Tim Farron talks coalitions with the New Statesman

The New Statesman has published extracts of an interview with former party president Tim Farron. Their headline suggests favouritism for a coalition with Labour, but that’s not quite what Tim said. He was talking about having to play the hand the electorate dealt us, just like we did five years ago:

Last time round, us plus Labour was 11 short of a majority of one, so a majority where we’d have had to rely on Jeremy Corbyn voting through the Budget, things like that, for instance, so 11 short even of that level of a majority, so it wasn’t an option.

He added: “I think the same thing will be the case this time round, almost certainly. We will not have a choice. We will be presented with an arithmetic by the electorate and all parties must be grown up enough to accept it and not say, ‘well, thank you for your opinions, we didn’t like it, tough’. Whatever the electorate give us through this fruit machine of an electoral system that we have, we have to be big enough, grown-up enough to make sure it works.

“The fundamental promise we must make to the electorate is that we will respect the outcome of the electorate and we will ensure, do everything in our power to ensure, stable government straight after the election, whether we are part of it or not.”

Eaton makes two assumptions with no evidence to back them up; that Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander privately prefer a continuation of the coalition with the Conservatives and that we will do a deal with Labour because they are most likely to win most seats.

To date, senior Lib Dems such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have simply dodged the question (though both privately favour the Tories). But in an interview with me at the launch of his re-election campaign yesterday, Tim Farron, the party’s left-leaning former president and the frontrunner to be its next leader, revealed that he believes the Lib Dems will have to support whichever party wins the most seats (with Labour the obvious choice).

The other subject trailed in the interview is whether Farron has leadership ambitions. Wisely, he doesn’t get into that one.

Let’s hope that the main interview has more about the party’s record in the coalition and plans for the future. It’ll be published next week. Tim’s pre-conference interviews have generated some headlines in the past. Cockroaches, anyone? I’m not sure this one will live up to that particular treasure, but we’ll see.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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41 Comments

  • Looking at most election forecast sites, neither Tory+LibDem or Lab+LibDem is going to be enough for a majority:
    http://electionforecast.co.uk/

    And as the SNP have ruled out coalition with the Conservatives, it doesn’t matter if the Conservatives or Labour get more votes – it’s going to be LD+SNP+Lab or nothing.

    (Of course, the final result may be different from this – but “biggest party” means nothing if that party can’t form a coalition.)

  • paul barker 28th Feb '15 - 5:02pm

    Where I disagree with Tim Farron is in thinking that stable government is what Britain needs most right now. What we really need is change, reform & we wont get that by simply improving the program of one of Britains conservative parties. Stable government was just what we needed in 2010 but now we should be focused on rebuilding our party & replacing Labour. Most of you will think thats nuts but I beleive Labour will collapse at this Election.

  • David Allen 28th Feb '15 - 5:26pm

    Farron may not quite have said he specifically favoured a coalition with Labour. However he gave that as a first example option. Very different from Clegg and Alexander, whose clear message is “over my dead body”. (They may have that wish granted, of course.)

    So, here we have a party whose leaders have for years been saying how every sacrifice in coalition is worthwhile, as it is essential that we demonstrate that we are a natural party of government. Here we also have a vast majority of grassroots activists, of all shades of opinion, who now want to get as far away from government as possible, in order to recuperate from a terrible experience and revive the Party in opposition. And now, here we have all the leadership and the ambitious MPs, still determined to get into one government or the other.

    Maybe they’ll end up splitting three ways. As Andrew Ducker points out, even two parties in alliance (other than Tory and Labour!) will probably not be enough to form a stable majority. So, perhaps we’ll see individual Lib Dems choosing opposite sides, or being bought up by the opposite sides. With a third group, the ones who didn’t want to choose either side, hanging around as independents or gradually resigning to cause byelections.

    Tally ho!

  • I suspect the electorate will polarize in the last 3 weeks of the election with the Conservatives the main beneficiary.
    It will hit our party hard and reduce us to a very low level, but out of it will come a majority Cons government and we can then concentrate on reviewing our own situation and rebuilding. It will take 3 years at least, particularly if UKIP gets a lot of second places and be in prime position for by election gains.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Feb '15 - 5:42pm

    I’m almost certain the best option in 2015 is no coalition and to play Labour and the Conservatives off each other all year around to 2020.

    I’ll elaborate on my thoughts at a later date. Simon Shaw is broadly right on this.

  • Very much in agreement with Simon Shaw, I hope Farron is misreported here. The 2010 formulation was that Lib Dems would talk to the largest party first ; this time round we only need to commit ourselves to talks and certainly not commit to a coalition in the event that combined numbers of two parties could form a majority. Besides, the parliamentary Party cannot commit the membership to agree to a coalition. It is very hard to see what other parties could offer that the membership would see as worthwhile. Presumably significant electoral reform would not be on offer. In practice I see very little likelihood of Lib Dems in further coalition.

    The Parliamentary Party can however abstain. Could we say in the run up to the election that in the event of no overall control that we would not impede the formation of a minority government?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Feb '15 - 5:49pm

    Simon Shaw

    Let’s be clear: We don’t have to support any other party – and we most certainly shouldn’t in 2015.

    A no-majority Parliament was always presented as if it would put the Liberal Democrats in a “kingmaker” situation, but as Tim Farron sensibly says, it wasn’t like that in 2010. Given that if there is a no-majority Parliament in 2015 it’s almost certain to be one with fewer Liberal Democrats and more from other non-Labervative parties, he’s quite right to point out that we won’t be “kingmakers” there either.

    We have been hugely damaged by the idea that the choice was all up to us, and we chose to “put theTories in” and could have chosen a completely different government. I’m glad at least Tim Farron is pointing this out, because with the rest of the leadership giving the impression they’re panting for a no-majority Parliament as if it would give them some enormous power, they’re actually doing the best they can to damage us.

    I do agree that having done this in 2010, and having suffered enormous damage and much abuse for having agreed to the only stable government that could have been formed, we are now in a stronger position to say “No, we won’t do it” if we are in the same situation next time. If we are then abused for denying Britain a stable government, we can reply “Sorry, we did that last time and got punished for it. Don’t blame us for not doing it again – you, people of Britain, by the way you have voted, have told us not to do it again – so we won’t”.

  • @Paul Barker

    If Labour collapse in May, what result do you predict for the Lib Dems ?
    Collapse, total collapse, complete collapse…. ?

  • “We will be presented with an arithmetic by the electorate and all parties must be grown up enough to accept it and not say, ‘well, thank you for your opinions, we didn’t like it, tough’. Whatever the electorate give us through this fruit machine of an electoral system that we have, we have to be big enough, grown-up enough to make sure it works.”

    Some interesting words.

    Firstly, to rerun the election 75% of MP’s will have to support a motion that effectively says ‘well, thank you for your opinions, we didn’t like it, tough’. The obvious question is how likely is that to happen. Secondly his reference to a “fruit machine” carries negative connotations and implies he doesn’t like a system where voters can freely vote…

  • Philip Thomas 28th Feb '15 - 7:09pm

    I think the “fruit machine” reference is to the electoral system (FPTP) not the voters. Voters in Buckingham, to take an extreme example, can’t actually vote for any mainstream party (unless you count UKIP!).

  • Looking at The New Statesman article it is fairly clear that Farron is making a point often aired on these pages that arithmetic of seats in parliament will dictate what discussions are possible and does not seem to be committing himself to a coalition: this and much else seems to reside in the mind of a reporter, who appears to assume that the Lib Dem Party operates in a similarly centralised way to the Labour Party.

  • @simon shaw – It is quite clear that tim was not making a preference but saying the artithmatic (and obviously the voters) will decide. Which is what many people (including myself) say. Just a naughty headline as journalists do….

  • Stephen Hesketh 28th Feb '15 - 9:05pm

    I would like to see Tim lead the party … first in opposition … then perhaps in coalition.

    We desperately need a period away from Government to decide what sort of party we are – authentic mainstream ‘social justice’ Preamble Liberal Democrats, socially liberal Equidistant Centrists or socially liberal Free Market Libertarians.

    We are all basically ‘socially and constitutionally’ Liberal but how we define ourselves economically in an increasingly global corporation-dominated and unequal, unjust world has become a major issue in terms of our identity – and one which has been made even more stark by those who sought to either redefine or reclaim liberalism.

    As we all know Nick Clegg’s period as party leader has resulted in the driving out of many traditional ‘social and economic justice’ Liberals and, at the same time apparently attracted a vocal group who have proved unable to distinguish between this traditional Liberal position and that of Labourite ‘socialism’ – or who had never understood that a Liberal Democratic state “allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary.”, and explicitly recognises, ” … that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly. We support the widest possible distribution of wealth”.

    Resolving this intentionally deepened economic di or tri-chotomy can only reasonably be achieved outside government.

  • Dr Michael Taylor 28th Feb '15 - 10:40pm

    Actually, what we need is to come together to fight the election and stop beating ourselves up. I really do get fed up with people in our own party continuing to knock the party in the run up to this election. It really is time to shut up and get on with fighting the election

  • @Dr Taylor: If you could suggest ways to create enthusiasm in Party members who feel that the leadership has attempted to move the Party away from their values and even suggested that the Party would be better off without them, that might be very helpful and valuable.
    If, however, your best approach is to tell those members to “shut up and get on,” mightn’t you be doing as much harm as good?

  • Those who think Farron was opposing a coalition should read the full article, including these quotes:

    “Let’s say the Tories get more votes and Labour win more seats, which is quite possible, we may think that morally we should put the Tories in but they won’t have enough seats, we won’t have a choice. ”

    “The fundamental promise we must make to the electorate is that we will respect the outcome of the electorate and we will ensure, do everything in our power to ensure, stable government straight after the election, whether we are part of it or not.”

    Well, I suppose Farron stops just short of actively favouring a coalition. However, clearly he is not opposing the idea.

    I suspect what Farron knows is the practical reality. Whichver of the two largest parties can achieve a ruling majority will go all out to get it. Whatever inducements have to be offered, will be offered. The offer price will rise until enough minor-party players press the “buy” button. If it’s a weird combination such as the SNP plus the DUP plus half of the Lib Dems, that’s fine – either for the Tories or Labour – if that is what is needed to win the prize of five years in government.

    Yes, it’s a “fruit machine of an electoral system”, and we will have to live with a messy result. Farron is warning us accordingly.

  • Julian Gibb 1st Mar '15 - 12:20am

    http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html

    Just updated with Feb data.

    15 seats for the LibDems. I still think that is high. I predict just into double figures – circa 11/12
    An SNP/Green/PC alliance will be the dominant influence.

  • Ian Nicholson 1st Mar '15 - 1:59am

    I`m astonished that any of you think that your party is going to be in a coalition government after May. Do so few of you know how toxic your brand is?

  • Stephen Hesketh 1st Mar '15 - 8:19am

    Dr Michael Taylor 28th Feb ’15 – 10:40pm

    Hmmm … Tough!

    For your information I have canvassed every weekend this year but two, have delivered thousands of leaflets and sent small donations to candidates in other constituencies.

    I’m afraid I am one of those troublesome Liberal Democrats who actually agrees with the values set out in the preamble and believes that what we do with political power is more important than simply sustaining the party and individuals in office.

    Once we decide what sort of Liberal party we are – Preamble, Centrist or unfettered Free Market – we can move forward in a more philosophically coherent, harmonious and united fashion.

    David-1 is correct!

  • Peter Chivall 1st Mar '15 - 9:31am

    Just a thought – if UKIP make a strong showing at the Tories’ expense, and enough anti-European Tories become UKIP in all but name, might the pro-European Tories split from their Party and be prepared to support Labour in a mini-Grand Coalition on the basis that Labour rules out any Referendum until after 2020. That could solve our Coalition problem for 5 years and allow us to rebuild? It would also allow the European debate to progress on a more rational timeline, with pressure for reform coming from elsewhere in Europe and a multi-layer, multi-functional Union arise on lines envisaged by Andrew Duff (Andrew can correct me if I’m wrong!)

  • @Tim “Indeed the more proportional a system the less likely it would be that there would ever again be a party able to govern alone, without a coalition.”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Tim probably doesn’t actually like the uncertainty that giving voters a real choice and opportunity to change things, in the way they did in 1997 for example. So here we have someone calling for STV et al because it will actually reduce political change and accountability…

  • The problem is that the more party leaders talk about future coalitions the more they look and sound like people who will do anything to get power and who have lost their principles. So please could you all stop talking about it and concentrate on saving seats rather than idle speculation. If by any chance we are in a position to be part of a coalition after the Election the best thing we could do is walk away from it .
    I would like us to have some policies which will give hope to the poorest and most vulnerable in society and make them a deal breaker. Then we all might feel that we are beginning to return to being a party that stands up for social justice and recover our self respect.

  • My instinct is that talk of coalitions is premature, as we don’t know how things will look until 8 May, and destructive if it causes us to pre-judge things.

    The task for now is to fight a good election campaign.

    Personally, I am proud of the fact that we entered the coalition, though it was bound to do us harm: an impressive example of a party putting national interest ahead of party interest.

  • We can certainly avoid talking about coalitions. But that won’t stop the press and the voters from talking about them; especially as the election draws closer and it looks (if it does look) as though there will be another hung Parliament. If we don’t shape the discussion, it will be shaped for us, and we’ll just have to live with the consequences.

    Of course it quite possibly is true that any attempt by the Liberal Democrat leadership to shape the discussion of future coalitions will be counterproductive. Maybe the best thing to do is to be reactive. But don’t think that we’re going to escape having to address our rôle in a future hung parliament before May. The question will come up, again and again, and Clegg & Co. are going to have to say something or look extremely evasive.

  • @Mark Argent: “I am proud of the fact that we entered the coalition, though it was bound to do us harm: an impressive example of a party putting national interest ahead of party interest.”

    That isn’t why Nick Clegg signed up for coalition at all. And it’s not why he’s stayed in coalition. At first it was believed, or at least claimed, that entering the coalition would boost the party by showing how well it could handle being in power. There may have been a second item on the agenda: to firmly detach the Liberal Democrats from the left and move them to a position where they would be the natural coalition partners of the Tories. But at no time and no place has the question of “putting national interest first” ever come up and it would be deeply naïve to suppose it had — and it’s not very flattering to one’s readers to suppose they’d find that even remotely credible. Politicians simply do not think like that — not the ones who survive.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Mar '15 - 1:21pm

    Ian Nicholson

    I`m astonished that any of you think that your party is going to be in a coalition government after May. Do so few of you know how toxic your brand is?

    I don’t myself think a coalition is that likely. As you’re suggesting, the LibDems are likely to lose rather than gain seats, so where are all the extra non-Labervative MPs to come from that would make a no-majority Parliament more likely this time round than previously? There were ten general elections between the last time we had a no-majority Parliament and this time, so why should there not be another ten or so before it happens again?

    UKIP and the Greens may win a significant proportion of votes, but it’s hard to see how they could translate to seats. The SNP are the most likely biggest 3rd party, but obviously they are limited to Scottish seats.

    On the “toxicity” of the Liberal Democrat “brand” (I hate the idea of political parties as “brands” because it goes along with the illiberal idea of parties being top-down things rather than democratic networks), this has a lot to do with the failure to get across the message that actually a junior coalition partner does not have that much influence. Do the Liberal Democrats deserve the punishment they’re getting for having agreed to the government that the British people elected by the way they cast their votes? Anyone who says the Conservatives did not deserve to be able to do what they have done because over half the population “voted against” them should be shouting out the case for proportional representation. So, why are you so silent on that, you Labour “nah nah nah nah nah”s?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Mar '15 - 1:33pm

    Martin

    Looking at The New Statesman article it is fairly clear that Farron is making a point often aired on these pages that arithmetic of seats in parliament will dictate what discussions are possible and does not seem to be committing himself to a coalition

    Indeed, the lesson of 2010 OUGHT to be that this idea that it can be said in advance what coalition will be formed is nonsense. With the sort of balance we are likely to get, the situation is much more likely to be as it was that coalition of the 3rd party with the 1st party is viable, but any other coalition apart from the “grand coalition” of 1st and 2nd parties is not.

    What no-one in the leadership of the LibDems is willing to admit, though actually it’s quite a big factor, is that another factor weakening the negotiating strength of the LibDems in forming the coalition was its unexpectedly poor results in the election. Normally, during general election campaigns the Liberal Democrat (and before that, Liberal and Lib/SDP) share of the intended vote in opinion polls goes up as people become more aware of this option as the campaign goes on. This time, though it had a big boost at the start, it ended up where it was before that boom, and much lower than predicted even in the last polls of the campaign. It was clear from this that the LibDems were on the way down, and so would be the biggest losers in another general election if one was called soon after because no stable government could be formed. Suppose instead the Liberal Democrats had done unexpectedly well in the actual votes. The fear then would be that they were on the way up and would do even better if another general election wad called soon. This would have given them much more negotiating strength.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Mar '15 - 1:51pm

    Tim

    But isn’t the Lib Dems’ preference for a system (multi-member STV) which is even less likely to produce a strong single-party government?

    Indeed the more proportional a system the less likely it would be that there would ever again be a party able to govern alone, without a coalition.

    So it hardly seems fair to criticism a system like FPTP when your proposed alternative would be even worse!

    Nonsense.

    The problem with FPTP is the way it distorts representation, so that the share of the seats does not depend on the share of the vote. How can a fair coalition be formed when an effect of FPTP is that one of the parties has a much greater share of the seats than share of votes and the other much less?

    Had the share of seats held by Conservatives and LibDems reflected the share of votes, there would not even be twice as many Conservative MPs let alone the 5 times as many that FPTP gave us. Isn’t it rather obvious that the difference in balance would have given us a rather different sort of coalition? It would also have meant a Labour-LibDem coalition would have been viable, so giving the LibDems a lot more negotiating power in forming the coalition.

    Had the Liberal Democrats organised their campaign in a slightly different way in 2010, they could have got the same share of votes but many less seats. This is what happened in the 1983 general election when the Liberal/SDP alliance got a higher proportion of the vote than the LibDems in 2010, but a much smaller number of seats. The LibDems won more seats in 2010 because they concentrated more resources in a small number of constituencies at the expense of not running a serious campaign in many others.

    So isn’t this indeed something of a fruit machine effect? If the LibDems decide to do their campaigning in one sort of way, there’s no majority, and the LibDems are castigated for “propping up the Tories” by agreeing to a government dominated by the Tories. If the LibDems had decided to do their campaigning in another way, the share of the votes won by the parties could have been exactly the same but the distortion of the system somewhat greater, meaning the Tories would have won a majority, and we’d have a pure Tory government. Labour, who support our current electoral system think this is fair and just.

    So, you Labour “nah nah nah nah nah”s, why is that? Why is it fine and just for you to prop up the Tories by supporting an electoral system which give them many more seats than their share of the vote, but “toxic” for the LibDems to accept the only government that can come out of the distortions of that electoral system?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Mar '15 - 10:03pm

    David-1

    That isn’t why Nick Clegg signed up for coalition at all. And it’s not why he’s stayed in coalition. At first it was believed, or at least claimed, that entering the coalition would boost the party by showing how well it could handle being in power.

    Well, Nick Clegg might have though that way, but plenty of long-term members of the Liberal Democrats who have actually thought this thing through, seen how it tends to work in other countries, or experienced something similar in a local government situation knew perfectly well that the fate of junior coalition partners is always to take all the blame for unpopular things and get none of the credit for popular things.

    But at no time and no place has the question of “putting national interest first” ever come up and it would be deeply naïve to suppose it had — and it’s not very flattering to one’s readers to suppose they’d find that even remotely credible.

    Sorry, but you are wrong. That was most certainly the only reason why I was willing to accept the coalition, and I am sure I am not the only member of the Liberal Democrats to think that way. As someone on the left of the party who has no time at all for the Conservatives, and joined the party originally because I felt it was the most effective way of defeating the Tories where I lived, I accepted the coalition ONLY because I could see it was the only stable government that could be formed from the May 2010 Parliament, and I felt it would be bad for the country to leave it without a stable government.

  • David Evans 3rd Mar '15 - 11:49am

    I’m afraid Mark Argent making the same mistake by clinging to the belief that it was all inevitable coalition would do us harm. Hence we don’t have to face up to the fact that Nick made a total mess of being in coalition: Making his objective to prove that a coalition with Lib Dems could stick in coalition for five years, as opposed to use it to deliver Liberal values throughout all of government; Giving in on big things at the very start and then being left clinging on in the hope of getting a few scraps from the table later; and looking throughout like David Cameron’s bag carrier, with “If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate.” Ultimately Nick chose to judge David Cameron on what he said and not what he did.

    As Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” To which he could have added “… or simply persuade themselves that it is all inevitable.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Mar '15 - 12:58pm

    David Evans

    I’m afraid Mark Argent making the same mistake by clinging to the belief that it was all inevitable coalition would do us harm.

    Oh, I think that was inevitable alright. If you look at the history of small parties going into coalitions across the world, generally they don’t do well out of it. The problem with Clegg is that he’s made what was always going to be a difficult situation a whole lot worse. He seems to have done all he can to think of the sort of ways in which small parties that join coalitions get attacked and do whatever would serve best to make those attacks stick.

    As David-1 puts it “At first it was believed, or at least claimed, that entering the coalition would boost the party by showing how well it could handle being in power”. Yes, that line was put out, and it was incredibly damaging, and anyone who had looked at how coalitions tend to work for small parties would have avoided that line being established rather than promoted it. It’s a line which sets us up for failure, because inevitably the coalition’s policies are going to be more towards those of the larger party, so if you put across the idea that you are very happy and pleased with it in the smaller party, that WILL be read as you being very happy and pleased at having to abandon most of your policies in return for “power”.

    The next ridiculous thing done was to help pump out the Tory propaganda line that somehow they’d stopped being the “nasty” party and had changed, becoming all about “Big Society” and “the greenest government ever” and so on, when nothing was further from the truth. The only way the Tories had changed is to become even more an extremist far-right sell-the-country-to-global-fat-cats party than it was under Thatcher. One of the most damning things I have heard about Clegg is that he was “surprised” to find how right-wing the Tories were underneath. Duh, if you hadn’t realised that in 2010, you’re incredibly naive. The other most damning thing I’ve heard about him was that he did not realise how much gut hatred there was of the Tories in so many places. Duh, what planet does this man live on? Quite obviously, if he did not realise such things, he was going to do a rubbish job at negotiating with them and putting across the right public image. Who put this man where he is? Well, actually us, er, but then remember how the right-wing and elitist press (you know who I mean by the second word) pushed and pushed for this clearly unsuitable person to be our next leader, refusing even to consider anyone else because Clegg was “one of us” i.e. public school Westminster Bubble type, rather than a long-term Liberal anti-establishment type.

  • What’s all this talk about “stable government”? It is a foregone conclusion that, through this “fruit machine of an electoral system” a stable government in May is an impossibility because the discrepancy between votes cast and the distribution of MPs in Parliament will be so grotesquely out of kilter that whatever government gets cobbled together from this mess will not have a democratic mandate. We’ll have to deal with that as we find it and it will call for realism honesty and humility from all “elected” politicians. The LibDems can play a very constructive role in this respect: by forcing the other parties and their MPs every working day of the week for the duration of the parliament to face the fact that they have no mandate. And that is the only way I can think of that they can repair the damage of the last 5 years. If, on the other hand, LibDems still talk about another possible coalition with the Conservatives, they must have a death wish. for it will reduce them to them politically utter irrelevancy for at least a generation after another such coalition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Mar '15 - 10:02am

    Tom Voute

    What’s all this talk about “stable government”? It is a foregone conclusion that, through this “fruit machine of an electoral system” a stable government in May is an impossibility because the discrepancy between votes cast and the distribution of MPs in Parliament will be so grotesquely out of kilter that whatever government gets cobbled together from this mess will not have a democratic mandate.

    It WILL have a democratic mandate. In the May 2011 referendum, the “No” campaign attacked the AV system as if it were proportional representation (which, of course, it is not), and pushed very strongly the line that the current electoral system is the best one to have as it usually gives governments of one party. The “First Past the Post” principle is that it is better to prop up whichever party gets the most votes by giving it more seats than its share of the vote, and so to avoid the “undemocratic horse-trading” of coalition formation.

    I do not believe they were right, but I was on the losing side. Time and time again we heard from people “I used to think coalitions would be good, but after what I’ve seen with this one, I no longer agree – so I’m voting ‘No’ to AV because in future I want to ensure we always have single party government”.

    By two-to-one, the people of the UK voted against electoral reform, after a campaign in which this was the dominant attack on it.

    So, sorry, but the latest opinion polls make it look quite likely we will have a majority Conservative government this year, on the Tories getting 35% or so of the vote. By two-to-one, the people of the UK said that is what they they, so they will see from 2015-2020 just what it is they voted for. No-one who voted “No” to AV, none of those Labour Party people who were so prominent on the No side, will have any right to say that government does not have a mandate. It will have a mandate as it destroys this country, and as its horrendous right-wing nature shows up just what the Liberal Democrats managed to hold back in the coalition. Those who did not actively campaign for “No” but remained silent because they wanted to see the Liberal Democrats punished by “No” winning must also take their share of the blame.

    Please remember me saying this when it happens. I say it now because when it happens I want to be able to say “I told you so”.

  • SIMON BANKS 5th Mar '15 - 6:55pm

    What the quote clearly shows is that Tim Farron pointed out the electoral arithmetic might limit our choices, as it did last time: that a coalition short of a majority was unlikely to work. In the event of us plus party A amounting to a majority and us plus party B not amounting to a majority, a coalition of us plus party B would be difficult, to say the least. In principle that does not rule out a coalition of more than two parties (the norm in many European countries) but I can’t see any of the options actually working. Of course that still leaves the possibility of a minority government with or without our broad support and the possibility that the SNP rather than the Lib Dems will be the kingmakers, and the situation Tim rightly judged unlikely but did not rule out, that the electoral arithmetic does give us options of us plus party A or us plus party B.

    What would be incredibly naive would be for us to leave ourselves with only one option in advance of negotiations. What is worrying is the impression Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander are creating that we want to be included in the next government at all costs.

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  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 22nd Nov - 9:40am
    Martin, I feel compelled to add to your partially successful thinking assistance: It seems generally accepted that another referendum must be binding, i.e. the result...
  • User AvatarThomas 22nd Nov - 9:14am
    The fact that the Republican Party was founded as an anti-slavery progressive party, with a large number of its founders being progressives and liberals, makes...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 22nd Nov - 9:13am
    Revoke as a "pure-play" LibDem policy is entirely logical and democratic. If the 17,4 million from 2016 are still firm on leave, an outright LibDem...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 22nd Nov - 9:12am
    @ Yousef, "I guarantee that Labour and Tory manifestos will be full of all the fantasy policies and money-growing-on-trees economics" And I can guarantee that...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 22nd Nov - 9:02am
    And what about the look on Burgos’s face when he realised that the quite ordinary guy in the audience was earning over £80,000 a year?...