The 21 areas where the Lib Dems and Labour agree

Miliband-CleggIt’s a few months since I first published my list of 17 policies on which the Lib Dems and Labour now agree. These ranged from including tax-cuts for low-earners, the introduction of a mansion tax, a major council house-building programme, cuts to universal benefits for wealthy pensioners, and an elected House of Lords.

One I highlighted was the likely scrapping of the Bedroom Tax, noting then: “Officially the Lib Dems are committed to an immediate review of the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ (or ‘spare room subsidy’ as no-one calls it), including looking at what money (if any) has been saved, the costs incurred, and the effect on vulnerable tenants. However, party president Tim Farron has made no secret of his wish to reform / scrap it. Ed Miliband announced at the last Labour conference that any government he led would scrap it.” Things have moved on since then, with the Lib Dems now committed to reforming the Bedroom Tax so that no tenant will lose housing benefit unless they decline the offer of alternative suitable housing.

To those 17, I subsequently added another three in May:

  • increasing the provision and affordability of childcare;
  • a living wage for public sector workers; and
  • private sector rent reforms to encourage three-year leases.
  • And then last month, the 21st area of broad agreement became clear when Nick Clegg announced that the Lib Dems would argue the next government “will be able to borrow in order to fix our creaking national infrastructure” in growth-enhancing projects. Though, as Adam Corlett argued here, the policy is not identical to Labour’s, it is certainly more in sympathy with Eds Miliband’s and Balls’ approach.

    So that’s the up-to-date 21 areas where the Lib Dems and Labour agree. As I pointed out in my Total Politics column this month, “If Labour ends up the largest party in a hung parliament there’s plenty of material for a Lib/Lab pact.”

    * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    31 Comments

    • Tony Dawson 27th Jul '14 - 8:54am

      All that is necessary for a better Question time is for Parliament to introduce a few behaviour rules and put in place a Speaker who will enforce them. This would have benificial side-effect of removing Bercow.

    • Eddie Sammon 27th Jul '14 - 9:15am

      It’s better to talk about how the Lib Dems need to differentiate ourselves from the clearly flawed Labour and Conservative parties, rather than sound laissez faire about the idea of being Labour’s little sibling.

      Regards

    • Frank Booth 27th Jul '14 - 9:40am

      Eddie – we have Alexander saying on a day by day basis how they are dealing with Labour’s mess. No mention of the context of a global economic crisis. I think it’s safe to say there’s not going to be any love-in with Labour anytime soon. However in this age of post-tribal politics (allegedly) it seems grown up to point out where parties agree.

      Next I presume we’ll get an article on all the areas where Lib Dems and Tories are polar opposites. Then I expect we’ll have another article on why ‘equidistance’ is the right strategy for the Party to follow.

    • @Frank Booth It was Labour’s mess. Brown claimed to have “got rid of boom and bust”. If you make that kind of claim then you have to accept responsibility when it goes belly up.

      In the unlikely event we cling on to enough seats to form a coalition with Labour, I like the idea of us being seen as the responsible wing of the government. Maybe Vince as chancellor.

    • Eddie Sammon

      The LD are also a flawed party as well – don’t try to pretend that all is well with you as well! I can cite loads of examples but it is not the point I want to make

      If the LD want to be part of a Government then they have to do it as part of a Coalition. Personally I think Coalition within FPTP is almost impossible to do well as the disparity between seats and vote is difficult to manage…..

      In 2010, as always, I voted LD and was surprised to see how readily the LD jumped in bed with the Tories. Since then I have also been amazed at how badly the Coalition has been managed from a LD side. Being seen by a large proportion of ex-voters as having been subsumed by the Tories is an indictment of the party management

      Personally, I think there is going to be a lot of pressure on the LD to set out what Coalition would look like in the event of a hung Parliament in 2015

      Some points need to be looked at:

      i. How can the party (with its current leadership) be equidistant from the two major parties, one of whom WILL be the largest party due to FPTP? How ro remove the perception that the leaders of your party are not ‘yellow Tories’?

      ii. Is a Coalition with Labour credible after the last 5 years? I don’t believe it is to be honest unless there are some big changes at the top. When I look at who Clegg has put in charge of the manifesto, and also his proposed negotiating team then my assumption is reinforced

      iii. What are the criteria for choosing a partner – if there is a choice – or saying no to the largest party if there isn”t? I find the idea that ‘we will negotiate with the party with most seats/votes’ a bizarre one – surely the synergies between policies must be taken into account? Wasn’t this one of the problems in 2010 – the campaign had appeared to a lot of voters more left-wing than right-wing but in the end there was a perceived rush to jettison principles to be in Government no matter who the partners are!

      iv. In the event of another Coalition what would th LD do differently in order to be part of the Government but not seen as also part of the largest party in the Coalition….from a practical point of view on influencing pilicy and also a presentational point of view so you don’t alienate the support of voters

      I think there will be an enormous amount of pressure on Clegg to be absolutely clear on this before election day – the 2010 ‘wait and see’ approach will just not wash prior to 2015 and he will need to give a preference. He hasn’t the political capital to be able to brush it off

    • I have great doubts about

    • Will Mann

      Well that approach is going to endear you to the Labour Party isn’t it?

      Part of the financial crisis was due to Labour, part due to the culture of the economic philosophy followed since Thatcher, something that has changed very little in the 5 years!

      Remind me again how your Government is doing against the targets set out by Osborne in 2010?

    • I have great doubts about entering into an other coalition. A coalition with the Tories that could result in leaving the EU, is to me unthinkable and I cannot see a coalition agreement that would be approved of by either party; there are details of policy that could sustain a coalition with Labour, but where are the big ideas? Wouldn’t Lib Dems suffer huge castigation from the right and the media, yet be treated contemptuously by Labour? Moreover I foresee that a Labour led government would rapidly become very unpopular. In any case it would be hard to rebuild the party whilst in a coalition. The aim now and after the next election should be to assert the principles and values of Liberalism and to make sure that this overall picture is not lost amid details of this and that projected policy.

      I am not sure whether discussing the possibility of another coalition is wise: the odds are surely against it; the basis for the discussion seems to be that no one can convincingly see a Conservative or Labour victory. If we are to discuss the possibility of an electoral outcome with no overall result, we should equally be discussing the prospect of minority governments.

    • But bcrombie, you don’t go into politics to endear yourself to other parties. Indeed if at any stage you do, you make the mistakes Nick made, like the Rose Garden, Tuition Fees, Secret Courts etc etc. We don’t want to repeat Nick’s mistakes again, do we?

    • David Evans

      That was a throw away line though wasn’t it!

      The thing is that everyone with a brain knows that the global financial crisis wasn’t simply ‘Labour’s mess’- it is far more complex than that, and part of it was actually the fault of policies and philosophies put into place by the Tories. The main criticism about Labour from my side is that they tried to be Tories when in power!

      It is just one example of many where your leaders make these wide-ranging, weak criticisms of Labour but are remarkably quiet on the Tories

      I am a left-wing liberal voter (every election since 87 apart from 97) and will not vote for a party whose leadership makes such asinine comments over and over and over again!

      I suggest the first thing Clegg could do in the next few months is send Alexander back to the Cairngorms and prepare for obscurity

    • Paul in Wokingham 27th Jul '14 - 10:46am

      The Russell Sage Foundation in the USA recently published research showing that real net wealth of median households in the USA is now LOWER in real terms than in 1984 whereas the real net wealth of the top 5% has about doubled in the same period: http://web.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/working_papers/pfeffer-danziger-schoeni_wealth-levels.pdf – note the quite startling graph in Fugure 1.

      Surely that is the simplest and most important point of agreement between Lib Dems and Labour: we might have different reasons for wishing to deal with growing wealth inequality but we would both (I assume) wish to address growing wealth disparity (note that wealth is not the same as earned income), whereas the Tories will perhaps adopt a laissez-faire attitude.

    • Operation woo tactical Labour voters initialised. Too many bridges have been burnt for me at least. The thought of Clegg being Miliband’s deputy is absurd and laughable. I will not vote for this even though that may mean being represented by a Tory MP.

    • Richard Easter 27th Jul '14 - 2:08pm

      What would be the liberal position on the railways? Do the party agree with a nationalised Network Rail, and a nationalised operator bidding alongside private operators for contracts? What about full nationalisation? Or alternatively do you support either outright selling the railways off to the private sector, or having very long 25 year+ franchises?

      Labour are almost certain to be pressured into renationalisation by stealth with their method either by the party or by private companies realising it’s not worth the bother, but have the Liberal Democrats got anything more imaginative, which at the same time won’t hand over vast chunks of public money to corporations, nor to be wasted as Network Rail appear to do so?

    • Simon Shaw: I sympathise with your fears with a second coalition, but do you have an idea how minority government could work in the unlikely event of no overall control?

      One issue, that I did not mention above is that if, as is expected, Lib Dems have a lower vote and fewer MPs, clinging on to power would be would be widely seen as wrong .

    • A coalition with Labour is not viable. I well remember a Labour shadow minister coming to my place of work in 1996. “We will be continuing the Conservatives spending plans”.2 years later an Lib Dem MP addressed our regional conference and said “they are building up a huge war chest and will spend the lot”, they did and blew the lot. We are hearing the same starting point again and it is inevitable it will end up with the same grim scenario as 2008/10. We cannot forget that outgoing Labour letter “there is no money left”
      However having said that a coalition of any sort would be even more stupid for us. We are going to lose a host of MPs and will be of such a minor element in any coalition as to look foolish. WE NEED TO REBUILD AND RECOVER FROM THE CLEGG REGIME AND DO IT QUIETLY IN OPPOSITION OVER A NUMBER OF YEARS.

    • Little Jackie Paper 27th Jul '14 - 4:50pm

      Just as a thought. Is it certain that LIB-LAB or LIB-CON would be certain of having a majority? If there is the unlikely confluence of LDP meltdown and UKIP/Nationalist surge then it seems to me at least plausible that neither combination would work. There is of course a LAB-CON possibility, which is perhaps less fanciful than is often thought.

      Simon Shaw – I’m not without sympathy. However in 2010 the LDP had fewer seats than in 2005. I just think that a blanket no would look really bad in any follow-up election. Why vote for LDP if they don’t want government? Not joining coalition would also drive a horse and coaches through fixed term parliaments.

      One thought I have had on this. At the time in 2010 I thought that the idea of the junior party having an over-representation of ministers, thinly spread was a good idea. Looking back it was a bad idea. Possibly having a smaller, more concentrated LDP participation (maybe even just one ministry plus one Treasury post) might be a more workable option.

    • Helen Dudden 27th Jul '14 - 7:53pm

      Why don’t you join us?

      I do not think this would work.

    • Eddie Sammon 28th Jul '14 - 3:42am

      Frank Booth, in the past I have been seriously concerned from what I have read about George Osborne’s economic adviser as well as his influence on the whole treasury. Danny needs to ask for at least a cut in Help to Buy.

      bcrombie, I know the Lib Dems are flawed too, but this is a Lib Dem site and I think they are the least flawed.

      Equidistance is a silly concept if always abided to, we just need to stick with our principles. The problem is Labour are only appealing to the left of the middle class, as well as mopping up a load of working class voters because there is no alternative.

      I honestly don’t believe many people think we are yellow tories, unless you speak to left wingers all the time. In that recent poll the public placed us slightly on the left and Conservatives centre-right.

      I think a coalition with Labour is credible.

      Again, Thatcher would have hated Osborne’s economic policies. Thatcher was a monetarist whilst today’s Conservatives are monetary-Keynesians, or whatever you want to call it.

      Regards

    • Richard Easter 28th Jul '14 - 9:07am

      The Liberal Democrats will be slated if they form another coalition with the Tories, being called spineless and brutal, and slated if they sign up with Labour for being two faced. It’s a no-win situation either way unfortunately, so I don’t think it really matters which way they turn, although I note that Clegg is starting to speak his mind a lot more (the cynical amongst us might suggest due to an election in the pipeline), and I have always thought that Liberal Democrats have more in common with the “right wing” of the Labour Party, than anyone else (perhaps Tories like Kenneth Clarke / Heseltine excepted).

      If the Liberal Democrats sign up with Labour, then they need to re-discover their love and support of civil liberties and oppose nonsense like secret courts, the DRIP bill, removal of legal aid and other such things. New Labour got increasingly paranoid and dare I say “Stalinist” under war mongering Blair and a flustered Brown, not to mention the influence of Mandelson (who appears to be very much a crony capitalist). I voted Liberal Democrat precisely for that reason in 2010 to give New Labour a sound kicking. I don’t think Miliband’s Labour is as likely to end up anything like the Tony, Gordon and Mandy show, but a Liberal voice if it does what it is supposed to do, may be the countermeasure to stop any of this anti civil liberty nonsense taking hold.

    • Simon Shaw27th Jul ’14 – 4:13pm
      Although my main reason for opposing us entering any coalition in 2015 is the damage I think it would do to our own Party, the converse is that I think it would do us a lot of good if (having lost 25%+ of our vote and MPs compared to 2010, as I expect) we said “We believe in democracy – having lost significant support compared to last time, we think it is wrong for us to remain part of the government.”………………………..

      If only that had been said in 2010 when we were told that there was NO ALTERNATIVE to coalition…Had the line been, “We believe in democracy – we think it is wrong for us to become part of the government.””However, we will supportthe largest (Tory) party on a bill by bill basis to enable the UK to recover from this global recession”…

      had that been the strategy we would have not have faced the NHS, Tuition fee, Disability, etc., debacles and would not have lost so many hard working councillors, be at 7/9% in the polls and be facing ‘meltdown’ in 2010….

      BTW…before someone ‘explains’ how, had we not formed a coalition, Cameron would have gone for an early election and won an overall majority….Cameron had just failed to win an outright majority against the most unpopular government/leader ever; would he gamble his political future on a single ‘throw of the dice’? I don’t believe so!

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jul '14 - 1:19pm

      bcrombie

      Wasn’t this one of the problems in 2010 – the campaign had appeared to a lot of voters more left-wing than right-wing but in the end there was a perceived rush to jettison principles to be in Government no matter who the partners are!

      It doesn’t help that people like you rushed to put this line when it quite obviously was not like this.

      There is plenty of criticism that SHOULD be thrown at Clegg. You have got it quite right that the electoral system made the Liberal Democrats much smaller in number of MPs compared to the Tories than they were in terms of votes, and thus drastically reduced their negotiating power, and that for Clegg and the LibDems not to have made a big thing out of this was wrong. By ignoring this factor, and using imagery which suggested the LibDems were almost equal partners to the Conservatives in the coalition, Clegg and the Cleggies were causing enormous damage to the party, because it was making us seem equally liable for policies which due to the balance in the coalition were bound to be much more Tory than LibDem.

      However, to write this off as “jettisoned principles” and “jumped into bed with the Tories” and such things really is nonsense. There wasn’t the easy alternative which you seem to imagine of the LibDems somehow forcing the Tories to abandon all their own policies and principles and adopting LibDem ones. If you think this could be done, please name another country at any time where it has been done – one where a party of less than one in ten MPs is abel to dictate the terms of a party which has almost half the MPs, and thus gain a government which in practice has the policies of the party with one in ten MPs and not the policies of the party which has nearly half the MPs.

      The logic of the first-past-the-post electoral system, which the people of this country backed by two-to-one in the 2011 referendum worked. The distortions which Labour and Conservative campaigners for “No” in that referendum said were such a good thing gave us the government we had – they reduced the negotiating power of the LibDems to very little due not just to the disparity in umber of MPs between them and the Conservatives, but also due to the way it ruled out a Labour-LibDem coalition as it would not have had a majority.

      To me, both the Cleggy pro-coalition crowds and the “nah nah nah nah nah, you lot just jumped into bed with the Tories to get power” crowds are working together to destroy the Liberal Democrats. They both want to give the impression that we had a voluntary big shift to the right in the party. The Cleggies because they want to see the old left-liberal party destroyed and a new right-wing Orange Book party built in its place. The nah-nah-nah-nah-nahs because they are Labour Party supporters who want the old two-party system back, or they are people without much in the way of sense who have been fooled by the Labour Party supporters to think that way.

      The Cleggies are playing the game of writing off any criticism of their disastrous pro-coalition strategy by making out that anyone who is the least bit critical of it is just one of the nah-nah-nah-nah-nah types. But if we had a better recognition of the difficulties faced due to the electoral system and party balance in May 2010, which forced us into coalition, we could have better and more effective lines for attacking Clegg =and the Cleggies for their mishandling of it.

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jul '14 - 1:35pm

      Martin

      I am not sure whether discussing the possibility of another coalition is wise: the odds are surely against it; the basis for the discussion seems to be that no one can convincingly see a Conservative or Labour victory.

      Yes, I think the odds are very much against it. The distortions of the electoral system meant it took ten general elections between the big rise in the third party vote in 1974 before we had an actual no-majority Parliament, and I don’t see anything which has particularly changed that won’t mean it’ll be another ten before the next.

      Also, I keep PLEADING with party supporters about this, and I PLEAD again – STOP discussing it as if we would be likely to have a choice. That is just damaging us by feeding the fantasises of the nah-nah-nah-nah-nahs who assume we did and them criticise us for what they assumed we chose. We didn’t have a choice. So long as Northern Ireland has its own parties, and there are Scots and Welsh Nats and a few others of none of the three largest parties in Parliament, the situation as in May 2010 where a coalition with only one of the biggest parties would have a majority is the most likely if it does happen again that neither of the biggest parties has an overall majority. In the (unlikely) event of a coalition with either being stable, it would depend as much, probably more so, on which of the other would be more willing than be down to us.

      It’s highly unlikely that the Liberal Democrats will gain seats in the next general election, and highly unlikely that we’ll emerge from that general election with such a high amount of support that if we leave the country in in unstable state due to refusing to join the only coalition that would be formed the country would thank us so much that we’d be the big winners of the consequential next general election occurring shortly afterwards. So what’s the point of talking about us being some big kingmakers?

      Better, surely, to point out that we were unable to do much in the coalition due to just having 57 MPs, to say that, yes, we were disappointed about that, and that actually we aren’t Tories, so don’t particularly like a lot of what we were forced to compromise with in that situation – and that if people want a government which is more Liberal Democrat in policy, the only way to get it is to give us MORE Liberal Democrat MPs.

    • Matthew Huntbach……Better, surely, to point out that we were unable to do much in the coalition due to just having 57 MPs, to say that, yes, we were disappointed about that, and that actually we aren’t Tories, so don’t particularly like a lot of what we were forced to compromise with in that situation – and that if people want a government which is more Liberal Democrat in policy, the only way to get it is to give us MORE Liberal Democrat MPs…..

      57 MPs or 100 MPs the result would be the same….The 57 could have voted against any of, as you put it, “a lot of what we were forced to compromise with” and prevented them….

      The reason given for the ‘compromise’ is a ‘stable government’…Perhaps you might explain what difference the extra 43 MPs would have made to that equation?

    • It’s fascinating (as Joe Bailey points out) that in 2010 we were told by our leadership that going into coalition was an imperative, in the national interest: whereas in 2015, people are saying that staying out of coalition is an imperative.

      Actually – our options were open in 2010, and they will (unless we are simply too small) be open in 2015.

      A responsible party makes its decisions on the options at the time when they arise – not before. A responsible party puts its principles first, and makes a judgment as to whether it can do good by entering coalition. An irresponsible party puts self-interest and careerism first, and then tries to pretend that a freely chosen option was some kind of imposed inevitability.

    • Matthew

      I think you need to calm down a bit – if you read my post it says ‘perceived’ and I think a lot of ex-LD voters, as well as others have this perception. The problem with perceptions is that they are not always linked to reality…..

      Personally I think you are being too kind to Clegg as I think he made little, or no effort, at the beginning to deal with this perception. I personally (and it is my view) think that certain members of the LD leadership were quite happy to drop some of the policies such as tuition fees and were also sympathetic to some of the neo-liberal proposals for ‘market’-based solutions

      I have never argued that the LD could influence all the policies but I would strongly argue that they did a very poor job of communicating when they were having to hold their noses. In fact sometimes LD Ministers were only too happy to argue for policies that seemed to go against LD principles. Even now we see a rowing back on the ‘bedroom tax’ but at the time LD were only too ready to defend it publicly, same with the NHS reforms. Wouldn’t it have been better to maintain a stoney silence?

      Perception is the key word here and that is where the LD have let themselves down….communication and leadership have been missing and the consequences are being reaped.

    • Malcolm Todd 29th Jul '14 - 11:59am

      Matthew Huntbach
      “The distortions of the electoral system meant it took ten general elections between the big rise in the third party vote in 1974 before we had an actual no-majority Parliament, and I don’t see anything which has particularly changed that won’t mean it’ll be another ten before the next. “

      Really? You don’t think this is affected by the facts that no party has achieved over 40% of the vote in the last two general elections, that there has been a fairly consistent decline in the two-party and three-party share of the vote and seats, that opinion polls show no sign of change in these long-term trends? Let’s not let the inevitable eclipse of Lib Dem fortunes blind us (as it blinds some in the Labour Party, I think) to the broader political trends that make it harder than it ever used to be to win a majority even under FPTP.

      I’m sure you’re right, though, that the Lib Dems are very unlikely ever to be ‘kingmakers’, and they (we) really weren’t in 2010, either. I wonder whether this too-common view of coalition politics is all down to the FDP’s position in the 1970s and 1980s, when Germany did have a two-and-a-half party system in which the FDP effectively decided who would govern, however the votes tallied up. Even in Germany, that period was an aberration and is long over. Politics is irredeemably messier than that.

    • Matthew Huntbach 31st Jul '14 - 10:47am

      Joe Bailey

      57 MPs or 100 MPs the result would be the same….The 57 could have voted against any of, as you put it, “a lot of what we were forced to compromise with” and prevented them….

      Well, do you see this happening in any other country? Can you name any country in the world with a Parliamentary system of government where a party with less than 10% of the MPs has been able to force a party with more than 40% of the MPs to drop all its policies and pick up instead the policies of the 10% party?

      It is not possible just to vote against something without considering the balancing effect. If you vote against cuts in government spending, then you have to propose something to raise more money to balance that. A government has to make a budget which consists of both ways to raise money and ways to spend it. It’s easy to get people to agree to the case against any expenditure cuts, and it’s easy to get people to agree to the case against tax rises. But what happens if both are continually blocked?

      If there was an alternative government that could be put in place to the one we have now, then it would have to be Labour led, but do you see Labour proposing policies to replace those of the current government, and offering deals to the Liberal Democrats for the alternative government which your line says should be possible? No, because it is not possible. The Liberal Democrats don’t have the ultimate negotiating position of being able to say “If you refuse to concede to us, we’ll form a different government with the other lot”. The only thing they can really do is to swing the balance when the Conservatives are fairly evenly divided. I believe this should have been made clear at the start when the coalition was formed. Instead Clegg’s disastrous approach of painting it as something wonderful and exaggerating what the LibDems could achieve as if they were almost equal partners led to false expectations being built up and then come crashing down. This is why Clegg should go, it was very predictable that it would turn out like this, the man is a disaster, he has no sense of political strategy whatsoever, unless he really is a Tory plant.

      Look, you may disagree and think the LibDems could have forced much more in the way of concessions. Fine, but I hope you will accept that I am not a Tory-sympathiser and I dislike much of what this government is doing, and I would far rather have a Labour-led coalition if I believed it were possible. So I am saying what I am saying because I have though this through and looked at the reality of the situation, and not because secretly underneath I like Tory policies and when I campaigned for the Liberal Democrats in May 2010 I was just pretending not to.

    • Matthew Huntbach 31st Jul '14 - 11:16am

      Malcolm Todd

      Really? You don’t think this is affected by the facts that no party has achieved over 40% of the vote in the last two general elections, that there has been a fairly consistent decline in the two-party and three-party share of the vote and seats, that opinion polls show no sign of change in these long-term trends?

      No. What we are seeing now is no different from what we saw in the 1980s. The third party vote rose massively in 1974, has been going up and down since then, but I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed more recently. The LibDems have been winning a few more seats than the Liberal-SDP alliance was abel to win with similar shares of the vote in the 1980s, this is due to the LibDems building up good local teams in a limited number of places and so being abel to cluster their vote. Unfortunately, Clegg has done his best to destroy that by the way he has pushed the party as now all about him and being “a party in governance”, and the consequent slump of local government seats in many places where the Liberal Democrats were using that as a way to build up to winning Parliamentary seats. I know that very well, having been part of the team which built up the Liberal Democrats in the London Borough of Lewisham, to the point where we were in touching distance of electing a LibDem MP in one of the seats. The London Borough elections this year showed all that destroyed, everything I helped build up smashed to pieces. Thanks to Nick Clegg and his utterly disastrous leadership of the party.

      You are claiming otherwise, but where do you see that big rise in third party MPs that your argument implies coming from? The LibDems may be able to hold on to more of their seats than the opinion polls predict, but I don’t see them as increasing and I suspect there’ll be a fairly big drop even if not a total wipe-out. I see nothing which suggests UKIP and the Greens are likely to win any but a handful of seats.

      This is the logic of the electoral system we have, and which the people of this country backed by two-to-one in the May 2011 referendum. Third parties, unless their support is tightly clustered in particular places, win very few seats. Even if there is a substantial Green and UKIP vote in the next general election, as it will be fairly evenly spread it won’t bring much in terms of seats, and the way the Labour and Tory votes are spread mean the vast majority of English seats will go to Labour or Tory. I don’t know enough about how things are going in Scotland or Wales to say whether they would return many more Nationalist MPs which would be a factor. However, even if there were a scattering of Green and UKIP MPs as well as SNP and PC and the usual Northern Irish ones, without there being a great many LibDem MPs, it would still be a May 2010 situation – the LibDems would not be “kingmakers” because they would not have enough MPs to be able to form a majority with both Labour and the Conservatives, instead it would only be one or the other.

      Part of the problem is that in all the years since the big rise in Liberal vote in 1974, the coalition situation was always described and commented on as if it would be the Liberals or Liberal-SDP alliance or Liberal Democrats in some powerful situation, that the choice of which coalition would be formed would be up to them and they would be able to dictate the terms. That is why, for example, it was always the LibDem leader who was asked “Which of Labour or the Conservatives would you join in coalition?” but the equally valid question about coalition was never asked of the Labour and Conservative leaders “If no party had a majority, would you form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and how far would you drop your own policies and take up theirs in order to persuade them to go with you rather than with the other side?”. So when we came to an actual coalition situation and it wasn’t like this, people have still assumed it was, have assumed that somehow the LibDems had a choice and could equally well have formed a coalition with Labour, have assumed that somehow the LibDems could have asked for any price they wanted to form a coalition and would have got it. Then the LibDems have been attacked on the basis of these false assumptions. That is why those assumptions should have been shown up as false by the Liberal Democrats themselves before the coalition was formed. Instead, Nick Clegg helped them continue, leading to the inevitable brutal attacks on the party for not living up to these assumptions, with his “it’s all wonderful now we’re a party of government, see me in the Rose Garden alongside David Cameron, I’m IN POWER, having this job is all I care for, never mind what I said in the election campaign” strategy. It was like tying a “kick me” sign to one’s backside.

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    • David Raw
      @ John Marriott "Back in the days of the run up to GE ‘97, Paddy Ashdown thought he had Blair on his side regarding voting reform. However, when the latter...
    • John Marriott
      Could we possibly drop the adjective “progressive” for starters? “Alliance” would do for me. I agree with Brad Barrows’ sentiments. It HAS to be a com...
    • Tristan Ward
      Yes liberals should undoubtedly advocate free trade. It makes both sides of the trade richer than they would otherwise have been, bringing wealth to the poo...
    • Paul Barker
      This article is both confused & confusing. There is No possibility of any Electoral pact with Labour (unless Labour back Electoral Reform ) & I dont se...
    • Alex Macfie
      John Marriot: One knows that the resignation of Stephen Phillips as MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham was genuinely principled by the fact that he did not stand...