The upsides and downsides for Labour of the Lib-Con deal

The decision by many Labour MPs during Tuesday to kaibosh any kind of ‘progressive alliance’ deal with the Lib Dems was doubtless motivated by many reasons: some good, some bad.

I’m sure some Labour MPs genuinely felt that, after 13 years of government, and having crashed to their heaviest election defeat in a generation, their party requires a spell in opposition to re-group and refresh. That’s a perfectly understandable and respectable position to hold.

Equally, it’s clear there were those motivated by less pure instincts. For some – the tribal partisans who cleave to the view Labour is always right – the very idea of sharing power with the Lib Dems was utterly anathema, regardless of whether they could agree with chunks of the Lib Dem manifesto. Such people are untroubled by the fact that Labour’s support dipped below 30% for the first time since 1983. All that matters to them is that Labour survives and does not have to talk to other parties, ever.

And then there are another group of Labour MPs: the tacticians, the strategists who have reckoned (not unreasonably) that Labour is much better off out of power. This was always billed as ‘The Election to Lose’ because of the necessity for any government, of whatever hue, to have to cut public spending drastically in the next five years. With the purity of opposition, Labour is now free to pick and choose the cuts they oppose, with regular bursts of tribal invective.

And, of course, the deal between the Lib Dems and Conservatives has taken this to a whole new level. Not only can Labour freely attack the public spending cuts for which we are all braced, but they, alone among the three major parties, are free of responsibility, too. It doesn’t take a Mandelson to calculate the campaigning advantage Labour will enjoy against both Lib Dems and Tories in the months and years ahead.

But it’s not all an upside for Labour. They will have to tread quite carefully in the immediate future. It will be a little while before we see via the opinion polls what the public makes of the Lib-Con deal, but there’s every chance the new government will enjoy a honeymoon. The public, generally speaking, likes to see politicians working together sensibly and rationally, rather than tearing each other to bits. The sheer novelty value of the coalition is going to intrigue voters, many of whom will be willing to give Clegg and Cameron a chance.

With a leadership contest to come, Labour candidates will be jockeying for position. The temptation for them will be to play to the gallery and to their tribal instincts in order to secure the activist vote. That will be understandable but potentially dangerous for Labour.

If they’re smart, they should welcome the deal, and wish it all the best, rather than damn it in a way which will trun off voters. There will be plenty of troubles ahead for the Lib-Con government, plenty of time for Labour to exploit the difficulties the Lib Dems and Tories will face. But turn the knife too soon, and they may end up shooting themselves in the foot.

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45 Comments

  • I was a founder member of the SDP and followed on to the Liberal Democrats until 12 years or so ago. Defence policies were always a stumbling block for my continued support of the Liberal Democrats.

    The new Coalition brings me and many others the best of both worlds – people just have to learn to accept change. At 54 years of age, it would be expected that change would be difficult for my generation to accept, but we must.

    I’m sure it would be a voters dream to pick and mix policies from all parties – but that is maybe a bit too much change.

  • The upside is that Labour has already had 8400 new members sign up to the party since the election.

  • Labour are trying to fly this flag of ‘the only progressive party’ and to be honest they seem the most out-dated and reactionary, proven in their lack of ability to compromise with a real radical party to form a progressive coalition.

    For me Labour is the party of ID cards, proto-thatcherite platform, Iraq invasion and some million Iraqi dead, Trident, nuclear power, the removal of the 10% tax rate, 100’s of new laws and an increased police state. They have real problems renewing and finding some kind of progressive stance.

    And it makes me wonder, really wonder about terms like ‘realignment of the left’ and what that would look like, and what it means? A new party of the left? More socialist economic policies? More freedom or less? Anti nuclear or pro? Big government or small? It just seems very much like yesterdays party and with more policies to wrestle with than the new coalition.

  • Conservatives fully supported the Iraq war, but you have obviously forgotten that.

  • Chris Phillips 12th May '10 - 9:04pm

    Good article but I’d edit the last line:

    “But turn the knife too soon, and they may end up shooting themselves in the foot.”

    before the News Quiz gets hold of it.

    Chris

  • If I might give a Labour view on here – there is a fourth reason why Labour MPs might not have been keen on a Labour/Lib Dem coalition and that’s just down to the numbers. To even get to 323 seats, we would have had to get all 258 Labour, 3 SDLP, 57 Lib Dem, 1 Alliance and 5 Others (Plaid Cymru, Green, Lady Hermon?) on board. Can you imagine whipping that collection. If a dozen stroppy Tories don’t want to play ball with any concession to the Lib Dems then the majority will cope with that, if any single Labour MP decided to rebel, the motion falls. Added to that any by-election would have have been about the continued existence of the coalition.

    If Labour had got 280 ish and Lib Dems 80 ish then there would have been a deal possible. Sadly that didn’t happen.

  • JohnM:

    So, then, LibDems decided instead to join ‘the party of anti-immigration, thatcherite platform, supporting Iraq invasion and some million Iraqi dead, Trident, nuclear power, the poll tax, 100’s of new laws and an increased police state.’

    It’s great that LibDems have such strong beliefs and principles. It must make you so proud.

  • Geez… how many times is it going to take before understanding, Nick never gave the labour party a chance, he ruled out any kind of deal the moment he said he would not support Gordon Brown as PM, the Labour party new this, and so did Nick and his advisors, nick would of looked like a clown to try and form any sort of deal with an UNKNOWN PM.

    Please don’t blame Labour for understanding… it is obvious to anyone with half a brain Nick had no intention of forming any deal with Labour, use Labour to get a better deal from the Conservatives, which is what he did…

    I agree there will be a honeymoon, I think is will be short, when the populace start to see unemployment rise or if we slip back into recession as Gordon Brown predicted if the fiscal support was withdrawn to quick, and which Vince cable agreed with, a week before the election now it seems he has changed his mind…

    The labour election will be two or three candidates at most and a pretty straight run off, I don’t think there will be much to feed the right wing press, although I am sure there will be plenty made up.

    Again I don’t think labour is going to do anything other than be the single opposition party to a conservative led government, when the public watch on TV, just what do you think they will see?

    Something like 45% – 50% of the Lib Dem party are lefties, and from some of the responses I have seen on the web, I think the Lib Dem party is going to face a torrid time ahead, no matter how well they think they are doing in government…

    When core card holding activists leave the party, I believe you have a problem; the labour party has increased its members by 8400 in a week, I suspect that will grow a lot in the next few weeks/months ahead.
    I can honestly see if things go bad, that the Lib Dem party will be down close to single figures in seats after the next election, if things go well maybe 50% of the seats you have now, your leader and his advisors have ignored a large portion of the party, saying it is in the best interests of the party or the country is not going to change that fact especially if things go bad.

    The populace will remember, they will not forget, vote for the Liberal Democrat party to keep the conservative party out of government, still got the leaflet some ware about with graphs etc…
    The protest vote from Labour will never happen again, well not for a very long time, 3 – 4 generations probably, voters of the left, center left, and maybe some center will not forgive nor forget.

    it is a core belief that right wing policies are not good for the population as a whole, when men with money try and buy UK plc it is wrong.

  • Clegg was showing lordosis behaviour to the Tories in 2008.

    This has been long on the cards. All this blah about the Liberals being rebuffed by Labour is poppycock. Clegg et al had no intention of building a coalition with them. Little more than a simple ruse which allowed political gains from the Tories and an attempt at hoodwinking your social democrats. Shameless.

  • I am a Lab Cllr who has worked with Lib Dems in the past in a coalition. I have long admired people like Vince Cable David Howarth and Charles Kennedy. I have to say this deal with the Tories has shocked me, but many in my party are relieved A) that we do not have to fight another election and B) We can regroup in opposition from a reasonable position. The way politics works is that when out of office the first things that turn around are local govt elections, many now expect to see labour winning council seats. This will build a base again to challenge for power. It is highly unlikely that Labour will go down from from its 29% and polling evidence shows that we would have polled 31% with a different leader which we will now have. As long as the Labour Party does not fall into bitter fighting things are looking surprisingly positive. This was born out by a post election bash I was out with senior figures, the mood was very positive. The sad thing for me is that the Lib Dems are now on the road to annihilation. For the moment they will be excited at having some power but look closely and the writing is on the wall. The main winners will be the Tories who will win a swathe of seats off them as left leaning voters refuse to support the Lib Dem position. This will be combined with a resurgence of Labour support in its heartland as the cuts start to bite. The Libs will be driven from the urban seats they hold. This will end the Liberal revival of the past 20 years and no one will thank them for what they have done in the national interest. I am sad because I have always believed in an eventual coming together of the two great left of centre parties. This now looks further away than ever.

  • ClatfordClown 13th May '10 - 12:42am

    Nick saw the opportunity to kick Labour into touch and become one of the 2 dominant parties. He took it. Now the labour trolls are whinging.
    Consider this: the Labour Party is bankrupt. the only thing going for them was that they could divert our tax receipts to the Unions through the Union Modernisation program and the Foreign Aid budget. That allowed the Unions to give money to Labour. Without that money, they are toast. They owe huge sums to their supporters and they have no ability to repay it.

    No sponsors for their next Conference. No Arthur Andersen to fund their opposition offices. No representation across most of England. Labour are on their knees and Nick has shown he can lead the LibDems to within striking distance of them in the popular vote. After 6 months of news articles about the mess Labour has made of the Economy, the name “labour” is going to be synonymous with greed, fraud and debauchery. And that’s when the LibDems will overtake them in the polls and go on to eclipse them in local government and Westminster.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:54am

    “All this blah about the Liberals being rebuffed by Labour is poppycock. “

    This is getting more than a bit ridiculous. Do you think we’re all stupid? We all saw Labour MPs queueing up to rebuff the Lib Dems live on TV only yesterday.

    The annoying thing is that many people here would have preferred a coalition with Labour. OK – the Labour party wouldn’t have it – they went for the comfortable option of being in opposition instead. But to try to put the blame for that on to the Lib Dems is just adding insult to injury.

  • I think one of two things will happen. Either the Labour party will make substantial changes and become a genuinely progress party, which may lead to large-scale defections from the LDs (including some MPs), or it will continue in its current, ponderous, conservative way to remain the ‘dinosaur’ party. Interesting to see which way it goes. They certainly didn’t have the guts (not enough of them anyway) to take seriously the prospect of a coalition or pact with the LDs after the election.

    For the first time in my life (I’m 53 and have supported the Liberal Party and the LDs since I was 13) I find myself respecting the Conservative Party more than I do the Labour Party. What a desperate, laughable bunch (with some exceptions) Labour currently are; perhaps they can change for the better. Time will tell.

  • @Anthony: I don’t think it was a case of they wouldn’t have it. Just a simple rational calculation that:

    1. It didn’t really have the numbers and was never at any point a serious goer and would readily lead to disaster
    2. It would have been severely detrimental to form what was easily framed as the ‘coalition of losers’ by the rabid Murdoch/Right-wing press (and even the BBC was spewing it).
    3. The Liberals never really had any intention of going through with it and were just forcing the hands of the Tories and allowing the ‘we really tried’ frame for their own left-wingers.

    I do think the likes of the Mandlebot were keen to give it a bash, hence Brown’s actions. But only as a desperate attempt at maintaining their own stance in power. Others were also keen to give it a go (e.g., Alan Johnson). However, not all were so desperate to maintain power at any costs and skate the thin ice. It’s called dignity, methinks.

    But the Liberals never had any intention. Again, in 2008 there were murmurs that Clegg was ready to back a minority Tory government. Although he wouldn’t take any cabinet posts. In 2010 it came to pass, but they did take the posts. The liberals were desperate – you really do think the Liberals should be the 2nd party: the pipedream is a situation where the 1st and 2nd parties are effectively wedded? That hilarious: the Whiggs and Tories. Since Clegg has took the Liberal throne the libertarians direct your party. And the meeting of minds with the right-wing libertarians of the Tories was easy and obvious.

    To be honest, I’m ‘happier’ with the current situation than where we appeared to be heading a couple of months back. Good luck with it, though, eh? I predict the liberals will need it.

  • There’s another way to look at this that may be closer to the Truth, at the first LD PLP meeting there was strong voices supporting talks with Labour so Clegg was forced to call Brown. However the negotiating team and Clegg were already too far down the path with Cameron. So the meeting with Labour was doomed from the start, this was picked up by both sides during the talks, Labour detected the extent of the discussion that had already been had and Cleggs determination to proceed, and LD’s detected Labour had tough voices too who would prove difficult to reign in, so they walked away. Brown and others knew that agreeing to the meeting would allow Clegg to calm the left wing of the party and by this saw the opportunity to force the marriage; going immediately to the Queen and in this way Labour held the shotgun to the wedding believing that in the fullness of time this will put them in a better position

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 9:21am

    Mela

    Whatever spin you try to put on it, from the moment that Labour backbenchers, supported by the likes of Reid and Blunkett, starting parading in front of the TV cameras saying they wouldn’t accept the deal (whatever their reasons), it was stone dead.

    I can only say again – many of us here would have preferred such a deal to one with the Tories, and we watched every twist and turn of the story two days ago. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose heart sank as it became obvious that a significant section of the Labour party wouldn’t accept it.

    Obviously it’s in Labour’s interests to claim that the Lib Dems refused the deal. That might just about wash if it were a question of what was said in private talks. But what made the deal impossible while those talks were still going on was the fact that Labour politicians were stating in public that they didn’t want it.

  • Richard Blogger 13th May '10 - 11:09am

    I don’t think you are right. Labour members and supporters are simply numerate*: they knew that the figures did not work. Sure there were some Labour politicians who suddenly remembered that some LibDems have progressive ideas, but they were few and when they thought about it they realised that the LibDem leadership was not progressive even if the membership were. A Lib-Lab pact could not work. However, the idea was useful for Clegg during his negotiations with Cameron 😉

    The re-group idea is somewhat defeatist, no one really voted for themselves to be put in opposition. However, standing back it can be seen to be an advantage. The Labour party is a *movement* but in the last decade it has lost that concept so a re-group and renewal will be refreshing.

    There was a lot of talk on the right that Labour would self-destruct after an election defeat. In fact that has not happened. The odd loony aside (there is always *someone* who bucks the trend) there have been no recriminations. That is quite remarkable. After the election membership went up dramatically – people suddenly thought “oh sh*t, I have to do something”. And since the coalition was signed membership has increased even more, as progressive LibDems realise that they could not justify telling people one week to vote LibDem and then the next week the parliamentary party gets subsumed into the Tory government. (Supply and confidence was always closer to LibDem principles: alter government policy on a policy-by-policy basis.)

    Finally here’s a question for LibDems. You rather piously argue for “fairness” in politics, so how can you argue for the redefinition of a majority to be 55%? And if (in a simple majority vote) your MPs vote for a Orwellian redefinition, where will it end? When will “a majority” be redefined as 60%, 75%, or indeed 100%? Will we get to the point where Cameron will only resign if there are 649 against him in a no-confidence vote. This is your first test in the coalition, and you will fail: your hunger for power will over come your principles. Shame.

    [*] You can thank 13 years of Labour education policies for that, including the Numeracy hour 🙂

  • Richard Blogger 13th May '10 - 11:23am

    @ DM Andy

    If a dozen stroppy Tories don’t want to play ball with any concession to the Lib Dems then the majority will cope with that, if any single Labour MP decided to rebel, the motion falls. Added to that any by-election would have have been about the continued existence of the coalition.

    Yes, but the Labour leadership did not think straight on this. You see, Cameron realising that 307 is a minority is planning (with Clegg’s support) to legislate so that a vote of 357 (out of 650) will be needed to be treated as a majority against the government! Can you imagine if on Monday Brown had said “we will go into formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats and redefine the word ‘majority’ in a no-confidence vote to mean 55% of the vote rather than 50%”. Can you imagine what the right-wing press would have said about that? The following is from the Con-Dem coalition agreement:

    “Legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed-term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.”

    So yes, you are right, the numbers did not work for Labour using the old rules, but they would have worked for the new rules! That is Nick Clegg’s “New Politics”!

  • Hi Anthony,

    it’s not spin! Heh. It’s reality. In fact, the Labour spinmeisters (Campbell, Mandlebot) would have been happy to force a coalition and maintain their grip on some semblance of power. The best thing for Labour is to lose the influence of these people (along with the likes of Reid and Blunkett – bleh!) and some time in contemplation will likely allow them to see the error of their ways (best illustrated by the likes of Reid and Blunkett). But they are in a strong position. Consensus politics sounds great, but I’m sure we still need some form of opposition to challenge the governing party.

    The coalition would have required several parties to act in unison, and there’s a reason why there is heterogeneity between parties in the first place. Such a coalition would be on the precipice every single day. In the background would be the rabid right-wing press prising them apart – just no room for error at all.

    With the LibCons you have two parties who have been away from the taste of power for a good time (so it’s not just the Liberals who were desperate), it will always much easier to maintain discipline in such a situation, the numbers were easily there, and two leaderships of similar mindsets. And, finally, this was always going to be on the cards with the direction your party has taken.

    There’s no shame in that. The problem is that the Liberals have always tried to play both sides, and you can’t do that any more. You’re now wedded to the Tories and you take ownership of their actions. Simple associative transfer. And, sadly, the Tory cabinet is full of old school Tory Hawks. If anything, this works more to the benefit of the Tories who will hope for a degree of detoxificaton (no longer the ‘Nasty’ Party).

    What we need is a real centre-left party. Not the Liberals – they left that ground when the orange bookers came to the fore. Not the NuLabour Blairites – a real progressive social democratic party. Hopefully the Labour party get this into their noggins.

    Ciao.

  • Oh, and I hope Cruddas becomes the Labour party leader. No Blair-clones please. We’ve got another two of them in power already. And we certainly don’t need any more in the house (e.g., David Milliband). It will likely end up imploding due to the weight of egos and faux sincerity.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:25pm

    Mela

    I think Mandelson and some others around the leadership would indeed have liked to do a deal. But while they were talking, the prospect of a deal was very publicly torpedoed by elements of their own party.

    It’s no good pretending otherwise, because – I repeat – we saw it all happen live on TV only two days ago.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 12:35pm

    Richard

    “So yes, you are right, the numbers did not work for Labour using the old rules, but they would have worked for the new rules! That is Nick Clegg’s “New Politics”!”

    You still seem a bit confused about the 55% threshold. A government will need to command the confidence of a majority of the House, under the new rules, just as before. The new rules would have made it no easier for a Labour government to survive a vote of no confidence (though they would have removed the threat of the Tories actually forcing a dissolution).

    Having said that I think the numbers _would_ have worked for a Lib/Lab coalition, provided that the Labour party could have “delivered” its own backbenchers. But it would have needed to deliver _all_ of them. What killed any prospect of the deal was a significant section of the Labour party publicly making it clear that it would not accept the deal.

  • But, Anthony, Mandlebot is not the Labour party.

    He was one of the main movers-and-shakers of the Blairites. What is best for him and his need for influence is not always the best for the UK and the Labour party. Are you trying to say that because people like Mandlebot and Campbell want to maintain input into government, the Labour MPs needed to accept the death-spiral of a weak and questionable coalition in a setting which had little justification and a background of the rabid press? Heh. Jeez, not everyone is blinded by naked power lust. Some are able to maintain rational thought.

    The sooner they rid themselves of these people the better. I can see that you’re keen to lay all the issues at the foot of the Labour party. I’m sure that will work for the LibCons for the next year as well. However, some self-analysis might also be warranted. Perhaps ask yourself why their have been suggestions of a Liberal-supported minority Tory government since 2008. And then check out the people negotiating for the Liberals and who is in the Tory cabinet. Compare to the orange bookers. I spent time in the US with these libertarian types and they are pretty scary. Make Tebbit’s ‘get on your bike’ angle seem fairly empathic. As an aside, did you know Tebbit was pushing for an increase in the tax threshold a few months back. Great concession.

    I’m keen to see the response of your student base when the Tories push through tuition fee increases while the Liberals sit back and wave it through without challenge due to the oft criticised backroom deals. I’m also keen to see Clegg argue in favour of other Tory policies. I’m sure he won’t find it too difficult.

    Interesting times ahead.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 1:12pm

    Mela

    “Are you trying to say that because people like Mandlebot and Campbell want to maintain input into government, the Labour MPs needed to accept the death-spiral of a weak and questionable coalition in a setting which had little justification and a background of the rabid press?”

    ????

    All I’m doing is I’m stating the obvious fact that any chance of a deal was killed by public statements of opposition from people within the Labour party.

    Whether a deal would have succeeded if that hadn’t happened, and how serious the leadership of either party was about it, we’ll never know.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 1:22pm

    Mela

    As for your other points, it may well be that the Lib Dems will incur a great deal of unpopularity from this coalition in the medium and long term, and it’s quite possible that if things don’t go well they could be reduced to 1992 levels or even worse.

    One thing that may come back to bite the party in the near future is that poster warning of a Conservative VAT bombshell. In fact we may have a Libservative VAT bombshell within 50 days. And that will _not_ be a progressive measure:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/10112936.stm

  • “provided that the Labour party could have “delivered” its own backbenchers. But it would have needed to deliver _all_ of them. What killed any prospect of the deal was a significant section of the Labour party publicly making it clear that it would not accept the deal.”

    The problem is the ‘deliver_all_of them’. You are expecting multiple parties to act with a hive-mind every single day – completely unrealistic and pure wishful-thinking. Perhaps the liberals are up for that, but I would actually prefer MPs to act with some degree of independence and stand by their principles on occasion (if they have any). It was merely a pipe-dream and a useful ruse for the Liberals. Even the Tories know that now! It worked. Congratulate your leadership for having the nous to get dirty and play politics. But don’t blame Labour MPs for being rational and realistic.

    The Liberals are now able to pretend they have no input into certain Tory policies by abstaining (‘we have principles see!’) – won’t work like that, though. People aren’t that stupid.

    I have a gang of students to see to – big exam for them and they are not very forgiving. Catch you later.

  • Les Moss,

    It’s only “obvious” to blinkered Labour Party chauvinists like yourself who don’t give a stuff about the truth.

    You’ve swallowed the Ira

    Ah, you are the Oracle of Delphi. You know the outcome of the next election before it even takes place. Not much point in holding it then, is there?

  • Yeah, Anthony I know. It’s a pity.

    We need a real progressive centre-left party. And there used to be two parties which captured elements of my own political thinking. Obviously, impossible that any could capture all my sentiments. I actually voted Plaid Cymru in this election (heh), as it will take a while for me to stomach voting Labour again. I’m just hoping that I don’t end up feeling that way about the Lib-dems.

    But, still, I’m somewhat ‘happier’ with the current situation than the obvious alternative. And I do wish your party all the best. Hopefully they will take the edge of the Tories.

    Caio.

  • “All I’m doing is I’m stating the obvious fact that any chance of a deal was killed by public statements of opposition from people within the Labour party.”

    But that’s about as far as you appear to want to take it. That’s a pretty superficial assessment of the situation. It also depends on the position that it was ever really alive and kicking beyond wishful-thinking, naked powerlust, and a group of Liberals playing politics.

    Must go. Later.

  • David Morton 13th May '10 - 1:49pm

    One big advantage for Labour is the early Iconography. The POTUS/VPOTUS imagery used by the party in yesterdays launch, the obvious warmth between Cameron and Clegg, the positivity of the words and speeches.
    This is all good stuff for driving a media honeymoon effect. You work with what you have got and in this case its two young, attractive, telegenic young men.

    However at a subliminal level, and 99% of the populus don’t analysise poltics like hacks like I do, doesn’t it all look like a merger?

  • My message got scrambled.

    What I intended to say (middle paragraphs) was: “You swallowed the Iraq war, you swallowed the control agenda, you swallowed Blair and Mandelson carousing with billionaires. What will you swallow next?”

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 1:59pm

    Mela

    “It also depends on the position that it was ever really alive and kicking beyond wishful-thinking, naked powerlust, and a group of Liberals playing politics.”

    It would help if you could read what people have written. I specifically said that we _didn’t_ know what would have happened if people within the Labour party hadn’t sabotaged the deal. But you can’t get away from the fact that they did.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 2:04pm

    Mela

    “You are expecting multiple parties to act with a hive-mind every single day – completely unrealistic and pure wishful-thinking.”

    Frankly your comments are getting more and more absurd. I’m not saying anything about “hive-minds”. I’m simply saying that a substantial section of the Labour party made it clear it would not accept the deal, so the leadership would have been unable to deliver it.

  • I don’t think my comments are absurd at all.

    The leadership was never able to deliver a ‘deal’ it even if all Labour MPs kept schtum. It was completely unrealistic.

    Remember the words that were repeated by Clegg continually – stable government in the national interest. It would have been neither stable nor in the national interest (there would have been uproar with a ‘coalition of losers’). Sorry if that’s a problem.

    You appear to want to believe the Liberals are above playing politics, heh. I also think it’s possible that some in the Labour circles were simply trying to scupper any deal – but I tend to not think that’s as likely. The brains in the party will be happier with, what has just been excellently called, the merger. They will be the only centre-left party now if they play their cards right.

    Now I do really have to go.

  • As a Labour supporter who’s not against a Lib-Lab agreement in principle, who agrees with a number of Lib Dem policies (not all, though, by a long chalk) and who would have loved to have seen the Tories kept out, I was strongly against a deal on this occasion.

    We. Did. Not. Have. The. Numbers.

    Simple as that. Labour didn’t sabotage the deal. Neither did the Lib Dems. The electorate killed it before it started.

    Whether the Lib Dems are better off in a full coalition or giving confidence and supply to a minority Tory government is, frankly, none of my business. But both of these work better than a Lib-Lab pact – not for reasons of principle, but simply for reasons of maths.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 5:49pm

    Mela

    “You appear to want to believe the Liberals are above playing politics, heh.”

    You seem to be addicted to putting words into people’s mouths. I believe no such thing – of course all politicians “play politics”.

    But at least you acknowledge that the Labour leadership couldn’t deliver a deal. It seems we agree, after all that.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 5:51pm

    “We. Did. Not. Have. The. Numbers.”

    Of course we know that an overall majority would have required support from the nationalists too. But in that case the numbers would have been there.

  • Realistically, no.

    – It would have been hugely unstable, needing a range of small parties to agree to anything opposed by the Tories.
    – We would have had to give all sorts of unacceptable concessions to the various nationalist parties, both upfront and potentially on a case-by-case basis whenever a new contentious policy came up.
    – We would have been unable to pass England-only legislation (anything at all on health and education, notably) because the nationalists always abstain on principle, and after that the Tories could outvote us (and that’s a purely practical point – the theoretical point about the West Lothian Question would also make lots of English policy look unfair).
    – We (Labour) really did lose the election – not as badly as we feared, and nobody else won outright, but we lost. So did you (Lib Dems) – and by miles more than we did. So did the nats. So did the Greens. “Coalition of the losers” would have been a perfectly reasonable criticism, and the media would not have let us forget it.

    I wish it were not so. But it is. If we’d had maybe 20 more seats between us, we could maybe have given it a go. But we didn’t. The suggestion that Labour deliberately kiboshed the deal may be an attractive one for Lib Dems and the Guardian to make, but it doesn’t stand up. We would have been a bloody awful government, we wouldn’t have lasted long, and we would both have been slaughtered at the subsequent election. Us more than you, probably, but you too.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th May '10 - 6:18pm

    Tommy

    “The suggestion that Labour deliberately kiboshed the deal may be an attractive one for Lib Dems and the Guardian to make, but it doesn’t stand up. “

    That a section of the Labour party sabotaged the deal by publicly declaring they would have nothing to do with it – while the talks were still going on – is a simple matter of fact. We all saw that happen on live TV.

    Of course everyone has different opinions about the viability of the deal. Perhaps it would have been viable, perhaps it wouldn’t. Obviously we’ll never know.

  • Some members of the Labour Party said they would have nothing to do with it, yes (or, strictly, said they did not support it – not the same thing, since if a deal had been done they would have had to grit their teeth and get on with it).

    But a major reason for them saying this is that they could see that We Did Not Have The Numbers. They were not being bloody-minded or unhelpful. They were being realistic. A Lib-Lab coalition, with the numbers we had, would have been a disaster. As I say, with 20 more seats I’m sure the PLP would have been much more enthusiastic.

  • I’ll leave it at this now, Anthony. As it’s getting tedious and I have exam scripts to mark.

    Yeah, I know that some people in Labour came out publicly and said they didn’t support a coalition. They were very honest and open about their position. Others involved in the Labour party supported it.

    But the numbers were just not there. It would have been completely unsustainable. The point about the hive-mind I noted meant that it would require virtually all Labour, Lib-dem and others to vote en masse in the same way at almost every vote to push through an agenda. Hive-mind. Simple enough concept. Not sustainable. They are different parties for a reason and it required several to act in unison when the parties themselves consist of individuals.

    Even today we hear that some Lib-Dems didn’t support the Liberal & Tory coalition. But it doesn’t matter if a few Lib-dems or Tories don’t support it or even vote against the herd, heh. The numbers are there.

    There only difference here is that some Labour MPs expressed reservations honestly and openly. The Lib-dems kept schtum and said nothing.

    So, summarising once more (heh, starting to squawk myself now):

    1. The numbers were not there. Absolutely no room for error, extremely unstable, and unrealistic from that angle.
    2. Even the night after the a ‘progressive’ coalition was mentioned, the rabid right-wing press and even the BBC were already laying the basis for the Loser coalition. It would have caused uproar. Again, unsustainable, and the agenda and framing was set firm.
    3. The orange book Libertarians in your party were keen to merge with the Tories. This has been on the cards for a while.

    The reason I mention that perhaps you think your party won’t play politics is because thus far you just keep parroting that a few Labour MPs expressed reservations. You just overlook almost everything else I’ve said. So have some of the Lib-Dem MPs for the Tory merger. They just kept discipline and expressed their reservations in the background. The difference is the numbers. Any people not keen could readily kill any progressive coalition, and that would be a disaster for the parties involved and the UK. Neither in the national interest or stable.

    And as for your later response. Labour couldn’t deliver a deal and neither could the Lib-dems. Jeez, it was wishful-thinking but a useful and profitable ruse.

    Stable? No.
    In the national interest? No.

    The orange bookers have been laying the basis for this for a while. Even going against constitutional norms to talk with the party with the greatest number of seats – it was obvious who that would be. It was often stated that Clegg wouldn’t work with Brown – again, just more hurdles. And in 2008 the Liberal party head-honchos were starting to wink and shimmy at the Tories.

    The wood is clear enough to see.

  • Sesenco

    After reading your responses, you Sir are a rude person.
    Seriously you need to seek help…

    and please do not expect any further responses…

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