “gelled”.

    Rubbish. If by “classical liberal” you mean “gung-ho free marketeers” there weren’t any of those in the party until recent years. There was a natural home for such people and that home was the Conservative Party.

    I write as someone who was a member of the Liberal Party before it merged with the SDP, and I voted against the merger. So if this is what you were getting at, sorry you have been fooled by an Orwellian campaign by the evil forces into believing complete and utter lies. These people who are trying to make out the pre-merger Liberal Party stood for what in those days we called “Thatcherism” are lying in a stupendous way. IT WASN’T LIKE THAT IN 1988 WASN’T AT ALL LIKE THAT!!!!!!!

    Many of those in the Liberal Party who opposed merger with the SDP did so on the grounds that the SDP was too right-wing, and under David Owen was moving worryingly into support for Thatcher-style free market policies. You, because you believe these lies spread by the evil people who all themselves “classical liberal” but in fact stand for “big business screwing the life out of the poor” believe the complete opposite of the truth.

    The slogan of the Liberal Party in those days was “Freedom from poverty, igorance and conformity”. We knew full well there was more to liberalism than opposition to the state.

    If the Liberal Democrat membership allows these right-wing infiltrators to take it over, well, in the end I may have to leave. But the revelations from the Daily Telegraph leave me to feel that Clegg is far more isolated than we have been led to believe, which is why I would urge all those who still stand for what we called Liberalism back in the 1980s to stick with the party and throw out Clegg if he carries on with this attempt to use the electoral situation in May 2010 to merge us with the Conservatives.

  • Jonathan Hunt 27th Dec '10 - 4:35pm

    We are in the coalition for another four years and five months. For much of that time, the only sensible thing is to hold our noses and ignore it. The party “narrative” must become that we are there for the good of the nation, doing unpopular things that as a party we dislike.

    We are making many sacrifices that we shall attempt to put right when it ends. The real test of whether of not the coalition has worked will be if we can afford many of the spending commitments we made last May.

    In the meantime, we do as Labour did in and before 1945, and develop exciting, different abd radical policies for a post-2015 future based on “Freedom from poverty, igorance and conformity” and many other radical Liberal values and principles that many who then boasted beards and sandals used to demand. And they were only the women!

  • I think we have to stick with the coalition for the time being – at least until the referendum bill, 5-year terms and possibly HL reform have been passed. And things may not seem so bad if our Scottish colleagues can agree a coalition with Labour after the Scottish elections.

    However, we have allowed the Tories to trail a number of very dangerous non-LibDem policies in education (especially a disastrous policy on university funding which urgently needs to be reversed), healthcare and welfare benefits, on which members should surely have a say.

    We also need to keep asking ourselves whether we can achieve more in coalition with our own Ministers or not cf Vince and BSkyB. At a certain stage we may conclude that a cross-party agreement short of coalition may be better for the country, so that our MPs can argue the case for our policies in Parliament again (and have our own money for independent research).

    So I suggest the leadership should signal (before May) that it will renegotiate and present its coalition programme to us annually (or at least after the first year) and ask us at conference (in September?) whether we still support the coalition. That way members who oppose the coalition will also have a reason to stay in the party in order to help shape future government policy. That is surely the democratic way.

  • @ Paul K

    The measures you suggest seem very much like bolting the door after the horse has bolted to me! They certainly support my view that it was the original Coalition deal which was flawed; it was and is far to favourable to the Tories. The supine acceptance by the LD’s of the “number of very dangerous non LD policies” you note above will not be forgotten, and will be difficult (or more likely impossible) to change.

    I doubt you have the luxury of waiting until after the AV referendum an local/devolved votes. It’s all very well trying to make sticking with it look like a virtue; to many of us it just looks like indecision and cowardice.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I disagree with your analysis of course; indeed, I think it is somewhat muddled.

    I never advanced, nor do I believe in, the frankly rather overwrought view of the pre-merger Liberal party you describe above. Although never a member, I would certainly have described myself as an SDP supporter, rather than a Liberal supporter in the pre-merger days. I don’t accept your description of the SDP as being in any way accurate either, and doubt many others would either.

    Let us face facts: the only reason the LD’s managed to become a force in British politics was the SDP; without it, the Liberals would still be the fringe party representing the rump of classical Liberalism which limped through the 30 or 40 years post WW2.

    If anyone has been fooled, it is the LD party as a whole, which is now in imminent danger of melt down as it has alienated many of it’s left leaning social democratic supporters both within and outside the party. By all means, if you want to carry on as the “pure” classical Liberal party you would obviously have preferred in the 80’s go right ahead- your current deluded leadership appears to be leading you down that path already.

  • Those of you still in denial about how LD enabling of a Tory administration is playing in the country as a whole might like to examine this IPSOS MORI poll:


    Note in particular the collapse in LD support in the North East (a 19% swing LD to Labour), in the South west (a 16% swing LD to Labour, and in London where LD support has fallen by more than half.

    The figures for these polls were collected in the period June to November 2010, when average LD support nationally was at 15%. since this has now dropped further to between 9 and 11% depending on the polling organisation, the actual figures now may be even worse than these polls suggest.

    Now tell us again about there being no alternative to the Coalition, and how unpopular it would make you pulling out of the Coalition soon!

  • Jonathan Hunt 28th Dec '10 - 3:38pm

    My recollection of the early SDP was of the wrong people joining because of the actions of a few admirable and brave former Labour ministers, because they saw it as refuge from the kind of Militants who taken over the local Labour party. They were on the Right, while we Liberals were attacked for being too Left-wing.

    In Southwark this was the rump of the old authoritarian, illiberal, homophobic and often racist right-wing Mellish-ite Labour council group and its fellow-travellers. Polly Toynbee, to her lasting shame as SDP bigwig, took up some of their complaints about us being too leftish.

    John O’Grady, arrogant and apalling council leader for 18 years, did not join the SDP. But he did conduct a disgraceful campaign against Peter Tatchell in the Bermondsey by-election in which he led the polls until a week before voting day.

    Other SDP members — or Soggies to us — joined for the corect reasons. Most lived in Duwich and held excellent foums where we could discuss politics over supper. These days it is often difficult to remember who was a Soggies and who was a Liberal — a sign of constructive cross-pollination over the years.

    Many of my former SDP friends are the most fervent about protecting liberty and devolution of power. Then they have spent almost two decades of indoctrination at Liberal assemblies, sorry, conferences.

    The Liberal party in the early 1980s was far from “representing the rump of classical Liberalism”. Unless, that is, you regard Keynes, Beveridge, Schumaker and the pioneers of true community politics, seeking to devolve power to communities “at the lowest possible level consistent with efficient administration” as being part of that rump?

  • The latest YouGov poll has the LD’s on 9%…. how low can you go I wonder?!


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