Opinion: Why I would be wary of another coalition with the Conservatives

As the speculation continues on the make-up of the next government, I have been thinking a lot about the prospect of another Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

We went into coalition in 2010 for three main reasons 1) because the country needed a strong, stable government to sort out the economy which was in crisis 2) to stop the Tories from doing nasty, right-wing things, and 3) to get our own great policies, such as pupil premium implemented.

So where are we in 2015? We do not have the same level of economic difficulty as we did in 2010. The deficit is halved, our GDP growth is the highest amongst developed countries and we have record employment. Whilst it’s true that we cannot take the economic recovery for granted, we are not in crisis.

As to being able to stop the Tories’ right wing agenda in 2015, I doubt that we will be able to do that as effectively. It is likely that any Conservative/Lib Dem/DUP coalition will have the smallest of majorities. This will give those ‘swivel-eyed’ right wing conservatives a lot of power. In this parliament, the Coalition had a decent majority and the more extreme Tories could be safely ignored – that won’t be the case this time. And just to get a flavour of some of the policies on offer in the Tory 2015 manifesto – 500 more free schools, removing JSA for 18-21 year olds, requiring 40% turnout for strike action, ending any subsidy for onshore wind,  lowering the benefit cap, capping skilled migration, scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing the snoopers charter – nice!

In terms of getting our own policies through, we will certainly have far fewer MPs, and I can see the Tories pushing back strongly on some of our policies – such as our housing ideas (not defined by Nick Clegg as a red line) and some of our green policies where there is a fair amount of wiggle room in our ‘green red line’. Furthermore, those policy areas where we overlapped with the Tories have largely been implemented in the last parliament.

Added to this, there are all of the disadvantages that entering into another coalition with the Conservatives will bring. They will cut far more than we would want them to, and this will have a big impact, particularly in local government – putting services and at further risk, and resulting in us losing even more councillors. London will take a further hit (I am not disinterested here), leaving us in a poor position for the mayoral and GLA elections in 2016.

So all in all, I can’t see that the arguments stack up for another coalition with the Conservatives – we don’t have much to gain, and there is an awful lot to lose.

* Cara Jenkinson is Vice-Chair of Haringey Liberal Democrats and PPC for Enfield North

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76 Comments

  • Agree. I was and am a supporter of the previous coalition. But any future Lib/Con coalition is likely to be less liberal and more conservative, and so is unacceptable to me. In addition, the many shared policy objectives from 2010 are gone now – they ave been implemented – all that’s left is the stuff we disagree on. There just isn’t any mileage to be had from another, in my opinion.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 10:36am

    The way I look at it is the Lib Dem manifesto came out firmly on the left, so being a centrist I would rather a coalition with the Conservatives than Labour in order to balance it up.

    I would just about accept a coalition with Labour, but only as long as the party maintained its unique identity and didn’t give up “modernising”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '15 - 10:56am

    The case for the coalition in May 2010 was clear – it was the only stable government that could be formed, and it would have been irresponsible for us not to have allowed it to be formed. However, we should have made it absolutely clear that we were participating in it because a combination of the way people voted and the distortions of the electoral system gave us no alternative, and also that those distortions greatly weakened our negotiating position when it came to agreeing on compromises. By not making this clear from the start, we have allowed our opponents on the left to claim that we chose this coalition because we liked the Conservatives more than Labour and that we have agreed to all its policies because we like all of them. I am sorry to say, our Leader and those surrounding him have often made statements which damage us further by seeming to agree with those lines. It did not have to be like that.

    Unless our vote in May 2015 is much higher than predicted, we have a clear line to use for not going into a coalition again. We did it for the good of the country and because we felt it right to support the government that the people of this country had asked for. We were at a huge disadvantage due to the distortions of the electoral system which gave the Tories 500% more seats than us even though they had just 50% more votes. But the Conservative and Labour Party back that system, as did the people of this country in the May 2011 referendum. So, we have been punished by the people of this country for giving them what they said they want when they voted in 2010 and 2011, even though we with our support for proportional representation wouldn’t have wanted it in that form if we had our way. Very well, we will listen to the people again, they have punished us for going into coalition, so this time we won’t. Don’t blame us for the consequences.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '15 - 11:05am

    The other practical issue is that after another 5 years of coalition with the Conservatives, it will be impossible to maintain a separate identity. People WILL see us as just another branch of the Conservatives, something that maintains a different label and slightly different image just for historical reasons. We are already being told that in some constituencies, Sheffield Hallam for example, the vote we are getting is really a Conservative vote going for what is the best way of supporting the Conservative-LibDem alliance in that place. The more this happens, the more we will be seen as just the local flag for that alliance in a few places where we happened to be in the lead over the Conservatives. That is what happened to the National Liberals who lingered on in a token existence for decades after they had effectively merged with the Conservatives, but the Liberal Party outside the National Liberals also survived during the 1950s and into the 1960s through a few local alliances with the Conservatives which enabled them to maintain a token Parliamentary presence.

    The Liberal Party revival started when it broke away from that, and started challenging the Conservatives. If Clegg insists on a Conservative-LibDem coalition, he’s taking our party back to where it was in the 1950s.

  • David Evans 5th May '15 - 11:06am

    My view is I wouldn’t want us to go into coalition with anyone in 2015. Not for any ideological reasons, but simply the fact that Nick made such a mess of the last one, being totally outmanoeuvred by David Cameron in so many ways: be it AV referendum (accepting it as something worth having and the campaign itself), absurd loyalty to the Conservatives until it was far too late; taking big hits for the coalition without anything in return (e.g. Tuition Fees), HoL reform, NHS reform etc. etc. Add to this he is so unrepentant about his failure, his bunker mentality, refusal to countenance the need to widen his group of advisors to include those prepared to ask the awkward questions and insist they are answered, and finally prepared to continue to sacrifice any number of councillors, MSPs, MEPs and now MPs when it is clear the root cause of the problem is his leadership, and not even an acknowledgement of his personal failings (Farage debates in the EU elections being a prime example). The list goes on.

    The consequences have been loss of nearly half our councillors, a third of our members, more than half of our MSPs, all but one of our MEPs and the end result is that in many parts of the country people no longer have any Lib Dem representation at any level of government.

    Does any of us want a repeat of the last five years?

  • Stop holding back, Dave, tell us how bad you think Clegg is REALLY 😉

  • I agree with Cara. I would be prepared to accept a Lib/Lab coalition on the condition that differentiation is much, much clearer than it was in the last Parliament. I share Matthew’s concern of being seen to be a cadet branch of the Tories if we are seen to support them for a second time in a row.

  • While there was an obvious driver for coalition in 2010, I’m not sure that’s there now.

    If anything a confidence and supply deal with a minority government gives you greater power than simple coalition where the sheer numbers mean the smaller party can subsumed especially with most of its leadership in government positions which stop any public dissent. It also means the minority government takes ownership of all the unpopular policies but other policies can be voted through via amendments or public compromise which leaves no ambiguity over who did what. The smaller party gets to keep it’s own identity. Coalitions can work, but the Lib Dem leadership messed up the initial years of coalition when they failed to offer any differentiation, and a continuing association with the Tories risks the identity of the party being lost.

    I’ve reconciled myself to voting Lib Dem after a long period of introspection, but if I see them anywhere near the same platform as the DUP (who are probably the most hateful mainstream party in the UK) then I’m done.

  • I agree with many who supported the coalition for reasons stated but if we have a Tory party led by Theresa May or her ilk,the benefit to either the Country or our party doesnt immediately hit me. Labour on the other hand are not left as many of their supporters proclaim or suppose, so there might be no meeting of minds. I recall being the negotiator for Liberals with SDP,a pretty messy operation(The SDP guy immediately joined the Tories and an MP.) so you have to bear in mind who you are negotiating with Balls etc might be a phrase that is worth using

  • We’ve lost all but one of our MPs half our councillors and a best half our MPs – we need to go into opposition to rebuild the party so we can be a force in 2020s otherwise we could be dead and buried.

  • kmag

    If Clegg is as determined to have another coalition with the Tories as he seems, there doesn’t seem to be any other way but to include the DUP and possibly UKIP. All the polls suggest the Tories and LibDems won’t have enough seats to govern on their own. So get ready for Nick Clegg’s reasons why the DUP and UKIP aren’t so bad after all.

  • matt (Bristol) 5th May '15 - 12:43pm

    I am genuinely trying to keep an open mind, but I distrust the apparent unity of the Tories during this election and feel it will be extremely shortlived. The knives are out for Cameron on his backbenches. I do not think their claims to represent stable government are credible and the next parliament will involve a bloodbath and multiple squabbles and vendettas pursued through the channels of the 1922 committee (over which august body we have no influence whatsoever and would be powerless as the manouevering rolled out).

    Marshall Petain’s quote about ‘fusion with a corpse’ needs to be borne in mind. If you want to be a grown up party of government, just how ‘grownup’ will government with the Tories be for the next 5 years (even hypothetically assuming – which is a stretch for me, but I’m trying – it is possible and theoretically desirable)?

  • Samuel Griffiths 5th May '15 - 1:42pm

    A majority with the Conservatives needs to be avoided at all costs. If that means a Tory minority government without the LibDems then so be it. If that means joining a rainbow coalition against the Conservatives then I would happily support that too. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a shift in the views of the leadership to be more progressive, regardless of what the manifesto said. The 2010 manifesto was very progressive, keep in mind, and from it we got austerity and all the destruction that came with it.

    After struggling a great deal with the issue, I concluded that I won’t be voting LibDem on Thursday. Please make this party one I can vote for again, by the time another election arrives. There really isn’t much choice in British politics when you’re a liberal.

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th May '15 - 1:43pm

    Stephen Phillips5th May ’15 – 12:20pm
    ” … If we really believe in Proportional Representation, should we not lend our support to whichever party receives the largest popular vote, rather than simply the most seats? After all, the whole point of PR is to get away from ‘first past the post’. If we simply count seats, that would be unlikely to reflect the true voting intentions of the electorate. …”

    Stephen, I follow your logic and yes would prefer votes over seats but the long term interests of the party and values will be best served by a strategy aimed at enabling us to come back stronger and revitalised in 2020 as per William’s post.That means rebuilding the party. In the meantime we can work with others on a vote by vote basis where that cooperation is likely to result in genuine Liberal outcomes. Everything we do between now and then must be with the 2020 GE uppermost in our minds.

  • Samuel Griffiths 5th May '15 - 1:55pm

    If I might jump in, Stephen Phillips: The implementation of Proportional Representation means exactly that; you should be representing proportionally. The LibDems have always been an Individualist, Keynesian, Social Justice party with strong Green roots and an emphasis of Civil Liberty. When people vote for this party, they vote from the perspective of these values, representing widely the centre ground of British politics with the centre-left. Under a coalition of proportional representation, the government should ensure that these views are represented. This means Cameron represents the right, whilst the LibDems represent the centre and centre-left. It doesn’t mean the junior party just goes along with it’s bigger brother, but rather that they fight every single day for the people who elected them and their mutual values. This has very clearly not happened.

  • Arthur Snell 5th May '15 - 2:05pm

    There’s a basic issue here: in 2010 LDs got nearly a quarter of the vote. This week a tenth will seem like a good result. The LDs entered coalition for the right reasons and have plenty to be proud of, but the single issue which prevents the party from operating on equal terms with LabCons, electoral reform, is nowhere to be seen. It is my belief that the electoral system is at the heart of much of the Uk’s problems: short-termism in economic policy, lack of infrastructure investment, over reliance on the financial sector. All of these are facilitated by a “winner takes all” political system. LDs should not consider entering any government without PR being a major coalition policy (not AV, and not a policy which will be undermined by the other coalition partner, as was the case with AV). If it’s not on the agenda for this parliament then the LDs need to stay out. As we know from the Tories’ in-house rag (Telegraph), their strategy is “destroying Nick Clegg’s party in the south, south west, parts of London and even a few seats in the north.” Unless the LDs protect themselves by insisting on fair votes, this insidious destruction would continue in a second coalition, with the only difference being that the far right would have larger influence and the LDs much less, given the inevitable loss of seats.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 2:39pm

    Imagine: Vince in the Treasury, Jo in Business, Ed Davey securing a global agreement in Paris, Featherstone in the Home Office, Carmichael Secretary of State for Scotland, Norman Lamb in Health, Tim in Housing, Webb in Pensions, Hughes in Justice.

    If we get all this plus our red lines with the Conservatives we should take it. I’ve thought about Confidence and Supply for the biggest party, but then we don’t get all our ministers. It would be handy to have a minister in every department so we can stop anything horrific happening.

  • Arthur Snell 5th May '15 - 3:10pm

    Eddie: just supposing that LDs can get all of those ministerial positions, there’s no guarantee that their achievements would lead to any boost for the party. If anything, the past five years suggests the opposite. Yes, it is important to serve the national interest above party interest, but if the LDs vote share continues to fall as it has in the past 5 years, the party interest will cease to exist! Without the protection of fair votes, coalition will continue to destroy the Liberal Democrats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '15 - 3:36pm

    Stephen Phillips

    Just one point. If we really believe in Proportional Representation, should we not lend our support to whichever party receives the largest popular vote, rather than simply the most seats?

    We have to work with reality, which is that it’s seats in Parliament that count when it comes to votes in Parliament. If we wanted to join a coalition, if it happened that the party with the most votes did not have enough seats to form one but the party with fewer votes did, then we’d have to go for the party with fewer votes. However, since we believe in proportional representation, isn’t that a reason itself for NOT going into a coalition where our number of MPs as against those of the other party is grossly disproportionate to the share of the vote? How come this point was never made by our leadership during 2010-2015 and not in this election campaign? Isn’t it a somewhat vital one when we are losing votes and seats due to our perceived weakness?

    The line that the first attempt at forming a coalition should be with the larger party is fine, so long as it doesn’t get painted, as it has, that such a coalition has to be formed. If we were going to go into coalition (and, as I said, I don’t think we should unless we do far better than predicted), I think we would need to make it clear that though we might ask the larger party to propose terms first, we would reserve the right to break off negotiations and move to the other if a satisfactory agreement could not be formed.

    The line in 2010 that the first choice would be coalition with the larger party OUGHT to have got us off the hook “nah nah nah nah nah, you rolled over and propped up the Tories”, because our response to that should have been “No, the people of this country made that choice by voting in more Tory MPs than Labour MPs”. That was especially so as there wasn’t even enough Labour MPs to form a Labour-LibDem coalition. So how come it didn’t? The utter incompetence of our Leader, that’s why. Or if not incompetence, then actual desire to destroy the party so many of us have devoted our lives to building by allowing the line that we joined with them because they were close to us ideologically to get promoted.

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th May '15 - 4:17pm

    Arthur Snell 5th May ’15 – 2:05pm

    Excellent post Arthur. Genuine STV PR must be a crucial red line issue.

    The AV vote was another where we played fair (with what was a miserable little compromise we should not have accepted from the start), the Tories did what Tories always do best (behave cynically) and Labour just played their silly nah, nah n’ nah nah games.

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th May '15 - 4:25pm

    David Evans5th May ’15 – 11:06am

    I’m also with you David. The party would barely exist by May 2020.

    What has been allowed to befall our party since 2010 will go down as the textbook example of how not to work within a coalition if you care about the future of your party and its traditional values.

  • @Stephen Hesketh you often talk about the party’s “traditional values.”

    Which traditional values are those? I believe in traditional Liberal values too, but we don’t often see eye to eye do we.

    So who is the arbiter of what constitutes tradition?

  • @Eddie Sammon an excellent ministerial team representin all strands of liberal thinking. I’d add Laws yo that mix too ( FO or Defence)

  • John Roffey 5th May '15 - 4:47pm

    With the Tories apparently planning to support NC in Sheffield Hallam and Miliband refusing to work with the SNP, even supply and confidence, but considering a coalition with the L/Ds – I am beginning to wonder if there has not been significant collusion between the old ‘mainstream parties’ to keep their monopoly – at any cost.

  • @John Roffey perhaps there’s a tacit recognition that it’s far more fruitful to seek to address the frighteningly complex issues of the modern world with reasonable pragmatists in different parties than it is to appease their own and other party extremists

  • John Roffey 5th May '15 - 5:12pm

    TCO 5th May ’15 – 4:52pm
    “perhaps there’s a tacit recognition that it’s far more fruitful to seek to address the frighteningly complex issues of the modern world with reasonable pragmatists in different parties than it is to appease their own and other party extremists”

    From the current ruling elite’s point of view [and its puppets – you and your pals at Central Office] that supports the global free market and corporatism – Yes. However, from the people’s point view – who are going to suffer a severe lack of jobs because of the rapid advancement in IT technology – No.

  • paul barker 5th May '15 - 5:26pm

    The big problem with any Con/Libdem coalition is the planned Referendum, I dont see any compromise we could decently make on that & Camerons seems to be saying he will resign if he cant get the legislation through. Even if some compromise could be found do we want to be in Government with a Party which will be campaigning both to stay in & to leave Europe ?

  • @John Roffey it’s Terry’s Chocolate Orangebooker to you 😡

  • That smiley should have been :kiss:

  • John Roffey 5th May '15 - 6:35pm

    paul barker 5th May ’15 – 5:26pm
    “The big problem with any Con/Libdem coalition is the planned Referendum, I dont see any compromise we could decently make on that & Camerons seems to be saying he will resign if he cant get the legislation through. Even if some compromise could be found do we want to be in Government with a Party which will be campaigning both to stay in & to leave Europe ?”

    Certainly sound on message there pb – now that it seems extremely unlikely that the Tories + can reach a working majority. Still nothing has been said that prevents a Con/Lib coalition being seized – should there be a significant shift in the last few days.

  • @Paul Barker
    Clegg has today said he is not opposed to a referendum in principle….

  • If the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Conservatives they will look like Orange Tories.

    If the Lib Dems are in coalition with Labour invidious comparisons will be made to their behaviour in the current coalition.

    It’s pretty much a lose/lose proposition.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 8:23pm

    Guardian running a big partisan scaremonger right now. Lib Dems would never sign up to anything that targeted the most vulnerable. It talks about there being “no low hanging fruit left” but if all you read was the Guardian you would think there was no low hanging fruit in the first place.

  • A good article, but I fear you are a voice in the wilderness. The Tories do indeed have some appalling policies, but despite that, and the fact that most of the smart money is on the Tories emerging as the largest party, the Lib Dems (or at least the ones who write for LDV) have been virtually silent on this for the whole campaign.

    If Cameron manages to get a majority on Thursday (which, with grim memories of 1992, I reckon is about 25% likely) then some Lib Dems are in for a massive culture shock in a few weeks time when they have to start taking notice of the Tories again.

  • Eddie Sammon
    From personal knowledge ofpeople who have been sanctioned or evicted for inability to pay the bedroom tax which of those individuals would you describe as “low hanging fruit”?
    Of people you know who are now forced to eat out of the food bank, which are “low hanging fruit”?
    Of the public servants who have not had a pay rise in six years, what percentage would you call “low hanging fruit”?

    Or is it that you do not actually know any such people?

  • Lab Con alliance to keep out the Nats

  • John Minard 5th May '15 - 9:25pm

    The Tories may have lost support to UKIP but gained support by being made to look less harsh, or nasty, by the impact of the Lib Dems in the coalition, for which they take all the credit. Time to remind people that this is not the time to experiment by electing the first Tory government since 1992 – I had more hair 23 years ago!!

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 9:27pm

    John Tilley, I would call rather a lot of higher paid public sector workers “low hanging fruit”. Mistakes have been made, but vulnerable people were not explicitly targeted.

    I fully agree with the principles of supply and demand for public sector pay, but some of it is waste, or definitely was before 2010.

    I’m in the game of protecting the vulnerable and cutting waste. Labour don’t understand the latter.

    Best regards

  • Eddie Sammon

    I would rather pay a bit more tax to protect the poor and the vulnerable, even if it meant that a little bit of that was ‘wastage’ than have stringent controls with no waste and lots of people driven to living in Cardboard City (maybe you are too young to remember that?). It all comes down to the type of society you want to live in. there are no black and white solutions.

  • David Blake 5th May '15 - 9:54pm

    I don’t think we should go into coalition at all. Confidence and supply OK, but not if it involves an EU referendum.

  • @JohnTilley 5th May ’15 – 9:05pm

    “Or is it that you do not actually know any such people?”

    Yes, indeed. As someone who does know a number (one, disabled, particularly closely), you are – of course – right. If one issue is perhaps more likely than any other to determine my vote it would be the acts of Iain Duncan Smith; disappointed to see apologists for him here.

  • @John Tilley what sector do you work in?

  • Eddie
    The percentage of what you describe as “…rather a lot of higher paid public sector workers” is I would guess less than 5% of all public sector workers.
    Do you think it was a good idea to punish the 95% whose annual income is actually relatively small?
    Are you aware that some pubic sector workers are in receipt of benefits ? They are the “working poor”.
    I support what Nick Clegg has been saying on this in the last few days.

    As for “supply and demand” in public sector pay and jobs, I have spent over three hours in my local hospital today; the demand for additional staff to restore the staffing levels of five years ago is clear to anyone who sits in the queue for a simple blood test. The phlebotomy staff deal with 470 patients per day, could you manage better? Do you think they are overpaid? Do you think that they have deserved a real-terms cut in the income over the last five years as highlighted by Nick Clegg in the last few days?

    You are probably thinking of “supply and demand” in terms of an economics text-book definition . Unfortunately running a health service is a tad more complicated than running a small business selling widgets to the highest bidder. Simplistic notions of “supply and demand” are about as useful as a handheld compass might when flying to the moon.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 10:38pm

    The headline has been changed now, but in its initial form it was one of the most toxic things I had heard said about Lib Dems this campaign. Civil Servants coming up with extreme research and leaking it to a biased press is something that requires rapid rebuttal.

    Regards

  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '15 - 11:23pm

    John Tilley, what I know is many small business owners and private sector workers can’t afford good pensions and the only solution the left seems to come up with is more regulation.

    Miliband knows this problem, but he fails miserably on the solution. I want something better.

    I don’t believe in being tight fisted on public sector pay, but there are masses of struggling small businesses and I want to help them too.

  • Mathew,
    The coalition was the result of a hung parliament. Niether pary got a majority. People making a choice had nothing to do with it. There is no option on any electoral form for a coalition. Coalitions are one of a number of possible options in the event of a hung parliament. The rapid drop off in support for the Lib Dems actually suggests that the majority of Lib Dem voters did not want a coalition with the Conservatives. The people who did not vote Lib Dem have very little to do with it because their votes are clear-cut indications of the government they wanted. You could equally be saying if you didn’t want a Conservative Government then you should have just voted Labour, which is not much of a electoral message for the Lib Dems really, is it? So why perform summersaults that turn a choice into something that was forced on the Lib Dems by the electorate rather than the result of a decision taken by the Lib Dem leadership. The job of a party is firstly to represent the people who vote for them and any agreement to form a coalition should take that into account. IMO the leadership made a bad choice because they had already shifted the party in a more centre right position and thought there were more soft Tories than there turned out to be. But to be fait they also genuinely wanted to give the country a stable government. Now, I don’t think that any of this was a betrayal, but blaming it on the electorate is most definitely a bit of a cop out We also now know that Nick Clegg does favour a coalition with the Conservatives which is why I don’t think the Party can recover until he has gone.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 9:31am

    Glenn

    Coalitions are one of a number of possible options in the event of a hung parliament. The rapid drop off in support for the Lib Dems actually suggests that the majority of Lib Dem voters did not want a coalition with the Conservatives.

    Sure, but if the Conservatives had won a few more seats we’d have has a majority Conservative government anyway, never mind what LibDem voters wanted. Sorry, but you seem to be denying what is a rather obvious point – the composition of Parliament and hence what can be done in it is down to the voters. The argument that the voters have been cheated and are not properly represented was smashed and destroyed by the two-to-one victory for “No” in the 2011 referendum. The “No” campaign said that distortion in favour of the biggest party and a system which makes it hard for other parties to break through is a really good thing, and by two-to-one the people of this country backed them. The consequence of what the “No” campaign was saying was that what we really should have had in 2010-2015 was a majority Conservative government. Sorry, you and I may not like that, but THAT is what the people voted for, loudly and clearly, Labour supporters as well as Tories, in the 2011 referendum they vote to say what they wanted is the distortion that gave us a near-Tory government.

    I am a strong sup[porter of giving people what they voted for, even if they didn’t think through it and so voted for it without realising what they were voting for. That is the only way we will eventually get people to THINK when they vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 9:34am

    Glenn

    You could equally be saying if you didn’t want a Conservative Government then you should have just voted Labour, which is not much of a electoral message for the Lib Dems really, is it?

    No, I am saying that if people wanted a LibDem government, then they should have voted LibDem. But they didn’t, at least not as many of them as voted Conservative.

    Sorry, but here we are the day before the election, and still I find the argument that you and others like you are making to be ridiculous. You seem to be saying that the Liberal Democrats are bad people because with less than one out of ten MPs they were unable to get their way in every vote in Parliament.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 9:49am

    Glenn

    So why perform summersaults that turn a choice into something that was forced on the Lib Dems by the electorate rather than the result of a decision taken by the Lib Dem leadership.

    There is no performing of somersaults here. Before the election, Nick Clegg said that first choice of coalition partner in negotiations would be with the largest of the two major parties. As I have said, it is the people of this country who voted to make that the Conservatives rather than Labour. I am sorry that the people of this country voted that way, but that they did. Also, many LibDem MPs comes from constituencies which have traditionally been strong Conservative and where the Labour Party used to come a poor third. So if people had voted Labour in those constituencies rather than LibDem, as you seem to be suggesting they should have done, then those constituencies would have gone Conservative, with Labour in a better third place or a poor second place. And if people don’t like the way the “split the vote” factor leads to that, well they had the opportunity to vote to get rid of it, but by two-to-one they voted to keep it.

    What has come out of the coalition is about what one would expect from a coalition which is five-sixth Conservative and one-sixth LibDem. If people don’t like that, then instead of blaming the Liberal Democrats they should howl and shout for proportional representation which would greatly reduce the number of Conservative MPs. But by two-to-one they voted against even the smallest electoral reform, and as the “No” campaign actually put the argument against greater electoral reform, it was treated, and I am sorry to say rightly, as a vote against proportional representation even though nominally it wasn’t. So, in 2011 the people of this country voted to have MANY MORE Conservative MPs than the Conservative share of the vote ought to have given them. Prominent Labour politicians joined in the campaign to say “Prop up the Tories like this, give them many more MPs than their share of the vote. And by two-to-one the people of this country voted to have many more Tory MPs than the Tory share of the vote would give them.

    Don’t blame people like me for this. I urged the electors to vote LibDem in 2010, and I urged the electors to vote “Yes: in 2011l. But mostly the electors did not vote in he way I urged them to. Sorry, they have what they voted for. If they don’t like it, tough. Next time THINK before you vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 10:15am

    Glenn

    But to be fair they also genuinely wanted to give the country a stable government. Now, I don’t think that any of this was a betrayal, but blaming it on the electorate is most definitely a bit of a cop out

    Sorry, but was it MY fault that we had a situation where the only stable government was a Conservative-LibDem coalition? Was it even Nick Clegg’s fault? Why do you argue that the people have no responsibility for the Parliament they chose to elect? Especially after they destroyed the huge big argument against its legitimacy by voting by two-to-one to retain the electoral system that gave it to us. A vote for “Yes” in the referendum would have undermined this government because it would have said the people of this country want a system which would have delivered a different balance in Parliament.

    I find what is coming out of this government to be horribly wrong. As you know, I have strongly argued against the way Nick Clegg and the right-wing Cleggies who have taken over control at the top have painted it as super-duper wonderful, “the best government in my lifetime” and so on. I think from the start the party should have made it clear this is a miserable little compromise, and if the people don’t like it, next time vote for more LibDem MPs and shout out for electoral reform so we are never in this situation again. I am so angry with how the leadership has played with the situation that I have not delivered a single leaflet or knocked on a single door for the party in this election – and in every other election since 1979 I’ve spent days and days doing that.

    But, unfortunately, the distortions of the electoral system made a Labour-LibDem coalition unviable, and in that way greatly reduced the negotiating power of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition. By two-to-one, the people of the country voted to support that. By two-to-one they voted to give the Tories more power in this way, and to give the LibDems less. They have what they voted for in 2011, what they voted for was the coalition we had. If they didn’t like it, they should have voted for electoral reform. So why the (word rhyming with “duck”) wasn’t this point at the centre of the “Yes” campaign and why isn’t it at the centre of LibDem campaigning now? The ONLY way we can change the rubbish system we have now which is so disappointing people is electoral reform, and the main party which supports that is the Liberal Democrats.

    I find this idea that a small party in a no-majority Parliament can somehow get whatever it wants (which is what you seem to be saying) to be nonsense. If you look across the world, it almost never works like that. The only time it does work is when the small party is only concerned with a few fringe issues that don’t interfere with the major thrust of the big parties and so can easily be granted in return for support. But the Liberal Democrats aren’t that sort of party.

    If the Liberal Democrats were to be able to push for more in the 2010-2015 Parliament, as you seem to be suggesting they could have done, they would have needed Labour support for it. If it really was the case that something else could have been done, then Labour would need to have taken the lead and proposed it. But Labour didn’t. No, Labour played the Old Pals act with the Tories as they always do. Labour thought that all they had to do is spend five years jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” at the LibDems, that would absolve them from having to think and propose constructive alternatives, and they would win from the LibDems being destroyed and the good ol’ two party system back in place. And you and others have gone long with them on this.

    That is why, though I’m so unhappy with the Liberal Democrat leadership that I have done no work for the party this year, tomorrow my vote will NOT be going to Labour. It will still go to the LibDems. And I live in one of the most critical Labour-Tory marginal seats, so my votes does count.

    Sorry, “nah nah nah nah nah”s, YOU are to blame if Labour loses Eltham by one vote. You and your negative attitudes, you have kept me as a LibDem supporter. I would have been tempted to vote tactically for Labour if I’d seen any sort of support for rational constructive pluralistic policies coming from Labour. But I have seen none.

  • Jane Ann Liston 6th May '15 - 10:25am

    On the subject of the AV vote, I wonder how many of the people now shouting that our electoral system isn’t fair and should be changed voted ‘No’ to replacing FPTP in 2011. Maybe they were more intent on ‘punishing’ Nick Clegg than on the longer-term consequences. The phrase ‘cutting off nose to spite one’s face’, comes to mind, as I argued in a letter to The Scotsman at the time.

  • @Glenn
    “The rapid drop off in support for the Lib Dems actually suggests that the majority of Lib Dem voters did not want a coalition with the Conservatives.”

    I’m not sure this is true. Many of us who have either moved on to a different party are undecided or have decided to abstain believed the coalition was the right choice. The problem for me was the way it was managed. I’d be a lot less undecided if I hadn’t watched Clegg and Alexander cheering Tory policies from their front bench seats for the last 5 years.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 10:59am

    Jane Ann Liston: I had that exact thought myself. When the LibDems become king maker again I don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone who voted against PR! It’s very interesting how quickly people can change their minds when the reality harms their interests.

    Steve Way: Spot on. I had no issue with the coalition, it was the total abandonment of the values I voted for that shocked me. I know many people are in similar positions and I quite frankly worry for those who are not.

  • @Samuel Griffiths
    Nobody voted against PR a proportional system was not on offer….

  • Steve Way 6th May ’15 – 10:25am……………..I’m not sure this is true. Many of us who have either moved on to a different party are undecided or have decided to abstain believed the coalition was the right choice. The problem for me was the way it was managed. I’d be a lot less undecided if I hadn’t watched Clegg and Alexander cheering Tory policies from their front bench seats for the last 5 years………

    I ‘caught on’ far earlier. From the moment Clegg said to Cameron, “If we go on like this we’ll have nothing to argue about” (or similar) I realised that Clegg had found his ‘spiritual home’…Almost everything since has just confirmed that..

  • matt (Bristol) 6th May '15 - 11:46am

    I agree simultaneously with Paul Barker and David-1. It is possible.

    Cameorn’s commitment to an in-out referendum – as the leader of the Tory party, given its history on this issue – is, whatever you think of the ideological merits of the thing itself – a cast-in-stone commitment to set off a metaphorical bomb in the largest party of a coalition or minority government roughly midway through its term. Stable government it ainnt, and never will be. It will undermine everything else. Every ministerial appointment will be scrutiinised for the balance of Eurosceptics versus Europhobes versus Europhobes, from day one. Many quite banal and apparently policy issues with be Europised as the putative campaigns seek to win traction. He can’t get out of this now, it will never neturalise the issue and it’s the biggest unfortunate sequence of events since Asquith realised he needed the Unionist Tories to fight World War One shortly after having passed the Irish Home Rule Act. Don’t do it.

    … Meanwhile – as David says, coalition with anyone other than the Tories will be unfairly pilloried as hypocrisy, and not going into coalition where one was in theory possible is going to be attack as another ‘failure’. as in:
    ‘You said you were the party of coallition, you didnt get one, ergo you have failed’
    ‘But what was on the table was a trainwreck; we’re not obliged to go into coalition if it’s a bad deal, we said that idealy we wanted to be in position to form a viable 2-party coalition with either Tory or Labour and we didn’t get the seats necessary for that, anyway’
    ‘But you said you wanted one; anyway, I’m bored now, Nicola Sturgeon’s giving a press statement about her bid to become godmother to the royal baby’
    ‘See previous answer … wait, come back!’

    Anyone got another reality I can be in for the next 3 weeks?

  • matt (Bristol) 6th May '15 - 11:49am

    Above: ‘Eurosceptics versus Europhobes versus Europhiles’ — sorry.

  • Steve Way,
    I have this argument with Matthew once every couple of months. The thing is I sill vote Lib Dem even though I did not agree with the formation of this coalition and recognise that no other coalition was possible. I tended towards the view that either confidence and supply or an informal policy by policy vote was the best option to for the Lib Dems because it would have meant a distance could be maintained. Of course there are those who think that the outcome would have been a snap election which the Conservatives would have won, but I think there is precious little evidence for this and a fair bit to suggest the honeymoon period was very short. They were not popular enough to win in 2010 and they still aren’t five years later. The swing they needed was far to great.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 12:50pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    I had that exact thought myself. When the LibDems become king maker again I don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone who voted against PR!

    And there we go again. Why do you want to kick the LibDems in the teeth by making out they were “kingmakers” following the last general election?

    It is this belief that we were “kingmakers”, which implies huge amounts of power, that lies at the heart of voters turning against us. People believe that as we were “kingmakers” we could have forced almost the whole of our manifesto through, so the fact that we agreed to a right-wing Tory-dominated government which has done much that is very far from our manifesto is therefore a “betrayal”.

    It is something I overheard in a conversation between two people near me today. One of them said “I voted Liberal last time, and look what that led to, I won’t be doing that again” along with further comment about “all politicians are the same” and “they are only interested in wealthy people like themselves”.

    Yet what does anyone who says that think would have happened had they not voted LibDem? If they were in a constituency where the Conservatives were third (as was the case for this person) even if their vote was the casting vote, it would have changed the balance between the number of Labour and LibDem MPs but made no difference to the number of Conservative MPs. So the situation would have been exactly the same in terms of what coalition could be formed i.e. only a Conservative-led one would have been viable. If they were in a constituency where the LibDems and the Conservatives were the two biggest parties in terms of support (as is more common), having the casting vote and not voting LibDem would have meant one more Conservative MP, and so either the same, or helped lead to an actual Conservative majority.

    The “kingmakers” word suggests it is all the fault of the Liberal Democrats, that the Liberal Democrats “put the Conservatives in” and somehow could have done something completely different, so a vote for the Liberal Democrats turned out to be a vote for the Conservatives. But that is not the case. More people voting LibDem would have resulted in more LibDem MPs and fewer MPs of the other parties, but mainly fewer Conservative MPs as most of the seats where the LibDems were in second place had the Conservatives as winners. More LibDem MPs and fewer Conservative MPs may have made a Labourt-LibDem coalition viable, but even if that were not formed, it would have meant more LibDem influence in the Conservative-LibDem coalition.

    People who don’t vote LibDem in what were LibDem-winnable seats tomorrow will mostly be throwing those seats to the Tories. THEY will be to blame for putting the Tories in if we get a Tory majority this time round.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “People who don’t vote LibDem in what were LibDem-winnable seats tomorrow will mostly be throwing those seats to the Tories. THEY will be to blame for putting the Tories in if we get a Tory majority this time round.”

    While I’m not sure that “blame” is a word I’d use in this context (“responsible” is less value-driven) I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

    And those who’ve spent the last five years rubbishing the coalition and describing it as “just the same as the Tories” bear their fair share of this responsibility.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    It doesn’t help when both Clegg and Cameron have talked about the SNP with potentially 50 seats being “in charge” of the UK if they were part of a Labour coalition. I know you’re no Clegg fan so perhaps I’m preaching to the choir, but if 50 seats make the SNP in charge then 57 Lib Dems would also have been… It’s a lazy argument from both of them and should have been challenged much more rigorously by journalists throughout the campaign..

    In my view a truly proportional system AND a change to collective responsibility to allow Ministers to be able to state openly that they are against something they are voting for through the necessity of coalition should be the true red lines. Allowing Ministers to state what they agree with will stop senior partners claiming the others policies with the benefit of hindsight..

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 1:56pm

    Matthew Huntbach: You make excellent arguments for why we need PR in this country and I certainly agree that tactical voting is causing us to make some very difficult decisions. I use “king maker” more as a term that others will use however, recognizing that the LibDems were the eventual reason that a government could be formed. The LibDems could have – at any time of their choosing – prevented the Tories from implementing a whole range of policy. I certainly won’t pretend they could have stopped it all, we are all aware that was simply never going to happen. But the governments majority being LibDem controlled is just a simple fact I am afraid no amount of “circumstance”, or “difficult decisions” will do away with. Clegg could have turned around at any point and informed his coalition partners they would not be supporting the bedroom tax, or massive spending cuts, or austerity for the poor. You know this as well as I do.

    Let’s talk about marginals. I think I can agree with you that I would rather send a LibDem than a Tory to the commons, but I can also understand your friends perspective. If it looks like the coalition will continue, why would voting LibDem effect that? It’s going to be a Tory result all the same. I live in a Lib-Lab marginal and am still struggling as to my decision. I personally like my local LibDem and find the Labour guy quite disagreeable, yet it cannot be denied that one more MP under the Tory whip is bad news. What would you do in my situation?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 3:38pm

    Steve Way

    It doesn’t help when both Clegg and Cameron have talked about the SNP with potentially 50 seats being “in charge” of the UK if they were part of a Labour coalition.

    Yes, yet another sign of Clegg’s utter incompetence, and undermining of the support I would like to give the party.

    If we had a minority Labour government with the SNP needed to make up a majority, just HOW are the SNP going to get things through that are against what Labour wants. There is only one way: get the Tories to support them. So all these bad things that Cameron and Clegg are saying the SNP would do only get done effectively if the Tories support those bad things as well.

    For example, suppose the SNP want a 60% top tax rate. Well, they can propose it, but how are they going to force Labour to agree to it? Are Cameron and Clegg saying they would vote for it as well just to embarrass Miliband?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 3:56pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    Clegg could have turned around at any point and informed his coalition partners they would not be supporting the bedroom tax, or massive spending cuts, or austerity for the poor. You know this as well as I do.

    No, you clearly don’t understand the basics of how politics work. At the heart of it is a budget, money is raised and money is spent. So, no you CAN’T just stop massive spending cuts. If you want to do that, you have to propose a way to pay for not making those cuts and get agreement for it. So Clegg would not just have had to say “No, we won’t support those cuts”, he would also have had to get the Tories to agree to extra taxation or extra government debt in order to pay for them not to happen.

    The reality is that the Tories were seething throughout the coalition about the influence of the LibDems, with most of those on the right thinking the Liberal Democrats were over-influential, and much scathing denouncement of the coalition as “a Liberal Democrat government”. People may find this hard to believe, but try looking at a few Conservative discussion sites to see. There has been such a big shift to the right in the Conservative Party that even a compromise between what they really want and what they would accept as a compromise with the Liberal Democrats is well to the right of where things were when the Conservatives last governed alone.

    That is why your blithe assumption that Clegg could have pushed harder and got more is so wrong. It was the Conservatives who were facing a split, with two of their MPs defecting to UKIP. There is simply no way Clegg could have got the whole of the Parliamentary Conservative Party to agree to substantially higher taxation and so avoid big spending cuts or maintain subsidy of universities. Managing to keep universities funded through what was in effect disguised government borrowing was actually a major LibDem achievement in the coalition government, and that’s another reason I have no keenness to vote Labour tactically. The reality of Labour’s pledge on tuition fees is that a Labour government puts my job at risk.

    While I find what this government has done to be horrible, I do feel it is about as far as it could have been pushed given the balance of the two parties. More LibDem MPs and fewer Conservative MPs means it could have been pushed further.

    What you and others need to realise is that the 60 most right-wing Conservative MPs held the balance just as much as the Liberal Democrats, so by your argument they were “kingmakers” and could have got whatever they asked for. The threat of a mass defection to UKIP or a Conservative split was a real one. Go and look up why the Conservative’s back-bench committee is called the 1922 Committee.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 3:58pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    I personally like my local LibDem and find the Labour guy quite disagreeable, yet it cannot be denied that one more MP under the Tory whip is bad news. What would you do in my situation?

    Tell your local LibDem you’ll vote for him if he promises to support the overthrow of Clegg after this election.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 4:06pm

    Your initial statement of not being able to act seems to have not been backed up. Would you like to take a second crack at it? I’m happy to give you that opportunity. Indeed, the budget is the most important thing. But what happens if the government cannot agree on a budget? Are you seriously telling me you supported austerity over the potential of another general election? The Liberal Democrats hands were not tied, they were a very serious risk to the government. You are forgetting your history, I fear, many coalitions fall apart due to disagreement on policy and that is a far better outcome than what we have experienced over the last 5 years.

    Tory defections to UKIP are as far as I am concerned a fantastic idea. The notion that right-wing votes might be so badly split is music to my ears. I personally don’t consider UKIP the great threat the media have made them out to be. I could very well be wrong tomorrow, but anything that challenges the stability of the conservative party is all good as far as I am concerned.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 5:29pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    The Liberal Democrats hands were not tied, they were a very serious risk to the government. You are forgetting your history, I fear, many coalitions fall apart due to disagreement on policy and that is a far better outcome than what we have experienced over the last 5 years.

    And again you are showing no sense of reality.

    Sure, the one card that a junior coalition partner has is to end the coalition. But that card can only be played once. I myself have argued there was a time when it should have been played. The reform of the NHS was blatantly against the Coalition agreement, and my feeling is that if the Tories would not back down on insisting on that, and that’s why we had it, then that was the time to say “Right, if you won’t back down, we’re out”.

    However, you have totally ignored my point that it was not just the LibDems who could have played that card. So could the 60 most right-wing Tory MPs. So, by the very argument you use, the 60 most right-wing Tory MPs could have got all they wanted and are bad people (at least from the position that it’s good to push for your ideal) for not doing that.

    Now, there is the issue that if the LibDems had played that card, what would have happened in the ensuing general election? Would they have been cheered on for doing so? Well, did the Labour Party ever cheer on the LibDems when they did stand up against the Tories? No, it was Old Pals Act again. Just as we saw in the AV referendum. That is why, as I have kept arguing, the “nah nah nah nah nah”s were in effect keeping the coalition going and weakening the Liberal Democrats’ effectiveness in it, because they were jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” to undermine the Liberal Democrats and to make sure that if they did pull out and cause a general election, they would be destroyed in that general election. See how the Old Pals Act worked so well in the AV referendum – that shows how when it comes to preserving the two-party duopoly, Labour and Conservative will always work together.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 5:33pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    Tory defections to UKIP are as far as I am concerned a fantastic idea. The notion that right-wing votes might be so badly split is music to my ears.

    Again you are ignoring reality. The Tory MPs who defected to UKIP kept their seats. The 60 most right-wing Tory MPs mostly sit for safe seats, which means they can more comfortably risk another general election than most LibDem MPs. That is why, if anything, they had MORE power in the coalition than the LibDems.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 5:43pm

    I believe the AV referendum was a very different ball game, with it’s taking place at the same time as other elections effectively preventing the anti-governmental parties from campaigning in it’s favour. But that aside for a moment, I completely took your meaning about the 60 Tory MP’s who could hold the LibDems ransom. But that only works if you believe the LibDems got enough good stuff through.. I do not – Not even close, actually. Which does bring us rather conveniently back to the idea that supporting Tory-policy was not something forced upon unwilling LibDems, but rather LibDems who were quite complicit. This is of course, assuming we still agree they could have brought down the government the second their nerve ran out.

    I do take your point about the ensuing election being one in which the LibDems may have suffered a large defeat. But I guess maybe I’m old fashioned in the sense that I’d rather the LibDems fell standing up for the most vulnerable in society, than continued to succeed whilst harming them.

  • David J Passmore 6th May '15 - 6:23pm

    I accept that any coalition with the Tories this time round, possibly including the DUP, will see the Libs even less able to influence the Tories policies, and get their own promoted. However, rather that, to at least try, than consider going left with the highly questionable Milliband policies. If I vote Lib Dem, I would not want my vote used to shore up the Labour Party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 8:19pm

    Samuel Griffith

    But that only works if you believe the LibDems got enough good stuff through.. I do not – Not even close, actually. Which does bring us rather conveniently back to the idea that supporting Tory-policy was not something forced upon unwilling LibDems, but rather LibDems who were quite complicit.

    Well, sorry, but do you think I am a Cleggie? Because that is what you seem to be saying. Instead of accepting what I am saying as my considered opinion, you are putting out that “nah nah nah nah nah” line that secretly I like the right-wing policies of the Tories, and I only say these things about it being a sad compromise in order to fool people. I am so disgusted with Clegg’s leadership that I have not done a thing for the Liberal Democrats in this election – and in every previous election since 1979 I’ve spent days and days of my time campaigning for them, and I have said this many times. Yet despite this you will not give me the courtesy of accepting that perhaps I have come to my own opinion on these matters which may be different from yours, and you will not give me the courtesy of accepting me at face value.

    No, I don’t think the LibDems have got much “good stuff”. I think this is a horrible, horrible government doing horrible things. I am disgusted with Clegg and the Cleggies for the way they exaggerate what the LibDems have achieved in it and make out the whole party is far more in support of the horrible far-right economic policies of this government than is the case. I am disgusted to the core with two people in particular, leading contributors to Liberal Democrat Voice for whom I used to have some respect, who said “this is the best government of their lifetime”. Those people by what they are saying are DESTROYING the party by building up this right-wing image. Many people I know, who used to be Liberal Democrat supporters tell me this is the WORST government of their lives, and I include in those people who have seen quite a few more governments than I have.

    However, I think a majority Conservative government would have been even worse, and I think if the Liberal Democrats had not agreed to the coalition the Conservatives in minority government would have called another general election in 2011, and with the help of Labour used it to destroy the Liberal Democrats and gain a majority. Seeing that was inevitable was why I, very reluctantly, agreed to the coalition. I do genuinely believe that what is coming out of this government is about what one would expect from one which is five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth Liberal Democrat, bearing in mind that the Conservatives now are far, far more right wing economically than they were when Margaret Thatcher and John Major led their party.

    Having been a long-term supporter of multi-party politics, and government by debate and negotiation, I have studied these things in depth, seen how it works in other countries, experienced it myself in local government here. I draw my conclusions from that. This idea that a small third party can achieve whatever it wants and act as “kingmaker” is just wrong, reality is that it doesn’t work out like that. You may not believe me,. you may think I an just saying that because I’m really a secret Cleggie, licensed here to appear otherwise just to trick people like you into thinking the LibDems have a wider variety of members and opinions than is really the case. But I hope instead you would give me the courtesy of accepting me for who I am, and accepting I wrote what I write out of genuine feeling, and if you disagree with my conclusions, let’s at least agree to disagree.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 9:50pm

    I don’t think you have once mentioned your view on the coalition, Matthew. If you have done so elsewhere on this site I have not seen it. I don’t believe I came across you until today. Everything I say is related exactly to what you have written and nothing more – you will find no easy “believe me or don’t!” line to work with me, I am afraid. I am however pleased to hear you are as disgusted with the coalition as I am, and in fact it sounds like we share a very similar background when it comes to the party. What I don’t understand though, is how you can both be disgusted with the way Clegg and friends have acted, and yet also not find them worthy of blame when it comes to being the junior coalition partner. Those two seem rather contradictory stances, no?

    I very much hear you regarding party officials and LDV. I was equally shocked regarding the “best government” line you are referring to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 10:57pm

    Samuel Griffiths

    What I don’t understand though, is how you can both be disgusted with the way Clegg and friends have acted, and yet also not find them worthy of blame when it comes to being the junior coalition partner.

    As I have already said, horrible though this government is, the worst government in my lifetime I say, if it had not been formed, what we would have would be even worse – the Conservatives would have formed a minority government, made sure they did nothing to come across as horrible as they have been, called another general election within a year, gained a majority and THEN have been even more right-wing than they have been when restrained in the coalition.

    I believe the Liberal Democrats have probably pushed it as far as they could, given the balance of the two parties, the lack of enough Labour MPs to form an alternative coalition, and the fact that Labour would rather jeer “nah nah nah nah nah” at the Liberal Democrats than engage in the sort of co-operation that would be needed to support the Liberal Democrats in demanding more. I believe you are being complete unrealistic in supposing that 57 Liberal Democrat MPs could somehow get 307 Conservative MPs to drop their extreme right-wing principles and adopt Liberal Democrat ones instead.

    So I am not blaming Nick Clegg for not getting more. Where I am blaming him is the constant way he and those surrounding him have used the sad reality of the coalition to push the Liberal Democrats to the right, by making out that this government is “the best government of my lifetime” or “75% Liberal Democrat policies implemented” and by making out that the compromises are somehow super-duper wonderful and what we wanted in the first place have angered and lost so many former supporters of the party like you – and Clegg and the Cleggies actually seem to be pleased like this, regarding it as a loss of “protest votes” as if somehow society now was so wonderful that there is nothing to protest about.

    I think Clegg, if he were to lead the party as I think it should have been led, should have been far more upfront about the fact that yes, it IS a “miserable little compromise”, it is very far from our ideal, even if it is necessary due to the balance in Parliament.

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