Opinion: I’ve joined the Liberal Democrats

Last night I watched as the helicopter above central London followed and filmed the new Prime Minister David Cameron’s car as it drove from Buckingham Palace back to Downing Street. I watched as Mr. Cameron arrived at number 10, made a speech outlining the difficulties and challenges that were ahead for the country and announced a formal coalition with the Lib Dems. I watched as he walked into his new home, the door opened by an unseen minion as always, turned, waved and crossed the threshold into a new era for British politics. As I watched I was at the same time on the internet, joining the Liberal Democrat party.

Now admittedly this was not apropos of nothing. I have been sympathetic to the Lib Dems for many years and have done some informal work for my local Lib Dem MP. However until last night I had never felt any need to crystallise my sympathies into membership. So why now? Well I’m not entirely sure but I’ll have a go at explaining myself.

As of yesterday the Lib Dems have power. It may not be in the manner that many would like, hatred of the Conservative ideology runs deep, but it is power nonetheless. As we hear more and more details emerging of how the coalition is to be formed and which policies are to be adopted, the greater this power seems to be. We have five Cabinet posts, including that of Deputy Prime Minister. The Tories are adopting our first £10,000 tax free policy; we will have political reform of the Lords, fully elected by PR; and of the voting system (subject to referendum); and have the right to recall MPs. Cameron and co. also appear to be sympathetic to our plans for a green economy.

This is more than even the most fanatical Lib Dem supporter would have thought possible a few months ago. It is a massive step forward for our party and I for one am feeling positive that we can have a real say in how the country is run. My membership of the Lib Dems expresses this optimistic feeling that after 13 years of being micro-managed by New Labour, we might be able to have a fairer, more liberal Britain.

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  • Chris Phillips 12th May '10 - 8:30pm

    They laughed when Nick said at the start of the campaign that he wanted to be Prime Minister, well he’s got a lot closer a lot quicker than I’d ever have imagined.

  • George W. Potter 12th May '10 - 8:30pm

    Welcome to the party 🙂

  • Welcome aboard. I hope more people follow your line of thought.

  • Colin Green 12th May '10 - 8:46pm

    I too have been a Lib Dem sympathiser for many years (23 actually) but only joined the party a few weeks ago. I think it was a realisation that not only to I agree with what the Lib Dems believe but I actually want to get involved and do something about it.

    I’ve been a fan of Vince Cable since before the leadership election and I still think its a shame he didn’t run, but his reputation for being right on the economy is probably what started me thinking more seriously about getting involved.
    The success of the early campaign is what finally did it for me and I joined. Hopefully there’ll be many more like Chris and myself – people who have long been supporters or sympathisers who now want to get involved.

  • I still can’t believe we’re in the news! It’s not an election anymore! We’re not kicking out a leader! And yet we, and our policies are in the news – most of the news, just imagine, it’s crazy, crazy!

    Now we have a voice, a platform – let’s us it!

  • Grammar Police 12th May '10 - 9:05pm

    Irene – we’re still a centre left party – as Vince says, his heart “beats on the left” – but we have to follow our heads not our hearts. We’re in politics to bring about liberal change for our country. That’s what our party is trying to do.

  • I renewed my membership as well; just after the election. The campaign re-ignited my passion for politics for the first time since uni and it was great to see friends and colleagues come round to the lib dem point of view on so many issues.

    The reason i rejoined is that I am determined that there will be more presence in my constituency next time around. At the time of rejoining it wasnt clear that we would have had so much influence over the incoming government, the concessions wrangled from the tories are more than i could ever have hoped for and will be of great benefit to this country.

    Its a shame there aren’t more comments such as those of chris jones being picked up in the media…they have decided to spin the story as liberal democrats being dismayed at forming this coalition. Lib Dems should be proud of what they have achieved so far and optimistic about the future.

  • I never thought I’d ever join a political party and now, at 41, I just joined the LibDems… 😀

  • I still don’t believe Liberalism can be expressed in terms of left and right. Why should we define ourselves according to other people’s agenda?

  • I’m a lapsed Lib Dem who will now rejoin the party. I let my membership lapse for a number of reasons, namely:

    1 – I felt we had a lack of will and ability to get anything done
    2 – We had given far too many concessions to the lefties in the party
    3 – Our inability to fight campaign’s in a tactically astute way

    But now I feel that under Nick Clegg we are reconnecting with out Liberal legacy rather than getting dragged off to the left by the social democrats in the party. We are once more becoming the party of Joe Grimond rather than of the SDP. Basically the Liberal wing of the party in the ascendency.

    We are also now a party of doers. We negotiated a good deal and will at the end of this government be able to say we achieved something and that we have leaders in our party with experience of Government. Party’s exist in politics to deliver things, not to campaign endless and get no result.

    On the last point, I still think we Lib Dems need to become much more professional in the way that we fight elections. We should have abandoned the Immigrant amnesty before we even got as far as putting it in the manifesto, we should have known better than to try and open a debate up on Trident and road pricing? Had the party not realised how many people watch Top Gear (thank God no one spotted that)? Sure I can see arguments for all those policies, but trying to convince the electorate in a 3 week campaign was always going to be a non starter.

    But the thing is because we are addressing points 1 and 2 then I feel we will soon get to point 3. I now feel the Lib Dems are going somewhere. And in a nutshell that’s why I’m coming home!

  • David Pollard 12th May '10 - 9:30pm

    Chris is right about one really important thing that just did not get a mention in the election campaign. Labour has micro-managed the whole of the public sector for 13 years. Just relief from this, will produce a fantastic improvement in all services. I hope the Cabinet tackles this as a real priority.

  • Bernie Hughes 12th May '10 - 9:33pm

    Rod – I still don’t believe Liberalism can be expressed in terms of left and right. Why should we define ourselves according to other people’s agenda?

    Exactly. The real political distinction is between ‘liberal’ and ‘authoritarian’, for every individual and for every party, irrespective of party name or colour preference.

  • Howard Bryant 12th May '10 - 9:54pm

    Pass the word around :

    a) To be Liberal is to be independent and not simply an adjunct to the Labour Party
    b) There is nothing particulalry collectivist/socialist about Liberalism. Fairness and radical do not have to be left of centre
    c) The party is entitled to regard a vote for it as being just that. It has no responsibility to apologise to any ‘keep the Tories out’ or ‘Keep labour out’ votes.
    d) There are plenty of people ready to vote LibDem if they have a chance of power, which clearly, they do
    e) Stay out of the trenches and wish this government good luck and a fair wind in difficult times

  • vince thurnell 12th May '10 - 10:05pm

    As the ex Labour voters go back to Labour such as myself you can console yourself that the moderate Tories join you , have fun deciding what your party actually stands for.

  • @Keith Martin, every one of our MPs voted for this coallition deal so I don’t see a risk of any of them defecting. I suspect there is more chance of Tories defecting to UKIP.

    I am a centre left Lib Dem but I have no problem with this coalition deal we have got lots of our best policies (10k tax threshold eventually, elected upper chamber of parliament etc) into government plans, something I didn’t really think possible before the election.

  • Just joined the party tonight having been a long – time sympathiser, fantastic to see liberal values at the heart of government.

  • Peter Dunphy 12th May '10 - 10:40pm

    I have only come across one person online, (amongst c 300 Lib Dem Facebook friends, all Lib Dem Bloggers, every member I have spoken to in the many constituencies in which I am involved) who does not seem to understand that:

    1. This is an inevitable result of support for PR = support for coalitions = policy compromise
    2. Labour were a) hopelessly defeated and did not have enough seats b) split with half of them nott wanting to do a deal under ANY circumstances c) are probably to the right of the Tories anyway (Tax policy, ID cards, Illegal Wars etc)
    3. The only alternative to this coalition was a 100% controlled Tory Cabinet
    4. We have got nearly everything we wanted in our manifesto

    Stand up Mr. Nich Starling – in fact you don’t need to stand up because you stick out a mile already. It would be a great shame to lose you but you have not outlined any alternative or coherent argument beyond ‘but I don’t like the Tories’

    I share that sentiment but this is real politics – the consequence of placing achievement of policy objectives above tribal hatreds .

  • As an open Conservative I post as a guest. I think you need to get away from the old politics of “hating Tory ideology”. That is soooo last century.

    For how long have Lib Dems admired and lionised Mandela and De Klerk, Paisley and McGuinness and Obama and Hilary for reaching out and making common cause and a success of a seemingly unlikely partnership.

    There is considerably less difference between Lib Dems and Conservatives. Unlike the first two we have never imprisoned each other or assasinated each others colleagues!

    49% of the Conservative MP’s are new. They are not the people who kept Mrs Thatcher in power ( we can consign the respective merits or demerits of her administration to history lessons). That new grouping is considerably more “diverse” than your own intake. which is not said for mischief but to encourage you to be more open minded than the “hate Tories” faction represent.

    The new Conservatism is less dogmatic and more intelectually interesting than many on the left either give it credit for or perhaps understand. We tend to be the party of pragmatism rather than ideology. When I hear some speaking in ideological terms, I ask them not to confuse our approach with their’s. I myself am a former liberal
    ( small “L”) thinker who has been persuaded that Conservative intelectuals have better solutions to the problems that concerned me on behalf of the poor and marginalised. You may disagree with my conclusions but do not assume that you occupy the moral high ground. We have similar concerns – I am simply convinced by different solution. Incidentally if you want a flavour of my influences do googler and have a look at Thomas Sowell, one the America’s foremost black intelectuals – and very much of the Right.

    You are getting concessions – that is realpolitique. It may be that there are various ways of making progress and your contribution to balancing the finances may no worse than ours – just different. If we give ground but get the overall objective of reducing the deficit then we can live with that.

    On Conservative Home I wrote after the first election debate that we needed to bring Nick Clegg’s ” sainthood” aura / image into question. I don’t apologise for that but the new situation is that your man and his Lib Dem Cabinet colleagues are coming with equal open mindedness and looking for common ground in the National interest. I can find reasons to fall out with you later, but for now we are expected to make the best of this for the country’s sake ,so let’s just see how it goes and retain a degree of mutual generosity, genuine dialogue, and let’s no longer adhere to the slogan rhetoric of the hard left.

  • @Vince Thurnell to put it bluntly you weren’t one of us, and neither will those moderate Tories be.

    I joined the Liberal Democrats just before the election because this is exactly what I believe in. Nick Clegg is there, in power and has got some real Liberalism into the agenda for the next government. Yes we are sharing power with the Tories. But what would we do under STV?

    Would we always cosy up with Labour? No of course not!

    Would we always cosy up with the Tories? Again, No!

    We would do exactly what we did this time. We would negotiate firstly with the most powerful of the other parties, and then the next most powerful and try and get the best deal, both for the country and for us as Liberal Democrats.

    Real Liberal Democrats know this. We’re not after a parliamentary majority, we’re not the Labour Party mark two, and we’re not Conservatives either. We want something new. And today, we got it.

    Do I like the Tories.. No.. But I don’t like Labour either.

    The Tories like to keep social inequality are very anti Europe.

    Labour have eroded more civil liberties than any other party in peacetime in the last 13 years.

    What we have isn’t perfect, but look at some of the things we’re getting.

    We have the Tories on side working towards the £10k income tax allowance
    We have them on side with the pupil premium.
    We’re gonna get an elected House of Lords with PR
    We’re working towards a green economy.

    All the above and many other commitments are Liberal Democrat policy.

    We’ve had to compromise, but so have they. It’s genuine give and take. Collaboration not confrontation.

    It’s amazing. I’ve never been so optimistic.

  • Betrayed Liberal 12th May '10 - 11:04pm

    @ Chris Jones

    Congratulations and welcome to the ‘new’ politics of the consesus of the centre-right of the political elite. You need no values, no indentity, no ideals or principles, all that matters is that you appear young, are rich, went to private school and preferably Oxbridge and will let your socio-economic group, i.e. the rich and upper middle classes get richer. That description fits Blair and new labour, Clegg and the ‘new’ liberal democrats and the Cameron’s conservative party.

    In your post you have failed to mention one single Liberal Policy that your believe in, what it means to be a liberal democrat or how they can best be achieved in Con-Lib Alliance. You are a political gloryhunter jumping on the current bandwagon in which the tagline is: Yey everything is so great to be a Liberal Democrat as we are in Poweer. We all love power for the sake of power!!

    Your position is vacuous and lacking integrity. You will fit perfectly in the ‘new’ politics.

    @Gary S

    What Liberal Values are you excited to see in the Con-Lib coalition?

    The result of the con-lib alliance:

    -trident is going ahead
    -spending cuts this year will go ahead
    -there is no concession on a proportionate electoral system
    – inheritance tax cuts still going ahead
    -no further EU integration or transfer of powers
    -marriage tax breaks still going ahead
    -there will be a new Immigration cap: Lib Dems accept Tory plan for limit on non-EU economic migrants

    Effectively the conservatives are managing to implement the vast majority of their manifesto

    Liberal Values
    -pupil premium- both parties had agreed it before but i will concede it
    -moderate electoral reform of the house of lords
    – ‘AV’ vote system proposed that nobody wants or cares about and was simply added to fool true liberal and reformers and to provide the right-wing media with more words ‘an alternative vote’ system with which to confuse, spin and manipulate the electorate.

    The Tories have stay true to their anti-european, anti-immigation, pro-rich policies and you have abandoned any semblence of being a Liberal or Progressive party.

    This is the biggest betrayal, scandal and deceit in politics in my generation.

  • vince thurnell 12th May '10 - 11:09pm

    Thanks for that Chris, nice to know i was never part of your party despite agreeing with nearly all of the manifesto apart for the privtatisation of Royal Mail. Anyway good luck i’m quite glad ive seen the light as snobbery seems to be the order of the day amongst Lib Dems at the moment.

  • Vince already been sidelined on banking reform according to the Guardian.

  • Alec wrote: “Rod, last time I checked, the LibDems also included a Social Democratic element – not just the authors of the Orange Book who have been Government.”

    The historical division to the old Liberal Party and the Social Democrats is obsolete. Some of the authors of the Orange Book, like Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, and Mark Oaten, come from the SDP, and some on the Left wing of the party, like Simon Hughes, Alan Beith and Adrian Sanders come from the old Liberal Party. Indeed, the SDP newer was more Left wing (or Right wing) than the Liberal Party; the Social Democrats came from the Right wing of the Labour Party, whereas the old Liberal Party was in final decades many times referred as the “beard and sandals brigade”. But the truth is, that both parties had members both from the Right wing as well as the Left of the current Liberal Democrats spectrum.

  • Andrew Shuttlewood 12th May '10 - 11:45pm

    I also joined the Liberal Democrats today.

    I’ve voted for them all of my adult life, as I believe in a free and fair state.

    Am I deliriously happy that the Conservatives are in? No. Would I be deliriously happy if Labour were in? No.

    At the end of the day, you have to compromise. Are you honestly telling me that with your partner or work colleagues you’re not willing to compromise – EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE – for the sake of getting sensible ideas implemented?

    36% of the people in this country voted for the conservatives. Why should they be denied a voice? Stitching them up with a coalition of “we know better than you” is not fair, or democratic. And a Labour party that was determined to go ahead with ID cards, Illiberal detention policies, screwing the public finances with PFI, spending money we didn’t have when we could have done with saving it, or raising it through taxes doesn’t strike me as a much better coalition partner.

    (Not that to be fair to them, I think that everything that Labour did was evil and wrong – they did a lot of good in their first term, it just went wrong after that…)

    If you want to convince them, then convince them, but trying to lock people you disagree with out of government because you know better strikes me as fairly poor behaviour. Drag them to you, don’t push them away. Aren’t you sick of not having your voice heard? How do you think they would feel? Or are you willing to demonise them? And if so does that make you so different?

    (I apologise for the grotesque overuse of question marks, but it is 11:45)

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:00am

    “inheritance tax cuts still going ahead”

    On the contrary, according to the agreement, “a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000” will “take priority over other tax cuts, including cuts to Inheritance Tax”. I should say that if a “longer term policy objective” takes priority over something, that something can be considered well and truly kicked into the long grass!

  • Take just one example- The “Left” in Britain has been campaigning for the democratisation of The Upper House for well over a Century. The last Labour government had 13 years to sort out the Lords & did almost nothing. This Coalition will replace The Lords with an elected body. Is that Progressive ?

  • I think Nick is being played by the tories I could be wrong but that’s my general feeling at the moment…

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:20am

    “This Coalition will replace The Lords with an elected body. Is that Progressive ?”

    Not just an elected body – that was in the Tory manifesto – but a body elected by proportional representation. That may be the single most remarkable policy of the Libservative coalition.

  • Those in the party, activist or member hat think Labour are still of the left, still progressive and still has a social bone in its body have obviously lived on the moon for 13 years or had a very hard whack on the head!

    I challenged people of this forum to list what Labour had done in 13 years to improve social cohesion, bring progressive ideas to fruition and generally make the UK a more fair & tolerant society.
    I got after 13 years:

    Minimum wage—–ok, but still too low & ignored by a lot of single/small employers
    Tax Credits——-waste of money, mis-targeted and basically a “bride” to Labour voters
    Child Trust Fund——–ok, but money as we argue better spent on Pupil Premium & other ideas
    Independence to Bank of England——yup, good.
    Mass immigration—–not really worked out that one has it, changed the make up of the country(especially London/SE for purely cynical, political reason)

    ……that was it, a few bits of social housing & schemes but minimal stuff…….after huge good will & promise in 1997, after 13 YEARS…..THAT’S IT!!
    Where is the real thrust to change our country for the better, how, where, when did this happen and why did I and 17 million people that did not vote Labour(Lib Dem/Tory joint) not see this promised land either?

    Now lets see what they introduced that may be remembered a little more than the above:

    2 COSTLY(1 illegal) WARS
    DETENTION WITHOUT CHARGE FOR 40 DAYS(they wanted 100 days!!)

    Not that is not a comprehensive list, but just have a quick glance what my fellow left-centre lovelys strikes you as progressive, socially motivated & open about any of the above?

    If you can so easily slag off the party for the coalition with the Tories but look through those rose tinted glasses at Labour(let alone the lunatics of the SNP or Plaid for this bizarre “Rainbow coalition) then frankly maybe we don’t want you in the party.

    If you feel comfortable joining a party that unlike the Tories(who I know have massive dodgy policies/issues of their own) profess to being some kind of happy, clappy left-centre sect then go right ahead…..I think you will not be missed, because frankly if you can run off to Labour and forgive them their excesses to easily the word hypocrite just does not cover the situation.

    I am sure you could provide me with a bigger Tory “nasty” list or a bigger Labour “achievements” list but my point simply is no party, including our own is perfect(who the hell is??) but at Stephen Williams has said on his Facebook page today the “emotional spasm” from the left wing is so skewed that any rational conversation cannot be had…..and I agree.

    All those that feel it was “your party” and it has been taken away…..well no one person or one thought owns a party, it moves & changes through time we al know that.
    You have a choice change with it or find a new home(Blair gave that choice in 95 and Cameron to an extent in 05 to their parties)….I am less than convinced that Labour will be that happy home, but in all honesty I would rather you out & pissing them off then in and ranting like spoilt children who did not get their way.

  • Oranjepan – that’s brilliant! Once we’ve legislated for fixed-term parliaments, we can threaten to resign without the risk of dissolution. If the Tories do something really iniquitous (invading a sovereign country?) we can leave the government, and perhaps even form a new one involving other parties. The prime minister’s “nuclear option” of dissolution is removed, whilst the junior partner’s “nuclear option” of resignation remains strong.

  • Just had a thought which I thought I’d share.

    We know that we have a shot at AV. We also know AV isn’t PR by a long shot.

    It does have one benefit over the current system which can’t be measured purely by looking at the number of seats in parliament, and it’s one that is shares with many other systems (including PR I believe).

    Namely it’s this.

    With the current system, people pick a party and decide to vote for the candidate from that party. Often they do this based on a few things they have heard, inherited preferences from parents (I know a lot of people who said, “oh I just voted for them because it’s what my parents did” or words to that effect), from newspapers (who we know to be notoriously biased and misrepresentative and scaremongery), or TV or a number of places. A lot of people don’t even read the manifesto for the people they are voting for, let alone those of the other parties.

    This basically means a great proportion of the population vote without really knowing what they are really voting for (I think we can even see a fair amount of that in the comments left on this website).

    Having to put candidates in order means that people will need to know more about the other party’s and what their policies are. I know it won’t be some great enlightenment, but the trend is likely to be towards people finding out more about the policies of each of the party’s.

    When fair politics is one of your aims, surely better informed voting choices is a part of that. I’m not saying it makes up for not having a truly representative voting system, but it is something… and something I hadn’t really considered until today.

    Now if we could only tackle media involvement on top of the already proposed reforms to party funding (another major win in my view).

  • Liberal, Ornajepan.

    I find it disheartening that people are talking and thinking in this way. I guess not all Lib Dem supporters have embraced the ideals of multi-party, collaborative and democratically representative politics.

    How can you ever make headway if you are always thinking of ways to undermine what you are trying to achieve. Didn’t the collapse of any possible deal with Labour keenly demonstrate that?

  • “Not just an elected body – that was in the Tory manifesto – but a body elected by proportional representation. That may be the single most remarkable policy of the Libservative coalition.”

    and not only that, but effective immediately, in the interim before the change actually happens, any new appointment to the house will be made based on getting a proportion of members which relates to this recent election’s proportion of votes.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 8:43am

    “and not only that, but effective immediately, in the interim before the change actually happens, any new appointment to the house will be made based on getting a proportion of members which relates to this recent election’s proportion of votes.”

    In practice that would probably imply no new Labour peers at all – which I think would actually look a bit mean-spirited.

    Unfortunately on Lords reform the devil may be in this detail:
    “It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers.”

    That may imply that it will be quite a long time before we see a fully elected House of Lords.

  • I read in utter horror of people thinking the party grassroots have just accepted this. There are 20 members in my ward, all bar myself and someone else are saying they are resigning from the party. I have gone and spoke to them one by one, and when they ask me what the hell have we been working 20 hours a day for to keep a Tory out of our constituency for then to jump in bed with them, I have no answer. “New politics “and spun fudge does not wash with me or them. For Clegg to then appear in front of the cameras and act as if Cameron was his best friend all along, is gut wrenching and adds to the feeling that we have all been had.

    It will be people like me that will have to pick up the peices when all these people in parliament are enjoying the benefits of power, and showing how much they like it in front of the Tory media…..that is if I am still here.

  • I wonder J Dover if you would tell us which ward and which constituency u are referring to? This is certainly not my reading of the situation locally – far from it. I suspect u are some silly trot trying to cause trouble. As your old leader says – Get Real

  • I believe your duplicitous rejection of conviction politics in favour of a chameleon-like ability to morph into Tories to get a sniff of power will do you huge long term damage. How can the public ever again believe what a lib-dem politician says or stands for if it can be reversed overnight? You are now not just in bed but in flagrante with the party of Tebitt, Cash and Maggie. I hope your venal ways get electorally punished.

  • For all of you threatening & telling us you will leave….please stop talking about it and just get on with it….I’ll give you a hand if you want.

    Stop bitching about it and do it….goodbye, tara and I would in most cases good riddance.

  • @ N Makhno: Nestor Ivanovich, Liberals are not (or should not be) Anarchists! They have to do something statesmanlike once in a while, for the sake of their country, not just their principles. So far, IMHO, they have not crossed the line between compromise and betrayal yet – and the compromise is honourable thus far. We’ll see how it plays out later.

    Personally, I will join the Lib Dems as soon as I become Her Majesty’s loyal subject (should happen within a couple years) – if they withstand the test of power, which I hope they will. Have been a Liberal all my life, have even participated in trying to resurrect the Constitutional Dem party in Russia 20 years ago.

  • My best friend is ‘centre-left’ as am I. He joined the Lib Dems yesterday.

  • Chris Jones 13th May '10 - 9:35am

    @Betrayed Liberal

    I agree, my argument in the original post was not a full and rounded discussion of liberal values, a reflection on the nature of the coalition or an in-depth critique of policy. Nor was it supposed to be. It was a brief explanation of why in the very same moment that David Cameron was becoming PM, I felt that I wanted to make my voice heard as a Lib Dem.

    You are right also that there may be an element of bandwagoning going on. But I have worked hard for the party, casework, research, canvassing etc. Its slightly unfair to label me and other new members as “gloryhunters”.

    Surely it is a good thing that the tribal politics that you obviously are in favour of may be starting to disintegrate, and could be replaced by a less ideological politics that hopefully will result in sensible, pragmatic decisions being taken for the good of society (I don’t like the term “national interest” as I’m sure what they mean is “the economy’s interest”). With a Lib Dem-Tory coalition the values at the heart of these decisions will be liberalism, rather than the Tory’s libertarianism or Labour’s authoritarianism.

  • I too have this week joined hte Lib Dems after years of sympathising and plan to get actively involved (it’s a side point, but my loyalites began in earnest as a student, when the party was the only one to bother sending its spokesperson to my university student union’s debate on tuition fees).

    Although I would consider myself to be left-of-centre and I have always argued passionately against many Tory policies, I believe the coaltion was the right – and, given the circumstances, the only – option. It’s a chance to see some major manifesto pledges actually materialise and not signing up to it would have been a huge shot in the foot, reinforcing the common misconception that coalition politics – and therefore PR – don’t work. And I for one would far rather see a Tory PM reigned in by a LIb Dem influence than free to govern alone and pander to the nastier elements of his party.

    Nick Clegg has shown over the last few days that he is a canny and articulate negotiator and I can’t see him allowing the parliamentary party to become Tory poodles. And I hope the Tories realise that they now rely on the Lib Dems and cannot ignore their views. Yes, it’s a shame to see areas such as Europe and immigration being shelved for now, but it doesn’t the party has changed its ideology in these areas.

    I’m only 26, so I hope one day I might get to see a Lib Dem PM without the word ‘deputy’ in front of their name, and that I might perhaps be able to say I played some small role in making that happen.

  • Lorna, you seriously believe Cameron didn’t want power just for the tories? You’re either being sarcastic, or are another labour troll. Seem to be a lot about unable to see the reality right infront of them.

  • I doubt that Cameron planned this, though it’s a good way to make “the nasty party” seem a little less rabid in the public eye, while still being in complete control. Clegg though clearly had his eye on such shenanigans throughout, perfectly prepared to sell a proudly independent Liberal party to the highest bidder despite the fact that you will now be swallowed whole by your Tory bedfellows.

  • I posted my direct debit form to join the Lib Dems last night too. Like Chris Jones, I’d never felt the need to crystallise my usual support for the Lib Dems into membership. Part of that was because I wanted to retain a purist ideology aloof of the messy business of party politics. That, of course, is similar to an oft-heard charge (usually from Labour supporters) that “of course the Lib Dems can promise that; because they’ll never be in power and have to deliver on their promises!”

    Well, as of yesterday, the Lib Dems are in power. Maybe not as much as we’d like, and certainly not how we’d prefer it, but there you go.

    I see my membership as signifying a number of things:

    – Optimism for the future of the coalition and its ability to deliver most positive, liberal change for Britain and the world, than any harm that will come from some of the less-well thought out or self-serving policies. My goodwill is encouraged by the fact that the ID cards scheme was canceled on day one, and with it, the corresponding National Identity Register (cancellation of which which could probably have been weaseled out of in a superficially-plausible way), thereby proving the coalition’s ability to deliver on at least the most basic and uncontroversial of pledges.

    – A desire to get involved in the debate of some of the Lib Dems’ policies that I don’t agree with, or remain to be convinced by.

    – A desire to have my new membership counted against those who have left the Lib Dems as a result of the coalition. Labour supporters are already starting to boast about how many ex-Lib Dems they are attracting. It’s probably for the best that those people head back to Labour and work on reforming their party from within. By quitting, they let the authoritarian nutters take over.

    – Provide a modest degree of financial support for a party that I feel the country needs, and is the most financially vulnerable if the coalition falls apart and an unplanned-for new General Election is called.

  • I voted Lib Dem at this election. I have read the comments here and I have to add my own experience. I voted lib dem in Sheffield – they didn’t win in my ward – Labour did. I detest Labour – ever since Blair and the whole ‘New’ Labour part. I was thinking of voting Green but voted Lib Dem as wanted my vote to count.

    I am not a member. About ten of my friends (all professionals in our mid thirties) voted lib Dem too. None of them are members. We are all very upset and feel betrayed. We will never vote Lib Dem again. I just wanted to come on here and give a voters account of how many of us feel. We may not be members but we could have become members. Two of my friends have actually joined the Labour party – that is something I will not do but I may put on a nose peg and vote for them next time. Or I might vote Green.

    I read the manifesto. The lib Dems rightly campaigned against sudden cuts – the Tories have got their way. This I think is very, very dangerous for the country and this econom and David Blanchflower was warning as much last night – the only member of the Bank of England team to call this right. The lib dems fairer taxes are going to be ‘moved towards’ not implemented straight away and the aim is only to acheive it at the end of the five years!

    On deterrent the Tories have got their way. On electoral reform the compromise is one that is well in the Tories favour and not yours.

    And finally – and most upsettingly for me. I noticed that the Liberal Democrats – who have spoken passionately and eloquently against Labours awful and inhumane welfare reforms – have just signed on to the Tory plans of rolling out full workfare for the UK quicker and more aggressively than New Labour were planning. The party that was against much of New Labours welfare to work is now backing a much more nasty version – where the young will have to work full time for their JSA within six months of being unemployed!

    I am so upset. I feel so betrayed and so scared for the most vulnerable in our society. Being Liberal does not have to mean being socialist – but being a liberal DEMOCRAT should mean protecting the most vulnerable. You have failed at the first hurdle. I have never felt so used by a party in my life.

    So for those who state that the party is doing fine – in terms of members you may be – but I wanted you to know that as far as voters go many are extremely upset and angry and we will not be voting you again. And trying to pretend that this is not the case is not going to help your party.

  • Daniel Russell 13th May '10 - 10:39am

    For me the situation is actually rather simple. I joined the Lib Dems 20 years ago as a 15 year-old because I believed in pluralism. We are a pluralist party and we must be prepared to work with parties of all persuasions to achieve more liberal policies. I have also tried to address some of the points raised below:

    1. We voted for the Lib Dems and Clegg for the manifesto proposed and many of these policies will be implemented. Unfortunately we didn’t win the election and we didn’t persuade enough people of our position. We can be indignant and pious about this or we can compromise in a practical way that will help people.
    2. For all those who feel betrayed for getting a Conservative govt, you haven’t, you got a Conservative/Liberal govt which is a different beast altogether. The country will be protected from the worst elements of Tory policy.
    3. I once thought that there could be a realignment of the left with the Labour party but over the past few days, even if the maths had been correct, they have shown themselves to be hostile to Lib Dems and aggressively arrogant about their position even though they were defeated. Maybe Labour need to take a lot at their behaviour?
    4. What would be the alternative? a) A minority Tory govt which had the money to fight another election in 6 months and would have probably won by taking more seats off Labour and a signiicant number off the Lib Dems leaving them weak and ineffective.
    5. Being taken seriously. How would it have looked if a pluralist party who believes in coalition govt had turned down a very good offer of a coalition on some narrow party political point. We would have made ourselves a laughing stock and quite rightly would be ridiculed for being a party of protest never serious about government. Most people are in politics to change things not to sit about theorising. This is our chance to make a difference.
    6. Divine right. I have left of centre views but why would I want to keep an authoritarian party who has had many years to implement constitutional change in government.

    Whilst I am not naturally comfortable with the Tories and despite the problems and pitfalls ahead I wish the coalition success and hope that in order to further the case of PR we can demonstrate that coalition can work. After all, if the Lib Dems can’t make it work who can?

  • Andrew Suffield 13th May '10 - 10:54am

    The party that was against much of New Labours welfare to work is now backing a much more nasty version – where the young will have to work full time for their JSA within six months of being unemployed!

    What’s wrong with that? If the government could give them a reasonable (albeit low-paid) job on their first day of unemployment, why would they not take it? What else are they going to do?

    Lib Dem opposition to Labour’s version was not to the idea of finding jobs for people, but rather to the stupid bureaucratic system that failed to deliver actual jobs, and was simply a vehicle for paying government subsidies to third parties while benefits claimants were told to count paperclips.

  • Richard Blogger 13th May '10 - 11:12am

    Sorry? You joined the LibDems even though your new leaders were agreeing to change primary legislation to change the definition of a majority to be 55% + 1 rather than 50% + 1? That is a Stalinist action if ever there was one, yet you seem to think that it is acceptable. Where are your principles?

  • Whats wrong with that? Err we are not talking about these people being ‘given jobs albeit for low pay’ Andrew! We are talking about people being made to work for their sixty pound a week.

    If the job exists give it to them for the minimum wage. I have no issue for example, with the long term unemployed being told they must do fifteen hours a week of voluntary or community work (a policy supported by UKIP of all people and the Greens) but making people do full time work for their dole is slavery! And it also takes real jobs out of the economy.

    In the US a large insurance firm in New York sacked all its cleaners and toilet attendants and got workfare slaves to do the jobs. The firm was sued by the employees union and the workfare provider.

    Workfare is not training for people nor is it useful for most – it is a form of slavery for many – please read Alex post.

    And you are being disengenious. I watched live the welfare reform debates and the Lib Dems spokeswoman was brilliant – she clearly explained that the governments policy was taking advantage of the most vulnerable and used far too much stick and nowhere near enough carrot. She clearly said the Lib Dems believed in proper training for the unemployed and also in work experience but not in workfare!

    Yet the document clearly states workfare – and it will be rolled out immediately. No mention either of the sick and disabled who New Labour have bullied and who the Tories wanted to treat even more shabbilly. MacMillan cancer care are right now fronting a campaing with Mind, the MS Society and the Parkinsons Society as people undergoing chemotherapy and people on dialysis etc are being forced to work. Again the Lib Dems stood firm against this in parliament yet the Tories wnated to move further and harder.

    I say again – shame on you for deserting the most vulnerable.

  • libertarian reader 13th May '10 - 11:45am

    Martin wrote: “have a look at Thomas Sowell, one the America’s foremost black intelectuals – and very much of the Right.”

    Yes, he can be considered to be on the Right in the economic terms, but he’s not a conservative, but a libertarian. Of course many conservatives in America read libertarian thinkers, because they don’t have many luminaries of their own,

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 11:47am

    “What the line says is that the Tories can’t just call for a new general election without OTHER people joining them. Try reading it a bit more carefully, than just repeating labour drone lines.”

    Yes, there was an inaccruate report about this yesterday, which misled a lot of people (me included). But it’s difficult to believe the people who are still saying this are genuinely confused. The agreement is clear enough about what the 55% relates to.

  • I agree about the 55% being misread and I did at first – in the press – so went and read it for myself.

    The document however clearly states that workfare will be rolled out nationally and immediately for those who are long term out of work and within six months of being unemployed for anyone under the age of 25. Therefore there is a de facto acceptance of workare as a principal – something many lib dems have argued against in parliament. And there is no mention of the sick.

    I have not extrapolated anything than what is written there. And I am NOT a labour supporter. I hate new Labour – I marched against the war and I voted Lib Dem but I feel increasingly betrayed and worried about the direction of all this. And I feel that genuinely the Lib Dems did not really get much. Anyway just being announce apparently that vat is to go up. Great the good old Tories favourite tax and the one that most affects the poorest – again!

  • The election and coalition have had no influence on my basic Liberal philosophy, nor will it have, however it turns out.

    I was a liberal party supporter and worker until just before our amalgamating with the social democrats. At that time I was a retiring local association chair. I have remained a Liberal Dem supporter and voter to this day, but not a member. ( the new party did not have a coherent philosophy until the Liberal one became dominant again)
    I am now past the age when being an activist makes much sense.
    However it is now becoming easier to predict Lib dem policy, as it is advised by Liberal philosophy and a common sense approach to today’s problems.

    The Coalition does not have a common philosophy even where it has common policies ( such policies are not founded on the same base)

    Lib Dems and Tory’s will remain Distinct and will only occasionally share common ideas.

    It is time for Young people to embrace Liberalism and bring their enthusiasms and energy to the Party. I know that every association would welcome new active members, and it is only from inside the party that you can influence it.

  • I don’t like this arrangement one bit, and I don’t see how it is going to endure for more than six months to a year. Does that mean I am walking off in disgust? No, a thousand times NO! I am a Liberal Democrat and a Liberal Democrat I remain. I will support the Liberal Democrat ministers in the new government, but I will contiue to be as rude about Cameron and the Tories as I was before the agreement was concluded.

    Those Labour members who actually care about va\lues rather than power for its own sake (quite a big category, if the truth were told), need to ask themselves what the Labour Party is for. Is it a left-wing party that believes in extending the power of the state to achieve social and economic goals? Or is it a nothing party that pretends to care about the working-class but is actually the tool of the super-rich and US foreign policy?

    Take a look at Dr John Reid, one of the Labour saboteurs who made the Con/Lib deal inevitable. Thirty years ago he was a member of the Communist Party who was fulsome in his praise of the Soviet Union and called for state ownership of the entire economy. Today, he is an uber Blairite, a shameless puppet of his erstwhile arch-enemies, the Americans and the capitalists, so much so that Frank Luntz even made an attempt to get him elected Labour Party leader! What has not changed about John Reid throughout his long political life is his bullying, his tribalism and his contempt for the people he purports to serve. A nasty man if ever there was one.

    Those of us who wish to defect to Labour must be mad.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 11:58am

    Sarah Jayne, According to most on here , you can just clear off and vote for someone else now as your view doesnt matter. I honestly thought that the Lib Dems were different. After reading the attitudes of people on here its quite clear that there is no end to the snobbery and if you don’t like what Clegg has done you can just clear off and vote for someone else. That is until the next election comes round.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:08pm


    “Richard, as I understand the 55% malarkey, it concerns ‘only’ the dissolution of Parliament. I find this objectionable enough without claiming it’s a common majority malarkey.”

    Considering fixed-term parliaments were in the Lib Dem manifesto, the only thing most Lib Dems will find objectionable about it is that the threshold isn’t _more_ than 55%.

  • Alec – I dont have a reference I will try and find one. However the whole thing re welfare refrom is VERY dodgy.

    John Majors government were looking at reforming welfare and scrapping the invalidity benefit that Thatcher introduced at the time of closing the mines etc. Now at the time invalidity meant the unemployment figures of three and a half million were not suddenly five million or more – with all the unemployed miners and steelworkers. Then invalidity was needed but after a few years it was seen as a drain on the finances as it paid more money than the dole. So John Majors government in 94 started to work with an American healthcare company called UNUM Provident. They provide income protection policies for clients – so they pay them a percentage of their wage if too ill to work.

    In the US Unum Provident have faced many law suites and been described by Congress as a ‘rogue company’ because they tried to get out of paying legitimate claims. Having a company that stands to gain monetarily from a government reducing sickness benefits advising that government is a clear conflict of interest.
    Labour campaigned against this when in opposition. When in power they actually held meetings with UNUM Prov very early on and then used them as their advisors.

    It is quite serious because the whole thing is a move away from seeing illness as a biological fact and seeing it as ‘social’ therefore could the person with MS just get better and get on with life with a little positive attitude and a workfare scheme?

    People who are very ill – including one brave man with a brain tumour who is being told he is fit to work – are fighting this. I will try to find the links to his site. I voted Lib Dem because of their impassioned defence – in parliamentary debates of the most vulnerable. This does not look good to me.

    One article that is worth a read if you are interested is this by Jonathon Rutherford http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/22/welfare-reform-bill-mental-health


  • Sesenco – very good point well made.

    I am not a Labour party supporter or member and never have been. I voted for them once in 97 and soon felt betrayed. It is not a question of left or right to me. Socialism is not going to work in one little country in a globalised economy. But it IS a question of how we can be part of that economy and also help the most vulnerable. The two are not incompatible. But the UK is following the US example of increased creeping privatisaiton of every corner of the state and then villifying and bullying of the poorest.

    Germany for example is a powerhouse economy with really good welfare and excellent healthcare. Other notherner European countries do not have workfare and are not moving towards it. To my mind a Liberal Democrat should be all about partaking of the globalised economy whilst protecting the most vulnerable left behind by that economy – to some degree.

    After all if nation state after nation state just sacrifices its most vulnerable to the gods of the market then one has to question the very legitimacy of the nation state.

    As for John Reid and other ex communists being awful bullies – no surprise there. They keep their love of authority but as they age lose their love of collectivism and their left wing values – leaving only bullies. Guess what background a lot of the neo-cons in America have as youths. Yep – Communists.

  • Richard Blogger 13th May '10 - 12:52pm

    As for all the people going on about the majority, they’re obviously not looking at it themselves. The government can still be taken down by a vote of no confidence. What the line says is that the Tories can’t just call for a new general election without OTHER people joining them. Try reading it a bit more carefully, than just repeating labour drone lines.

    No. The conventions are very simple. The government has to have the confidence of the House. For all of its history, that was defined as being 50% + 1. If the government does not have the confidence of the House then by definition it cannot pass laws. On to fixed term parliaments. Well they were defined in the 1911 Parliament Act to be fixed at 5 years, so what has the coalition document done? Nothing. If Cameron had said FOUR years then I would accept that there was some reform, but fixing it to FIVE years means that there is no change on what we already have in the Parliament Act.

    An attempt has been made to take the prerogative off the Prime Minister to call an election, and that is right. The place where this decision should be taken is in Parliament (specifically, the Commons). And for all of its history the decision has been taken with a simple majority. What Cameron has done is skew the decision of the Commons so that he, personally, is guaranteed five years (308 is 47%, so there can never be a 55% no-confidence against him). So it has the opposite effect that you LibDems want – it enshrines in law the ability for a Prime Minister to squat in Number 10 when the majority of people want him out!

    Bear in mind that the Executive wields huge power, so a Prime Minister without the confidence of Parliament can still run a government. About the only thing that will stop him is the Queen’s speech and the finance bill which have to be passed by a MAJORITY in the House of Commons.

    Note that it also changes the result from last week’s election. All the graphics last week showed the finishing line to be at 326 since that is a simple majority. The reason for that is because last week for a government to avoid a no-confidence vote they had to have 326 votes. But since the Con-Dem government are changing the constitutional rules to make a no-confidence vote 55% that means that the “majority” government has to have 45% of the House, in other words 293 seats. So the “finishing line” has been shifted to 293. In other words Cameron can now say that he actually won a majority at the last election. Nice, eh? Certainly Stalinist.

    It simply amazes me that LibDems, who pride themselves on fairness, are going along with this very serious change in our constitution. Seriously, non-political people are talking about this and not liking it.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 12:56pm

    Thanks for that Patrick , i rest my case.

  • You don’t understand the 55% rule .Go and read this …


  • Sarah Jayne, what do you think that Lib Dems should have done, given the outcome of the election? Stayed virgin pure in the opposition and let other to sort the things out, and not getting any of the the ideas in their manifesto put into practice? Or try to form a “progressive” coalition with Labour, which probably wouldn’t have made any concessions, like scrapping the ID cards or having a referendum on the voting system, or an elected House of Lords? Proportional representation has for long been one of the main targets of the Lib Dems, and one of the main arguments the opponents against it has been, that it would always lead to hung parliaments, and weak coalition governments that wouldn’t last the whole parliament and which couldn’t get the things that needed to be done, done. Well now Lib Dems have an opportunity to prove them wrong and show that a coalition government can work. Of course, such government always involves compromises. It’s self-evident that all the coalition governments involve compromises, neither of the coalition partners can get all their ideas through, and the smaller partner of course even less than the bigger one. But that doesn’t mean giving up those ideas, it just means postponing them. But without participating into a coalition, the Lib Dems couldn’t have carried out even those ideas from their manifesto that now are a part of the coalition deal. And by proving that a coalition government can work, and doesn’t need to be weak, they can pave way for one of their most important ideas, the proportional representation. If, on the other hand, Lib Dems wouldn’t have participated to the coalition, the opponents of the PR would have used that as a proof against PR, there probably would soon have been a new election that the Tories would have win, and the Conservative manifesto would have been implemented without the Lib Dem moderation. Is that what you would have preferred?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 1:43pm


    This misconception has been corrected often enough that I simply don’t believe you can still be genuinely confused about it.

    The agreement says nothing whatsoever about motions of no confidence. The 55% threshold relates to the dissolution of parliament.

    On the basis of the published agreement, if Cameron loses the confidence of a majority of the Commons there can still be a vote of no confidence and if a majority of MPs support it he will still have to resign as prime minister. But the Tories alone won’t be able to force a dissolution. Nor will the other parties together.

  • Sarah Jayne 13th May '10 - 1:51pm

    Awa – Yes well as they say politics is a dirty business. I just hope the poor cancer sufferers being forced to attend work focused interviews can share your pragmatism.

  • Sarah Jayne 13th May '10 - 1:58pm

    Anthony and others – can I ask a question about this 55% business?

    I understand now that it relates to a dissolution of parliament and is protective to the lib dems in so far as it stops Cameron just calling an election when he feels like it. However I don’t understand one thing. If a vote of no confidence is called by the opposition and it gets fifty percent support plus one – can the coalition government be brought down. Because all previous governments could. Now maybe this one could lose certain policy votes with the old fifty plus one but I still think this new rule makes it harder to actually bring a government down. Which of course you would not want to happen. But lets just say that worst case scenarios play out and the country is full of rioters in four years time. Labour and the nationalists put forward a notion of no confidence supported by a fair few lib dems. If that vote passed the government could still stay in power couldn’t they? Because of the 55%?

    Sorry for being so uneducated on this subject but it is important and I think a lot of people don’t quite get it (me included).

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 1:58pm

    Awa, there was an alternative and an alternative most would of found palatable and would of still given the Lib Dems some of their manifesto implemented. All they had to do was let the Tories run a minority government and vote for or against on a bill by bill basis. Allowing the Lib Dems the chance to get some policies in for their votes. This would of also allowed the Lib Dems the chance to work with Labour too which i recall is what Clegg suggested during the leaders debates ie all three parties working together.

    That i believe was the progressive politics Clegg wanted , all three parties working together for the good of the country not the Lib Dems abstaining on bills they don’t agree with in return for some of their policies going through.

    That to me would of been acceptable to most Lib Dem voters and would of delivered what Clegg was talking about through the election. Instead in many peoples eyes it appears that he has sold out on many issues for the sake of a bit of power for the next few years.

    There was a real chance to change politics forever, instead a sizeable amount of Lib Dem voters feel betrayed and now have a Tory Government with a sprinkling of Lib Dems which is something they never wanted.

    What now happens in five years time when if the coalition works and the Conservatives win a majority, do you think the coalition will continue, or do think it will be ‘thanks for your time, now goodbye’.

    Clegg because of what he has sone had put the party in a lose-lose position. If the coalition fails it will be the Lib Dems vote that will collapse as people go over to Labour. If the coalition works it is the Lib Dems that will lose as the Tories will win an outright majority in the next election. All of this for a maximum of 5 years of power when the alternative could of worked and left the Lib Dems credibility intact.

  • Sarah Jayne 13th May '10 - 2:24pm

    Vince Thurnell – Good point. This is what I really wanted the Lib Dems to do. Vote on a policy by policy basis. They would have retained their heart and soul and given Britain the stable governance it needs. I fear Clegg loves it all – the power, the limelight.

    He is a Blair type politician – he is a really good speaker don’t get me wrong – better than Blair – I would say as good as Bill Clinton and that is high praise indeed. But he has sold out for a taste of power and high office. It must have been seductive – all those meetings in the glossy halls of westminster with civil servants on hand to help. Very heady stuff and I believe it would have taken an absolute conviction politician to turn it down and there are few of those around today.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 2:46pm

    “But lets just say that worst case scenarios play out and the country is full of rioters in four years time. Labour and the nationalists put forward a notion of no confidence supported by a fair few lib dems. If that vote passed the government could still stay in power couldn’t they? Because of the 55%?”

    All I can say is that the current situation is that if a prime minister loses a confidence/no-confidence motion then he has to resign, and there is nothing in the agreement to alter that.

    The difference would be that instead of parliament being dissolved, someone else would have to try to form a government. Realistically, if no one could form a viable government, then both sides would support a dissolution.

    I agree that the new rules might make people more hesitant to back a no-confidence motion, but really that’s bound to be so in a fixed-term parliament. Fiixed-term parliaments were in the Lib Dem manifesto and also the Labour manifesto.

  • Sarah Jayne,

    Voting on policies as they arise is fine but it wouldn’t have sustained a stable government. Labour in its current state are unreliable and I wouldn’t trust them. They are as likely to support some really right of centre stuff – look at the ID cards and their general centralisation stance, the war in Iraq, opposition to Gurkha rights etc… let alonne their failure to act on political reform.

    No we have an agreed agenda and some tangible progress on what we have long campaigned for. Its not all I would like but we can’t be accussed of being ‘holier than thou’ and unrealistic. This government is trying to work in the national interest in difficult circumstances – I’m prepared to give our party and it a chance.

    Doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being a Liberal. Indeed I’ve always supported sensible rational politics and not tribalistic politics. Don’t see much except tribalism from Labour just now although I suspect this too will change.

    We need to do our part ot keep our MPs and our ideas on track and build for the future. One day we’ll get a full Lib Dem government.

  • I have been reading this discussion with interest, I have never been to any of the political forums before but was interested what people were actually thinking about the coalition government. If you watch the Beeb and read some of the press they are stating that Lib Dems are leaving the party in droves to join Labour.
    I am not pretending to be a Lib Dem, I have voted conservative all my life (except 97 when I abstained) I vote conservative because I have a deep distrust of Labour. I have never been a member of the conservative party as I would say my political views are Tory left and I tolerate the Tory right. After the events of this past week I went and actually joined the Conservative party because its done what I never thought it would ever do and that is compromise.
    I really want this coalition to work and really hope that together we can get the country back on its feet and create a free, fair and tolerant society.

  • Vince Thurnell

    I think you are wrong, if the coalition works, it can only increase the Lib dem vote probably at mainly Labour’s expense. One of the main reasons being is that the Lib Dems will have had more experience of government which has been one of the big things holding them back.

  • Sarah Jayne 13th May '10 - 3:16pm

    Geoff – I know someone who works in Labour and she told me they have had ten thousand new applicants in a few days. Almost unheard of.

    This could end up being a good thing if it makes Labour move to the left and drop its authoritarian streak. Helps move us towards political reform -even if very slowly and helps the Tories move away from their barking mad right wing element.

    I still think the Lib Dems have got few concessions but time will tell.

    So under the new proposals – if a no confidence vote is lost the prime minister still has to resign but the discredited government could hang on indefiniately trying to come up with new leaders all the time and effectively leaving the country vulnerable?

    Oh and interesting to see the possible big VAT rise being proposed. Very typical Tory policy and very regressive tax.

  • Andrea Gill 13th May '10 - 3:24pm

    Geoff – also, actually seeing that Lib Dems can get into government will make a big difference.

    A lot of people seemed to bottle it at the last minute, going back to voting for one of the two “big parties” because the old feeling that it was a wasted vote. I certainly got the impression from people like my boyfriend that in the end a lot of folk decided it was time for a change, and Lib Dems weren’t likely to actually get a majority so they voted Conservative instead.

    My boyfriend has never done that before and he’s lucky it worked out this way in the end or he’d be sleeping in the cellar :-p

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 3:24pm

    “So under the new proposals – if a no confidence vote is lost the prime minister still has to resign but the discredited government could hang on indefiniately trying to come up with new leaders all the time and effectively leaving the country vulnerable?”

    No – the expectation would obviously be that someone from a _different_ party would be invited to try to form a government.

    Of course you may think that fixed-term parliaments are a bad idea in themselves, but both the Lib Dems and Labour were committed by their manifestos to introducing them.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 3:31pm

    Geoff, Im sorry I can’t agree and i will try to explain why. I come from an area where its a straight fight between the Lib Dems and the Tories, many of those Lib Dem votes probably about 30% come from Labour voters who voted Lib Dem not because they actually agreed with their policies but because they didnt want a Tory mp/Government. Those people have now gone and not just for now but probably forever . Whilst at the same time if the coalition works the Tory vote will obviously go up , the Lib Dems might win new voters as well but they would of lost so many voters to start with at best they will end up back where they started.

    One of the guys at work was a Labour councillor and still talks to people locally in the Labour party and already the talk is that from being a poor third they now believe they are the second largest party in the area. That is backed up by the amount of work colleagues that have said they voted Lib/Dem but never again. And to back up what Sarah Jayne said, he also said in the last two days they have 8,500 people join the Labour party and thats just the people that have joined.

    Thats what annoys me when people on here tell people to clear off to another party because the fact is thats exactly what they’re doing and come election time people will be begging them to come back.

  • Sarah Jayne – Maybe its because I am a Tory that I would actually rather have a VAT rise than a NI ot IT rise. A VAT rise will give you the choice on what you spend your money on, also those in the black economy pying not income tax or NI will be paying the VAT. The issues I see with a VAT rise are it will fuel inflation and also you never see VAT coming down unlike Income Tax.

  • Richard Blogger 13th May '10 - 3:41pm

    @Anthony Aloysius St

    You are playing with words. If there is a no-confidence vote of 54% against Cameron what happens then? It is clear that the House has no confidence in his government, but under the new rules a dissolution cannot happen. So then we will be in the worst of all situations, a government that does not have the confidence of the House and so cannot pass laws and the opposition that is so diverse that it cannot form a government (as we found with the ill thought out “Rainbow coalition”). So don’t play with the “misconception” argument. No confidence votes and dissolution are one and the same, the House is saying that it can no longer function as a legislature and that it wants an election.

    “The 55% threshold relates to the dissolution of parliament.”

    ::sigh:: so pray tell me on what occasions a dissolution is called. There, I rest my case.

    “On the basis of the published agreement, if Cameron loses the confidence of a majority of the Commons there can still be a vote of no confidence and if a majority of MPs support it he will still have to resign as prime minister. But the Tories alone won’t be able to force a dissolution. Nor will the other parties together.”

    Huh? so you are saying that a House that has declared itself disfunctional by voting no-confidence the only possible combination that can form a government cannot go to the people. What a nonsense, undemocratic idea.

  • Vince Thurnell is another Oracle of Delphi. He knows what everyone is thinking and can predict in advance what they are going to do.

  • Vince Thurnell – I too come from an area were its a straight fight between the Lib Dems and tories, actually the Lib Dems unseated the Tory (wont take you long to figure that one out). Howvever, I don’t believe the LD’s will be leaving in droves in my area to join Labour, if this coalition is a success it would probably mean it turning into a safer LD seat. Where the LD’s are in a straight fight against Labour it may well enhance their position.

    You are always going to get people of the extremes of the parties jumping ship in a knee jerk reaction but however many leave the LB’s amny more will join. Some people are put off by the extremists in each party. I for one have been with the extremists in the Consevatives.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 3:54pm

    Sesenco, I have no idea what people are think just like you don’t but i do know that out of the six people at work that voted Lib Dem all of them have said they won’t be voting for them next time and i do know that the Labour party have attracted around 10,000 new members from somewhere. This site is about debate and opinions, i have given mine , whether its correct or not time will tell but just dismissing someones views which is based on what people are telling him is very dangerous and is why the Labour party is no longer the government.

    Shut your eyes sesenco by all means but the warning signs on both this site and further afield are there for all to see.

  • Don’t believe for a minute that what people say today in the heat of the moment, how they vote tomorrow is unknowable..

    Very many people did and do want a change in politics, and it seems that that is exactly what they have got.

    For the first time since the war they have a full coalition. The previous coalition was a “National” government of all parties, where by-elections could only be contested by independents.
    So a coalition of the type we have now is rarer still in this country.

    Any one who says that the Lib Dems have betrayed them, do not understand the reality of coalitions.


  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 4:05pm

    Geoff , Labour had one of their worse percentage votes ever and that is unlikely to slip any lower , one of the main reasons for that was the leader , now he’s gone i find it hard to believe it will sink any lower. Many people (like it or not) voted not for the party they voted for but to keep the Tories out , those people now only have two choices and that is Labour or Green. As i say i can only go on what ive been told at work but using that as a very small straw poll, the lib dems are going to have to attract new voters just to stand still.

  • all I get from the comments so far i(including on this site) s the following:
    1 People who voted Lib Dem as a second choice when their first choice is Labour are now less inclined to vote Lib Dem
    2 Left leaning Lib Dems are worried but mostly prepared to give the coalition a chance (that group includes me)
    3 There are a lot of misapprehensions about what is in the agreement.

    I don’t trust the Tories further than I can throw them. But we have a chance to do grown up politics and we had to take it. Following this election we are looking at losing seats and votes next time whatever we do. At least this way we can maybe get some Lib Dem policies enacted before that happens.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 4:11pm

    Terry, and Labour attracting 10,000 new members in couple of days is just people joining in the heat of the moment is it ?. Sarah Jayne has already pointed out that two of the people she knows that voted Lib Dem last time have now joined the Labour party, thats hardly a heat of the moment thing is it ?.

    I think people do understand what a coalition means , they didnt expect that coalition to be with Tory party though. Maybe a bit more honesty during the election debates could helped there as i do remember Nick Clegg stating he wanted to see all three parties working together on certain issues. That now seems to have been dumped and replaced with not just working with one but getting into bed with them.

  • All this talk of tribal politics is silly, what you seem to have forgotten is that politics is about more than just policies, it is also about principles and where are yours now? The real problem many people have with this unnatural coupling is the way in which both sides of the coalition said one thing and then did something else completely. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that politicians can be duplicitous, but if a party no longer stands for anything and you can’t trust what anybody says because they will take it back in order to gain power then we are completely lost. The fact that liberals can not just climb into bed with the likes of Osborne and Ducan Smith but consumate such a relationship undermines any future trust. Integrity as is important as policy in my world and you have none left.

  • N Makhno
    Not sure you understand what politics is about either! It’s about the art of the possible and trying to get your policies through. It’s not about standing on the sidelines.
    You are entitled not to like what has happened. But you need to understand that if the Lib Dems had gone into a coalition with Labour EXACTLY the same comments would have been made about us from right-leaning people. And they would be just as wrong.

  • N Makhno – Bitter & twisted springs to mind, it was fine when Labour were pursueing the LD’s, then it was all about progressive politics.
    Being able to put tribal allegencies aside and compromise to work together for the sake of the country is what is required after the position Labour have left the country in. You talk of integrity, well I have not seen any of that within a Labour party comprising of the likes of Mandelson and Campbell.

  • Geoff.

    Bitter certainly,to see the posh boys from Notting Hill in power, but twisted is what you’ve just done, tied yourself in knots trying to justify a union with people you claimed to have disliked and mistrusted just days ago. What was that stuff Clegg came out with about the tories allying themselves with anti-semites, climate change deniers and nutters in Europe. And then you ally yourselves with them. I am not in favour of any coalitions, as they all involve an abrogation of honesty. Fight to convince the electorate of your position (which you spectacularly failed to do this time despite the hype) and let the tories form a minority government. This option has simply denuded you of all future integrity. I have known some good lib dems and they must feel ashamed.

  • Pauline Liu-Devereux 13th May '10 - 4:53pm

    I have voted Lib Dem for the last time. I believe in progressive left of centre politics and have supported the local Lib Dem candidate since there is no Labour vote in West Cornwall. My vote has now gone towards putting David Cameron into office. What power do you think your party has really achieved by selling out those who support your policies? True, your leader has a nice new title but it is meaningless and what major posts have Lib Dems been given in exchange for going belly up? Nothing significant in my opinion.

  • N Makhno:

    “All this talk of tribal politics is silly, what you seem to have forgotten is that politics is about more than just policies, it is also about principles and where are yours now? ”

    What are YOUR principles?

    Subservience to corrupt North American elites?
    Starting illegal wars at the behest of foreign puppet-masters?
    Pursuing the control agenda on behalf of North American oligarchs??
    Carousing with billionaires?
    Selling peerages?
    Lying to Parliament?
    Widening the gap between rich and poor?

    The Labour Party has some lovely principles, doesn’t it?

  • They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps and you will indeed be judged. Answer the point about Clegg’s duplicitous u-turn on a party which despises the Europe he claims to love or the one about how you can ever be trusted again. The reason Clegg and Cameron get on so well is that at heart they are both little rich boys educated at elitist schools and truly believing that they have some divine right to power. What a carve up.

  • N Makhno,

    (1) Tony Blair was educated at Fettes College, which is known as the “Eton of the North”, and was flogged there was Mr Chenevix-Trench, the “alcoholic sadist” (R Ingrams) who had been sacked as headmaster of Eton for his extreme brutality.

    (2) Tony Blair now lives in a huge townhouse in Paddington and a country mansion in Buckinghamshire, accommodation somewhat more commodious than the Putney terrace occupied by Nick Clegg.

    (3) Tony Blair spent a summer holiday on the private island retreat of Italy’s billionaire prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

    Need I go on?

    You should have been a horse, N Makhno. They, like you, wear blinkers.

  • Sesenko

    I’m no great fan of Blair either. The fact is you cannot defend your party so just attack one you assume I support. I suspect you are covering your eyes completely (or perhaps you’ve been blinded by the glamour of power), or else you would see that this is indefensible.

  • N Makhno,

    Now you have descended to silliness.

    (1) I HAVE defended my party, and have done so today, yesterday and the day before, here on this site. I don’t like what has happened, but I recognise that a formal coalition was the least unpalatable of the two options that remained once Labour refused to talk to us.

    (2) What power do I have? You really do make me laugh.

    What you refuse to recognise but know deep down is that Labour is rotten to the core.

  • Sarah Jayne 13th May '10 - 5:55pm

    To those slating Labour – I agree. They were dire they sold their base down the river, they went into an illegal war (fully backed by your bed fellows though) etc etc. BUT the fact is if you ask the electorate who they most fear the overwhelming majority say Tories. There is still more hatred and mistrust of the Tories than any other party. And the manifestos of Labour and Libs are much closer, the Tories and Libs are miles apart on many things.

    Look cuts are starting already – which Libs argued passionately against, and now we see the old Tory spector of rising VAT – a regressive tax that hits the poor hardest (look back at each of the last five tory administrations and look at how much Vat went up each time). This is not ‘progressive’ in any way, shape or form.

    And I am not as gutted as I would be if the Tories had got a full majority obviously, but I am already disturbed by some of the signs of this governments intent. All I am saying to you guys is – a lot of my friends and me and my other half – went out and voted for you – none of us will be doing so again.

    I will probably join the Greens, my friends will vote or join Labour and maybe one or two will just drift away from political engagement who knows? I am just telling you like it is.

    In fact if you want the truth when the final deal was done I got about fifteen texts and nearly every single one said something along the lines of ‘bleeping lib dems!’ You say that if you had gone with Labour nearly as many would have felt betrayed. Shows how much you know your own party. In a recent poll of lib dems nearly seventy percent identified themselves as left wing, only nine percent as right wing and the rest as centrists.

    Whatever Labour have done (and they have done some horrendous things) they have not destroyed the traditional manufacturing base of this country and waged all out economic war against their own people. Cameron could only win by pretending to be different to Thatcher – how many times he and Clarke et al used the words ‘I am an One Nation Tory’ showed clearly they did not want to be seen as Thatcherites – but they are Thatcherites.

    I might hate the Tories after the eighties but even I would give them a chance if they really did move back to one nation paternalism- but they haven’t and they wont.

    For a glimpse of your future fellow travellers – have a look at common people 2010 on you tube.

  • vince thurnell 13th May '10 - 7:45pm

    I’m afraid some of you really are denial, you’re being told by normal people that voted for you ie myself and Sarah Jayne how the general public feel about whats gone on but for some reason you seem to be burying your head in the sand. Ive enjoyed the couple of proper debates ive had with people over the last couple of days but i am amazed how many of you are just prepared to tell me to clear off because im not happy with what gone on.

    I really hoped one of you might of convinced me to carry on voting Lib Dem, but no not one of you even tried, in fact people like sesenco and Chris Mills have convinced me why i shouldn’t vote for them. With a heavy heart i have actually decided to go with the other 10,000 and join the Labour party and try to make a difference there. You probably won’t care as its only one vote you’ve lost but carry on with the attitude you have at the moment and believe me there will be many more.

  • Andrea Gill 13th May '10 - 7:59pm

    @ Sarah Jayne: ” BUT the fact is if you ask the electorate who they most fear the overwhelming majority say Tories.”

    Which is why they got more votes than any other party?

  • I can understand some of mistrust of the Tories after what happened in the 80’s but that was 30 years ago, get over it. You are in serious danger of being stereotyped with that attitude. Its like some tories talking of Labour and classing them as the looney left. I dont think that, I think they are more dangerous than that, some of the policies of the last Labour government hardline and extreme they would make China look democratic, the real socialist of the Labour party I can admire because they have stuck solidly to their principles even if I do not agree with their ideals. What I do not understand is all this talk of the ‘progressive left’ what the hell is that. The only thing that is progressive in politics today is what is happening with this coalition, that is progress, parties putting aside tribal differences to get the country out of the mess the last government has got us in.

  • Andrea Gill – Or they say they only voted Labour or Lib Dem to keep the Tories out.

    The only party that kept the Tories from a majority government was UKIP taking votes in the marginal seats, but actually I am quite pleased it happened because I find this coalition refreshing.

  • Sarah Jane – regarding your statement about Labour not destroying the manufacturing base of this country is quite right but they certainly have not helped it. I work in engineering, the roots to this loss of the heavy manufacturing base go back to the 60’s & 70’s, companies not able to compete with the lower cost economies, union unrest etc etc, not just all down to Thatcher, thats a misconception. Look what has happended to Rover, LDV, Corus all sold down the river by Labour, will Cadbury go the same way. Labour has not helped manufacturing, no government has for the last 40 years.

  • Lapsed party member, lifelong LibDem voter. Used to join my mum delivering Focus leaflets back in the day! 🙂

    I rejoined last week. Hello!

  • Andrea Gill 13th May '10 - 9:18pm

    Rachel – Hello back 🙂

  • I rejoined today after a lapse of of some 30 years.

  • All thhis “the overwelming majority of voters didn’t want the tories” is denial of the facts and numbers. True that a majority did not vote Tory but a much greater number did not vote Labour – so where does that leave us? We can’t go on with this negative way of looking at things. In fact 37%+23% makes 60% as far as I can see. Whats wrong with that?

  • vince thurnell, and do you think that in such arrangement Tories really would have given the concessions they now did? They could have promised some goodies for Lib Dems later during the parliament, but if they wouldn’t have binded themselves to a fixed-term parliament like they did now, they could just have waited till their polling figures were better and called a new election for some lame excuse. An election, where Lib Dems and Labour would have been broke, while Tories wouldn’t have had lack of money, and which would have returned a Conservative majority, which wouldn’t have had to deal with other parties.

  • Betrayed Liberal 14th May '10 - 5:55am

    @ Rachel @Terry

    So you didn’t join the Liberal Democrats on the basis of their elections pledges, manifesto or core values or principles? You just hopped on once they have power?

    @ Chris Jones

    “a less ideological politics that hopefully will result in sensible, pragmatic decisions being taken for the good of society”

    I find it hilarious that nowadays people view ideology as a bad thing in politics.

    Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology#Ideology_and_semiotic_theory

    An ideology is a set of ideas that discusses one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society.

    That is TERRIBLE for politics isn’t it? The very idea that politicians have a coherent set of ideas and values which help them form a comprehensive vision to derive policy and then to clearly articulate it and campain on that basis to the electorate is just crazy.

    In terms of compromise and coalitions. Of course in life you have to have to compromise values in a political system. In fact, just choosing and voting for a political party is a compromise for most people as no one party can represent all of a persons or beliefs. However most compromise is achievable when people have differing takes, normally on subjective perspectives on a similar problem e.g. on how much you want to socially redistribute. Compromise is achieveable and desirable when both parties are taking perspectives based on rationally yet differing subjective or normative positions.

    However, there are sometimes in life when you have to draw a line in the sand. For example if people are pursuing policies based on prejucide, irrationality, fear, hate or discrimination.

    For example, would you form a coalition with the BNP if they had received a majority of seats? Even if it provided ‘stable’ government in the ‘national interest’ of the country to facilitate a ‘new politics’?

    The fact is that it clear that rationally, on its own merits, PR is a much fairer way of voting which results in a more reprensentative government. However the resistance to PR in the established political parties is simply because of the inherent selfishness of the parties not wanting to lose the seats that would ensue as they have established geographical advantage (true of Labour and to a lesser extent Conservatives).

    All significant social change and progress has been by people believing the impossible, fighting and enduring phenomenal pain and suffering over a prolonged period of time before society wakes up and changes it mind.

    I thought mainstream politics in the UK, with the Liberal Democrats enunciating PR as a major policy, was able to rise to the new challenges today. However, it is evident that it cant.

    Hence I will most likely be joining the Green Party and campaigning on an issue by use basis via pressure groups, reform societes and charities. Also engaging in political activism by going on the march for fair votes this Saturday 15th May 2010 at 2pm in parliament square. http://www.takebackparliament.com/. I urge you many of you to attend.

    Yet i will retain most of my liberal values and should the liberal democrats reinvent themselves with a clear vision under a new principled leader than I could come back. However, it is definitely not Nick Clegg though and not for the forseeable future.

  • Well, i haven’t joined up to the lib Dem party, preferring to remain unafiliated, but i was certainly moved to actually make a donation (first time ever) to my local MP who i voted for at the election by way of support.

    I find it strange how some people feel justified in assuming their view represents the majority of the general public. I am not intending to be rude, or insulting in any way, but as a member fo the general public classed as a floating voter please do not assume you know what I, and everyone else thinks. All i can be sure of, is what I think.

    There are many things about this coalition that leave me concerned, and i’m certainly not placing any bets on how long it will last! But i voted Lib Dem on account of an MP i trust, and agreement with many, not all, of the policies of his party. That in itself was a compromise that i would guess is shared by many.

    Life is full of compromises that we each make on an almost daily basis. I’m struggling therefore to understand why so many people believe that politics should be in a separate bubble where everything has to be black or white? Is anyone honestly trying to tell me that every labour candidate for example agreed with absolutely 100% of the Labour manifesto?

    I have watched the debate rage backwards and forwards here for the last couple of days and i would really like to say I admire the many of you who feel strongly about your opinions – even though i don’t agree with some of you. We each must make our choices, and i will continue to try and not be too judgemental of those who hold a different view.

    And when it comes to the current coalition government. I intend to judge it on its effectiveness and the decisions it takes in government.

  • Chris Jones 14th May '10 - 8:59am

    @Betrayed Liberal

    Clearly ideology is not an inherently bad thing and of course people should act according to their convictions and values. However ideology can also be the basis for tribal, “we’re right you’re wrong” arguments which don’t get us anywhere in terms of actually finding solutions. Hopefully the coalition will be the start of a period of politics where we reject these binary roles played by Labour and the Tories over the last century and move towards a more consensual politics based, hopefully, on liberal values.

  • I was a member throughout.. and i was a pay yearly member, but i sent off my direct debit form for the full amount during the campaign and i dont regret it a single minute.

  • Steve S – well said.

    I think most of the general public are with you – the challenge for those of us who are political activists is being less tribal and more inclusive.

    I believe that is what is meant by the new politics.

    The last week has shown that many journos are too tribal – we need some grown up journalism as well as grown up politics…

  • “I’ve been a fan of Vince Cable since before the leadership election and I still think its a shame he didn’t run” – This is something that always astounds me about people – why should every decent politician be trying out for party leader all the time? That’s how you get a setup like the Labour party’s wherein a man (a nice enough bloke, so far as I can tell) who has apparently little or no interest in foreign affairs such as David Milliband* can become Foreign Secretary! It’s staggering. No wonder very little advancement is made on important things like Education and Health, because the people filling those positions always have their eye perpetually on the top job. Vince is an economics expert; he deserves and economics portfolio. Putting him in as Prime Minister, unless we have a Blairite-style system (I hope now forever discredited) wherein the Prime Minister and his immediate advisors make all policy decisions and cabinet ministers are just along for the ride, would be a waste of his talents and expertise. When I/if I ever go into politics it will be with my aspirations aimed no higher than Education Minister for Scotland; to aspire to anything higher when my expertise doesn’t extend further is egoistic lunacy – so sad that it’s so prevalent that it be expected of a man of Vince Cable’s calibre.

    (No offense intended. Don’t mean to rant. But I think ‘greasy pole climbing’ is one of the major problems with British Politics; where are the people who are passionate about particular briefs and dedicated to public service?)

  • Andrea Gill 15th May '10 - 2:02am

    Geoff – I think everyone will have to have a good long think about the UKIP vote share…

  • I do worry we’re essentially being blamed for the Conservatives having won a lot of votes. It was not my intention that this should happen as a LibDem activist, and indeed I did everything to prevent it, but the idea which appears to be implicit in much of the above that we could either have prevented wholesale everything wrongheaded or foolhardy the conservatives intend to do or else that by somehow remaining abstinent on the opposition benches we would have made a meaningful difference is preposterous. Let’s take the simple example of the sudden public sector cuts. I think think those are foolhardy, Nick Clegg thinks those are fullhardy, Vince Cable thinks those are fullhardy however one way or another they would have been passed. How so? They will be enacted into law as part of the budget. Now whether or not we are a coalition partner with then the Conservatives would have passed a Conservative budget and it would seem have a right to do so as a party which won the most support nationally. As part of the coalition we have a chance to influence and ameliorate it and I garauntee you that it will be a better budget for having the input of Vince and David Laws than if they had not been involved.

    If we had been on the opposition benches we might have voted abstained or voted against it. Had we abstained it would have passed and would, I think it’s reasonable to assume, have been more drastic and wrongheaded than it will be under the present circumstances (do you trust George Osborne to have a better grasp of economic management than Vince? Exactly) and all we would have had to offer is a superficial sense of our own moral superiority wholly undeserved; we would have cheated Britain in the name of image (as the Labour party figures such as David Blunkett have done*) and /that/ is a party I would be ashamed to have been a part of. Had we voted against the budget, and everyone else had done likewise, the government would have fallen and fresh elections would have been called. If this had happened then it is highly improbably that the Tories would not have been returned with a majority. People punish petty partisan activity and they would have done so justly in this counterfactual scenario we are describing. I do not believe there has even been a historic precedent of a party attempting to govern as a freshly elected minority, finding its attempt to do so obstructed by the other parties, putting the case to the electorate and not being returned with a majority. Moreover given the imbalance of party resources that was even more likely to happen in this case. So we would have had a Conservative majority government and the cuts would have been passed anyway. The British electorate were unkind to those like me who felt significant cuts should be delayed until the global economy had a chance to stabilize by giving the part who wanted to make them immediately the most seats and splitting the vote of those who did not between a left-liberal party and a warmongering, spendthrift, illiberal democratic socialist party on the other and removing from that latter (apparently) the will to participate in a shaky coalition.

    It comes down to this queston: what would you have done.

    “1 People who voted Lib Dem as a second choice when their first choice is Labour are now less inclined to vote Lib Dem
    2 Left leaning Lib Dems are worried but mostly prepared to give the coalition a chance (that group includes me)
    3 There are a lot of misapprehensions about what is in the agreement.”

    I think that’s basically correct. I’m a ‘left leaning’ LibDem and I’m willing to give the coalition a chance. However I’ll go further and say I think given Labour folded like a cheap deckchair Nick and the parliamentary party made the only decision which would have been acceptable to me /as/ a left leaning LibDem – the only move in the available option space which got us far enough away from outright control of a right wing government. Now obviously those right wingers are still going to call most of the shots – they won the plurality of seats, it was inevitable. I suppose it might have been a more interesting question had the Labour party survived with a certain amount of integrity (in both senses of the term): /then/ we might have had a debate as to whether we should be willing to prop up Labour if it were unable to consent to repeal of its illiberal policies or electoral reform in the name of shared concerns about the timing of deficit cuts. I might then have found myself on the opposite side on that argument from Nick and other members of the negotiating team. But that option did not exist and it’s a fundamentally important historical fact that it did not exist. And the fact that Labour continues to insist through the likes of Lord Adonis that it did despite the fact I watched literally hours worth of news coverage with Labour MPs saying that it did not and they would oppose a coalition is (a) indicative that they consider this fact to be important as well and (b) a reason to think we should be clear on this and make this point heard by any who will listen less the “Clegg sold us out to the Tories” meme gain currency.

    I’d like to share the below message that Simon sent to a blogger I came across, after his appearance on Question Time as I think it says the things which ought to be said..
    Thank you very much for your e-mail. I am very grateful to you for contacting me and understand entirely your concerns about the fast moving events of this past week.
    In this reply I will try to set out what happened and why, explain my position and hope to persuade you at least to understand the logic of the decision taken by my colleagues and by me. Of course, I realise there will need to be further conversations and explanations and I have already started holding meetings locally to deal with people’s concerns and worries. I know that I and other colleagues are also very keen to meet with people outside our own areas and where there is no current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. I hope you will also look at my website or our party’s website regularly for more up to date information.
    The events of last week
    Everybody now knows the result of the general election. With one constituency left (which is voting at the end of this month), the Conservatives won 306 seats and 36% support among those voting; Labour won 258 seats with 29% of voters backing them, and Liberal Democrats won 57 seats with 23% electoral support. Other parties and independents won 28 seats with 12 % of support. Nick Clegg had made a commitment during the election campaign, perfectly correctly in my view, that if no party gained a majority of seats in the election we should talk first to the party which had the strongest public mandate. In this election, both in terms of seats and votes, this was clearly the Conservative Party.
    On Saturday last all the Liberal Democrat MPs and our party governing body (the Federal Executive) confirmed that we wanted our negotiators to talk first to the Conservative Party to see how much of our manifesto and election priorities they would agree for implementation if we made an agreement with them. Good progress was made in the talks on Sunday and Monday and surprisingly large numbers of concessions were made by the Conservatives. In particular, the Conservatives accepted that all four of our major election priorities could form part of a Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition programme.
    Liberal Democrat political priorities
    The four political priorities for Liberal Democrats are all aimed at achieving a fairer Britain.
    1. FAIR TAXES, putting money back in the pockets of those on low and medium incomes – taking everybody with an income of under £10,000 out of tax altogether and with the burden transferred to very high earners and those living in very valuable homes.
    2. A FAIR FUTURE, creating jobs by making Britain greener – by breaking up the banks and getting them to lend again to protect real businesses, being honest about the tough choices needed to cut the deficit, and green growth and investment in jobs that last, specifically in the construction and energy industries and by investing in infrastructure.
    3. A FAIR CHANCE FOR EVERY CHILD – with a programme of £2.5 billion to make sure children get the individual attention they need and by reducing class sizes for 5, 6 and 7 year olds and supporting all youngsters as they begin school.
    4. A FAIR DEAL by cleaning up politics – giving the public the right to sack corrupt MPs, restoring and protecting civil liberties with a Freedom Bill, and completely reforming the political process at Westminster be fair votes, an elected second chamber and all politicians paying full British taxes.
    The events of this week
    Over the weekend Labour indicated they would also be willing to talk to us about forming an alternative progressive coalition. I believed strongly that we should do this and our party agreed on Monday that we should also open talks with Labour. These began on Monday evening and immediately after the cabinet meeting when Gordon Brown announced that he would stand down later this year as Labour leader and Prime Minister. The first meeting with Labour was not encouraging. Labour negotiators were unwilling to move on any of the issues where we had different views on major areas of policy. For example, they wouldn’t accept that a third runway at Heathrow should not go ahead; they were unwilling to abandon identity cards; they insisted on keeping nuclear power, and perhaps most importantly, they were unwilling to consider any further progress towards a fair voting system in the House of Commons. Indeed they made clear that they couldn’t guarantee that all Labour MPs would even vote for a referendum on the Alternative Vote.
    On Tuesday Liberal Democrats met to consider reports from our negotiators on their talks with the Conservatives and Labour. It was clear that the Conservatives were still willing to move further and faster in our direction than Labour. It was also becoming more and more obvious that the numbers necessary to secure a regular majority for a joint Labour/Liberal Democrat programme were not going to be guaranteed.
    The combined votes of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats currently add up to 363; the combined votes of Labour and Liberal Democrats add up to 315. A majority of all the seats in parliament needs 326; taking away the five Sinn Fein MPs who do not traditionally take up their seats, it would be necessary to have 324 to be sure of a majority. Although the combination of the votes of the other parties (Democratic Unionists, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Social Democratic and the single Alliance Party, Green and Independent MPs) would provide a total which gave a majority if they all voted with all Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, more and more Labour MPs were going public in the media saying that they would not vote for a referendum on the new voting system and calling on Labour to go into opposition. By Tuesday afternoon it was clear that Labour negotiators were unable or unwilling or both to reach a secure coalition deal on behalf of Labour with my party.
    A last round of negotiations was therefore begun with the Conservatives. The results were reported back to me and all the Liberal Democrat members of parliament and our federal executive late on Tuesday night. By this time Gordon Brown had decided that he could not put together a majority government and had resigned as Prime Minister. He advised the Queen to ask David Cameron to form a government and Mr Cameron accepted.
    There were then two options left for me and my colleagues. We could leave the Conservatives to govern the country as a minority government or enter into an agreement to share government with them. In many ways not being associated with the Conservatives would have been an easier option, and one more natural given our very different political traditions. But Britain is suffering its greatest economic crisis since the second World War; nobody thinks that a government which might last only for a matter of months would provide secure and stable government; nobody thinks it would be good to risk having a second general election this year; and the result of allowing the Conservatives to form a minority government would be quite simply that we would have unqualified and unaltered Conservative Party policies for the whole of the government’s term.
    One last factor influenced my decision and persuaded me and my colleagues that leaving the Conservatives to form a minority government was a bad idea. The electorate decided last week that it did not have confidence in any single party as the government of this country. People would expect all MPs to be responsible in these circumstances. The logic of wanting a fair voting system would be that there might quite often be parliaments without a single party with a majority. Basically, the public expect grown up parties to work together in the national interest when necessary, whatever our natural preferences or instincts.
    The final proposals negotiated with the Conservatives went much further than any of us could ever have expected. Each of our four major priority areas were agreed – with only one exception. The exception was that the Conservatives would not support an immediate move to a referendum on a fully fair voting system. They would however support a referendum on the Alternative Vote (where people express their preference for candidates rather than just putting one single cross) – which is definitely a step in the right direction. They also, very importantly, added a commitment that the bill to introduce this referendum would have a three line whipped vote as a categorical Conservative Party commitment, and that there would be funding restrictions on the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns in the referendum so that there could be the fairest possible process of decision. Conservative MPs, like everybody else, will of course be able to campaign for or against a move to AV if they wish to do so.
    There were many other policy areas where Conservatives moved towards us – on green issues, on a fairer tax system, on restoring civil liberties and on re-establishing very urgently the link between pensions and earnings. For the full document setting out the agreement please look at my website or the party’s website. This document has also been published in many newspapers and online.
    In the early hours of Wednesday morning, and after two and ¾ hours of internal questioning, clarification and debate, Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament and our executive voted on whether to enter into a coalition for a fixed term of five years. The Members of Parliament were unanimously in favour, the Federal Executive had only one person voting against. As you know, the coalition government was then announced on Wednesday morning.
    My position
    All my adult life I have been on the progressive left or centre left of British politics. I have been a Liberal and Liberal Democrat party member since the age of 19 and never been a member of any other party. I have had shared a passion and commitment for a more equal society and social justice at home and abroad with many people on the left and centre left of British politics. I have always been concerned that Conservatives first look after their own, and have presided over widening inequalities and not a more just society. It came, therefore, as a great surprise to discover this week that when, for the first time since 1974, there was a need for parties to work together to produce a majority government for this country, the Conservatives were more willing to move to our agenda than Labour were, and that Labour were less willing or able to make a full commitment now to a more modern and representative political system, to taking poor people out of tax, or to restoring civil liberties than the Conservatives. I had therefore to make a decision as to which alternative government would most deliver the things I have spent my adult political life campaigning and fighting for. Against all my expectations, the hard facts of yesterday made an agreement with the Conservatives the best way forward for the people I represent here in Southwark, for the people who are our party members and supporters, and in our national interest. Of course, the proof will lie not in who is in government but in what they do. But for me and for this community the decision we have made means that I have five years with my colleagues to be able to determine the direction of Britain and deliver many of the things I know my constituents and many others have wanted passionately for many years.
    I completely appreciate that until the details of the arrangement were published most people would quite rightly imagine that there could be no reasonable or progressive agreement between us and the Conservative party. I completely understand that many people would have wished that we could have reached agreement with Labour. I wished that too, but through no fault of my party and as a result of the numbers of MPs elected for each party by you and the rest of the British public, a centre left coalition became impossible. I am encouraged that now that the coalition agreement has been published many people understand better and are more persuaded that we took the best course in all the circumstances. Obviously not everything in the agreement is perfect or what I would ideally have wished for. But politics is the art of the possible. If a Liberal Democrat majority had been elected we could have implemented our whole programme. But at least in the present arrangement we have the chance of being in government to implement much of our programme over the next 5 years. My job is to make sure that we deliver on our promises.
    I can assure you that the Liberal Democrats are and will always remain an entirely independent proud and distinct party and political force. We will continue as the most democratic party of the three main parties to make our own policy and to feed that into government at all levels in Britain. We will take on the Conservatives and Labour and offer a progressive alternative to both of them just as we have always done, in elections and by elections at every level starting this very month in national and local by elections in London, Yorkshire and elsewhere. This agreement is for one parliament only. The next election, all being well, will be held on the alternative vote system, and Liberal Democrats will go to the country with a programme for completing the change to fully fair votes in the following parliament. Our greatest party ambition is to be in government on our own, and we will therefore fight the next general election to win as many seats from all the other parties as possible.
    I hope that you will understand both the events of the last few days and the reasons for my decision, and that you will be generous enough to reflect on them and on what you read and hear elsewhere. Please judge me and us not on your initial reaction and without seeing the full details of the agreement. More importantly please judge me and us on what happens in the weeks and months ahead.
    My website and my party’s website will be the best places for up to date information. There will also be public occasions to discuss all these issues – of which decent notice will of course be given. Detailed questions will I hope be answered either by the coalition agreement already published or by the additional documents which will be published over the days ahead. I apologise for the length of my reply, but I wanted to do you the courtesy of a full reply, written by me personally, which I hope you have found helpful.
    My priorities are a fairer Britain, a fairer London and a fairer Southwark. I will work flat out to achieve this in every week of the years ahead.

  • Duncan – that’s spot on.

    The press are trying very hard to find people who said “I voted Lib Dem and got Tory. Never again.”

    And I’m like, hang on – we haven’t got a Tory government because of people voting Lib Dem! People elected the Tories to 1st place. Is the implication that they should’ve just voted for their “real” choice, Labour? I fucking wish they had done, because I can’t stand their idiotic moaning.

  • @Sarah Jayne

    “You say that if you had gone with Labour nearly as many would have felt betrayed”

    It would’ve been far worse. Plus there was no offer. Labour were never serious about negotiations. If you cannot understand this point, then you really should stop talking.

  • i too am going to join the lib dems today! I feel increasingly passionate about the Lib Dems and I am pleased to see some important and difficult decision made with the outcome of stable government with the inclusion of some very important Lib Dem policies. I hope that, for me this is the start of being a more involved person in the political state of this country and I will be willing to help the Lib Dem cause at future elections!

  • After years of voting LibDem I’ve finally joined the party today. One of the main reasons why I vote LibDem is a belief in PR and the ability of coalition governments to work for the ultimate good of the country. I’m delighted that for the first time LibDem policies are going to be implemented.

  • rachel hepworth 16th May '10 - 7:32pm

    I am still puzzling over what to make of recent events but all I can say at this stage is that I feel profound and equal relief at being spared either a Labour Government all out of ideas and increasingly arrogant and authoritarian, and an undiluted majority Conservative Government particularly one with a small majority at the mercy of its headbanging rightwing backbenchers. It is exciting to see LibDem policies I supported forming part of the Government’s programme. And if the LibDems had just sat on their hands and refused to deal, so that no Government could be formed or it soon collapsed, what kind of an advertisement would that have been for PR which is bound to deliver this kind of scenario more often?

  • Betrayed Liberal: So you didn’t join the Liberal Democrats on the basis of their elections pledges, manifesto or core values or principles? You just hopped on once they have power?

    Excuse me? I was a party member some time ago, but after I took a (bottom level admin) job in a policy area of the Civil Service I did not feel comfortable with being a member of any party, given that my job touched upon the work of politicians of all stripes. Lack of political activity is not a requirement at those lowly depths, but I personally wasn’t comfortable. My membership therefore lapsed.

    We were nowhere near power when I was previously a member. It didn’t matter then and it didn’t matter when I joined this time, PRE-coalition.

  • Miranda Ward 18th May '10 - 8:43pm

    @Lorna Langdon If, indeed, you are (or were) a real Lib Dem member.
    The vitriol you express does not become you. The same can be said for quite a few posters here, many of whom seem to have dubious integrity and may well be of another political persuasion trying to sew dissension.

    How can you possibly believe tabloid headline type spin when it is so very obvious that it cannot be true?
    Have you overlooked the fact that up until that 1st Prime Minister’s debate we were, as always, that 3rd party as de facto ‘also runs’? Or were you deluding yourself that we would have a landslide??

    What possible mileage could the Tory machine have gained by negotiating any sort arrangement prior to the election? What would have been the point? Our profile was yet to have its growth spurt. Anyway, as I see it, had the two leaders and some of their parties held any sort of meetings to collude, then what a marvellous hot potato to hand out to the other party! Hell that ‘other’ party would have had a field day exposing this information to their advantage and to the detriment of the other. Any early ideas of a coalition would have been swept off the road well before polling day!

    Had either Clegg or Cameron concocted anything like this then it would have been exposed and Labour would have had a landslide. Are you suggesting that they never got a whiff of this alleged ‘collusion’? Are you suggesting that no Lib Dems got a whiff until it was all over, bar the negotiating – oh wait – that had already been done? So all those late nights and to-ing and fro-ing were mere theatrics?

    Get real. The problem is for so many, that they find it totally impossible to admit to themselves that just maybe, every once in a while, there comes along a politician or three with integrity whom they can respect and like.

    Tough. It has happened. I am even finding myself warming to the ‘other one’.
    This coalition can and will work. It is the only show in town.

  • Miranda Ward 18th May '10 - 9:04pm

    Sugar! I wrote this, got distracted, retuned later and posted without realising how much further along the discussion had moved. My apologies!

    Meanwhile, I am ‘amused’ at the high number claiming, with great conviction, that they will never ever vote Lib Dem again. How do they know which parties will actually be endorsing what against whom in 30 years time? If they actually know that then they must also believe that there are some around who must have known, for the last 30 years, what the options were which faced us this time around.

    People, politics and philosophies are all organic and long may they grow! And welcome to all those who are leaning/growing in our direction!

  • I just wondered how the liberals felt about:
    Scotish Liberal Democrats feel about how they now have a tory goverment, I heard there was great upset and many Scottish Liberal Democrats have left the party and that the same thing is happening in the south west of England.
    This coalition could effectively see the end of the Liberal Democrats, the right being absorbed into the tory fold and the left seeking alternative parties.

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