The consequences of ruling out post-election deals

Back when the election was called, ruling out post-election deals with any other party seemed wise. The Tories were set to win a convincing majority, so we could promise tactical voters there would be no unforeseen consequences of a Lib Dem vote, safe in the knowledge that a hung parliament would not arise. What happened next is well documented; the Conservatives lost their majority and now have to rely on a confidence and supply deal with the DUP in order to remain in government.

This week we have seen the full extent of the DUP’s newfound power, as they hold Theresa May to ransom over her handling of Brexit negotiations. But could that, and perhaps should that, be us? At the very least, the parliamentary arithmetic adds up. Instead of being considered by many as an irrelevance, right now the Liberal Democrats could be the ones causing the government a headache; demanding membership of the single market and customs union, even potentially a referendum on the final deal, in return for our support. The extent to our influence would not be limited to Brexit, but would also include issues such as NHS funding, housing supply and public sector pay. Whilst it could be argued that the Conservatives would never agree to our demands, in truth we can never know, as we refused to even negotiate. Instead we left the Tories with the option of a deal with the DUP, a party so unpalatable that even backbench Tory MPs were horrified at the thought. When they’re not rallying against abortion or same-sex marriage the DUP are pressing for a version of Brexit so extreme that it puts the peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland at risk. It seems hard to argue that a Conservative/Lib Dem deal could have served the country’s interests much worse.

Liberal Democrat members can be very quick to accuse Tory and Labour Remainers of putting their party before their country, but perhaps we should acknowledge that be ruling out post-election deals earlier this year we have already done the same. I am not saying that we should have abandoned our pre-election promise once the post-election reality became apparent, but if the 2015 general election taught us a lesson on promising the undeliverable, let the 2017 general election teach us a lesson on promising the undesirable. Never again should we shirk the responsibility of power in favour of our own electoral fortunes; we are a political party, not a protest movement, and it is only with power that we can create a more liberal Britain.

* Andy Briggs is a Liberal Democrat member who is currently studying for a Masters degree in Governance & Policy at the University of Southampton. You can follow him on Twitter @Briggs_AndyJ.

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79 Comments

  • paul barker 6th Dec '17 - 3:24pm

    This is certainly a brave line to take but my admiration stops there. If we really believe in Our Party then surely there comes a point when its interests are the National Interest ?
    Entering another Coalition with The Tories would have threatened our very existence & I
    believe that The UK needs us
    For now, we have to put our Party first.

  • Glenn Andrews 6th Dec '17 - 3:39pm

    We could always just say that we are working hard to get a majority – like certain other parties do.

  • OnceALibDem 6th Dec '17 - 3:42pm

    “The extent to our influence would not be limited to Brexit, but would also include issues such as NHS funding, housing supply and public sector pay”

    There is no evidence that this happened post 2010 so why now. The LIb Dems possibly stopped to Tories doing some things but there isn’t much done in 2010-15 that the Tories really hated or objected to.

  • ……………………This week we have seen the full extent of the DUP’s newfound power, as they hold Theresa May to ransom over her handling of Brexit negotiations. But could that, and perhaps should that, be us? At the very least, the parliamentary arithmetic adds up. Instead of being considered by many as an irrelevance, right now the Liberal Democrats could be the ones causing the government a headache; demanding membership of the single market and customs union, even potentially a referendum on the final deal, in return for our support…………………….

    So, having, spent 2015-17 criticising the government on just about everything how, after June 8th, would we have supported the government on most of its policies….

  • Graham Evans 6th Dec '17 - 4:16pm

    Like some Tories when the deal with the DUP was struck, I think May underestimated her strength in the Commons. In practice the Government can only be defeated in the event of a significant revolt among Tory backbenchers voting with the opposition parties, and then only if the opposition parties are united. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine the DUP voting to bring a Tory Government down when a Corbyn Government hangs over their heads. Indeed, direct rule in Northern Ireland under Labour would open up the prospect of changes which would be totally against everything the DUP stands for, including gay marriage and closer links with the Republic. Theresa May should simply call the DUP’s bluff, and if she does go down at least it will have been the result of a brave effort to get a good deal out of Brexit, rather than ignominious death by a thousand cuts.

  • Fundamental difference is the DUP are not in competition with the Tories. Go into coalition with that lot and everything that goes wrong will be laid at your door. That matters not to the DUP, they can point to their bung and play the sash, to the Lib Dems it would be the final nail in the coffin.
    You over estimate the strength of the Lib Dems and under estimate the guile of the Tories. The same mistake was made in 2010, many of us warned against that rush to be the Tories restraining friend, but no the leadership rushed in. After five years of being the whipping boys and the disasters that unfolded why would anyone want to repeat it. You may claim the Lib Dems make the Conservative more competent (perhaps we did) but you won’t get a second chance too do it, as the party won’t exist.

  • Entering ‘coalition’ with a Conservative party who couldn’t really be much further apart from us ideologically and policy wise at present, especially when we have only a dozen MPs (considering we got completely shafted and achieved little last time around with 56 and initially at least some good will) would be the end of the party.

  • Do we never learn?

  • Phil Wainewright 6th Dec '17 - 8:04pm

    > The same mistake was made in 2010, many of us warned against that rush to be the Tories restraining friend, but no the leadership rushed in.

    While I don’t agree with the main post either, this is too much of a rewriting of history to let pass. The entire party, not just the leadership, overwhelming backed the agreement to enter coalition at the special conference held on 16th May 2010 – see https://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-special-conference-overwhelmingly-approves-lib-dem-conservative-coalition-agreement-19561.html

    The leadership then made some errors of judgement in executing the agreement but it was a leadership democratically elected by the membership, carrying out the mandate conferred by the membership.

    Whatever the errors of the coalition, we have to own them as a party, not constantly bicker without moving on and learning from them. It’s all to easy to judge with the benefit of hindsight.

    No one seems to remember that one of the biggest objections to LibDems pre-2010 was that we ‘had no experience of government’. If we want to be taken seriously as a national political party, we have to aspire to government. And along the path (even more so if we get the PR we so fervently pray for) then sooner or later, one way or the other, we are going to have to share power again.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Dec '17 - 8:18pm

    Please see the Irish Independent of 6/12/2017. Bernard Jenkin MP
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Jenkin
    has become a laughing stock because of what he reportedly said on SKY, naming two former Irish Prime Ministers as Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland. No such role exists. The modern equivalent is First Minister.

  • The only offer that should have been made was to vote for the Brexit bills and Budget during the negotiation periods on condition the final deal is put to the people.

    I think we’ve yet to see the real negative impact Brexit is going to have on both the EU27 and the UK. As the talks move on towards their eventual conclusions that no one will really be happy with the chances of winning a referendum and staying in the EU would be high.

    The only problem would be if the EU was perceived to be being vindictive, at which point the referendum would probably be lost…

  • nvelope2003 6th Dec '17 - 9:25pm

    The “Prime Minister” of Ireland is called the Taoiseach – Irish for leader as in Fuhrer or Duce

  • Some good points, Andy.

    Germany’s Liberal Party, the FDP, were unable to conclude an agreement with Angela Merkels conservatives and the Greens. In this case, however, it appears to be differences between the FDP and Greens on immigration and energy policy rather than between the FDP leader and Merkel that scuppered the talks.

    I have always been of the view that you cannot on the one hand call for proportional representation and then, before a vote is cast, refuse to work with other elected representatives of whatever hue that are returned to Parliament.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs when we have the somewhat narrow electoral interests of the DUP walking us all towards a potentially extreme hard Brexit outcome from these negotiations.

  • “At the very least, the parliamentary arithmetic adds up. Instead of being considered by many as an irrelevance, right now the Liberal Democrats could be the ones causing the government a headache; demanding membership of the single market and customs union, even potentially a referendum on the final deal, in return for our support.”

    There is a certain assumption in such a statement that is almost certainly wrong. If we had gone into the last General Election not ruling out a post election deal with the Conservatives we would not have had 12 MPs on polling day.

  • Phil,
    Some of us didn’t need hindsight. In my case I left the party when I saw the rose garden. Like many I felt compelled to continually shout “turn back” on this site. Few of my posts got through and eventually I gave up. Your right in saying the majority followed the leadership, but even in the comments you can see the dissenting voices. Now looking back it appears they had a clearer view of the perils ahead than those that rushed in. We had wise heads like Charles Kennedy, unfortunately most of the membership and all of the leadership choose to ignore him and people like him.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Dec '17 - 11:11pm

    JoeB: In the coalition the Tory MPs elected first past the post argued proportional representation in terms of the number of MPs they had compared with ours.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Dec '17 - 11:15pm

    Joined with that shower and been expected then to get them out of the deep mire they’ve inevitably landed in? No and no and no, not to mention Non! You’ve got to be joking. Andy Briggs.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Dec '17 - 12:53am

    Phil Wainewright 6th Dec ’17 – 8:04pm

    “No one seems to remember that one of the biggest objections to LibDems pre-2010 was that we ‘had no experience of government’. ”

    I certainly don’t remember it. I’ve heard a lot of people since 2010 claim that that was one of the objections to the party before that, but I never once heard anyone give that as a reason for not voting Lib Dem. “No idea what you stand for” or “You can’t win” were common, but not “you’ve no experience of government”.

    In 1997, Labour had been out of power for 18 years – not one of their front bench had significant experience in government, and very few former Labour ministers were even in parliament any more. Voters simply don’t care about that – it’s a journalists’ myth.

  • I cannot believe anyone would seriously suggest we ever go into a coalition without reform of the electoral system first!!

    Do we have a death wish……have people learnt nothing about the fragility of our position in the current system? The DUP have a concentrated unionist “donkey vote”…… as we have proved our vote will disappear like the mist (whats left of it!). I despair at these sorts of conversations

  • Ian Hurdley 7th Dec '17 - 8:45am

    We can no more predict the past than we can predict the future. It may be tempting to think acting differently would have been better; it could have been worse. Tha DUP didn’t get asked about a post election deal, but we were constantly pressed on the matter and could have done ourselves serious damage by opening up that option. Think bad PR from student fees. Might this time have been ‘no more money for the NHS after all’?

  • nvelope2003 7th Dec '17 - 9:26am

    The Liberals formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 1918, supported a Labour Government in 1923/24 and 1929 and formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 1931 and 2010.On each occasion this was followed by electoral disaster which took years to recover from. How much more evidence is needed to show that the party should never enter a coalition with another party unless it is the dominant party or has secured proportional representation for its support. The English do not seem able to cope with coalitions and we have to accept that. Many things are illogical and beyond understanding – it is called life.

  • Ian Hurdley 7th Dec '17 - 10:02am

    Only the major parties can manufacture their own downfall. Minor parties (which we are right now) can only work at building their standing to be able to take advantage of that opportunity.
    It was Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock and later, Tony Blair who brought down Labour just as it was John Major who toppled the Tories.

  • Geoffrey Payne 7th Dec '17 - 1:04pm

    Back in 2010 there appeared to be an ideological convergence between the Tories and the Lib Dems. David Cameron wanted to sound more moderate to win Lib Dem votes, whilst Nick Clegg preferred to prioritise tax cutting over public spending and marketising public services.
    There is no such convergence today. Vince Cable was sidelined by Nick Clegg in government (read David Laws book on the Coalition if you are not sure about that) and is now leader of the party and is far more sceptical of the Tories economic policies.
    In 2010 Nick Clegg hoped that the Coalition would be an opportunity for the Liberal Democrats, although that was quickly dashed by the defeat in the AV referendum and the rise of UKIP that dragged the Tories to the right. There are no policies left we could hope to pass with the Tories, least of all electoral reform (Peter above is right, this is the most important policy). All we can do is stop the Tories going mad, which although a worthy aim will as others have pointed out destroy us as a party. We really need PR to be agreed for our next government.

  • A supply and confidence agreement is not a coalition and that is the arrangement the DUP have with the Conservative Party. The confidence part has less substance than previously in a fixed term parliament. The economic and budgetary approach of Phil Hammond, at least, and Vince Cable is not so disparate as that between John McDonald and Vince.

    We could plausubly put an offer on the table today to step into the DUP’s place with the single binding condition that a referendum on the negotiated Brexit deal, with an option to remain, is put to the public at the commencement of the transition period.

    That could put an end to the prospect of a no deal Brexit that the DUP appear intent on pushing the UK towards. Surely, a worthy aim for a staunchly pro-European party at a critical point in the Brexit process.

  • OnceALibDem 7th Dec '17 - 3:38pm

    “that a referendum on the negotiated Brexit deal, with an option to remain, is put to the public at the commencement of the transition period.”

    When the transition period begins, Remain will not be an option as the UK will have left

  • JoeB,

    Your selling the party cheap, if you want it to commit suicide the least they should get for it is PR. If no PR no point.

  • Richard O'Neill 7th Dec '17 - 5:11pm

    It does seem that you can get more from a supply and confidence arrangement than a formal coalition. The DUP have played their cards well. It is worth remembering in the future.

    For now this is unlikely, although Theresa May might jump at the offer to regain control of the Brexit process from her own hardliners.

  • Frankie,

    there is no popular support for PR and neither the Tories nor Labour will accept it at present. There is growing popular support in the electorate for a referendum on the Brexit deal.

    Parties have to take their opportunities when they arise, not sit around carping from the sidelines and wondering how to get polling figures above 6%.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '17 - 8:06pm

    JoeB: If we do as you suggest, our polling figures will go to asterisk, and we’ll lose all our remaining seats at the next election. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in any more self-sacrifice to make the Tories look slightly nicer.

  • Joe – how is a confidence and supply agreement actually supposed to work for both the country and us as a party, when we clearly don’t have any confidence in the Government, and the public doesn’t appear to have any confidence in us?

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '17 - 9:12pm

    Richard O’Neill: No, Confidence & Supply would hurt us as much as a formal coalition deal would. In the eyes of the public, it would look like the same thing.
    No, the DUP’s advantage over us has already been noted by frankie, namely that it is not competing for votes with the Tories. Also its vote is intensely tribal. Can you imagine DUP voters switching to Sinn Fein because they’re unhappy with the DUP’s dalliance with the Tories?

  • “The consequences of ruling out post-election deals”.

    I wouldn’t get too fussed about it, Andy lad. The Lib Dems have a bit of a record in abandoning previous policies and positions….. take 2010 for example.

    Good luck with the Masters….and try reading Machiavelli.

  • Martin Schulz has laid out his terms for a grand coalition with Merkel’s CDU including the creation of a United States of Europe by 2025. Schulz wants a constitutional treaty for the member states and those that don’t sign up will automatically have to leave the EU.

    If an agreement is reached, this will be the third time in 12 years that Germany’s centre-left Social Democratic Party has teamed up with Merkel as a junior coalition partner, despite presiding over his party’s worst result since the war in the recent election.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '17 - 12:34pm

    The SPD may have had its worst result since the war in the recent election, but it is still the second placed party at 25.7% of the vote (with seats proportional to this). Also there is a lot of ideological convergence between the two main parties, especially on the EU. So it can have a lot of influence in a coalition government, much more than we could on a paltry 7.5% of the vote and 12 seats. We are not in the same position as the German SPD or the DUP (whose demands the government can easily accede to as they have little impact on nationwide government policy); neither are we in the same position as we were in 2010, and it is hard to see how a deal with the Tories in the current parliament could be seen as anything other than us propping up a tired, discredited, Brexity extreme right-wing Tory government. The last Coalition nearly killed us as a party. Coalition with the Tories now would finish the job.

  • Alex,

    when we went into coalition in 2010 we had 23% of the vote against the Conservatives 36%. As regards covergence on the EU, you may recall in 2012 that Nick Clegg speaking on the EU budget negotiations and calling for a real terms freeze said “that there was ‘not a cigarette paper’ between himself and David Cameron.” on the issue.

    You can choose to be relevant or not. We currently find ourselves in a position of less influence than either the SNP or DUP in the UK Parliament.

    Even where PR is the basis for elections we see little material difference in outcomes with 1 of 60 seats in Wales, 5 of 129 in Scotland, 1 of 25 in the London Assembly and 1 of 78 UK MEPs in the Europeran Parliament.

    In the words of Frankin D. Roosevelt “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Coalition or supply and cofidence agrements don’t kill a party. It is how a party conducts itself in office and its relevance to the conduct of the nations affairs that makes the difference between a negative or positive outcome.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '17 - 4:58pm

    JoeB: My point, as should have been clear, was that our position in 2017 is not that in 2010. In 2010, Coalition was certainly a viable and sensible option for us. But not now. We do not now have 23% of the vote, we have 7.4%. We have 12 seats not 57. There is simply no way we can make ourselves relevant or influential in government, especially when the senior coalition partner is one with such divergent politics from us NOW. And any small concessions we get as participants in government would be wiped out by the perception that we were just an adjunct to the bigger party. This is not an issue for the DUP, and wouldn’t be for the SNP either for similar reasons.

    For Clegg to say that things like that there was ‘not a cigarette paper’ between himself and David Cameron was one of many serious errors he made in coalition, failing to make any attempt whatsoever to distinguish us from the Tories. It was his political failings in coalition that caused us to crash in 2015 and impeded lift-off in 2017.
    Participation in government is not the only way to be relevant. Another way is to be a distinctive voice in opposition. This takes a lot more work than entering government, but is likely to lead to more gains in the long run.

    “Coalition or supply and cofidence agrements don’t kill a party. ” Try telling that to the Irish Greens or the PDs (our former Irish sister party). Both were wiped out because they went into coalition and voters saw no reason to vote for them rather than the larger parties.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Dec '17 - 5:09pm

    No, Joe, this is no time for a bold step, as others have said above, towards oblivion. This is a time for patience, along with probing questions on the trade talks, what happens to our services in future with the EU, and what difficulties the holding arrangement over the Irish border will eventually reveal.

  • Katherine,

    the rump Liberal Party (A group of Liberal opponents of the merger with the Social Democrats) still exists and has been pursuing this strategy of patience for decades (as was the original liberal Party for a Century or so). They have a handful of councillors dotted around the country but no MPs, MSPs or MEPs – a situation that is very unlikely to change anytime soon.
    The opposition questions will be posed by Labour and the SNP, with the DUP closely engaged in the arrangements for the Irish border. Probing questions will even come from Tory backbenchers.
    Vince Cable, as Party leader, will get a question at PMQs every couple of weeks and some TV coverage on Brexit issues. Other Libdem MPs only very rarely get the chance to ask a question at PMQs. Lots of MPs names go into the hat each week, and a small number gets pulled out.
    If you are not in the national conversation you are nowhere. This was our situation for much of 2015-2017. Vince needs to change that anyway he can.
    The majority of Libdem members have joined over the past couple of years. They are fully aware of what was achieved in coalition and committed to a future in Europe. If Parliamentary arithmetic affords us an opportunity to secure the future relationship with the EU that so many members have joined to campaign for , it would be negligent to let that opportunity pass.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '17 - 9:30pm

    JoeB: The Liberals were in government a century ago. The start of the party’s downfall to minor party status was when they went into coalition with the Tories, then fought the 1918 election as a “coupon election”, splitting the party 3 ways. From 1886 to the 1930s, various splinter groups (Liberal Unionists and 2 sets of National Liberals) formed pacts with the Tories and all were eventually assimilated. This slow consumption by the Tories would also have been the fate of the independent Liberal Party in 1951 had the then leader Clement Davies accepted Churchill’s offer of a coalition deal.

    Coalition is NOT necessarily an opportunity, even if the arithmetic would allow it. In the circumstances of the 2017 election, it would not have been. Had the Lib Dems gone into coalition with the Tories in 2017, then our future would be that of the alternative 1950s with our gradual absorption into the Tories. And we would not have got anything meaningful out of it.

    It’s not just about knowing how to play coalition. It’s also about knowing WHEN to play it. And sometimes, in the words of the computer from the film Wargame, “The only winning move is not to play.” 2017 was one such case.

    As for the “continuing” Liberal Party, it is not a serious organisation at all anymore, and I don’t think it can seriously be used as an parallel for us or for the original Liberal Party. It survives in pockets on local personalities and it’s debatable whether it can even be called a “liberal” party now. Most of the people in the continuing Liberal Party who afforded it some electoral success and are genuine liberals have drifted back to the Lib Dems, particularly when it became increasingly Eurosceptical (to the extent that its Cornish chapter formed an alliance with UKIP).

  • Ian Hurdley 9th Dec '17 - 8:44am

    Instant gratification is a highly seductive promise. So we were told that leaving the EU would immediately lead to peace, prosperity and paradise on earth. Still hurting from the devastation of 2015 we grasp for any straw that promises us electoral success tomorrow. Of course we want to build up support to the point where once again we are numerically strong in Parliament, and continue to work to build further until we can ourselves form a government. But it won’t happen tomorrow; it almost certainly won’t happen in 2020 – or 2024. In the meantime we can only be who we are, and that takes us back to the values we proclaimed throughout the 20th century and which we continue to hold dear.
    I remember the days of Jo Grimond (just) and Jeremy Thorpe when we were simply laughed at as an irrelevance. Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy worked incredibly hard to build the party to where it stood in 2010. It falls to us now to work equally hard for the long haul; there is no more a magic wand than a magic money tree. It’s going t be a long, hard grind, but the sooner we stop fantasizing over what might have been, the sooner we can get on with the job.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Dec '17 - 12:17pm

    The real issue is our voting system. Until that changes we will have to consider tactical voting, pacts and alliances. I would rule out a formal coalition and go for a loser arrangement of a clear outline of where we would support another Party as long as they behave responsibly. Clear enough to be workable and loose enough to give us some flexibility to act in the nation’s (and our) interests.

  • Alex,

    I would suggest that it was not coalition that was the downfall of the old Liberal party. George Dangerfields ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England’ points to the impact of four geat rebellions before the great war. These rebellions were the Conservative Party’s fight against the Parliament Act 1911; the threat of civil war in Ireland by the Ulster Unionists under Sir Edward Carson with the encouragement of Conservative leader Bonar Law; the Suffragette movement under the Pankhursts; and the increasingly militant trade unions under the influence of syndicalism.

    Liberalism was jettisoned during the 1st world war and the resources of the country were effectively dedicated to the war effort with individual liberties set aside. The intoduction of conscription during the war was a cause of one of the first big internal splits in the Liberal Party. Many of the radical Liberals that had propelled the party to power in 1906 moved towards the Labour party after the war, as the Liberal party split betwen the Lloyd George and Asquith factions.

    Ruling out coalition or supply and confidence agreements before election results are in, is tantamount to ruling out goverrnment on the basis that if the party might have to take some unpopoular decisions while in government, it might effect future electoral propects.

    There is one overiding purpose to a political party i.e. to bring about change for the better in society. If a party is unable or unwilling to achieve that mission when it has an oportunity to do so, than it cannot be surprised if it is not taken seriously
    This idea of gradually building up support is fatal. Membership has more than doubled after the coalitionn and EU referendum.
    Politics is here and now. The party needs to be involved not just in local governance, but in shaping opinion on the great causes of the day. Public opinion can shift dramatically overnight when the cause is of sufficient import, and in Brexit we have a once in a generation cause that affords the opportunity to make a real difference.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Dec '17 - 2:23pm

    JoeB: We ruled out coalition in the 2017 election because to do otherwise would cause our vote to tank and possibly we would have lost all our seats, and because we did not think we were likely to have any meaningful influence in government after an election. We are not a party for going into government for its own sake, and in a hung parliament being in government is not the only way to have influence.

    In the last election it was not that we weren’t being taken seriously because we ruled ourselves out of coalition. If anything it was the opposite — some voters were put off supporting us because they couldn’t trust us not to go back into coalition with the Tories. Momentum were certainly putting about the idea that we were just waiting to sell our souls to the Tories again.
    We LOST most of our seats in 2015 BECAUSE we went into government. I’m not saying the 2015 result was inevitable; I think it would have been difficult not to lose some seats, and the sheer large scale of the disaster was the result of the leadership’s approach to coalition. Nonetheless in my view coalition was the right thing to do *in principle*, given the circumstances of 2010.

    The idea that refusing to get into government when the opportunity arises costs us support is not borne out by the electoral facts. The Major government lost its majority during the 1992–1997 Parliament. When this happened, the Lib Dems refused to enter into any agreement with the Tories, although we did vote with the government when we thought it was doing the right thing, especially on Europe. (I remember we were criticised by Labour in 1992 for voting for a government paving motion on the Maastricht treaty.) Most of the time, the Tories relied on the Ulster Unionsts (of which there were several varieties at that time) to see them through to the bitter end. Did our refusal to enter into a coalition or C&S with the Tories harm our electoral prospects? Certainly not. We went from 20 to 46 seats. It is likely that, had we entered into any sort of arrangement with the Tories after they lost their majority, we would have been slaughtered in the polls just like the Tories were. We would have been lucky to still have 6 seats as we would have been seen as their second fiddle.
    The next election may come sooner than you think, and we cannot afford to be perceived as enablers of this incompetent extreme right-wing regime.

  • Ian Hurdley,

    both Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy were from the Social Democratic wing of the party. Paddy supporting the 1977 Lib-Lab pact and the SDP–Liberal Alliance and Charles quitting the Labour Party in 1981 to join the SDP before the merger with the Liberal Party in 1988.

    Paddy Ashdown pursued co-operation with Labour because he wanted to form a coalition government should the general election end without any party having an overall majority.

    In 2001 the Pro-European Conservatives joined the Libdems. Charles Kennedy said at the time “The Conservatives are no longer the party that they once were and they have rightly decided that the Liberal Democrats share many of their values. They will be very welcome in our party.”

    In the 2005 general election the Libdems benefitted significantly from opposition to the Iraq War and growing disllusionment with a Labour Party led by Tony Blair.

    The high point of Libdem support came after the first of the 2010 general election debates (the Clegg Bounce) when it was made clear that the Libdems would support whichever of the parties had the highest % votes/number of seats in Parliament..

    The 2010 general election saw Libdems on 23% of the vote and 57 MPs. Of the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, only two refused to support the Conservative Coalition agreement, Charles Kennedy and John Leech. The special conference of members also gave overwhelming support to coalition.

    On entering government, it soon became apparent that the coalition was to be a Thatcherite dominated government with all the Great Offices of State held by Conservative ministers. Libdems (with the exception of Vince Cable) held only junior minister posts.

    Electoral support began to slip away almost immediately (well before the tuition fees votes) and collapsed after the implementation of the Browne review recommendations.

    The latent support still exists for a social democratic centrist party that can successfully combine the best attributes of economic and social liberalism. It doesn’t take years of hard grind to develop it. It takes the right policy platform (radical enough to make a difference to peoples lives); and the leadership to both inspire members and effectively communicate the vision to a disparate electorate. I think Vince Cable is capable of achieving both.

  • @ Joe B Sorry, Joe, but Paddy was a Liberal and contested Yeovil in the 1979 General Election when the Gang of Four were all standing as Labour Candidates.

    As far as the situation a century ago is concerned I tend to agree with most of your points as to why the Liberal Party fell into decline. But, I’d add the impact of the war on the radical element in the party plus Lloyd George’s treatment of Asquith and his Supporters were major factors. It opened the door for Labour with the widened suffrage.

    Several of Ramsay Mac’s first Cabinet had been Liberal M.P.’s who opposed the war and joined the Labour Party in 1918 (Charles Trevelyan and Arthur Ponsonby spring to mind) – and of course R.B. Haldane, who was forced to resign by the Tories in the Asquith Coalition, became Lord Chancellor. Outside Parliament many ex Liberals went Labour (E.D. Morel, for example, defeatedChurchill in Dundee).

    Trevelyan actually wrote a book about it :”From Liberalism to Labour” in 1921…… well worth a read. Trevelyan’s papers are in the archive Newcastle University.

  • @ Ian Hurdley “I remember the days of Jo Grimond (just) and Jeremy Thorpe when we were simply laughed at as an irrelevance”.

    Oh no we weren’t. Thorpe maybe – but Grimond was very highly respected in the 1960’s.

  • David Raw,

    I kmow Paddy was a Liberal before the merger, but I think he would claim to be part of the social democratic wing of the old Liberal party as evidenced by his support for the 1977 Lib-Lab pact and the SDP–Liberal Alliance.

    I bow to your extensive knowledge of Liberal Party history and will try and have a flip through Trevelyan’s book over Christmas.

  • You’ll find Trevelyan’s book difficult to sourse – although I think it’s on American Amazon.

    Anthony Morris’s book is more readily available : C.P.Trevelyan, 1870-1958: Portrait of a Radical (Hardcover) by Andrew James Anthony Morris (Author)

  • Ian Hurdley 10th Dec '17 - 8:54am

    @ David Raw I agree that Jo Grimond was highly respected and indeed loved by many as a fine, principled man. He was largely respected, however, for his commitment to what was seen as a lost cause – the standing joke was that the Liberal Party travelled to and from the Commons in a shared taxi.

  • It would be interesting to know why voters in large number stop voting for smaller parties after they have been in a coalition government. Perhaps voters don’t like politicians supporting polices of other parties and the only way to get a coalition to work for the smaller party is for them not to support anything that was not in their manifesto. Perhaps it is the smaller party having to give up its economic policy and support the economic policy of the larger party.

    @ nvelope2003

    I am not sure that we have recovered from the Liberal Party split of 1916, the coalition with the Conservatives 1918-22 and supporting the Labour government in 1924. I think that by the 1960s we had recovered from the 1931-33 splits.

    @ JoeB
    “The economic and budgetary approach of Phil Hammond, at least, and Vince Cable is not so disparate as that between John McDonald and Vince”.

    I am sure you are correct and we need to change Vince’s position so that he supports a return to full employment and increasing taxes on capital.

    There is no way we should support the Conservative economic policy. To do so would end our Parliamentary representation and make us like the continuing Liberal Party with “a handful of councillors dotted around the country but no MPs, MSPs or MEPs”.

    You wrote, “Parties have to take their opportunities when they arise”. Stopping Brexit is not sufficiently liberal for us to destroy the party over. If we could increase liberty for everyone and substantively reduce inequalities so people would notice then there would be a reason to enter government or a confidence and supply agreement.

    You are correct to point out that PR has not helped us in recent years. – “Even where PR is the basis for elections we see little material difference in outcomes with 1 of 60 seats in Wales, 5 of 129 in Scotland, 1 of 25 in the London Assembly and 1 of 78 UK MEPs in the European Parliament.”

    There was latent support for Liberalism of around 15% after 1945 which could reach highs of 25.4% in 1983 and 23% in 2010. This latent support seems to have been destroyed because of the Coalition government. We need to recognise this was because we supported what you call “a Thatcherite dominated government”.

  • nvelope2003 10th Dec '17 - 5:19pm

    The Liberal Democrats get much of their support from parts of Britain that are pro Brexit. If we agreed to support a Conservative Government which was prepared to keep Britain in the EU in some form we would be lucky to win any seats apart from those where the electors voted overwhelmingly to remain. Even supporting a second referendum could have similar consequences. There seems to be a widespread feeling among virtually all voters whichever side they supported that the 2016 referendum was a once in a generation opportunity to decide whether to remain or leave the EU and the majority voted to leave. Until the Liberal Democrats accept that decision there will be no recovery except possibly at Local Government elections unless there was a clear and overwhelming popular movement to reverse the result of the referendum.

    All parties of the left or centre left are prone to lose support to the right as those they have helped become more prosperous but as this happens others become less prosperous and in time move away from the Conservatives to the left or centre. This can take a long time but can happen quickly if some event brings it about, such as the discontent of the young about tuition fees and house prices which has propelled them to support Jeremy Corbyn. We cannot predict how or if this will benefit the Liberal Democrats but as Harold Macmillan said “events dear boy, events”.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Dec '17 - 6:11pm

    nvelope2003:

    “There seems to be a widespread feeling among virtually all voters whichever side they supported that the 2016 referendum was a once in a generation opportunity to decide whether to remain or leave the EU and the majority voted to leave.”

    Recent opinion polls that suggest rising support for a referendum on the final deal (our party policy) do not bear this out.

    All parties of the left or centre left are prone to lose support to the right as those they have helped become more prosperous but as this happens others become less prosperous

    I find this questionable as well. If people become prosperous under a centre-left administration they are likely to support the centre-left parties that have helped them become more prosperous. This is what has happened in Sweden, a prosperous country that has tended to elect centre-left governments. The working-class voters who switched to the Tories under Thatcherism and in recent elections didn’t do so because they had become prosperous under the previous Labour governments, but they were more inspired by the Tory (and UKIP in recent elections) message than by that from the centre-left parties; they may also have prospered as a result of Tory policies.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Dec '17 - 6:51pm

    The extensive historical recollections above are interesting, but not to my mind very helpful. Only the Coalition Government of 2010 to 2015 seems very relevant. It was anathema to Lib Dems who had regarded the Tories as our basic foes, and there was too much acceptance of the Tory economic programme, too much naivety in what was demanded from them in governmental positions and status, too little assertion of our own identity as demanded by the party outside Parliament, and finally too late and limited an acceptance of the inadequacy of welfare provision. We could all go on discussing the failings of that venture, which had such a disastrous outcome for the party’s electoral advance, but lessons have surely been learnt.

    It would be a grave mistake in my opinion to align ourselves in any formal way with the current horror story of a government. We are in the national conversation, Joe B., in that our position on Brexit is increasingly appreciated by the public, and our unity and commitment to principle can be observed as being in stark contrast with that of either of the two main parties. We are also in constructive engagement with their more enlightened members, and enhancing progress with committed parliamentary activity. I agree with the comments of Alex Macfie above, and continue to advocate patient hard work to us all in our local parties as the best way forward this winter.

  • Katherine,

    the Conservatives won an outright majority in 2015. It was not the policies of the coalition government that dismayed voters it was the perception in England that the Libdems might go into coalition with Labour and the SNP that cost us so many seats in 2015 (including Vince Cable’s Twickenham seat). Libdem membership grew rapidly immediately following the 2015 general election and again following the EU referendum.
    Anyone who was out canvassing in the 2017 elections (or in the Richmond Park by-election) will know that we were drawing large support from remain leaning conservatives in the first few weeks of campaigning. Many of these voters were reporting that they preferred the coalition government and thought it had done a good job in office. The moderating influence of the Libdems was well understood.
    The soft Tory support for Libdems drained away when the Labour campaign posed a serious threat that Jeremy Corbyn might become the Prime Minister . The gains we had were in Tory and SNP facing seats.
    All our losses (including Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat) were in Labour facing seats, with the exception of Richmond Park which was lost by just 47 votes.
    As mentioned above the majority of Libdem members have joined the party since the coalition, many of whom may have previously voted conservative. The Coalition is not anathema to them (they typically felt it worked reasonably well) and they may not regard the Tories as our basic foes. Many will regard the more Left wing elements of the Labour party with equal or more disdain as they do the right wing elements of the Conservative party.
    Any objective appraisal of British politics will soon conclude that all the mainstream parties are broad coalitions and when it comes to government you will find like-minded souls among Conservatives, Labour and Libdems.
    It is the policies that are being proposed, the profile of voting support and the willingness of potential parties to compromise that determines whether a coalition or supply and confidence agreement may be viable.
    Our position on Brexit has been consistent – that the negotiated deal should be put to the public with an option to remain. Any party that supports that basic position should receive the support of Libdems in delivering a referendum on the deal.

  • Neil Sandison 10th Dec '17 - 9:25pm

    We must stay away from any alliance/pact /coalition with either side until we are back up to strength certainly more than 60 MPs and they would require our support to form a majority government .A dozen or so MPs can some make noise on a limited number of issues and would stop an early election by supporting a budget .But we would be deeply damaged at any general election . Lets rebuild our ship before we try to relaunch as a vessel for government.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Dec '17 - 9:44pm

    JoeB: We lost Southport to the Tories, so this quote is inaccurate

    “All our losses … were in Labour facing seats, with the exception of Richmond Park”

    We lost Southport because of a Momentum-led Labour push in the constituency, where they were able to persuade enough voters that Labour were in with a chance that we fell into 3rd place. It was a deceitful campaign, because they knew full well that Labour have virtually no chance of ever winning the seat, but in Con-LibDem contests, Momentum want the Tories to win.

    As far as coalitions go, you still don’t seem to get it. Any coalition between us and the Tories on current relative strengths would give us practically nothing and would wipe us out at the next election. It is NOT a 2010 situation, so the coalition would not be like that of the 2010–2015 Parliament. It would mean us supporting the Brexit negotiations led by Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam . It would be essentially a pure Tory government supported by the Lib Dems.

    Yes, work with like-minded people in the other parties. But there can be no working with either of the two current main party leaderships, because there is no way they are going to give us what we want, like a referendum on the deal.

  • Neil,

    that sounds like the Jejovah witness strategy with 130,000 UK members of the Church engaged in door-to-door preaching and distributing literature such as The Watchtower and Awake, waiting patiently for the rest of us too see the light. I have no idea if we are in the ‘last days’ or if the final battle between good and evil will happen soon. I do however believe in focusing effort on what you can change.

    John Maynard Keynes called it right when it comes to dealing with the here and now
    ” this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.”

    So too in the maelstrom of the current political climate. What use is there in warning of disaster ahead, if you have an opportunity to change the course of events and don’t take it.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    It should be possible for us to be in government with the Conservatives. We can’t just advocate being in government with Labour. It is what we do in government which is the problem. We can’t support Socialism and we can’t support Conservatism. This is why I am advocating only supporting in government those policies which are in the manifestos of both parties and then reaching compromises on only a few policies. The opposite of what happened in 2010. David Laws wrote, “Where the parties had differed, we had generally decided on one policy or the other” (page 191 “22 days in May”).

    @ JoeB

    Your analysis of the 2015 general election is incorrect. The Conservative vote only increased by 0.7%. We can look at our vote in approximate quarters – a quarter who stayed with us; a quarter who only voted for us as a protest and so voted UKIP; a quarter who were anti-Conservative and so voted Labour, a quarter who were anti-Labour and so voted Conservative.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Dec '17 - 12:20am

    The point is, Joe, that we don’t have an opportunity to change the course of events! And I am finding your comments rather extraordinary now. There is no similarity between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and mainstream Liberal Democrats such as Alex Macfie and me (and by the way, please could you start spelling my name correctly if replying to me again). And your statement “It was not the policies of the coalition government which so dismayed voters” (in the 2015 Election) astonishingly ignores the fact that our support in the country had been dropping disastrously since 2011, as all the counsellors, MPs and MEPs who lost their seats know all too well. I am sorry, but I think you are being totally unrealistic here, in contrast to all your useful economic suggestions.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Dec '17 - 1:09am

    Michael, I read your comment after writing mine, and I entirely agree with you. Did you think otherwise? As you write, “We can’t support Socialism and we can’t support Conservatism”, and if going into coalition or any arrangement with either, should choose where manifesto promises are, I suppose, somewhat compatible. Neither party is feasible to join with at present, but we do not, of course, rule out future possibilities with either.

  • Alex,

    A supply and confidence agreement is not a coalition. I agree a coalition is not practical with 12 MPs. We had, however, and may yet have an opportunity to secure a referendum on the Brexit deal as part of a supply and confidence agreement this year.

    Katharine,

    if the policies of the coalition government were the main issue for the electorate the Conservative party could not have won a majority in 2015. The Libdem Vote collapsed early on in the coalition and even well before the tuition fees vote and stayed there for the five years of government.

    I concur with the conclusiions of the author of this article that “Never again should we shirk the responsibility of power in favour of our own electoral fortunes; we are a political party, not a protest movement, and it is only with power that we can create a more liberal Britain.”

  • Michael BG,

    the big increases in vote share in the 2015 election in England were for UKIP. The Conservative vote increased significantly in the South West (where it mattered) taking many of the Libdem seats there and the SNP picked up most of the Scottish seats.
    I agree with your assessment “We can’t just advocate being in government with Labour. It is what we do in government which is the problem. We can’t support Socialism and we can’t support Conservatism.”
    Tactical voting is a fact of British political life and we need to be able to draw support from either Conservative or Labour voters in a constituency where we are in a position to challenge an incumbent of either party. A point that Mark Pack makes on occassion, I believe.
    We should be under no illusions that both the Labour party and Conservatives are equally intent on eliminating the Liberal Democrats as a Parliamentary opponent in their traditional heartlands.

  • JoeB: “Never again should we shirk the responsibility of power” but we are doing no such thing, because we would have no real power. Get a referendum on the deal (which we have no guarantee of winning) in exchange for publicly supporting the negotiating and trade positions of the Three Brexiteers? Virtual certainty of total wipeout at the next election, and/or becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Party? No thank you, especially as there are other ways of possibly securing a referendum on the deal, by working across party lines with people in the Tory and Labour parties (SNP is a given), or forcing a snap election, or just letting the government’s Brexit strategy continue to descend into farce. We are not in the same position as the DUP, which holds a lot more winning cards than we do in a C&S agreement for reasons already given.

  • Alex,

    all three main UK parties campaigned for remain and all three have acknowledged their acceptance of the outcome of the referendum. Libdem Policy has been formalised in conference as calling not for a 2nd referendum, but a referendum on the deal negotiated with the EU. Of course there is no guarantee of winning any referendum. It does, however, provide the opportunity to campaign on the basis that we will not get a better deal than we have at present i.e. the option to remain.

    We take a different view as to certainty of total wipeout at the next election. I take the view that irrelevancy is far more dangerous for the Party’s prospects then engaging in temporary alliances (with either of the two parties) to secure an outcome that has absorbed the Party’s campaigning efforts since the referendum was announced.

    Local campaigning and local governance is important in its own right and should be conducted on the basis of getting competent and engaged individuals elected, who can contribute to the development of their local communities.
    The benefits that a local government base provides to national campaigning is secondary to the principal purpose and works in both directions i.e. positive exposure and media coverage at the national level supports local efforts to get campaigners elected.
    The Tory party and government is clearly split over Brexit (as is Labour). Forcing a referendum on the Brexit deal as a condition of a supply and confidence agreement would put the issue to the test in a way that no amount of opposition amendments or punditry can achieve.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Dec '17 - 5:41pm

    JoeB: Sheesh; I’ve been talking about forming “temporary alliances”, only I’m saying we should do it from a position outside government, talking to people in all parties who might be persuaded to support our position on a referendum. You seem to suppose that the only way we can possibly effect any change in policy is by participating in government. On this you are simply wrong. In a hung parliament in particular, opposition parties can work together with governing party rebels to defeat the government. And on an issue where supporters of our position are mostly to be found on the opposition benches, this seems by far the most logical strategy. Indeed if we were to use whatever minimal influence we have in a C&S arrangement to make a referendum on the deal the goverment position, it might put opposition MPs off supporting that, while it is doubtful that the Tory arch-Brexiteers (Rees-Mogg et al) could be whipped into line.

    In the present Parliament we are not going to get our stated EU policy implemented by talking to the leaderships of either main party. The Tories say (or anyway used to say) “Brexit means Brexit”, and all the government posts in charge of Brexit were Brexiteers during the referendum campaign. The PM herself, while she declared herself a “Remainer”, said as little as she possibly could during the campaign. And the Labour front-bench, up to and including the leader himself, is shot through with old-school “socialism in one country” types for whom the EU is a capitalist conspiracy. Sure, both main party leaderships dress up their position as “respect for the referendum result”, but the reality is that they are happy with it and seek the most extreme interpretation of it.

    So our best bet is to talk to the Labour moderates, that majority of Labour of MPs who are pro-Remain; as well as the Celtic Nationalists, Green Party and Lady Hermon, and as many pro-Remain Tories as we can get on board. This seems to be Vince Cable’s approach. It would not make us irrelevant; in fact we’d be more relevant than if we were propping up the Tory government in the hope they’ll be persuaded to support a referendum on the deal.

  • Alex,

    this recent article in Liberator sets out some of the issues http://www.bramley.demon.co.uk/liberal/postelection2017.html

    The author writes “the party is in a highly precarious state and that its future survival is far from assured…My fear now is based on the disappearance of any party presence in great swathes of Britain and the lack of intellectual resources to revive it.”

    Of the recent election he writes “We were simply not in the game. We were just not visible. On the 18th May “Today” programme on Radio 4 they had a “focus” group of half a dozen “Remain” voters in Bedford and they were being asked how they were voting this time. They all still wanted Britain to stay in the EU but simply did not think of voting Liberal Democrat. Even when Nick Robinson prompted them and said the Liberal Democrats represented precisely what they would like, there was a kind of bemused thoughtfulness – and little more! We were simply not present. And with the vote in Bedford down from 20% in 2010 to 4.3% in 2015, it is no wonder.”

    I do not suppose that the only way we can possibly effect any change in policy is by participating in government. What I do suppose is that where there is an opportunity to secure the key policy of a referendum that opportunity should be taken up unless there is very good reason not to do so. If the price of securing a referendun is replacing the DUP in a supply and confidence agreement until the referendum on the Brexit deal is held, I would consider that a risk worth taking.
    As to opposition MPs, Nicola Sturgeon on the SNP has recently stated that a 2nd referendum is becoming hard to rersist. Coupled with Labour frontbenchers Dianne Abbot and Barry Gardiner indicating that Labour could call for a referendum, it appears that such a policy may be quite widely welcomed by the majority of MPs in all parties.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Dec '17 - 8:29pm

    JoeB: It is NOT a risk worth taking, not just because it wouldn’t happen, but also because it would mean we would have to support practically the whole of the Tory government’s agenda with no input into policy. Just think about it. A referendum that we might not win, in return for becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tories. This is what would make us irrelevant, and would put us to a new low from which we could never ever recover. So you basically support the ultimate sell-out, and on that we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Dec '17 - 9:37pm

    PS If as you say a referendum on the deal “may be quite widely welcomed by the majority of MPs in all parties” then this surely makes the case for building a coalition IN OPPOSITION in support of such a policy, and weakens the case for the Faustian pact that you are advocating.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Dec '17 - 10:04pm

    I’m with you all the way on this, Alex Macfie.

  • Alex,
    agree to disagree it is. You are making a number of assumptions and stating opinion as fact, so is the author of the article. None of which can be proven without putting it to the test or as the author of this piece put it “in truth we can never know, as we refused to even negotiate.”
    Ruling out such alliances before the outcome of an election is not a good strategy in my opinion. It clearly hasn’t garnered any significant level of votes and unnecessarily ties the hands of the party in the event of a hung Parliament.
    A strategy that overcomes the perception that a Libdem vote is a wasted vote in too many constituencies and sees far less lost deposits is badly needed before the next general election.Time will tell as to how effective the current approach is.

  • @ Joe Bourke

    You are correct our opinion poll rating declined very soon after entering government. The reason was because we had ditched the economic policy we set out in our 2010 manifesto. We all need to understand this. By supporting the Conservative economic policy we supported cuts to benefits and cuts to public sector conditions and wages and the decline in provision of services by the NHS.

    If we had a supply and confidence agreement we would have to vote for Conservative budgets. By voting for Conservative budgets we would be supporting there not being enough money for enough new houses, for the NHS, for social care and education. And voting to implement the Conservative benefit cuts including the benefit freeze.

    I can’t see why the Conservatives would prefer a supply and confidence agreement with us rather than the DUP. All the DUP want is more money for Northern Ireland, but we should be requiring wholesale changes to the economic policies of the Conservatives by spending more on all the things I mentioned above. Once there has been a referendum on the EU deal why would we continue with a supply and confidence deal? So why would the Conservative give up on a deal with the DUP for 5 years, for one with us for only 15 months?

    If there was a special conference to gain the membership’s support for a supply and confidence deal I would do my utmost to attend to vote against any such deal if it didn’t include, enough money for the NHS, Social Care, Education, at least 300,000 new homes a year, an end to the benefit freeze, an end to the 1% cap on public sector pay and the reversing of all the benefits cuts since 2010.

  • Michael BG,

    the nearest example we can point to of what is possible is probably the lib/lab pact of 1977. Lord Steel suugests the Liberal Party had a benign influence on economic policy at the time. “During the 15 months of the so-called Lib-Lab pact inflation fell to under 9 per cent, only to climb again during the minority Labour period that followed, returning to 19 per cent in the first months of the Thatcher government,” he said. “Mortgage interest fell from 12.25 per cent at the start of the pact to 8.5 per cent at its end only to start upwards again after it, reaching 15 per cent under Margaret Thatcher.”

    It may be possible to implement some of the policies in the last Libdem manifesto such as 1% on income tax. Not even Labour, hoever, with their expansive spending plans are promising to reverse all the coalition benefit cuts and it is not Libdem policy, so I expect such a program would be unlikely to be considered.

  • @ JoeB

    Just because Labour didn’t have the right policies on welfare cuts does not mean that we shouldn’t go further than ending the benefit freeze, cutting almost all Conservative welfare cuts since 2015 and cutting some welfare cuts of the 2010-15 government as set out in our 2017 manifesto.

    Our 2017 manifesto costing document had £5.7b for education, £2.7b to end the 1% cap on public sector pay, £3.7b for reversing Universal Credit costs, £1b to abolish the bedroom tax, restore Housing Benefits to 18 year olds and restore the link to LHA to average local rents, £3.3b to end the benefit freeze, £1.3b to restore family benefits to more than the second child, reverse the cuts to the ESA WRAG and of course £6.3b for the NHS and Social Care (paid for by 1p on Income Tax). This list includes £9.3b to stop lots of the cuts to benefits including some made during the Coalition government. Are you saying we should not get at least these to support a Conservative government?

  • Michael BG,

    at the risk of repeating myself “the reversing of all the benefits cuts since 2010” is not Libdem Policy and I think would be unlikely to be considered.

    David Steel, who concluded the Pact with Labour in 1977, said of the 2015 coalition
    “The coalition is a business arrangement born of necessity to clear up the country’s dire financial debt. It should never be portrayed as anything else.”

    I think that is good advice and should be followed were any arrangement to be concluded with the current government. The arrangement should be based on achievement of a single over-riding purpose in the national interest (a referendum on the EU deal) and should end when that purpose has been achieved.

  • @ Joe Bourke

    By repeating yourself, it seems you have not read what I posted. My last post did not talk of reversing all the benefits cuts since 2010; only those we promised in our 2017 manifesto.

    However, it seems you have answered my question indirectly. It appears you would be happy to provide the Conservative’s with a supply and confidence agreement without including any of our reverses to the benefits cuts, and no extra money for education. I think to only get a referendum on the EU deal including the option to stay in the EU would lose us at least two seats – North Norfolk and Eastbourne. I don’t know how badly it would affect us in Scotland and whether distancing us from the Conservatives was one of the reasons we gained 3 seats there. We could end up with 7 or fewer MPs if we followed your advice!

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