Opinion: Post-election blues

This is the worst possible election result for Liberal Democrats but we have to make the best of it.

A majority for one party would have left us in our usual comfort zone of simple opposition.

The expected gain of 40 seats or more would have left us with real momentum and a genuine balance of power in the Commons – the chance to turn the screw in negotiations with the other two parties and act as the catalyst for substantial political reform including STV.

Even a Lib-Lab majority in the Commons, with no Lib-Con majority, would have provided the chance (and the alibi) for an agreed 2-year programme of reform and some kind of PR.

What we have now is a Lib-Con majority but with no meeting of hearts and minds, and no Lib-Lab majority. A nightmare.

The prospect is for a Con government with which many of our voters, active supporters and leading members will not be at ease, even if concessions are granted in policy areas other than structural changes to the political system.

And Labour will have the freedom of opposition to mount the revival which the council election results have shown is already under way.

So what do we do?

There are three options. The first is a full-blown coalition. I see the press are already touting round possible posts but they are irrelevant at this stage – except to say we should require a proportion and a degree of esteem based on our vote (ie two fifths of the Cabinet places including some senior positions).

I have to say that if I am to be required to faithfully troop through the government lobbies I want something very good indeed in return, not just the knowledge that colleagues have bums on seats and ministerial cars. A guarantee of PR to be legislated for this year is one of them. (Never mind a referendum, we need a law passed first).

The second is an agreement to give limited support to the government from the opposition benches. There would have to be an agreement over a number of ring-fenced issues and votes and an agreed term for the agreement (preferably at least three years) with everything else subject to votes in Parliament. On the ring-fenced issues there would have to be clear procedures for negotiations on a continuous basis (like the Lib-Lab pact but very much stronger).

The third is to accept the Tories will form a minority government, abstain on the Queen’s speech, and get a few short-term concessions in return for doing this – to be repeated at any future confidence votes until such time we decided to bring them down.

In all these we have to remember that much of the new Tory party in parliament is (in general terms and with individual exceptions) a collection of anti-European, right-wing, illiberal bigots.

If we have to have the Tories, my preference is for the second option. The first is probably practically impossible, and the third possible electoral suicide as they cut and run as soon as the polls look right for them – possibly as early as October.

But life won’t be easy, a lot of us will feel gloomy for too much of the time, and the rabid Tory media will turn on us at every opportunity (every day). A very top priority will be to keep the party together.

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52 Comments

  • Electoral reform or bust.

  • No deal with the Tories!

  • Peter Townes 8th May '10 - 9:36pm

    Agree with Tony Greaves the second option of constructive opposition would be best as first may threaten our survival and third may work to our disadvantage.Both parties would happily see us exterminated if they could.

  • PR means coalitions! We can’t say we want PR but not to deal with the results as well as putting the people off the very idea because they see confusion, delay, economic malaise and a further election. The economy is the imperative, PR is the key to agreement.

    Option 1 unless we can’t get commitment to a referendum on electoral reform. It may well be wise to announce the next election date May 2nd 2013.

  • Speaking as someone who has fought Labour all my political life – please do not get into bed with the Tories without firm promise of electoral reform. If Labour is promising this – go with it – if we get it – the Tories will be out of it. We may be very unpopular at first – but so what – with fairer voting – we will do so much better. Please – no more sanctimonious crap about stability for the country – this will not help us.

  • The political integrity of both the Conservatives and Lib-dems. are at stake here, but it’s the Conservatives who have most to lose if they choose party above Nation and fail to offer genuine concessions . It would prove once and for all that they pursue power above the needs of the country. I think Nick should allow the Tories to show their true colour, that is just blue with the red and white conveniently dropped.

  • Tony, why have you completely ignored the option of a minority coalition government with Labour, the SDLP, Greens, and Alliance? Although it could be unstable, this would at least be seen as an aggressive option, and even if we failed to get electoral reform this way, one that could be forgiven by most Lib Dem and Labour supporters. Screw the Tory supporters, they aint gonna vote for us anyway. The majority of this country sees it as in the national interest to have electoral reform, and this coalition could also manage the economy BETTER than George Osborne & co. I fail to see why it should be ruled out. If Gordon could be toppled as part of the deal, it would be even better.

  • Andrew Suffield 8th May '10 - 10:12pm

    Yes, but in that order. You can’t have a coalition where one partner has the option of pulling the plug and getting a majority on their own any time the like.

    While true, this is really just establishing the conditions under which a coalition would be acceptable: if it eliminated that possibility, with hard guarantees of electoral reform before the next election.

  • David Langshaw 8th May '10 - 10:32pm

    Option 2 for me.

  • I’d like to make three observations.

    1. It seems to have escaped the notice of some people posting on LDV but we have enormous economic problems, and a very jittery financial system. Perhaps the effect of going off on a “holier than thou crusade for STV and Site Value Rating” might be a trifle self-indulgent?

    2. I agree with Tony that I would prefer a limited conditional arrangement [probably without cabinet posts – especially the poisoned chalice of Home Secretary !!].

    3. I actually thought the result should delight true liberals, if only because of the variability in results/ swings etc. The contrasting fortunes of Lib Dems in Brecon & Radnor/ Montgomery/ Ceredigion – or City of Durham/ Redcar – or … I could continue

    In a phrase Tony might recognise – “where we work we win” ?

  • Tony Butcher 8th May '10 - 10:39pm

    Lib Dems should embrace this opportunity to show that minority government can work and Pushing for Proportional Representation now could be bad for Lib Dems a blog: http://wp.me/pRHY4-C

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 10:58pm

    “It seems to have escaped the notice of some people posting on LDV but we have enormous economic problems, and a very jittery financial system. Perhaps the effect of going off on a “holier than thou crusade for STV and Site Value Rating” might be a trifle self-indulgent?”

    To be honest, I think most people’s anxiety to find an alternative to putting Cameron in Number 10 has more to do with their distrust of what a Tory government would do to the country than anything else.

    I know all the parties have been in a sort of conspiracy to conceal what they’d do about the deficit, but when it comes down to it I simply wouldn’t trust the Tories to do it in a way that will protect the vulnerable. I really don’t think people’s distaste for a deal with the Tories is a matter of academic policy minutiae – I think the considerations are essentially practical, and if PR weren’t on offer from either side I reckon their feelings would be much the same.

  • @ Tony Greaves
    Ah, the loony left of the Liberal Party speaks. How arrogant to suggest PR without a referendum. The presumption that Liberal know best what people want without asking them first! There is much constructive debate on this site and I’m sorry you felt unable to contribute to it. Nick Clegg is the future of this party and we should trust him. Stay in the past where your opinions belong.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '10 - 11:07pm

    Jez

    Tony, why have you completely ignored the option of a minority coalition government with Labour, the SDLP, Greens, and Alliance?

    To do that would be obviously to be making a choice, whereas a limited agreement with the Tories is the neutral line we were happy with before we knew the results – in order to avoid being forced to make a choice we said we’d accept the one out of Labour and Conservative (assuming they are the biggest two parties) which had the most seats/votes attempting to form a government.

    I feel we must stick strongly to the line that this is a neutral choice which respects the will of the electorate rather than a more positive opting for one or the other. Tony says it is the worst possible result, but perhaps one where there was no obvious winner if you saw politics as Labour v. Conservative would be worst. If under the current circumstances we were still to opt to go with Labour, we would be throwing away our independence and in effect saying we are permanent allies with Labour. My politics have always been on the left, and I would prefer a Labour government to a Conservative one, but if we are to be an independent party we must be willing sometimes to see a Conservative-led government. Given that any agreement with Labour et al would still hardly make a majority, would be with the party that has had a big loss of electoral support, would be with a party that formed an outgoing government that had obviously over-stayed its time, would be with the party that has most obviously “lost” the election, if we were to make any agreement to keep Labour in power now, we would be admitting that there are never any circumstances where we would not do so.

    I do not think we should go for a full-blown coalition even for PR. It would be seen as us going for nice big jobs for our leaders in return for selling out on everything except a reform which is designed to give us more power in future. We know and appreciate the importance of PR, but 95% of the electorate don’t, even many of those who on the whole support it think of it as a minor sideline. In any case, coalition for PR is surely a bit odd, if we have a government that sees through PR surely it then must resign to have new elections under PR. Going into a coalition when we are artificially weakened by the electoral system seems to me to be wrong.

    What we are really saying is that we will not immediately table a vote of no confidence in Mr Cameron if he were to be asked to become Prime Minister. It seems to me to be obvious we should not table a vote of no confidence. We have a Parliament, we don’t have anyone else coming forward in it as an obvious better and more acceptable figure for PM (in the view of the people of this country, not us), if we were to say to Britain “We have no confidence in the party which has the most seats forming the government, we demand new elections” the people of this country would probably respond “Well, it’s YOU who are the problem, if we didn’t vote for you we’d have an undisputed one -party government, so we won’t”.

    We must have an agreement that there won’t be another general election soon on the issue “get rid of the hung Parliament which is causing the problem” because that would be an election where people are being told “Get rid of the LibDems to get back stable government”. Any election must be far enough away to enable people to get an experience with the Cameron government and make a true judgement on it. If we were in a position of rising support we could maybe capitalise on making Cameron look bad if he forced a general election within a year, but we are in a position of weakness, looking rather silly having promised a big growth in support and not got it. So, we have to extract out of Cameron his agreement not to call an opportunistic election within a year, which means we must also agree not to create one (through a vote of no confidence) when it suits us.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach
    Thank you! A sensible and well thought out compromise. We have to prove we can sensibly help to govern to convince the electorate that our message is the right one.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '10 - 11:32pm

    Helen, Tony’s comments were obviously constructive, yours were not. Actually I think what he was saying is that we must have a law passed to have the referendum rather than as you intepreted it as PR introduced without a referendum. In any case, though, governments have put through many other things which drastically changed the way our country is without having referendums. I would say, for example, the forced introduction of “cabinet” local government was massive constitutional change (in effect, it took away voting rights of elected councillors) so why no referendum on that?

    The introduction of cabinet local government was also sold as “modernisation” and the line “stay in the past” was thrown at those who opposed it. My own experience fighting this as Leader of the Opposition in a thoroughly New Labour council which tried to push it through in advance of the legislation that forced it anyway, and seeing how the line “it’s modernisation” was used to close down debate convinced me more than anything that anyone who sells any idea under the line “it’s modernisation” is not to be trusted.

    The idea that there is some direction politics must inevitably go, so inevitable that anyone who objects can be shut up with “stay in the past”, is against everything any true liberal should stand for. We should want policies to be discussed rationally with the case for all sides put, not discusesd irrationally with one side closed down without the right to put its point on the ground that side is “old fashioned”.

    Communists and fascists used the argument they are so modern that they had the right to eliminate their opponents for being old-fashioned. Seizure of power and wealth by elites has so often been defended on the grounds that it’s “modernisation”, most recently in the way so much power over our lives has been transferred to financial traders who have no loyalty to our country or its people and who are in the position to extract immense amounts of wealth out of us to live lives of unbelievable luxury while our citizens live in the misery we shall see when the cuts that have to be made will be made by the next government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '10 - 11:34pm

    Helen, how funny that you we typing that while I was typing what I wrote after. I thought what I was wrote first was essentially in agreement with Tony.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 11:47pm

    “in order to avoid being forced to make a choice we said we’d accept the one out of Labour and Conservative (assuming they are the biggest two parties) which had the most seats/votes attempting to form a government”

    “Attempting” being the vital word. Nick Clegg was very careful never to omit the word “seek” (even on occasions when it made no grammatical sense!).

    The whole point of the current process is that it’s the first attempt. If the first attempt doesn’t succeed, then the party is free to pursue other avenues. There would be very little point having a third party if were absolutely constrained to support whichever of the other parties got more votes.

  • Seth Gillette 9th May '10 - 12:06am

    “[The Tories are] anti-European, right-wing, illiberal bigots”

    It’s this kind of prejudice that sum up the politics of old.

    I see Tony Greaves is Baron Greaves of Pendle. In Pendle, 17 512 people voted Conservative on May 6th, a swing of 6% that gave the constituency a Conservative MP.

    Maybe ‘Our Tone’ should apologise to these people and the new Tory MP for Pendle, Andrew Stephenson, for insulting them as bogoted?

    The typical, pernicious name-calling common to the left, as shown by Gordon Brown’s own ‘bigot’ comment in Rochdale.

  • Seth Gillette 9th May '10 - 12:35am

    Dictionary def: Bigot – “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.”

    Sounds to me like much of the Lib Dem parliamentary party, much of Labour, and the Guardian!

  • How much of a stumbling block to a coalition is Gordon Brown? Most commentators, including on this site, seem to be suggesting that this was a vote against Brown rather than a wholesale rejection of Labour. Could Nick Clegg ever say that he would support Labour to stay in control on condition that they had a change of leader?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th May '10 - 1:04am

    Seth Gillette

    Maybe ‘Our Tone’ should apologise to these people and the new Tory MP for Pendle, Andrew Stephenson, for insulting them as bigoted?

    Yes, and maybe the Tories shoud apologise for what they and their friends in the newspapers called us.

    The typical, pernicious name-calling common to the left,

    but not to the Daily Mail etc?

    Oh, come on.

    We are trying to be realistic here. Being realistic means acknowledging that the Conservative Party contains many individuals we’d be very uncomfortable with. Surveys of Conservative PPCs in winnable seats did indeed show they tended to have very hard-right opinions on such things as the EU. The claim of David Cameron to have moved his party in a more liberal direction is very suspect. In many ways, the old style “knights of the shire” conservatism was closer to us, because that sort of person often did have some sense of social responsibility and thought there was more to life than making a quick buck out of financial trading unlike many of your modern thrusting Conservative Party types.

  • Seth, wake up and smell the coffee. Are we liberal bigots to utterly reject Tory regressiveness? We are intransigent insofar as we won’t compromise on equality and fairness, elements that are very much an anathema to modern conservatism. We are nit dealing with de toqueville, but thatchers offspring, who are totally wedded to self-interest, bug business and the precise set of priorities that have led
    us where we now find ourselves economically. Their tax plans are regressive, their social attitudes are discriminatory at heart. As liberals, how can we condone this or lend it legitimacy through a coalition. We would be a laughing stock.
    At this point I find it hard to see stv as a realistic prospect – it’s not in conservative interests and could be easily derailed by their media friends at whim.
    My heart says rainbow coalition with the goal of pushing through PR. This E be possible with the nationalists. But my head says try and wring it out of cameron as best we can, PR a line in the sand, but with the option to vote against anything we deem to be a point of vital interest…. But bear in mind a formal coalition will not ge forgiven if and when it goes arwy. The press will make sure we are blamed, andvwevwont be able to claim the moral high ground /m/ which we could if the current talks don’t work out…

  • Sorry iPhone keyboards aren’t great at this time of night….

  • Afterthought 9th May '10 - 4:25am

    How foolish.

    The worst possible result would have been a Conservative outright majority.

    The Liberal Democrats got 25% of the vote, less than 10% of seats, but may get more than half of their programme.

  • I am a Tory, although admittedly one no longer in the UK and voting, which may give me a little perspective.

    LD supporters have had their hearts set on PR for so long that the ASSUME that it is obvious to everyone that their cause is right and worth any price. You need to at least accept the possibility that this is not the way that everyone sees it at all. I can respect your deeply held convictions but you need to win the argument, and with the greatest respect the discussion in the country at large has not even started.

    I would be VERY surprised if a referendum on PR would pass in the UK once the issue was fully debated. All countries tend to find that referendums advocating radical change are hard to pass, and the UK is a fundamentally (small c) conservative electorate in this respect. I would be amazed if the people would have it shoved down their throats as part of a LibLab Rainbow deal that has no long term purpose other than to change the rules to suit itself before dissolving forever. Imagine, as Clegg has surely done, losing the referendum in these circumstances. The LDs will be completely wiped out at the next election as there will no longer be any reason for their existence.

    A Lib Con pact may hurt, but consider a few things. Firstly, if you want PR (and therefore coalition government) is it not fair that you should prove that you can actually take part in such a government first? If a LibCon government was a success it would MASSIVELY improve the chances of people voting for PR one day. Secondly, if you now go and sit on the sidelines, what is the point of the LDs? Why would people vote for PR if the main exponent of coalition government is too driven by its own prejudices to enter government when the opportunity arises?

    If you reject the Tory offer, you are basically saying to everyone that the only future for the LibDems is in coalition with Labour under PR. But right now, if the whole country had to vote ‘two party preferred’ the Tories would have the numbers, not Labour. So you cannot bring fairness or representation. In these circumstances, the chances of you winning a referendum on PR are not high.

    In my very humble opinion, the LDs need to see this situation as the beginning of their quest for PR, not the end. Up until now, you have been powerless. Now you have to play your cards and prove your case. The country has not accepted that PR is inevitable or desirable, although clearly it is now ready to hear the argument. But if the outcome of the first hung parliament election in a generation is a hopelessly unstable Tory minority government or worse, a dreadful rainbow coalition which only wants to change the rules to suit them, the case against PR will be made in front of the whole nation. If, however, you enter into a successful coalition which provides stable government at a time of national crisis, there may be a large number of people (even me) who will one day decide that you have PROVED that PR is not a threat to the political fabric of the country.

  • This is indeed a very poor result for Liberal Democrats. To lose even Sheffield City Council, when our Leader is a Sheffield MP must mean that we’re doing something wrong. To say nothing of Camden, Islington, Southwark & Richmond. And many of the losses were to Labour! At the end of 13 years in power with the economic recession likely to continue for another 1-2 years.

  • Terry Gilbert 9th May '10 - 9:12am

    @afterthought – a very good point! We are the ones hanging onto the Tories coat-tails as they seek to dominate the country with 36% of the vote. Don’t let go Nick!

    @Matthew Huntbach – I’m glad we have thoughtful people like you in our party, but I’m not sure how you see such an arrangement working. Would we not be blamed for ‘sitting on our hands’ while the Tories forced through cuts in the teeth of opposition from the rest of Parliament and the country?

    My own view is that a Coalition where we agree to stable Government (with roughly two fifths of the power/legislative influence) would be better, but we would need a big offer on reform – as I argued in an opinion piece here yesterday, an elected second chamber under PR would do it for me. We could not be accused of refusing to support stable Government in the face of the deficit; nor of ‘not being prepared to compromise’ over PR. We should insist on the right to vote/argue our conscience on Europe, etc. but agree to have a joint budget, say with Vince as Chancellor of Chief Secretary to the Treasury (I think he could run rings round Osborne). It would be difficult to sell to our left wing supporters, but the answer should be that fettered Tories are better than unfettered Tories! I believe there are more moderate Tory voters (I agree with Tony about their MPs – the same applies to many of their Cllrs and members!) who might vote for us if we take part in a Coalition, (because they like what they see, and we will be more credible having actually Governed), than there are instinctively anti-Tory bigots who will continue to vote for us. (And speak as an instinctively anti-Tory bigot, trying to be sensible!)

  • Excellent posts by Matthew & Ryan.

  • David Sheppard 9th May '10 - 11:15am

    The fact is poor policy or presentation of the policy allowed our opponents to ridicule us as a soft touch on immigration.The same with the European policy.We continue to lose support because we are seen as too soft on these issues.The fact has to be grasped by those who turn up at party conflabs and saddle the party with policy that is open to ridicule that they are to blame for the lack of progress.We have just got to face up to the fact that we are a political party wanting power and we must have policy that cannot be pulled apart in the way that it was.Time to get real. I don,t like the Tories any more than the next bloke/woman but the fact is we have got an opportunity to play a constructive part in the government of the country and we should do so.The alternative deal with Labour is on reflection just not going to stick and to be totaly honest Labour deserve nothing after the way they have treated us in the past. And another thing! the way the hall emptied at the Birmingham conflab when it came to talk about policy on manufacturung was a total disgrace. It filled up for a row about an internet freedom debate! its time to grow up please.

  • Tony Butcher 9th May '10 - 11:29am

    Why a Lib/Lab pact could be political suicide for the Lib Dems – http://wp.me/sRHY4-41

  • Can we have a bit of reality about a deal with Labour? Cobble together all the nationalists/Greens/Northern Ireland splinters you like, Gordon Brown or whoever might be leader of the Labour Party would not be able to get enough support from Labour MPs for a referendum on PR to get it through the Commons in the light of opposition from 306 out of 307 Tories. A deal with Labour is impossible because it will not deliver what we want. Just stop fantasising about it.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 12:20pm

    tonyhill

    Perhaps that’s true, though I think it would be a mistake to underestimate politicians’ instinct for self-preservation.

    But the real problem with your argument is that a deal with the Tories doesn’t look as though it will deliver “what we want” either.

  • Anthony – I wasn’t arguing for a deal with the Tories: I know they are not going to deliver. Even if a deal was struck Cameron is even less able to deliver the support of his backbenchers for it than the leader of the Labour Party. But I saw an interview yesterday with Frank Dobson who is, I think, representative of the Labour intransigents, where he made it crystal clear that there was no way he would support legislation for PR. There need only be a dozen of his ilk, and there are actually many more than that in the parliamentary Labour Party, to join with the Tories to vote down the legislation, and then we would have sustained a defeated party in office for nothing. LibDem Voice has been full of people arguing for a Lib/Lab/Other coalition: I’m saying, stop fantasising about that – it can’t deliver.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 1:34pm

    tonyhill

    Yes, but all you’re actually saying is that it can’t deliver electoral reform. But that may apply to a deal with the Tories too.

    In that case, aren’t we back to reaching a judgment on what course of action is preferable on other grounds?

  • No, all I am actually saying to people on here is to stop wasting time fantasising that a ‘progressive alliance’ with Labour can deliver PR, which after all, is what Gordon Brown is offering us, but which is undeliverable.

  • Labour cannot deliver on electoral reform as there is no majority in the HoC – this has been stated. Once this is accepted, the whole picture changes.

    But what of the Tories? They are probably offering a different path. No bill to go straight for a referendum on PR will pass at the moment, but I am guessing the Tories will agree to certain steps now and a process that could get there. A process of consultation, maybe an elected HoL, other political reforms and maybe a ‘preferendum’ on the outcome of the committee – the Tories may feel that there are least bad options for them that could be put to the people and/or that PR will be rejected by the public so they may be able to go along with it. It is not perfect for the LDs but the idea that they can hold out and demand a referendum on PR is not realistic, so something is better than nothing. As long as whatever the Tories hold out has enough behind it to be real (eg they can’t just do what Blair did) it is probably a good idea. As I said, if the LibCon coalition works well there is far more chance of PR in the future than if the Libs sit on the sidelines.

    One thing a lot of LD supporters seem to ignore is that you will not get ANY sort of deal on electoral reform if you simply want a supply and confidence arrangement. If you want the prize, you have to take the pain as well. I am sure that this is why Clegg is taking this so seriously. His next option is to allow a Tory minority govt and how is that going to advance calls for PR by a single day?

  • Tony Greaves 9th May '10 - 2:14pm

    It’s worth setting out the arithmetic on a “rainbow alliance”.

    650 MPs. 5 Shinners won’t come, one Speaker. Makes 644. 323 wins.

    ALLIANCE

    LD + Lab = 318. 5 short.

    ADD the Ulster moderates: Naomi Long (who as a member of a sister party will presumably have a close relationship with LDs). SDLP 3 (take the Labour whip). Sylvia Herman (hates the Tories). = 323.

    ADD Green 1. Most of her demands will presumably be things we will also push (and she won’t want another election soon). = 324.

    That leaves a Celtic block of 6 SNP and 3 PC who may or may not be included but who won’t want to put in the Tories. So assume they abstain,

    TOTAL 324.

    Tory block, 305 Tories, 8 DUPs (who will be as nationalist as the Celtic block in demanding money for their patch).

    TOTAL 313.

    The numbers add up. Do the politics?

    Tony Greaves

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 2:23pm

    I wrote:
    “Yes, but all you’re actually saying is that it [an alliance with Labour] can’t deliver electoral reform.”
    tonyhill wrote:
    “No, all I am actually saying to people on here is to stop wasting time fantasising that a ‘progressive alliance’ with Labour can deliver PR …”

    Hmmm.

  • Tonyhill’s right, Labour cannot deliver on PR. It doesn’t matter if the rainbow coalition numbers add up, there are enough Labour MPs who are as ideologically opposed to PR as the tories are It’s a hell of a gamble to take, propping up brown as prime minister when the country clearly doesn’t want him. I reckon most people voting Labour did so in spite of gordon brown not because of him.

    Now, Labour could change their leader but that would mean another prime minister who hasn’t been before the electorate – people were angry enough the first time, think how they’ll feel if it happens again. I’m passionate about PR, but i’m not willing to sell my soul for it, either to labour or the tories.

  • I implore readers to take some time examining the election results in detail. In seat after seat that we held, the Tory vote went up, but ours went up more. Why? Because we squeezed the Labour vote down to the bone – in several cases, below 5%. Any kind of accommodation with the Tories puts future tactical voting in jeopardy. Not only is it wrong in principle, it is electoral harakiri.

    Yes, one can argue that a deal with Labour would alienate an even larger chunk of the electorate. But there are two crucial differences: (1) We would only enter into such an arrangement after talks with Cameron failed; and (2) One of the terms of the deal would be the removal of Gordon Brown, giving the lie to the sloagn “vote orange, get Brown”.

  • John Greaves 9th May '10 - 3:17pm

    I have not only voted for the Liberal Democrats, but I have also volunteered my services free of charge and made several significant donations to the party this election. I find it absolutely vile that the Mr. Clegg and the party would even consider the prospect of forming an alliance with the Conservative Party.
    It seems that the people of this country have very short memories when it comes to the tories. They almost destroyed this country the last time they were in government and now they have been elected again they will finish the job.
    If the Liberal Democrats do decide to join the conservatives then I will never again vote Liberal Democrat and I will ensure that all my efforts at the next election will be anti LB.

  • Richard Bailey 9th May '10 - 3:24pm

    I have supported the LibDems for 23 years in both general and local elections and it greaves me to see Nick Clegg trying to broker a deal with the Conservatives. I voted LibDem not Tory. If the deal goes ahead which I sincerely hope it doesn’t I will withdraw my support for the party in all future general and local elections.

  • Jon Bellingam 9th May '10 - 6:34pm

    I sympathise with those who find the Tories completely unpalatable – but I do think we’re in danger of looking a little naive here. Firstly we were hoping for a hung parliament weren’t we? The figures have not fallen quite as many of us would have liked, but we were always going to have make deals and compromises. A deal with Labour would have also involved a few uncomfortable policy accomodations. This kind of horse trading is what balanced parliaments require of us – we can lead the way with a more grown-up Parliament and damn the knee-jerk foaming of the simpleton media that can’t cope with 3-dimensional views on politics.

    And if you don’t want a deal with the Tories, the other option is another election – the figures just don’t get there for a stable alternative, sadly the voters didn’t give us that luxury. I don’t think we’d fair too well in an immediate second election, at least not unless it was clearly the fault of the Tories for being utterly unreasonable. I think we should stop having tantrums, and prepare for the small happiness of hopefully Tony’s Option 2 – and the enjoyment of actually getting a few of our plans in law and making the country all the better for it.

  • I’m a councillor who represents a normally Labour area, where Labour held firm on the “vote Lib Dem, get Tory” line. I have also spent most of my politically active life in areas where the Lib Dems fought the Tories, with Labour a distant third.

    I’m deeply concerned about the prospect of a pact with the Tories. To me, the Tories stand for greed, city bankers, big business, the Poll Tax, lack of society and the promotion of inequity, all things which I’ve fought against for many years. To my constituents, the hatred for the Tories is verging on the viscereal, given what Thatcher did to our area (memories here are long and generally unforgiving.)

    Do I believe that cuts should take place in the first year of a government? No. Am I concerned that a major defence contract for my ward is at threat from the Tories? Yes. Could I – as a councillor – support a government decision which is likely to mean job losses in my ward? No.

    But at the same time, I realise that the country at the moment needs stable government, either through a coalition or through a “supply & confidence” deal. I also don’t think the instability of a further election in 6 or 12 months time would help (and I very much doubt that we could afford it, anyway.)

    So I find myself particularly torn at the moment – one minute, I think it’s a necessary evil, the next I’m on the point of resigning. Somehow, I don’t think that confusion will go in the next few days or weeks.

  • Peter Davies 10th May '10 - 9:31am

    Under any deal with the tories, they will have to introduce an emergency budget as they promised. Either it will totally fail to address the deficit or it will include extremely unpopular cuts and tax rises. Yes, an autumn election under fptp would decimate us but it would almost certainly leave Labour under a new leader as the largest party by seats possibly with an overall majority. Ironically, our best hope may be to agree to something so unpopular that the Tories can’t call an election for five years!

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