Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

Mental health changes, pushed through by Norman Lamb, transformed the ground for sufferers. It’s no hyperbole to say that there are many child sufferers of mental health issues alive today solely because of those changes.

The Lib Dem Pupil Premium raised attainment amongst the poorest children, intervening and opening prospects at the most valuable time in life.

And that’s just a handful of the achievements.

The Lib Dems proved that they could govern and govern well. Yes, there were costs and damages, tuition fees above all, but the biggest reason not to ever vote Lib Dem was removed: that the Lib Dems would never be in a position to carry out their promises.

In 2015, there was no Conservative majority Government to contrast the Coalition with.  There is now, and the contrast will get starker and starker.  The next few years could be, for the Tories, a rerun of 1992-1997.

Next time around, if we have an articulate and credible leader, they can make the case for us as a real option as a party of Government.  We could peel off whole swathes of voters, especially Tory voters, many of whom simply want competent and realistic government and currently see no real option other than the Blues.  This could be an amazing opportunity, if we can tell our story well enough.

Those who were ministers last time could do it. One of the reasons behind Labour’s 1945 shock landslide was that they had major figures who were proven ministers. For the first time in a very long time, so do we.

* Andy Cooke is an ex-RAF Engineer and analyst who joined the Lib Dems after the Coalition. He has campaigned in the Richmond Park by-election, and in OxWAb and Bath in the 2017 General Election

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92 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jun '17 - 3:33pm

    Chris Patten, former Tory chairman, former MP for Bath, has given his view on the Tory leadership in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 17/6/2017. May cannot last long. There are some ‘adults’, such as Phillip Hammond, whose view is that the economy should be much more important.
    The Economist on 23/6/2017 has a cartoon showing Hammond as an adult, surrounded by children, including Boris Johnson, who wants to be PM but does not know why.

  • The right wing of the Lib Dems repesent the true centre ground. We must robustly defend the coalition and its record.

  • David Evans 23rd Jun '17 - 3:52pm

    Sadly another article that wrongly portrays the success of the Liberal Democrats in the past as being down to protest votes and tactical voting. The Lib Dems prior to Nick Clegg were a party that had a clear liberal message – “We will work hard for you (our community); we will tell you as it is, not lie to you to get your vote; we will fight on your side if you are oppressed (liberty); and we will try to build a fairer more equal society. As a result we won votes from voters disillusioned with Labour and those disillusioned with the Conservatives and all of them had one thing in common, they knew that there had to be a better way of doing politics and we were doing it. Not protest votes, but progress votes.

    For 50 years it had worked and we had steadily rebuilt our party’s fortunes from 6 MPs up to 65. Councillors all over the country were running councils better than the previous incumbents, whether they were Labour or Tory. We went into the 2010 general election promising a better way of doing politics and an end to broken promises.

    We found that despite losing seats, the electoral arithmetic gave us the balance of power for the first and negotiations were held. However to say that they were ridiculously rushed is a massive understatement. Our leaders had effectively promised to support unconditionally a party whose main interest was its own power and our destruction.

    From the very start Nick sacrificed so much in order to show coalition could work just like a one party government but they did it by being more loyal to David Cameron than the Conservatives. He sacrificed trust, students, public sector workers and so many others to show he could take tough decisions, but the one tough decision he never took was to stand up for Liberal Democracy. As a result, David Cameron trampled all over him.

    Sure some things in coalition were good, but much of it wasn’t. And in the next two years when all our troops had been sacrificed and David Cameron had stabbed Nick in the back, what happened – unbridled Right wing conservatism emerged as the power, a Brexit referendum was lost and now our country is in a bigger mess than it was in 2010.

    I’m sad to say it but for 50 years we worked to show people want we could do in government, but the one thing Nick proved as the one thing they didn’t want was us in government. That is much, much more than a quick five year fix.

  • David Allen 23rd Jun '17 - 3:57pm

    The right wing of the Lib Dems and their Conservative allies truly misrepresent the word “centre”. We must robustly repudiate the coalition and its record.

    Oh, OK, that’s letting my rhetoric carry me a little too far. But only a little. Until people forget about the coalition we will be stuck in single figures. That’s what the 2017 GE proved.

  • Bernard Aris 23rd Jun '17 - 3:57pm

    In this age of splintering mass parties (the European Socialists being a case in point: where is the Greek PASOK, the Italian PSI of Craxi?) and everybody living in “Facebook manipulated Information Bubbles”, a progressive party who say they dare think of a very different future on every policy and political issue,
    *) should NOT be running scared of coalition politics,
    *) but should show the way how to do it. And we LibDems did just that; after we left, a self-inflicted election disaster was needed to get Tory hobbyhorses back in the dustbin. Look at the Audit Office report on consumer risks of a new nuclear plant (today on the BBC news website), and quality school lunches…
    OK, if you govern in coalition you get clobbered in the polls (that happened to D66 about four times), but Andy Cooke himself bears personal witness that people who think and care about serious politics appreciate it very much if you asre willing to make your hands dirty. And they become faithful voters.
    And such serious thinking people are just the kind of voters and activists we want in our party!

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jun '17 - 4:04pm

    I went down to the Birmingham Conference Centre and voted for the Coalition. It did some good things and some bad things and, in my view, one or two absolutely awful things. More importantly, there was a TOTAL failure during the actual time of the Coalition of the Lib Dems to ‘sell’ to the public those good things which were particularly the responsibility of the Lib Dems. As a result of which, first the ‘nice’ Tories (Cameron etc) and then the ‘nasty’ Tories (Gove, May etc) cherry picked those achievements and sold them to the public as their own.

    As far as 95 per cent of the public of this land are concerned there has been a Conservative government since 2010. If you want to undo this view (taking on the entire Tory media and the lazy broadcast media who follow them) in the minds of the British people, please take me to your magic wand shop.

    The world, and more importantly, the mind set of the UK population, has moved on. If we want to have any impression at all upon them then we need to become relevant to their concerns TODAY. Arguing about the coalition days, one way or the other, is fine for intellectual coffee shop talk. In terms of real politics it is as useful as putting horseshoes on a butterfly.

  • Paul Pettinger 23rd Jun '17 - 4:05pm

    Ignoring for a moment that we had already been in power in Wales and Scotland, this article offers false comfort. Hope LVD won’t mind me linking to a different site. Professor David Howarth has already addressed issues of why centrism, coalitionism, working with the Cons and ignoring evidence don’t work at http://www.socialliberal.net/david_howarth_thoughts_on_the_way_forward

  • Paul Pettinger – what IS then the aim?
    One of the first rules taught in the Defence Academy on strategy is “Selection and maintenance of the aim”. One must be clear as to what is the point of one’s task/mission/battle/whatever.
    Then it’s possible to assess actions, tactics, methods and work out if they help or hinder achievement of the aim.

    I believe that the aim is to get Liberal policies into Government as much as possible – preferably with Liberal Democrats actually IN Government. As we cannot obtain a clear majority on our own, but could obtain a Coalition, this is indicated. And an incredible amount was achieved in Coalition by Lib Dems.

    Looking at that link, though, it advocates that we must never enter coalition with the Conservatives, or even promote the idea of a coalition with anyone again. They relate to the aim. (The latter three “nevers” relate to tactics and methods, so are outside the scope of “aim”).

    The three “We shoulds…” also don’t have an “aim” but are methods.

    So what should our aim be? What is the point of the Liberal Democrats? To be only a party of local government, or coalition supporters of others in the devolved administrations? To remain permanently in Opposition in Westminster?

    Coalitions can work. Where things went bad for the Lib Dems was that the 2010-2015 Government was seen as a Conservative Government, and claimed as such by the Conservatives. So the Lib Dems, if that was the case, would have to be in the role of simple collaborators.

    What was needed (and still is) was the difference between Coalition, Conservative, and Labour, to be clear. It’s easier now we’ve actually had a Conservative Government to illustrate the difference, of course.

  • Russell Kent 23rd Jun '17 - 4:33pm

    Excellent article, fully agree with the author. I have long argued that the Coalition government was successful, with the LibDems reigning in the more unsavoury aspects of the Tories. I think Nick Clegg’s biggest mistake, though, was not insisting on being able to be filmed more often coming in and out of number 10 as an authoratative figure of Government. Perception is everything in politics, and the public perceived Nick as lightweight and unimportant. Lack of exposure in important settings exacerbated this.

  • Russell Kent 23rd Jun '17 - 4:35pm

    Just read David Howarth’s piece on Social Liberal and couldn’t disagree more.

  • Paul Pettinger 23rd Jun '17 - 4:56pm

    that is usually a sign that someone hasn’t thought hard enough

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Jun '17 - 5:14pm

    Andy Cooke

    The aim of the Lib Dems is to attain government – but not at any cost. As for the teachings of the Defence Academy, I wouldn’t know about that but I do know one of the oft repeated phrases in Sandhurst – don’t reinforce failure.

    And coalition was failure, from the shambolic negotiations where apparently Osborne offered us a moritorium on tuition fee raises (allowing us to keep our manifesto promise) to our allowing the Tories to veto Lords reform.

    I am not suggesting that we never have coalitions with the Conservatives, just not with the toxic, hard right Nasty Party we got into bed with

    The Economic Liberals amongst us might want us to think that it was a good thing to legitimise the illiberal nature of the Conservatives, but it was always the case that as soon as they decided they didn’t need us they would blow us out of the water.

  • Once your party didn’t get its constitutional obsession sated – issues no ordinary voter cares about – in the Coalition, you spent the final 2-3 years blocking constructive Conservative proposals just so you could say “We are achieving things in Government; we’ve stopped the Tories from doing this and that!”

    The Lib Dems never seem to have got that, preferring to blame tuition fees. And Vince was the worst of the lot for it, constantly seeking to undermine the Government he was meant to be a senior member of, and making it quite clear he would have preferred to govern with the other side. People can’t stand that sort of thing.

  • Carolyn Mann 23rd Jun '17 - 5:17pm

    Glad to see that someone else thinks that the Coalition was alright. Especially when we see what has happened these last 2 years when the Tories have governed on their own, it looks more that alright…..it looks pretty good!

  • I’m afraid the public had, and still have, a very different view to the writer of this article.

    It’s time to move on.

  • David Evans 23rd Jun '17 - 5:39pm

    Carolyn. the fact that ‘we see what has happened these last 2 years when the Tories have governed on their own’ is because we allowed Liberal Democracy to be destroyed in coalition. We had to be there and stay there to stop them. We lost 49 MPs and failed to stay there. Cause and effect.

  • David Blake 23rd Jun '17 - 5:45pm

    Russell Kent – one of Nick’s mistakes was to always be seen sitting next to David Cameron. He should have sat with his Liberal Democrat colleagues most of the time.

  • Joseph Bourke 23rd Jun '17 - 5:51pm

    Most people I have spoken with (outside of Labour activists) consider the coalition government to have been a pretty successful one in the circumstances and think the Libdems did the right thing in stepping up to the mark in 2015.

    Andy Cooke is right to ask “What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?”, if we are not prepared to govern in coalition. The point of any political party has to be to acquire sufficient support to see its priority policies put into effect, otherwise it is merely one of many lobbying organisations promoting an agenda.

    In the recent campaign our aim was stated to be the replacement of Labour as the official opposition. How did that go and how will it be perceived in the future?

    For a party that is committed to proportional representation, we have to be prepared to work with the representatives that voters elect, to deliver governance that is acceptable to the broad swathe of the British public.

    Ruling out working with Conservative MPs leaves the Labour party as the only realistic choice as a Coalition partner under a PR system of voting.. If a Labour government is the only choice why bother voting Libdem in the first place when you can vote for the real thing.

    If coalition with either party is ruled out, as we did in this campaign, what chance of any Libdem policies being enacted? A Libdem vote becomes a wasted vote for many in these circumstances.

    In a country that has elected a majority Conservative government for much of the past century, Libdems have to be prepared to work with either party. It is only by consistently delivering in government that the argument for a proportional representation system of voting and cross-party working can be won.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jun '17 - 5:56pm

    I’m sick of the DUP being so influential but the public have rejected coalition. Next parliament I think Confidence and Supply should be on the table with either party who can form a majority.

    The coalition pushed too much austerity onto the most vulnerable. I won’t be cheering the record of the coalition. But I still think future arrangements can work with either party if we negotiate better and don’t blow negotiation capital on things like an AV referendum that we lost anyway.

  • The coalition was an electoral disaster for the Lib Dems (I’ll leave whether it was a disaster or a success for the country as a moot point), so the party is now faced with two choices: (1) it can try and leave this period behind it and rebuild as the centre-Leftish party that slowly built power over decades; or (2) it can double-down on the coalition years and try a new direction.

    If Cable is to be leader, only the second of those options is open and the party cannot be half-hearted about it. If the Lib Dems are to be led by Cable they must get and fight for what they did in Government that means arguing that the Bedroom Tax, Austerity, and the Tripling of Tuition Fees were all good things for the country. That the Triple Lock was a great idea, and claiming the credit for the rise in the personal allowance and the pupil premium. It means stating, clearly, that the Lib Dems will go into coalition with the Tories again.

    Half-heartedly going back on this stuff while being led by a man as deeply involved in the coalition as a Clegg himself simply won’t work. All the other parties have to do is play old clips of Cable on tuition fees and what he said about the pledge.

    The problem is that I simply don’t think there is a sufficient constituency of voters out there who are looking for a slightly nicer, more liberal, Tory party. I know a lot of Tories who really liked the Coalition, and think the Lib Dems were hard done by. Trouble is, they’re still voting Tory and they’re not likely to change (unless tactically).

  • I think Andy Cooke has forgotten that the Labour Party was in government in 1924 and 1929-31. Also in 1997 the Labour Party had very few people who had been a minister before 1980.

    I think that our core vote before 2010 were people with degrees, middle management and clerical workers especially those in the public services and teachers. While we might be able to get public servants to vote for us again by making sure we publicise our rejection of the 1% cap on public service pay, those with degrees are still a problem.

    In October of this year there will be over 3 million people who have either gone to university and will have a student loan or decided that the risks of coming out of university with a £27,000 debt is greater than any potential benefit they would receive from an university education. There will be about 6 million parents who have children who either have a large student debt or are in the process of accumulating it. There are also other relatives of these people who think having a £27,000 student debt or accumulating it is a bad idea. It is very likely that most of these 9+ million will not consider voting for us because of tuition fees. We need to put this right or we will only get above 4 million votes after at least 25 years and most likely more.

    There is no agreement within the party as far as I can tell whether we should increase general taxation to pay for scrapping tuition fees or introduce a proper graduate tax (hopefully a progressive one). I would like us to pay for it from general taxation but I don’t think we can get it agreed at Federal Conference so we need to have a clear idea of what the rates for a progressive graduate tax should be.

    Raising the Income Tax Personal Allowance was an achievement and we need to keep reminding voters of this. I don’t think the Pupil Premium is understood or the result known generally. So we need to publicise the independent reports that it is successful and then claim the credit. Talking about reversing the Tory cuts is good and so is stating they could only pass them because we were not there stopping them, but we didn’t stop the bedroom tax, the benefits cap, limiting welfare increases to 1% a year.

  • David Allen 23rd Jun '17 - 6:24pm

    So – Plenty of assertion from some that Coalition was wonderful, plenty of assertion from others that Coalition was terrible, generally more heat than light. I typed “was conservative liberal democrat coalition successful?” into Google, and here is a summary of the top three search results from non-aligned sources:

    https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/how-has-uks-coalition-government-performed

    The May 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government was heralded by some as a brave new departure for British politics. Almost five years on, Simon Lee finds the Coalition has largely failed in its promise to produce radical political, economic and social renewal.

    https://www.ft.com/content/3ca653f0-e445-11e4-9039-00144feab7de?mhq5j=e3

    “It is not at all clear that the coalition has changed much in British political life”

    “Nick Clegg … made political reform his own main task, and came out with nothing”

    “Where the coalition’s policies do promise to have a sustained impact, which includes education, welfare and perhaps the overall economic stance, they reflect … that leading Tories and Lib Dems actually agreed on a lot of things.”

    https://www.ft.com/content/45f73818-d17e-11e4-ad3a-00144feab7de?mhq5j=e3

    “Highs and lows of the UK’s coalition government”

    “Peter Bone, a Tory MP … summed up a sense of quiet satisfaction on both sides of the coalition about what had been achieved. Instead of taunting Mr Clegg that it might be another 80 years before another Lib Dem leader was at the despatch box, Mr Bone said: “History will look on him as having been courageous in bringing his party into a national government at a time of great crisis. He deserves great credit for that.” ”

    “William Hague recounts the story of how — after a day negotiating the coalition with the Lib Dems in 2010 — his wife Ffion asked how he had got on. “I think I’ve killed the Liberal Democrats,” he replied.”

  • Joseph Bourke 23rd Jun '17 - 6:33pm

    For much of the post-war period, a change of government came about when the Conservatives or Labour had moved too far right or left and an equilibrium needed to be restored by a sensible and pragmatic voting public.

    In a multi-party system it is difficult for a single party to command over 50% of the vote. In normal times, the larger mainstream parties typically represent 30% to 40% of the vote. In holding the balance of power with a 20%+ vote, Liberal Democrats can position the party as the guarantor of centre ground government, neither too far right or too far left.

    That is a good reason for many to both support a PR voting system and vote Libdem.

    It was noticeable in this election campaign that the Labour manifesto did not seek to reverse welfare cuts opting instead to commit 11 billion to abolishing Tuition fees. Under a coalition program these policies would have been modified as would much of the Tory manifesto on grammar schools etc.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Jun '17 - 6:55pm

    Andy Cooke, you are wonderful, but of course a key objective is also to be able to ‘fight another day’. (Demosthenes)

    Our 2010 -15 campaign in Government was a Charge of the Light Brigade.

    What you chaps don’t appreciate is that over forty years of being involved in ‘hung councils’, ‘hung Parliaments’ (two in Scotland) and ‘hung Assemblies’ before the Coalition we had put together a playbook for such situations.

    Experience had taught us a number of do’s and don’ts.

    No 1 is the idea of transactional arrangements where the linkages in all negotiations can be seen by the press and public. Wins are then clearly labelled and losses explained by what was traded. Linkage as Kissinger taught us is everything. Clegg deliberately chose not to do it this way.

    No 2 is to keep your distance. The Rose Garden love-in was suicidal.

    No. 3 is to ensure at the outset that nothing can be decided without both ‘sides’ knowing about the decision, having identical information + similar calls on the civil service for advice and research, and the existence of a mechanism to resolving disputed decision. This was not done. There were ministries without Liberal Democrats. There were also ministries in which Liberal Democrats were not involved in decisions or had access to all the information (see Sir Nick Havey’s report on this after the event). Office is less important than a) access to decision taking and b) civil service support. The latter is taken care of by the former.

    These are just three.

    It was inexcusable for the General to learn on the job when this experience existed. It was inexcusable for the General to actually turn his back on those with this experience.

    Clegg always reminded me of Allenby at the Battle of Arras.

  • Despite people’s personal beliefs the ballot box doesn’t lie. I don’t think the coalition was good for the country or the party but my personal opinion isn’t what matters. What matters is that the public strongly rejected the Liberal Democrats as a result of us entering coalition and the policies implemented while in that coalition.

    I have no problem with people liking the coalition but it wasn’t widely popular.

  • Peter Brand 23rd Jun '17 - 7:05pm

    I have voted Liberal or LibDem for over 40 years, although I only joined up as a member after the referendum.
    I agree with Andy that the coalition is the best period of our history since I first voted and we should make more of it. But the question is who is the best person to lead the party and make the most of the positive aspects? In the electorate’s eyes the tuition fee episode is still a very big negative (I blame the Tories, but it’s what the electorate thinks that matters and we are not going to change their view of history after all this time). That’s why we really need a leader who can distance themselves, not from the coalition, but from the tuition fee vote. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone in Parliament who was a minister in the coalition and is lily white on tuition fees (correct me if I am wrong). So who can do the best job in the circumstances? Vince’s approach has been to split hairs about ‘when is a promise not a promise’ and ‘when is a tuition fee really a graduate tax’ – all very rational, but in the electorate’s eyes this compounds the sense of betrayal and is worse than saying nothing.
    Someone else please volunteer.

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '17 - 7:10pm

    I agree with this article 100%. If we’re not prepared to partipate in a coalition then I’m quiting the party. I thought Farron was wrong to say Libdems would not go in to coaliton. We did not choose the Conservatives in 2010, it was the country! It was the only possibility then. We are the third party. Under PR we’d be permanently in govt! When Clegg said in 2015 Libdems would be a heart in a Tory coalition and a head in a Labour one he was maybe being a bit presumptious but he was 100% right. Libdems should be prepared to join either Tories or Labour in power.

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '17 - 7:13pm

    @ Andrew T. Disagree. If “Coalition” was on 2015 ballot it would have won.

  • Joseph Bourke 23rd Jun '17 - 7:15pm

    Andrew T,

    there is a fair bit of tautology in your comment. – you start with “the ballot box doesn’t lie” and then go on to say that the public strongly rejected… the policies implemented while in that coalition. Yet, the conservatives were re-elected with a majority that they could not achieve in 2010.

    You could make the argument that people voted Tory in 2015 because they were happy enough with what was perceived as a principally Toty government. Many libdems in 2015 accepted that if there was another hung parliament we would need to work with whichever of the parties could form a government http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24109633

  • Peter Brand 23rd Jun '17 - 7:28pm

    One separate point. Tim campaigned on ‘no deals, no coalitions’. This means we must not consider a deal now. We can only change this policy, in the eyes of voters, after we have a new leader who says we will consider deals/coalitions AND we have had another election.

  • Bill le Breton and George Kendall – you’ve spiked my next article before I even wrote it. What you’ve just written was exactly what I wanted to say as a follow-up!

  • We have 12 mps! Just before the snap election was called and we were looking better in the polls, even the most wildly optimistic of members weren’t seriously expecting us to get anymore than about 30 mps.

    Both are a hell of a lot less than the 56 mps we had in coalition, when we got shafted. Why exactly would a coalition with even less mps and therefore less influence be more successful? Coalitions just don’t work very well under fptp.

    Tim was absolutely right to firmly state that we would not go into coalition with anyone this time. There was no expectation that we’d be in a position to enter a coalition and everyone thought the tories were going to win a massive majority, so for a start the question seemed redundant.

    Regardless, the perception was that corbyn was so unpopular and uncredible that we couldn’t be responsible for making him prime minister – and aside from how far apart we currently are from the tories on brexit and several other key issues, another coalition anytime soon would be the end of the party.

    David Howarth’s article is definitely bang on.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jun '17 - 8:39pm

    @Andy Kelly:

    “Coalitions can work. Where things went bad for the Lib Dems was that the 2010-2015 Government was seen as a Conservative Government, and claimed as such by the Conservatives. So the Lib Dems, if that was the case, would have to be in the role of simple collaborators.

    What was needed (and still is) was the difference between Coalition, Conservative, and Labour, to be clear. It’s easier now we’ve actually had a Conservative Government to illustrate the difference, of course.”

    Unfortunately, Andy, it is not. Because as far as the Tory Party and their pet media are concerned there was never any difference between the three Conservative governments of 2010, 2015 and 2017. And no one with any impact or influence is saying anything to contradict this.

  • Paul Pettinger 23rd Jun '17 - 8:39pm

    Andy, one argument Nick Clegg gave for Liberal Democrats accepting coalition with
    the Conservatives was that coalitions tend to be more common in the kind of multi-party political systems that Liberal Democrats support. A crucial lesson he failed to observe from those same multi-party political systems is that though parties still compete for votes with other members of their bloc (and may draw and lose support to parties in a different bloc), liberal parties rarely support different blocs in alternation.
    As Lib Dem blogger and political science PhD student Nick Barlow explained in 2015, where the main parties of the left and right are not close together and cannot form governments with each other, liberal parties must ‘pick a side’ between left or right (http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=4497). This is a fundamental strategic question that Liberal Democrats answered between 1993 to 2008, effectively answered between 2008 and 2010, but have not since 2010.

  • Daniel Carr 23rd Jun '17 - 8:42pm

    Agree with you Andy. I also joined and got active in the party during the Coalition as it showed the Lib Dems were a hard-headed bunch capable of making good policy decisions. It was rather infuriating to see Tim Farron run away from the Caroline Lucas. Having a leader who disowned personal responsibility for tuition fees and the bedroom tax made us look ridiculous while not really mollifying the anger some voters still have over that period.

    Gotta say though, as much as I praise the work Clegg et al did during that period, we were terrible at the optics. A very different approach will be required next time we find ourselves in a position to form government with Labour or the Tories. Though given how far from the centre both are at present, it’s hard to see it happening anytime soon.

  • paul barker 23rd Jun '17 - 8:50pm

    The reason The Coalition was so bad for us was that we tried to make the transition from “Nice” Protest Party to Government in one leap. We didnt see ourselves as a Protest Party but the Voters did & thats what matters, they just werent prepared to see us in Government at Westminster & taking real decisions, real choices.
    We have no choice but to defend most of what we did in Coalition, if we dont who will ?

  • Peter Brand – I fully agree that we mustn’t go into Coalition with any party right now, in the aftermath of Election 2017.
    We explicitly promised not to do that this time around and we must fulfil that promise – there wasn’t any wiggle room there.
    This is for us going forwards – for future campaigns. But we have to lay the ground for it from now onwards.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '17 - 10:33pm

    “The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition… “

    Perhaps. David Cameron would no doubt agree. He was expecting that the successful arrangement, or at least successful as he saw it, would continue after the 2015 election. In his mind, he could safely promise a referendum on the EU to appease the Tory right but he’d be saved by Lib Dems. It would be vetoed afterwards.

    It didn’t quite turn out like that as we all now know. If history had been different and we hadn’t had the coalition, would we have had the EU referendum and now be negotiating a Brexit? Possibly, but I doubt it.

  • Richard Easter 23rd Jun '17 - 11:19pm

    The way I see it the party has two choices:

    1) The party supports Keynesian economics, and agrees to support Corbyn in any future coalition, and fights for a Nordic / Icelandic economic model, with Corbynite style nationalisation where appropriate (natural monopoly public services / infrastructure), whilst still strongly supporting small business, functioning markets for those things better provided by the private sector, and civil liberties. In effect the party becomes a European style social democratic party, which works with the left but is against authoritarian tendencies, the true far left (as opposed to Labour’s 2017 manifesto) equally the corporate values which captured Blair.

    This is the approach I would personally favour.

    2) The party becomes an economically right wing, socially liberal free market party, based broadly on it’s actions in the coalition, and seeks to defend the actions of the coalition, and makes no shame in saying that it will go into coalition with the Tories. This is not something I would ever support or vote for, but it does not make it an invalid path for the party to follow either.

  • Andy Cooke – great article with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    You represent the mainstream of the party; do not be disheartened by the handful of left-wing comments raging against the dying of their light. They were the future once; you are now.

  • Richard Easter.

    Option 3: the handful favouring your option 1 do the decent thing and join Corbyn or Caroline, leaving the rest of us to consolidate option 2.

  • It was exactly as a party of protest that the Party thrived. It was the effort to reject the ‘protest wing’ of the party and remake it as an establishment party that lost us three quarters of our vote.

  • I noticed a lot of people saying something along the lines of realising the coalition wasn’t that bad after all, not compared with the Tories on their own and maybe it was time to forgive the LibDems. I do wonder if another year or so of the Tories mucking things up and that view would have cemented itself, which could have been a contributing factor to having the snap election.

    The problem seems to be that apparent shift to ‘forgive’ us didn’t seem to hold up under the pressure of an actual election campaign.

    Personally, a large part of our problem in terms of the coalition was that the general public were unable to distinguish between what we did and the Tories did, or what Labour would have done had they won a majority. I think we behaved better than the Tories within the coalition, and we were still doing grown-up politics while they were briefing against us, and Labour and the SNP had no qualms about insisting that a vote for us is as good as a vote for the Tories

    So where does that leave us? It is apparent we cannot rely on the public, and especially not our rivals, forgetting about the coalition. I’m not sure it’s a case of embracing the coalition, but we need to be more vocal about the good things we did, and the bad things we prevented, and that we were the minority, and that Labour didn’t get to implement their policies because they didn’t win a majority either.

    There is also a sense of resentment from some more liberal Labour voters that we didn’t go into coalition with them in 2010. We need to be clear why that didn’t happen. The other thing I see a lot is that we should have let the Tories fail to form a majority and force a re-run of the election. My understanding is that only the Tories had the cash to be able to afford another campaign, so they really did have the upper-hand in negotiations. This reveals another flaw in our democratic process, and one we should shout about.

    We had an agreement to stick to the coalition for the term of the government, which was to be the full five years, but perhaps any future coalitions should dissolve to a certain extent six months before an election is called. Remaining as the minor part of the coalition made it much harder for us to be seen as distinct, or to have a fair crack at getting our own message out there.

  • David-1 what is the point of a party that only protests and never governs?

    (A question that Labour also need to answer in their Vorbynist guise).

    To govern is to choose; and by choosing you always alienate those who disagree with that choice.

    We made a *huge strategic blunder for 40 years* by promising to be against things – contradictory; different things and parties in different places.

    Coalition made us choose.

    Our only viable strategy is to be *for (economic, social, political and personal ) Liberalism* so that when we enter government everyone knows what they are getting.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '17 - 10:47am

    Andy – before you write that article you must get hold of and read “Life in the Balance” published by ALDC – perhaps under a new title – it is this publication which contains that play book I mentioned.

    You should also know that on the weekend following all local elections, ALDC holds a special training day for every group that is in a hung council position or comes into it for the first time.

    At that training day the Council group is given a named political adviser trained in support Council Groups in a hung or as we say Balanced situation.

    It was madness to think they all these lessons and all these trialed and tested tactics and strategies from 40 or now 50 years of experience could be ignored.

    the 2010 -15 Parliament could and should have been a stepping stone to the next step (at the time) which would have been becoming the second largest Party in the 2015 election.

    Of course now our position is very different. 8 MPs in 2015 -17 was a new environment requiring new thinking. Now 2017 with 12 MPs but in an environment when Labour and the Tories have 80% is yet another and different situation requiring a totally new approach – I have just written something on this – which may already be up on the site.

    Now we have to change utterly the way we do our politics and use the years to come to change the way our citizens do politics.

  • “I noticed a lot of people saying something along the lines of realising the coalition wasn’t that bad after all… I do wonder if another year or so of the Tories mucking things up and that view would have cemented itself… The problem seems to be that apparent shift to ‘forgive’ us didn’t seem to hold up under the pressure of an actual election campaign.”

    No, indeed it didn’t. One of our local activists began the GE campaign with the optimistic words “We have exorcised the ghost of Coalition.” Out there on the doorsteps, the voters then repeatedly told us that we had not.

    To look for an objective comparison, how long did it take Labour to “exorcise the ghost” of Iraq 2003? That ghost was still clearly there to help drag down Brown in 2010. It has disappeared now in 2017 because Corbyn clearly had nothing to do with Iraq. As for Miliband in 2015, well, Iraq was fading into the background by that time. Admittedly, its influence on voting choices was being superseded only by the Great Tory Lie that Gordon Brown had been responsible for the global financial crash of 2008.

    Roughly speaking, therefore, we can say that the electorate has at least a ten-year memory for major political disasters. The tuition fees debacle of 2011, drawn out over the next few years by Clegg’s ludicrous self-justifying “apology”, will be remembered for many years yet. “Exorcism” happens only when events move on and when politicians change the subject. That’s why Farron rightly tried to change the subject, while Labour (rightly from their point of view) tried to stop the Lib Dems from changing the subject.

    “We have no choice but to defend most of what we did in Coalition”

    Oh yes we do. Harping on about the Coalition means cementing into place the single figure poll rating that resulted from Coalition. We must move on.

  • Tco – option 4 – the vocal minority of right wingers in the party do the decent thing and shut up and accept some responsibility for the situation the party hads found itself in. Meanwhile the party can actually behave like the centre left party we actually are.

  • Richard Easter 24th Jun '17 - 12:36pm

    TCO – Well in some ways I would prefer it if that happened, then we’d know where we stood. The electorate would also know they are voting for a right wing economic party, and could then vote accordingly.

  • Ian Hurdley 24th Jun '17 - 1:03pm

    Andy is absolutely right. The longer we behave as if this is a sleeping dog which should be let lie, the longer it will keep coming back to bite us. Rather than apologising, we need to confront the critics with our achievements between 2010 and 2015, even if they don’t want to hear the reality.

  • Paul Pettinger 24th Jun '17 - 1:34pm

    Then we will remain a political sideshow

  • Keith Sharp 24th Jun '17 - 1:42pm

    As a movement and a party which believes, as a fundamental tenet, in fair, preferential and proportional voting, we have to be ready to work in coalitions, because that’s what fair voting produces. And it’s no good either disowning 2010-15 or just hoping it will be forgotten in time. We have to make our own case. There were good and sound reasons for going into Government; the principal one being the need to re-secure and re-control the state’s finances. Running at an 11% annual deficit, when there already ‘isn’t any money left’ (L Byrne, Labour Sec to the Treasury till 2010) is a recipe for disaster. I’m old enough to remember the IMF intervention in ’76 (the same year, anecdotally, I was unable to exchange currency in Greece because the pound was falling so precipitately against the drachma — these things can and do happen) and it was very unpleasant. In ’10, the potential for disaster was even worse, given the scale of deficit and debt and the international nature of the recession. It is entirely responsible and liberal to be fiscally disciplined in that situation. We addressed the crisis, so that by ’14/15 the state was again in a position to reinvest in public services (the deficit was not closed, but it was heading for 2%, showing control and stewardship had been re-established). Our 2015 manifesto reflected that, while the Tories pursued further ‘austerity’ for ideological reasons. We should be positive in saying that and so build a narrative thread from the coalition years to today. Of course, our history of the coalition was littered with shocking errors of judgement — signing up to Lansley’s health reforms, which were NOT in the Coalition Agreement; and voting for tuition fees when the Agreement provided for our MPs to ABSTAIN are only the two most egregious — which brought about a loss of faith in trust in us, from which we are still suffering (‘chameleon’ was one of the politer terms I was called in the recent election) but that’s a lesson for how to serve in coalitions, not to never go near them. That said, I agreed with Tim in rejecting coalition this time round — because there was no conceivable common ground between May’s Tories or Corbyn’s Labour. But that’s a judgement call taken at the time, based on political circumstances. Different to saying never again to a coalition.

  • Sue Sutherland 24th Jun '17 - 1:43pm

    I too take some comfort from the fact that we have MPs who have been Ministers and I believe we did achieve some good things in Coalition. However, I also think we also did some stupid things and some cruel things were agreed in the name of the Coalition. We also seemed to abandon every other Lib Dem value except for our belief in coalition governments.
    We are all very interested in the minutiae of politics but most people aren’t, they vote by a feel for what a party stands for and whether that party will give them a better life or not. It’s obvious from our results during Coalition and subsequently that people felt we weren’t what they thought we were and that we were also irrelevant.
    So to persuade people to come back to us we as a party have to decide what we believe, not what we think, not even our values, which David Howarth talks about, but what we believe. Perhaps we could take a moment to still our very active minds, engage our gut feelings and say I believe ……
    Then we can persuade others.

  • The Liberal Democrats didn’t “govern” in coalition — rather, we were governed — by the Tories.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jun '17 - 2:27pm

    Andrea Clifton
    You are so positive here , it is great ! Some while back you praised me in words that meant a lot to me, as a result of some of my comments. I got back to you but did not see you on here again till now. Good to see you here again . Keep at it.

  • @ Sue Sutherland 1.43pm
    Beautifully & brilliantly articulated!

  • George Crozier 24th Jun '17 - 3:55pm

    Excellent article Andy. Agree with virtually every word. Though also agree largely with Bill Le Breton’s critique of politics of it.

    A lot of people I speak to have a positive view on the coalition, especially when they compare it to what has happened since.

    Of course we look forward, but when possible we should link our vision and ideas for the future to our achievements in government.

  • @ Andrea Clifton “The coalition was the finest government in my 75 years”.

    I’m pleased you’re pleased, Andrea, but to be honest it was one of the worst in my 75 years. The whole austerity plan took from the poor and gave to the rich minus a bit of tinkering round the edges by the Liberal Democrats. It virtually hammered local government into the ground and the NHS was demoralised by the Lansley ‘reforms’. It also split and almost destroyed the Liberal Democrats. To be fair, the Thatcher Government was even worse.

    The finest government of my times – and I can remember snippets of it – was the Attlee Government of 1945-51 which picked up a broken post-war economy and introduced the NHS (without which I wouldn’t have reached my 75 years). I well remember my parents telling me the horrors of paying for the doctor in the 1920’s and 1930’s and of two of my uncles dying of pneumonia in 1926. It also enabled me to be the first member of my family to go to University.

  • paul holmes 24th Jun '17 - 4:22pm

    Sue -I very much agree with what you say.

    For my part I want us to go back to the Social Liberal Party and Policies we had for most of the last century but started to move away from after December 2008 and abandoned rapidly after entering Coalition in 2010.

    As for those in this thread who say ‘we must enter Coalition whenever the chance arises because we believe in PR and Coalitions’, that is of course nonsense. Firstly we do not have PR although until 2008/9 we had said that gaining PR would be a deal breaker in any Coalition negotiations.

    Secondly a belief in Coalition and compromise as a positive good does not mean you accept Coalition under any terms. The Liberal Party refused Coalition with the Tories in Feb 1974, although Jeremy Thorpe wanted to accept despite Heath’s refusal to countenance PR. Four years later they entered an 18 month Pact, rather than full blown Coalition, with Labour. Full blown Coalition is never the only option in a Hung Parliament.

    Indeed the DUP are demonstrating that at the moment. They could have rushed headlong into Coalition with their sister Party as indeed Theresa May seemed to expect them to. Instead of rolling over and saying ‘Yes, please tickle my tummy and give us some Ministerial Limos’ they are negotiating long and hard over an alternative somewhere between Confidence and Supply and Coalition. Also of course neither the Liberal Democrats with two more MP’s than the DUP, or the SNP with rather more, have even remotely considered propping up the Hard Brexit/Austerity fixated Conservatives. Is anyone seriously suggesting we should have just because we could?

  • paul holmes 24th Jun '17 - 4:30pm

    Agree with every word David Raw says here. Although I am only 60 so I only know of the Attlee Government through the History books! Which as a Historian by trade, before I became an MP, I have read a lot of.

    I do though remember my mother talking of being a working class child and teenager in 1920’s/30’s Sheffield. One story that always sticks in my memory is how, with appalling toothache, they had to decide if they should go to the penny dentist (no anaesthetic) or could afford the tuppenny dentist (with anaesthetic).

  • Dave Orbison 24th Jun '17 - 4:31pm

    George Crozier ‘a lot of people I speak to have a positive view of the coalition’.

    Maybe but that can hardly be said of the electorate who left the LibDem in droves as the party was decimated and shows little sign of revival.

    I can understand there being an internal debate within LibDems members about the pros and cons but surely there can be no reason to doubt the link between the Coalition and the LibDem collapse in support.

    Given that I just am astounded that people still want to debate the so called merits of the Coalition.

    To those that do I’d ask you ‘Do you really think if the LibDems went all out in the next election to defend the Coalition, to talk it up as a success, that the LibDems would gain substantial more votes?’ I think it likely that voters would fall about laughing.

    It’s clear there are two parties within the LibDems. Those who want a Tory leaning right of centre and those more inclined to Labour as left of centre.

    Those on the right can’t bring themselves to admit the Coalition was a disaster and so resort to blaming the electorate or even the Tories – as if the Tories had anything on their agenda other than crushing the LibDems. Why else was George Osborne so happy for Danny Alexander to front media appearances advocating austerity?

    For those on the left perhaps time to leave what is rapidly becoming an inward obsessive debating society and join Labour.

  • @ Dave Orbison. The Lib Dems weren’t decimated, Dave. It was worse.

    If It had been we would have lost five or six seats. We lost 48 out of 56 which is nine times worse. Of course the neo-liberals will argue the electorate was misinformed (or make even less complimentary comments).

    It was compounded with a shower of peerages and knighthhoods – which was, and is, noticed. I tend the take one of Gladstone’s positions….. ‘Trust the people’. The people spoke and they weren’t daft.

  • PS If the manager of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea – or even the mighty Huddersfield Town – lost 48 out of 56 matches they wouldn’t last that long. They’d be lucky to get a job in the Conference South or the Scottish Second Division.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jun '17 - 5:23pm

    paul holmes

    Indeed the DUP are demonstrating that at the moment. They could have rushed headlong into Coalition with their sister Party as indeed Theresa May seemed to expect them to.

    The DUP have the advantages that:

    1) If an early general election is called, their voters are unlikely to switch to another party.

    2) They are a regional party for an area which is only a small part of the UK, so their demands can easily be paid off, and they can easily vote for things which don’t affect their part of the country and so not get punished for doing so by their voters.

    3) The major party in the government did unexpectedly badly, and so would not want to call an early general election because it would most likely lose if it did.

    The Liberal Democrats had none of these advantages in 2010. Had they not agreed to the coalition, what would have happened is what we see now: a minority Tory government supported by the DUP. This would have been followed fairly soon by another general election, in which the major line from both Tory and Labour would have been “get rid of the Liberal Democrats as they are stopping us having a viable government” (just as it was in the AV referendum). Does anyone really suppose the people, having voted out Labour in 2010, would rush to vote them in again in 2011?

    Simply because one accepts that the coalition was the best option given the balance of parties does not mean (as Dave Orbison is suggesting) that one thinks it was a “success” in the sense that everything it did was good. No, it was a very bad government doing bad things. However, had it not happened, we would have ended up with a majority Tory government, which would have been even worse.

  • Dave Orbison 24th Jun '17 - 5:58pm

    David Raw – I stand corrected.

    Continuing with your football analogy when I read some of the comments on here about the Coalition it reminds me of those painful post-match interviews where the losing manager blames the ref, or the pitch or even the opposition’s tactics and best of all the desperate “we’d have won if they hadn’t scored more goals than us”. Even die-hard football fans know when their team are broken and there’s a need for a wholesale rebuild.

    Not so some LibDems. Apart from an enforced change of ‘manager’ based on the mixed and conflicting views on LDV I’m not sure if anything else is going to change for the LibDems. There is no shortage of intellectual debate and then there’s much wringing of hands as to those political opponents doing despicable things such as making policy promises that are popular. Seriously, what would you expect them to do?

    All that seems on offer is rather arid debates as to ‘Remainers’ vs ‘Remoaners’, PR, with casual references to a few Liberal politicians from the 20th and even 19th century. Is this inspiring? Will this win voters over to the LibDems.

    The party cannot agree on whether the Coalition was good or bad or even if the GE results were dire or a springboard. If you cannot agree on such basic matters of fact what hope is there?

    I have seen little on here since the GE to suggest that the party is likely to do anything but just muddle on to the next election. After the 2015 GE I understood that the party had some sort of inquest to look into what went wrong. Presumably the primary purpose was to learn from any mistakes and provide a stronger election platform than in 2015. What went wrong?

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jun '17 - 6:50pm

    Dave Orbison

    There is no shortage of intellectual debate and then there’s much wringing of hands as to those political opponents doing despicable things such as making policy promises that are popular.

    What you mean like Donald Trump? He made lots of policy promises that were popular. Promises to spend loads of money to make America “great again” and simultaneously make lots of tax cuts.

    Are you a fan of Donald Trump? Do you think he ran a good election campaign?

  • @ Keith Sharp

    I couldn’t canvass in 2015 because I couldn’t defend what I consider the stupid idea that the UK was like Greece. Of course we didn’t need to cut government investment spending. We needed to grow the economy and with growth the deficit would decline. There was no IMF intervention in 1976; none of the money was ever used. The Treasury got their figures wrong. It is always wrong for the government to cut expenditure during a recession, the greater the recession the more wrong it is. I don’t understand why our MPs in 2010 gave up our spending plans without a fight and why David Laws enjoyed deciding what to cut in his less than 3 weeks at the Treasury. We need to recognise that we can’t leave economic policy to our MPs and that it is a vital part of governing.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jun '17 - 6:57pm

    David Orbison

    For those on the left perhaps time to leave what is rapidly becoming an inward obsessive debating society and join Labour.

    I am opposed to the idea of one monopoly party of the left. That has always been one of the main causes of the failure of left-wing politics: such a party soon becomes a high and mighty unchallengeable elite.

    I am also opposed to a party that supports a distortional representation system that gives it plenty of safe seats in some parts of the country in returning for denying a voice in parliament for people who need a left-wing voice in other parts of the country. Labour has a tiny number of seats in southern England, so poor people in the south go without a voice and the false impression is given that everyone in the south is the sort of wealthy person who naturally votes Conservative.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jun '17 - 7:17pm

    TCO: “do not be disheartened by the handful of left-wing comments raging against the dying of their light.”
    James “the vocal minority of right wingers in the party … Meanwhile the party can actually behave like the centre left party we actually are.”

    This thread seems to sum up what I believe is the main problem and challenge facing the party.

    What are the Lib Dems and what are they for?

    Even members of the party don’t seem to know so what hope is there for the rest of us?.

    I’ve complained previously that apparent unity around opposing Brexit was simply masking the lack of a coherent identity in recent years and delaying the time when the party would have to address the issue highlighted by TCO: “Coalition made us choose.” Sometimes the division between the left and right of the party seems as wide as that between Labour and the Tories, with Lib Dems inviting each other to join one of those parties. This looks unlikely to be resolved by a change of leader, since instead of meaningful debate and a choice of direction the party looks like it will crown Vince Cable while pencilling in the date for Jo Swinson to take over.

    Frankly, as a party you really need to get your act together.

  • Dave Orbison 24th Jun '17 - 8:19pm

    Matthew Huntbach- am I a Donald Trump supporter?

    God forbid. But I fully supported Bernie Sanders.

  • paul holmes 24th Jun '17 - 8:59pm

    Matthew. The Liberal Party had none of the ‘DUP advantages’ you refer to in Feb 1974 but they refused to go into a bad Coalition and were not wiped out (as we almost completely were in 2015) at the next GE 6 months later.

    Going into Coalition is never the only option. Neither is mis managing it so badly when you do.

  • Going into coalition wasn’t an option in Feb 1974. Tories + Liberals did not make a parliamentary majority. (For that matter neither did Labour + Liberals.) The Liberals could not be accused of preventing the formation of a government because it wasn’t in their gift.

  • To the Coalition enthusiasts on this thread – What would you say to a Lib Dem coalition with Labour?

    Would it be (a) yes, having entered a Coalition with the Tories, it would make a lot of sense to enter a second coalition with Labour if that were to work out in electoral terms, thereby demonstrating that we are broadly equidistant between these two parties?

    Or would it be (b) no, heaven forbid, we can deal with the Tories, but Labour are beyond the pale?

    Or would it be (c) I refuse to answer, I will make some excuse along the lines of asserting that Labour would never work with us, because I don’t want to admit that I really want the Lib Dems to be a permanent part of the Right in British politics?

  • @ David Allen
    “What would you say to a Lib Dem coalition with Labour?

    I think it was a mistake to rule out a coalition with Labour and the Conservatives. We should have set out our terms – referendum on the deal, restoration of our green policies, STV for local elections, reversing the Tory (and some of the coalition) welfare cuts, 300,000 new homes a year, end to the public service pay cap, more money for NHS, social care and education. However we might want to say that we would need a minimum of 30 MPs to be in coalition. If we failed to get that number we could only consider a confidence and supply agreement with the same demands.

    I can’t image the Tories being keen. I am sure Corbyn does mean it when he says no coalition and they would just put up their programme and expect us to vote for it. Without some compromise from Labour I can’t see how we could support their programme, especially as they didn’t promise to reverse most of the welfare cuts. They have a policy of freezing benefits even if Corbyn had trouble remembering it.

  • Paul Pettinger 25th Jun '17 - 2:56am

    @Keith Sharp – the UK’s economic position in 2010 was nothing like that of Greece’s. The coalition also failed to close the deficit more quickly, as standard Keynesian analysis predicted. We have instead experienced – as Mark Carney said in December – the first lost decade since the 1860s’.

  • Dave Orbison 25th Jun '17 - 3:45am

    Michael BG – “they [Labour] have a policy a policy of freezing benefits even if Corbyn has had trouble remembering that’.

    But isn’t this the same issue as the LibDems and student fees. Many here have lamented as that the LibDems having no successor who is not tainted by the student fees betrayal.

    Yet Corbyn is free from such accusations re benefit freezes. He did not support a benefit freeze. In fact one of his first showdowns with the PLP was over austerity. Corbyn insisted they oppose benefit caps and many in the PLP were all too willing to run to the Press to denounce him. The reaction here wasn’t Corbyn was right. Instead people here jumped up and down joyful as to the calamitous split in the Labour Party and Corbyn’s woeful judgement.

    But no where do all the parties stand on austerity, whose judgment was really lacking? So Michael BG, good luck trying to score a point against Corbyn on this but so far as the LibDems are concerned you will simply be shooting yourselves in the foot and that’s without even getting into issues such as the Bedroom Tax.

  • I supported Bernie Sanders too……………… J. Corbyn is rapidly assuming his mantle judging by his reception at Glastonbury. Shelley was my favourite poet too.

  • Jim Alexander 25th Jun '17 - 4:03pm

    At last- a realistic view of the achievements in Coalition which funny enough i was discussing with someone quite recently – however we need to deal with the tuition fee myth – the impact on students from a poor background due to Free Tuition Fees is catastrophic – 50% less than England – the money has to be targeted at the poorest in Society not a tax break for the middle classes

    Back to the Coalition a fair chunk of our supporters will run SMEs however Vince Cables support for them as Business Secretary was pretty much non existent – The Tories protect big Business – Unions protect Workers but the small guy gets walked over – and despite being in a position to do something when in Power we did zilch

    However raising the Tax Threshold for poorer families – the work done by Jo Swinton on shared Maternity leave and Norman Lamb on Mental Health were all real policies for real people – that legacy doesn’t go away – you only make a difference in Government – so if you want to be a principled debating Society with high ideals that,s fine – but you make zero difference to ordinary peoples lives

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '17 - 4:21pm

    paul holmes

    Matthew. The Liberal Party had none of the ‘DUP advantages’ you refer to in Feb 1974 but they refused to go into a bad Coalition and were not wiped out (as we almost completely were in 2015) at the next GE 6 months later.

    The Liberal Party saw a big increase in their vote in Feb 1974, whereas in 2015 the vote was unexpectedly low – Cleggmania had clearly failed and the LibDems were clearly on a downward path.

    Going into Coalition is never the only option. Neither is mis managing it so badly when you do.

    I was one of the main critics here in LDV of the way the Coalition was handled by the party’s leadership, so, yes I fully agree it was appallingly badly handled.

    The fact, however, is that it happened. I think that needs to be acknowledged and explained, and by not doing that in the 2017 general election, it just made things worse. The main explanation needed to be that no, we did not think everything done by the coalition was wonderful. It was a miserable little compromise in which the distortional electoral system greatly reduced our influence. A difficult situation was made worse by the leadership of our party doing the opposite of this.

    Personally I think when the Conservatives broke the coalition agreement by forcing through a top-down reorganisation of the NHS, then was the time the leadership should have ended the Coalition. Instead they did the opposite, and that was when I dropped out of active involvement in the party.

    However, I think it would be hypocritical to support multi-party politics and yet to rule out joining coalitions.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '17 - 4:27pm

    David Allen

    To the Coalition enthusiasts on this thread – What would you say to a Lib Dem coalition with Labour?

    Would it be (a) yes

    Yes, I agree with all of your point a).

  • David Allen 25th Jun '17 - 4:53pm

    Michael BG, Matthew Huntbach, thanks for responding to my question. However, neither of you (I think) are amongst the gung-ho 2010-2015 Coalition cheerleaders, who I was hoping might be prepared to answer!

    Andy Cooke, Stimpson, TCO, Russell Kemp, Carolyn Mann, etc – not a peep?

  • Dave Orbison 25th Jun '17 - 6:18pm

    Jim Alexander – “you only make a difference in Government”.

    I disagree. The latest Queen’s Speech has been stripped of much of what the Tories had to do shaken by their poor performance and obvious support for Corbyn. There have been many Govt U-turns in response to Opposition pressure including:

    Abandonment £6m Saudi Prison Contract (13/10/15)
    Nurse immigration controls lifted (16/10/15)
    Government scraped extension of Sunday Trading hours (10/11/15)
    Abandonment £12bn Welfare Cut: PIP & Tax Credits and 25% mooted cut to Police Service budgets (25/11/15)
    Backtrack on Tampon Tax, earmarking £15m for women’s charities (28/11/15)
    Plan to make convicts pay £1,250 towards their court case axed (03/12/15)
    Reversal of decision to keep Bahrain & Egypt off human rights concern list (19/12/15)
    Cut to Government Interpreters enhanced pay scrapped (15/01/16)
    1% cut in rent support to OAPs, Veterans & Abuse Victims withdrawn (27/01/16)
    9% cut to legal aid fees scrapped (28/01/16)
    U-Turn on plan to abolish 4 Child Poverty measurements (26/02/16)
    Weakening the Freedom of Information Act halted and funding for Wildlife Crime Unit restored (01/03/16)
    Abandon their Pension ISA plan (06/03/16)
    Plan to tax solar panels 5% axed (21/03/16)
    Retreat re plan to hold vote on Foxhunting (06/04/16)
    Plan to levy 3% Stamp Duty on “Granny Flats” scrapped (14/04/16)
    Threats to force e-voting on Trade Union strikes withdrawn and 13 defeats inflicted on Tory Housing Bill (26/04/16)
    Government climb-down o impose a new contract on Junior Doctors halted (05/05/16)
    Forcing *all* schools to become academies (07/05/16)
    Plan to scrap the Human Rights Act in first 100 days abandoned (14/08/16)
    Abandon plan to withdraw from European Convention on Human Rights (30/06/16)
    Plan to make firms list foreign workers in a staff list are withdrawn (09/10/16)
    Theresa May backtracked on her refusal to publish a Brexit White Paper before Article 50 vote (25/01/17)
    PM caved in to demand for MPs to get a vote on final Brexit Deal (07/02/17)
    Plans to tax Self Employed workers including 1.149m living in poverty axed (15/03/17)

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '17 - 8:10pm

    Jim Alexander

    However raising the Tax Threshold for poorer families

    Would it have been better not to have done this and to have used the extra tax raised to subsidise universities and thereby to have avoided the tuition fees issue?

  • David Allen,
    To answer your question, it’s “a”
    If they’re willing to work with us, accept our red lines, put our policies into law, I don’t care if the rosettes they wear are red, blue, green, or sky-blue pink with yellow dots on. We would not be propping up a Labour Government – or a Tory one, for that matter; we’d be implementing a Coalition Government, which is a different beast entirely.
    If Caron accepts my next article, I’ll go into more depth there.

  • @ Dave Orbison

    I am sorry if I was not clear. I think you have misunderstood me, when I wrote, “they [Labour] have a policy of freezing benefits even if Corbyn has had trouble remembering that”. What I meant was that the 2017 Labour manifesto has no commitment to end the benefit freeze and there is no money allocated in their costings document. (However I did hear Corbyn state in an interview that he wanted to end the freeze, but a want, is not a manifesto commitment.)

    The Liberal Democrats have recognised that the bedroom tax is wrong and in our 2017 manifesto we stated we would scrape it. We also stated we would end the benefit freeze and we allocated £3.29 billion to do so (p 4 Manifesto Costings Summary).

    (Hopefully you have seen above my views regarding tuition fees.)

    @ David Allen
    Yes after I had posted I thought maybe you were not asking me, 🙂

  • Alasdair Brooks 26th Jun '17 - 3:08pm

    The coalition had its problems and its mistakes – which don’t need repeating again – and we paid for, are stil paying for, the extent to which we’re uniquely blamed for some of those problems and mistakes. Both external flagellation and internal self-flagellation will likely continue here for some time.

    But the coalition also worked. Whatever our party’s contributions to the mistakes of 2010-2015, whatever the price we’ve subsequently paid, this country was manifestly better-governed when the LibDems held a share of power than it’s been governed since. The serial chaotic cock-ups that Cameron and May have dragged this country through since 2015 have been a product of Conservative Party internal politics and hubris, and we have every right feel slightly smug about the mess they’ve managed to get themselves into since, even while regretting the outcome and impact of their inability to govern properly without us.

  • Steve Magner 26th Jun '17 - 5:22pm

    Sadly too much of this debate seems to be about resurrecting the National Liberals and we all know what happened to them. When i joined in 1973 the Liberal Party had a clear philosphiical belief as being on the economic left of centre as a radical progressive party. Since the coalition nobody knows what we actually stand for. Even if we did ever get back into government nobody would have any confidence in our ability to deliver what we promised.

  • David Allen 27th Jun '17 - 1:21pm

    Andy Cooke,

    Only just read your reply – Thanks for that.

    I see that your particular enthusiasm for coalition is predicated on the assumption – which you argue was borne out by the experience of 2010-2015 – that the Lib Dems “started governing” and “outpunch(ed) their weight by a huge amount”. I really don’t think that many people outside the Lib Dems see it that way. The truth is that raising the tax thresholds, sweetening the pill of education cuts with a pupil premium, and gay marriage were all amongst the relatively good parts of the Tories’ own plans, and the Lib Dems did not greatly help to bring these policies forward. As for mental health, if Lamb achieved so much, why is he still banging on about how dire the provision is?

    (Ironically, I think the best achievements of the Lib Dems in 2010-2015 are the ones they didn’t actually know about at the time. They didn’t allow a stupid Brexit referendum to take place! They didn’t then decide that Brexit had to mean extreme Brexit. They didn’t then decide to demand bungs for their constituencies as the price of coalition! So, if we must have pro-Coalition propaganda, let’s at least update it in the light of 2015-2017 experience, because that will make it a lot more credible!)

    However – I am glad you accept that we must also be prepared to work with Labour. I would go further than that. If we are to prove that we are not the Tories’ poodle, we must look first and foremost toward working, for a change, with the Labour side. If we now talk about the possibility of a second coalition with the Tories, we shall indelibly paint ourselves as a kind of Tory satellite party, firmly anchored on the political Right. I don’t want that, and it seems from what you write that you don’t want that, either.

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