Opinion: Speaking up for coalition

Over the few days since the coalition government was announced I’ve been dismayed to hear several Liberal Democrat members say they will rip up their membership cards in protest.  Whilst many are understandably disappointed that we now have a Conservative Prime Minister, or that we don’t have a Liberal Democrat Prime Minister, a coalition government including the Lib Dems is not a bad thing.

Coalition talks with Labour failed.  Of the two remaining viable options, a Conservative minority was the only other choice to a coalition.  We would have a Conservative Prime Minister either way.  Unlike 1974 when the Liberal Party had very little influence on the Labour administration, in 2010 we are strong partners with a presence in every government department.  We are not propping up the Conservative Party; we are sharing government with the Conservative Party.

Of course we would like a 100% share of government but the 20% or so that we have is a strong platform on which to put our policies into action.  We have agreement to implement our £10,000 income tax threshold, reform the banking system, to have a referendum on AV and to reform the House of Lords.  Some of our policies on Pensions, on the Environment, on Civil Liberties and on Schools will be enacted into law.

This should be seen as a victory for the Liberal Democrats.  We have won the right to carry out many of our key policies, something that hasn’t happened in my life time.  Anyone who believes in the ideals of the Liberal Democrats has to see this as a good thing for the country and for the party.  I’m sure there are those amongst the Conservatives who would rather have won the election out right than have to share government with us but the electorate chose not to give any one party a majority.  This is a tremendous opportunity for us and we should make the best use of it.

Rather than look at coalition as an opportunity for us to help the Conservatives, look at it as an opportunity for us to be in government.  A successful coalition can show the Liberal Democrats as a capable party of government.  This would be a strong base from which to fight the next general election in 5 years time.  Before ripping up your membership cards, take a second look at coalition and see the benefits to the Liberal Democrats.

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34 Comments

  • Chris Mills 14th May '10 - 4:06pm

    For the civil liberties improvements that are coming alone, I will live with this coalition.

    But there’s more that makes me genuinely optimistic!

    I’m not one to trust the Tories, however I believe that they have really worked hard with us on this.

    We have the wish to get to the 10k income tax allowance with real progress year on year to it. They dropped the inheritance tax cut, We’re getting the pupil premium. There are some real Liberal Democrat Policies in there.

    David Laws and Vince Cable have significant positions that reflect their skills. Although a little hamstrung, Chris Huhne will fit his role well and hopefully bring in more renewable energy.

    The referendum on AV is a start and a welcome one, and Danny Alexander as Scottish Secretary reflects the greater share of the vote that the Liberal Democrats have North of the border.

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg genuinely seem to like each other, which will help when the disagreements start (as they inevitably will), as they will be able to work things out between everyone.

    All in all what looks like a very positive government and a lot more than I expected from the Tories. Well done on them for genuinely being open to negotiation. And well done to Alex Salmond for correctly realising that the biggest stumbling block to the rainbow alliance was Labour.

    This is the once in a generation opportunity to show the British public that Hung Parliaments and PR really does work.

    And the result has some real democracy, 59% of the votes and 56% of the seats.

  • James Bartlett 14th May '10 - 4:12pm

    Those people who are ripping up their membership cards must be the ones who consider the Liberal Democrats as “the Labour party I’m allowed to vote for”. Myself on the other hand, I was a floating voter between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives having voted Labour way back in 97 and Lib Dem since then. I voted Lib Dem and am now seriously thinking about becoming a fully paid up member. The party really couldn’t have wished for anything better – this is the only way to have a stable government and have influence over the running of the country. And at the moment the Lib Dems are much closer to the outlook of the Conservatives than Labour. I think it’s those people that look at politics in a purely Left – Right – Centre viewpoint who probably struggle with that idea. Those terms haven’t really meant anything for 20 years, let alone now. It’s more a question of small or big government, fair or unfair taxation and controlled or rampant spending, not really left or right issues per se and the Lib Dems sit much, much closer to the Conservatives when discussed in those simple terms. That’s if you can trust the “New Conservatives” of course, which understandably is probably at the forefront of the minds of a lot of these former Lib Dems. We’ll just have to wait and see in 5 years.

  • Refreshing to see some grown ups running the country for a change. It’s been run by unelected spin Doctors long enough.
    Long live the partnership.
    I would vote for this outcome every time if I could.
    I hope they change the voting form so that you can vote [Con/Lib].

  • Why do Lib Dem supporters keep on about the 10k income tax allowance?

    When it is not going to benefit the poorest in society, even the poorest pensioners see little benefit…

    The cost will be in excess of £17 billion, the poorest may and I say may, see £1 billion the other £16 billion is going to the middle and upper earners, now that seems a fair way to offer those on the lowest income more… it would of probably been better to introduce a zero rate of tax for earnings of less than 10k, and only those earning less than 10k…dunno not my job, that’s why we elect MPs

    But 10k income tax allowance does not help the poorest in society the most, but I suppose it is fair to middle and upper earners????? Indeed fair

  • Les, your post doesnt make any sense. Raising the income tax threshold is the most progressive way to cut income taxes. That’s a mathematical fact. It is much more progressive that cutting the basic rate of tax. The only people it doesnt benefit are those who arent earning an income. That’s because the whole point of it is to encourage people to get into work and reward them more for it.

  • While I am no lob-dem I have come on here in the last few days to see how the members are reacting to what looks like a shameful sell-out to most outsiders. I get a sense that you are tying yourselves in knots trying to justify what most know deep down is an abject abrogation of long held liberal views. I have always admired your party for its ability to keep going despite knowing you’ll never hold real power. But now that you’ve been offered a sniff of influence you have crumbled with embarrassing ease, flip flopping, summersaulting and going back on long cherished values in a way which is painful to watch. If you have children, when you put them to bed tonight try explaining why you are now allied with Cash, Tebbitt and Redwood. Power is intoxicating, so maybe you won’t have to get drunk to avoid seeing how shameless you capitulation is.

  • Colin Green 14th May '10 - 5:21pm

    Les Moss,

    “But 10k income tax allowance does not help the poorest in society the most, but I suppose it is fair to middle and upper earners”

    The minimum wage for someone working 7 hours per week is £11,400 per year. The £10k threshold benefits those people earning around £10,000 per year the most. The more you earn above this, the less benefit you get. Middle incomes of around £25,000 per year are also better off, but less as a percentage than those on the minimum wage. You are right that the benefit to part time workers is reduced compared to full time workers. My point is that this is a key Liberal Democrat policy and we have gained agreement to implement this policy. The implementation would not have happened if we had not joined the coalition.

  • David Allen 14th May '10 - 5:23pm

    N Makhno, what would you have done?

  • I voted Lib Dem on 6 May for one reason – to keep the Conservatives OUT. I feel cheated and let down and will NEVER vote Lib Dem again. Neither will I ever vote in favour of any PR system. I know others who feel exactly the same. This coalition smells very nasty and when we have major civil and industrial unrest I hope Nick Clegg will share the blame. I really think that the events of the past week will put the Lib Dems back 25 years and will be the reason we return to a strong red/blue two party system.

  • coalitions involve compromise. When have the Lib Dem said otherwise?

    People seem to be trying to hold the Lib Dems to something they never promised.

    By all means, point out flip-flops that are real but do not say “I wanted the Lib Dem to do X and because they did not deliver it, they must be bad”. Check them against what they actually promised to do in a coalition.

  • John Gray; “I voted Lib Dem on 6 May for one reason – to keep the Conservatives OUT”

    Then you’ve acheived your aim. You have kept the Conservatives out.

    We have a Coalition government in which many Conservative policies that otherwise would have been implemented will not be. and many Lib Dem policies that otherwise wouldn’t have been implemented will be.

  • @Les

    I think you make a really good point.

    It’s a worthy aim to make sure that anyone earning 10k or less pays no income tax, but simply raising the threshold means that in absolute terms all people earning over 10k will benefit the same amount since the allowance applies to everyone. Lower earners will feel more benefit because as a proportion of their total earnings the saving will be greater.

    For this to be a propery progressive change to the tax system the tax free 10k allowance should only apply to those earning below a certain amount (as Les says). This probably should not be 10k because then someone earning 11k would take home less than someone earning 10k, but it could for example only apply to everyone except those who pay the top rate of income tax.

    The other possibility would be to increase the top rate of income tax to help pay for the increase in the personal allowance and effectively recoup the advantage that top rate earners would gain from the higher allowance.

    Personally, I think Les’ suggestion is simpler and would be less controversial.

  • “I voted Lib Dem on 6 May for one reason – to keep the Conservatives OUT”

    John Gray, so because of your vote, the Conservatives got in? They would’ve got in anyway. At least this way, some Lib Dems got in too and it’s not a complete Conservative victory.

    “Neither will I ever vote in favour of any PR system”

    Please, you vote for us because you want to vote for Labour and you don’t believe in electoral reform? Vote Labour next time.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th May '10 - 8:04pm

    Just read the press, and listen to the commentators to hear how national opinion is being warped and hot-housed to find this a negative sell-out on the LimDem’s part.

    It’s right there in what you said – “warped and hot-housed”. This is shameless media manipulation of public opinion, not reporting on actual public opinion.

    The thing about this sort of noise by agitators and the media is that it doesn’t last. It’s based on the public’s complete lack of knowledge about what is going on, and the ability of those people to step into the gap and fill it with misinformation. In 12 months nobody will remember it, because it won’t have any relationship to what happens next.

  • Stuart Mitchell 14th May '10 - 8:22pm

    Colin Green:

    “The minimum wage for someone working 7 hours per week is £11,400 per year.”

    I presume you mistyped there – the minimum wage is certainly NOT £31 per hour! I earn less than that and I’m on an above average wage!

    Alex Burge:

    “Refreshing to see some grown ups running the country for a change. It’s been run by unelected spin Doctors long enough.”

    Well now it’s being run by an elected spin doctor. The only PR Cameron believes in is the kind he used to do professionally for Carlton. His performance today, telling the British public what a jolly good thing it is that their elected Parliamentarians will lose their horribly old-fashioned right to remove a government in which a majority has no confidence, was quite masterful.

    MBoy:

    “Raising the income tax threshold is the most progressive way to cut income taxes. That’s a mathematical fact.”

    If you really want to make incmoe tax more progressive, and avoid giving tax cuts to peple who don’t need them, then it is necessary to increase tax rates further up the scale somewhere, as well as raising the threshold. The Lib Dem manifesto promised to do both things; the coalition is offering only one. I guess that’s compromise for you. I believe Lib Dems when you say that you favour progressive taxation; therefore I trust that you will vigorously oppose any suggestion of an increase in VAT, which you probably know is one of the most regressive taxes.

    Lib Dems ought to be wary. Eight days ago, the Tories were ranting on and on about how a coalition would be a catastrophe. Make no mistake – they really meant it. At the moment, they are so relieved to be back in power after un unprecedented 13 years in opposition that they are prepared to humour their liberal “conscience” for a while. But come 2015 and they will be desperate to ditch you and get on doing the things they REALLY want to do, such as £200,000 tax cuts for millionaires.

    Then again, the Torification of the Lib Dems is happening at such a pace that the Tories might not have to wait so long!

  • Colin Green 14th May '10 - 8:43pm

    Stuart Mitchell

    “The minimum wage for someone working 7 hours per week is £11,400 per year.”

    “I presume you mistyped there – the minimum wage is certainly NOT £31 per hour!”

    Yes, that should have read 37 hours per week.

  • Ripping up membership cards, too right!, I’m going to dissolute mine post haste. I will as soon as it comes through the post, I joined the party the other day on the internet and when my card arrives it’s gonna get ripped. they’re not made of plastic are they?, I practiced ripping an old video card and it was really difficult, it hurt and didn’t really rip in a convincing or substansive manner.

    I did actually join the party on the internet the other day, so maybe the membership will hold with a bit of ebb and flow. I have always been Liberal in vote and political opinions, lefty, greeny and as one of Thatchers Children, posting my standard rants on Tories would have me arrested under the soon to be repealed ‘Police State act’ or whatever they call it. I joined after trying to get on the Libdem forum whilst feeling frustrated at this micro-frenzy of the tribalistic ripping rituals, It reminded me of the early 90s when as a student, I had an opportunity for a brief informal interview with Paddy Ashdown at his surgery . This was right after the naming debacle when the confrences had been vying for the best comedy on TV for the RedBlue brigade, and I expressed wild incoherent exhasperation far more than I asked pertinent questions ( If he remembers it’ll only be down to being filed under OMG?!?, sorry Paddy ), as I recall he said ‘ this is a Democratic Party with a Democratic process, as leader I have to respect that ‘
    We now also have to respect that, that being the numbers, the result and this roadmap for a stable enough Government to address the enormous fiscal dungpile et al. Having lived under three pseudo-Presidencies I’m looking forward to the end of nod’n’wink sofa politics and war plans on fag-packets, there are two party mandates to answer to now and I’m also looking forward to seeing Clegg keeping Cameron more honest than he ever thought he’d have to be.
    there is a trap, moving from ‘ DEMOCRACY is what we want ‘ to ‘ Democracy IS what WE want ‘, best avoided in whole or part.

  • Stuart Mitchell 14th May '10 - 9:22pm

    Colin Green :

    “Yes, that should have read 37 hours per week.”

    At the moment, despite all the talk of “cooperation” and a “new politics”, there appears to be little goodwill shown to the recently departed Labour government.

    But mention of the minimum wage ought to remind us that Labour did some good things when in power – things which were anathema to the Tories, and always will be. Lib Dems may be cock a hoop now but they will face stresses in the future as the differences between them and the Tories come to the surface. The coalition agreement may lok good from a Lib Dem point of view, but at the moment it’s a worthless bit of paper. If the majority of it ends up being put into practice then it will be the first such “manifesto” in the history of British politics. I wish you Lib Dems well in your efforts to tame the Tory beast, but we all know this will end in tears one day – it’s just a question of when.

  • Brendan Ward 14th May '10 - 9:59pm

    I Voted Lib Dem in the last four General elections, but no more, i will return to voting Labour, as i can not stomach voting for a party that betrays it’s principles for the lure of the ministerial car and the trappings of power – by aligning itself with a party of duck houses & moat cleaning and which thinks nothing of the average person in the UK, [but to be fair to the Tories what does Nicky boy know of the ordinary Joe in the street] i would caution the party not to get used to this all to brief taste of power as i believe the Lib Dems will slowly wither away and be consumed by the Tories, and we will end up back in the main with two parties [Labour and Tory]
    During the election I scoffed when they said vote Liberal and get the Tories – but I was wrong will have five long years to rue my vote for politicians and a leader that puts power before values.

  • Just saw this. I had serious doubts about Cameron during the election campaign but I have to admit, the more I see stuff like this, the more I think that he really does want do do some good…. I hope it’s not just wishful thinking.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/uk-politics-video/7723996/David-Cameron-pledges-greenest-government-ever.html

  • What did you think of the performance of your lib con, rep Simon Hughes on any questions? Rarely have I heard a once noble man sound so hollow. He was ripped to shreds and he is one of your most eloquent fellows, you are goig to be in for a very tough time if that is as good as you get at defending the indefensible

  • N Makhno,

    I’m concerned you’ve jumped into this discussion without first considering the viability of your strongly held viewpoint. Riddle me this: what the tits would you have done?

  • @C Bell

    Who cares what N Makhno would’ve done? Labour MPs, Labour bloggers, and “betrayed” Lib Dem “voters” (not all the trolls posting here saying “I’ll never vote Lib Dem again!” can actually have voted Lib Dem, or the vote share would’ve gone up by a lot!) think it’s better to attack the government for whatever it does, safe in the knowledge that the opposition never have to propose an alternative. Why be constructive when you can just cry ‘traitor’ at every Lib Dem MP?

    @Stephen J

    It was the only thing on offer. I am of the view that it gets people used to preferential voting, and it also ensures that at least within the constituency a candidate must have majority support to win. Once this is done, simply expand it to cover multiple existing constituencies, elect a number of MPs through the preferential voting paper, and voila! You have STV.

  • N Makhno

    I have just watched Simon Hughes on Question Time (thank you BBC iPlayer) and thought he gave a passionate defence of the Liberal Democrats and the Coalition. I’ve also heard him do the same on Any Questions and 5 Live this week. For me his moment of triumph was when he reminded the audience that thanks to the Coalition we now have an opportunity to restore civil liberties removed or threatened by the previous Labour government.

  • Regarding a “presence in every department”, can anyone tell me how the Liberal Democrats are represented in Transport?

  • I am incredulous this morning that some are ripping up their membership cards in disgust at the ‘sell out’. For generations we have been campaigning for PR. By definition that meant we were campaigning for Coalition Government. Now it has arrived some don’t like the result. Good riddance ! We are finally a pragmatic grown up political party rather than a leftie pressure group.

  • Oh it is too late to worry now, the concern should be, just what is going on?

    It looks like many of the Lib Dem MPs are being intertwined in government, but it is not for me to worry about, although if I was a cynical Lib Dem, which I am not; I would wonder if it is crafty politics or just Dave being cynical, I don’t know.

    One thing for sure the Lib Dem leader and MPs will not have the option to say “it was not us/me” or when the real pain starts share the taint of conservatism right policies, we did not vote that in we abstained; do you honestly believe you can dissociate that easily… hmmm I seriously hope you are not that stupid…

    The Lib Dem party leaders, advisors and MPs all accepted combined responsibility when you took that step and formed a government with the Conservatives; you share the power, responsibility and complicity.
    No I am not saying the Tories or the government are evil (I may think it) but I hope I am making a very simple point…

    IT IS NOT OUR FAULT… WE ABSTAINED!
    We did nothing wrong…
    ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’

  • I’m a true blue Tory.

    Just wanted to say that many of us are very happy with the addition of some of the LibDem policies to what we have already have. I am thinking in particular about the raising of the tax threshold to £10,000 and increased pupil premium.

    Keep arguing with us, but do it from the standpoint that the coalition is good for Britain.

  • @ Les Moss

    Of course the Lib Dems can’t say it’s not our fault, they can say

    “We did our best. We influenced as much as we could given the amount of support we were given by the electorate and the voting system. You want us to do more next time? Give us more support and/or change the voting system so that parliament more evenly represents how you voted”

    I think the Lib Dems need to make people recognise that they can’t affect every decision, that their part in the coalition is limited by the support they can provide in parliament. If people can be made to understand this simple fact then they may just start thinking about who is really culpable for the policies that get enacted… i.e. themselves.

    We don’t like to hear in this country “It’s your fault, take some responsibility” we are constantly putting that responsibility on to others.. .politicians, doctors, teachers… anyone but ourselves. It’s about time the population of the UK grew upo and took responsibility for it’s actions.

    We know what the position of the Lib Dem’s is, if we supported those principles and policies we should have given them the ability to actually see them through. We also have to realise that a greater number of people DID vote for the conservatives to push their manifesto forward, and it is they who are responsible for the Tory policies being enacted, not the Lib Dems… and finally, because we, supposedly, believe in democracy, we should accept that this is what the general public wanted to see, however much it galls us to find that out.

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