The Myth of “Strong” Government

As their hopes recede of using our broken voting system to secure a majority government on a minority of support in the country, the Party most set against reform, the Conservatives, and their media proxies begin to reel out the scare stories.

Lib Dem rules could paralyse government,” warned the Scotsman

Paralysis, indecision and political chicanery,” were the fear of the Daily Mail’s full page editorial.

The IMF could have to be called in,” thundered Ken Clarke!

Far from making a positive case to earn your vote, they resort to the desperate tactics of the protection racket: give us a majority or our boys in the City will hurt you.

But is this really a threat?

Channel Four’s Fact Check says “no”; so does CentreForum’s chief economist Giles Wilkes.

For starters, the country has no government majority in parliament right now, with the election in full train, and the City seems to have reacted with equanimity to this news. It seems unlikely that they will have some kind of nervous spasm should the question take until slightly later than May 7th to decide.

The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, has laid out the process for the election and what happens in a “hung parliament”, making it clear that the existing government continues in office, albeit with reduced powers, until the outcome of the election is settled.

Arguably, the country is better run when there aren’t politicians trying to legislate on every issue – that’s certainly a case that the Conservatives put most of the time; odd that they don’t put it now.

The prospect of a hung parliament has become a serious possibility since the first leadership debate. But there have been no major convulsions in the markets as a result. The pound actually rose following the debate, and the stock market remains steady.

Other countries manage the process perfectly well without reaping economic ruin: Belgium took more than a year to form their government and was none the worse for it. Canada’s TSX market index has climbed 55% during the current minority parliament. Germany is the strongest economy in Europe, and has for decades been run by a succession of coalition governments. If anything, it has made them stronger, moderating government decisions and providing the stability that business prefers, compared with the wild swings of policy – even within governments of the same Labservative faction – that the British have suffered.

It certainly seems an extraordinary claim that Britain is so enfeebled economically that the City will panic at the first sign that it will not have a Prime Minister to hold its hand.

Nor is it even based in sound economics. While it is true that the British Government is hugely indebted, most of that debt is held by British banks – Britain as a nation is not excessively in debt to the rest of the world. So why would there be a Sterling crisis?

For that matter, the crisis of the Callaghan/Healy years, which led to the IMF intervention, took place in 1976, the formal loan being agreed on 7 June that year, a good nine months before Labour lost its majority in March 1977.

It shows the Conservatives’ ignorance of history to link the previous Sterling Crisis to minority government.
Either that or George Osborne just doesn’t realise that 1976 comes before 1977.

We have had thirty years of red or blue Labservatives with supposedly “strong” governments, and yet pathetically subservient to the vested interests of unions or bankers or the media barons. And where has it got us? Recession, unemployment, boom, bust, recession, unemployment, boom, bust… and now the biggest bubble, the biggest crash, the longest recession in history.

And do the Tories really think that we in the mood to be bullied by the same City bankers who just put us through two years of Credit Crunch and recession with their foolish gambling?

Einstein said: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Don’t give in to fear and threats: we can break the grip of the vested interests in the City or the Papers. In this election, a vote for the Liberal Democrats – every single vote for the Liberal Democrats – is a vote to do something differently.

Let’s rewrite a few myths.

Editor’s note: the wrong version of this story was inadvertently published. The honed piece now here is the author’s final version.

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10 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 27th Apr '10 - 11:40am

    It’s all very well wailing here about the behaviour of the Tory press and the Tory campaign but why are we not getting a much firmer and clearer rebuttal from our own campaign??

    Tony Greaves

  • Perhaps understandably Ken Clarke has shut the Major years out of his mind where a single party government was held to ransom by an unelected faction of europhobes, one of whom became party leader subsequently. Just what part of strong government did first past the post produce then? On the reverse of the single party government coin, we have had a Labour Governemnt with a 60 or so seat majority elected by about 36% of the voters. In the former case FPTP did not work, as it is claimed, to produce effective government; the latter we have a government with a notional ability to do as it wishes with just under two thirds of voters opposed.

  • DIdnt a ‘strong’ government take us to Iraq against the will of the people?

    There must be many other incidences like these…

  • David Allen 27th Apr '10 - 6:11pm

    The sad truth is that when the Labservatives warn that a hung parliament will lead to political chicanery, they do have a point. It is not so much a warning as a threat. Yes, the Labservatives will certainly go in for political chicanery, in a hung parliament. See:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/1992-de-ja-vu-or-can-2010-be-different-19144.html#comment-116033

    The clever game, from the Labservative point of view, will be to cause ongoing instability, blame the instability and all its baleful consequences on the Lib Dems, and play the game to win a second election in 6-12 months time. It will mean Labour and Tories quietly combining to prevent reform, moaning piteously about the lack of a strong single-party government, while inviting economic bad news.

    The public will probably begin by correctly blaming the Labservatives for the problems, but hey, it’s a long game, isn’t it? Give it a few months to fester, just keep on moaning, just keep pointing out how much better things were before the nation foolishly let the Lib Dems take a share of power. Wait until public opinion wearily shifts into line, then call the next election.

    How do we defeat this utterly cynical but potentially effective strategy from the Labservatives? Well, an outright win would be one way! We have already gained 12% in the polls. There’s a piece on Political Betting which suggests that just another 5% gain, or thereabouts, could give us an absolute majority on as little as 36% of the popular vote. A totally unfair result, much like all the other plausible poll projections, of course.

    Why don’t we point out, loud and clear, that we now have a real chance to win outright? Why don’t we say that if people want reform, then that is the only way to make sure of it? And why don’t we say that if we control Parliament on some 36% of the popular vote, then we will lead a government for (say) the 2 years it takes to put reform into place, and we then promise to call new elections to the reformed House of Commons?

  • Andrew Suffield 27th Apr '10 - 8:23pm

    Give it a few months to fester, just keep on moaning, just keep pointing out how much better things were before the nation foolishly let the Lib Dems take a share of power. Wait until public opinion wearily shifts into line, then call the next election.

    Of course, that could backfire. If the public, or even their own backbenchers, realise what they’re doing, then it would deliver a Lib Dem majority.

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