Why I support the Coalition: in praise of compromise

I support the Coalition. Or, more precisely, I want to see Lib Dem policies and principles actually changing people’s lives, not just piling up forever more in some dusty old cupboard of policy papers and manifestos past, and right now the Coalition is without a doubt the only game in town when it comes to achieving that.

But what about all those horrible compromises we’re having to make? What about the compromise on tuition fees and many other areas? What about the 35% of the Lib Dem manifesto that’s not in the Coalition Agreement? How can we live with those nasty Tories in so many ministerial positions?

There are those who see compromise as at best a necessary evil and at worst a step too far. In compromising, our critics argue, the Lib Dems have sold out our principles.

Nonsense.

Compromise isn’t a necessary evil of politics, it’s at the very core of what’s good about politics.

There are millions of different people out there with their own opinions on what’s wrong with our country, what’s right with it, what we should be doing. They’re never going to all agree, and nor should they.

So we have politics, because the alternative is a big punch-up.

Politics isn’t religion. It isn’t about finding the one true path and following it come what may. It’s about finding a way for all those people to rub along.

Political parties are compromises. Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, had to allow his Government to do certain things he strongly disagreed with to keep the coalition that is the Labour Party together. Of course he did. Obama’s first year as US President was full of compromises despite his own Democrats having control of Congress.

And the really critical point is that this is no bad thing.

Sure, I have my views on what the country should do. Views which, taken as a whole package, the vast majority of people in the Lib Dems, never mind the whole country, would doubtless not agree with one hundred percent. On some of them history will prove me right, some wrong and on many history will no doubt remain defiantly clueless.

But would it really be better for the country if my opinions, or yours, or Nick Clegg’s, or Ed Miliband’s, or David Cameron’s, or Nick Griffin’s, were the one set of opinions that alone drove policy. Would our world really be a better place without compromise?

Different people – and different groups of people – reaching accommodations which they might not all agree with but can at least live with is what it’s all about, whether you want to improve your town or village, drive forward policies for a country or deliver diplomatic solutions as an alternative to wars across the world.

Of course there is such a thing as a compromise too far – when the deal you get is so poor that it wasn’t worth doing.

Is that where the Lib Dems have found ourselves?

We gained the support of 23% of the public in May, and are seeing nearly two thirds of our manifesto put into practice, including all four of our key election pledges. We’re delivering on our stated aim of sorting out the economic mess the country was in – and for all their objecting to every single cut, we know Labour planned their own but haven’t given a single clue as to what their cuts would be.

The main political parties are overlapping broad churches and always have been. Centre parties around the world tend to gather fewer votes that their opponents on the moderate right and left, and have to take their chances where they arise.

The Lib Dems have done that, and the result in my view is a country a great deal better off than if either Labour or the Conservatives had been left to rule alone.

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58 Comments

  • I too agreed with a coalition with the Tories, but not a pseudo merger.

    I too believe that compromise is the only game in town.

    However, we are not seeing that. Clegg is obsessed with Government providing a united front at all times and for all policies (with the exception of electoral reform). We are being told it is two parties one policy.

    This is not plural politics. Plural politics should be where disagreements and compromise are accepted to be at the heart of Government and are public. There should be no sin in saying I will vote for xyz because I am part of a coalition, even if I don’t agree with it. The Telegraph showed that this is happening, plural politics should not hide this from electors.

    There are exceptions though. Tuition fees was an individual promise made by people in an election campaign that centred on no more broken promises. No amount of words changes that fact, voters were lied to.

  • Iain, you forget – the party has been taken over by an extreme right-wing cabal who have sold out on every conceivable issue. We’d have been much better off if we’d joined up with Labour, the Greens, the Nats et al.

  • Dominic Curran 4th Jan '11 - 10:34am

    hmmm. the thrust of your article is right – compromise is a fact of political life, and we didn’t win the election so will have to accept things we don’t like.

    But yet…but yet…we are participating in a government that is more right-wing than Thatcher’s. We are now engaged in pushing policies that will, inter alia, see the slow death of council housing, marketised higher education and a semi-privatised NHS. All of these are very Tory policies, and represent little or no compromise on their part. And what are we getting out of this alliance with horrifically right-wing policies? An increase in personal tax allowances and electoral annihilation,. as well as rapidly declining membership. Whoopie-do.

    Rather than moderating the Tories and forcing them to compromise, we are enabling them to do things that are so anti-thetical to the liberal left that we are actually jeapordising our own viability as a political force. Compromise is nothing to be ashamed of – but it mustn’t take place in a moral vacuum. And i don’t see any evidence of our morality being stamped on these awful policies. At some point decent people have to stand up and say ‘i don’t think this is worth it’ – and for me, being a party of the government that privatises the NHS and ends council housing is that point.

  • “At some point decent people have to stand up and say ‘i don’t think this is worth it’ – and for me, being a party of the government that privatises the NHS and ends council housing is that point.”

    This, to me, sums things up nicely. Shibboleths to be preserved at all costs.

    I suspect that most people Do not say “I want healthcare to be provided by a centralised government organisation and housing to be provided by local authorioties – with no alternative – in perpetuity”.

    No – what the majority of people will say is “I want healthcare tailored to my needs that is free at the point of access, and decent quality affordable rented accommodation.”

    Now, the answer those requirements that may be the NHS in its current form, and it may well be council housing, but it isn’t necessarilly so.

    Your argument would be much improved by referring to how you would deliver the above and why your chosen delivery mechanisms are better than the alternatives. For that, surely, is what Liberalism is about – pluralism and the defence of the individual against the powerful.

  • Leviticus18_23 4th Jan '11 - 10:48am

    If we all keep saying the coalition is great long enough and loud enough, maybe one day we’ll all believe it.

    Just concentrate on the 4 things you have ‘accomplished’ and forget all the other things that the party stood for and promised.

    All this nonsense makes the lies and the broken promises look even worse.

  • “If we all keep saying the coalition is great long enough and loud enough, maybe one day we’ll all believe it. ”

    I don’t think that’s what he said, or we are saying, Leviticus. To paraphrase Churchill “The current coalition was the worst possible outcome of the last election given the electoral situation except all the others.”

  • Dominic Curran 4th Jan '11 - 11:18am

    @ Tabman

    actually, i think most people would say that they don’t want a semi-privatised health care system, even if it is free at the point of use (especially if the higher costs of privatised administation mean higher taxes or reduced services). As for your claim that most people want ‘decent quality affordable rented accommodation’, that is precisely what will begin to disappear under this government. Andrew Stunnell is changing the funding system for building council housing to ensure that public money will only be made available for building new homes to those authorites/housing associations that charge 80%of market rent for short term tenancies – that’s not social housing, i’m afraid.

    I’m not stuck in an NHS delivery model – I’m quite taken by European social insurance models. However, this is not what is being proposed – instead the NHS is being ripped openand being laid bare for to market forces. Today’s Guardian has a good piece about it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/03/tories-chaos-nhs-sack-lansley

    Individuals need defence against market failures in health and housing, and we are enabling the Tories to dismantle those protections, tabman.

  • I agree with much of this article and accept the current coalition agreement – but I also agree with those commenters concerned about the ‘united front’ issue.

    Whilst the current party leadership is not a ‘right wing cabal’, and Clegg is a committed liberal (and Mill-ite), he is unfortunately surrounded by civil servants, so used to a single party government, telling him non-stop that he cannot possibly disagree with other Conservative colleagues.

    The establishment obsession with ‘unity’ is directly at odds therefore with the concept of reasonable compromise and coalition. What I – and I think a lot of Lib Dems et al – would love to see, is Clegg saying ‘a Lib Dem majority would X, but in the context of the votes cast at the General Election, we will compromise on Y.’ For this to happen, collective responsibility rules would have to change.

    What really irritates me is the targetting of Lib Dems by eg The Guardian, for the work we are doing, admittedly in comrpomise and coalition, when a huge percentage of the country voted Conservative and [if one is a democrat] should probably deserve to see some of their policies implemented [much as I may disagree].

  • Dominic – you can take anything written by Pollyanna with a pinch of salt.

    I suggest you take a look at the article Polly quotes: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/30/nhs-privatisation-lansley-change-course

    It is far more balanced and constructive (and doesn’t say what Polly attributes to it).

  • Dominic Curran 4th Jan '11 - 12:23pm

    @ tabman

    That article by PT was simply the most current thing i’d seen – i’ve spoken to people in the health sector who are deeply worried about the policy. Ultimately the Coalition’s health policy doesn’t give patients any more control – instead it gives that control to GPs who will sub-contract out that control to private companies, probably at a greater long-term cost to the taxpayer than if it was done in-house.

    i did read the article PT quoted, and while it was more balanced, once you took into account the fact that it was written by a Tory MP, and so was always going to pull its punches when criticising the Tories’ health policy, it was also a very effective demolition of much of lansley’s policy.

    I say again, what you somewhat disparagingly call ‘shibboleths’, i.e,. a non-privatised healthcare system and public housing, i call principles, and our lot in governemnt are allowing those principles to be whittled away and, in the long-term, abandoned.

  • Dominic – you’re arguing at cross-purposes. Your statement seems to imply that health care and affordable housing ALWAYS has to be provided by government employees – it’s a principle, an article of faith, or whatever.

    My question is – why?

  • Iain. You have supported Nick Clegg + the Coalition wholeheartedly since Day 1. That you support them now does not surprise – nor does it confound. However – your reasons for support are nebulous at best.

    In compromising, our critics argue, the Lib Dems have sold out our principles The party has chosen to use the term ‘compromise’ to mask Nick Clegg’s policy U-Turns , in the same way Nick has attempted to re-define ‘fairness’ to cover regressive policies. It’s too easy to tear this apart.
    Tuition Fees were not a compromise. They were a U-Turn on a publically made promise. How can you tell? Nick said pre-election “I will vote against”. Post-Coalition he said “The increase is right”. That cannot be defined as compromise.

    We’re delivering on our stated aim of sorting out the economic mess the country was in Albeit in an entirely contradictory way to what the party campaigned on. Again – this isn’t compromise. It’s saying one thing to get elected and then saying another to stay in power. It can’t be defined as compromise.

    And don’t be too quick to claim credit for this. It means you’ll get the blame if the economy continues to go in it’s current direction of exponential inflation, rising unemployment and collapse in the US + Eurozone.

    are seeing nearly two thirds of our manifesto put into practice, including all four of our key election pledges all of them compromised (the Pupil Premium has led to 75% of schools having their budgets cut 4eg) whereas the Tories are having 90%+ of their manifesto implemented with very little compromise. But this is the biggest problem I have with the party.

    You claim that to have the LD manifesto delivered should be celebrated. I disagree. This Tory government is implementing radical right-wing policies unopposed because of the majority you deliver to them in Coalition in Parliament. To the man in the street – do you honestly believe they will care about your manifesto commitments if at the same time the NHS is dismantled; taxes rise; transport costs shoot up; fuel becomes un-affordable; the schools system is torn asunder; defence spending is cut etc etc?

    The Party has decided that it likes being in power. The electorate looks to be saying (according to polls + all data available) we don’t like what you’re doing with it. Ed Milliband is right. This is a Tory government.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '11 - 1:19pm

    “Tabman
    Posted 4th January 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
    Dominic – you’re arguing at cross-purposes. Your statement seems to imply that health care and affordable housing ALWAYS has to be provided by government employees – it’s a principle, an article of faith, or whatever.”

    Look Tabman, read before you sneer:

    “Dominic Curran
    Posted 4th January 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’m not stuck in an NHS delivery model – I’m quite taken by European social insurance models. However, this is not what is being proposed”

  • Dominic Curran 4th Jan '11 - 1:32pm

    @ Tabman
    “Dominic – you’re arguing at cross-purposes. Your statement seems to imply that health care and affordable housing ALWAYS has to be provided by government employees – it’s a principle, an article of faith, or whatever”

    Thanks to David Allen for pointing out the inaccuracy of tabman’s comment.

    If the private sector decided to provide decent affordable housing and healthcare for everybody i wouldn’t have a problem with that. The problem is that it doesn’t. Look at the slums that existed before large-scale council housing – that is what happens where the private sector is left to house everybody. Nice homes for those that can afford them, terrible homes for those that can’t. Much the same goes for healthcare – tens of millions of poor Americans can’t afford full health coverage and many go bankrupt trying to pay health bills. Only Medicare and Medicaid stop the problem from being even worse.

    I honestly don’t mind if public services are provided by the private sector at a decent cost with the right values, the right structure and the right regulations in place to ensure good social outcomes. But again, that is not what is being proposed – quite the opposite. Worse, we as a party are enabling the Tories to do what they always wanted to do – undermine and dismantle the welfare state. Do you really want to support a government that effectively legislates to end council housing?

  • Simon McGrath 4th Jan '11 - 1:36pm

    @Iain great piece, of course it is much better to actually be delivering some of our policies than just talking about them. Its a pity the comments above (some of which may actually be from peopl;e who supported the Lib Dems at the election) are so focused on various fictional accounts of what the Coalition is doing.

    I am baffled by all the complaints about involving private firms in the NHS. leaving aside that this started under the last government what possible differnce does it make as long as the NHS is free at the point of use?

  • Simon McGrath 4th Jan '11 - 1:38pm

    @Dominic
    “tens of millions of poor Americans can’t afford full health coverage and many go bankrupt trying to pay health bills. Only Medicare and Medicaid stop the problem from being even worse.”
    all true but what on earth has this to do with anything the Coalition is proposing?

  • Dominic Curran 4th Jan '11 - 2:04pm

    @ Simon

    ok, here’s one example. Andrew Lansley has decreed that NICE will not decide anymore what drugs are value for money for the public purse. Instead of regulating what taxpayers pay for, he has abolished this function and said that GPs should decide. That sounds superfically very localist and desirable. However, GPs will be in no posiiton to ascertain the effectiveness of any particular dryg, as it requires extensive testing, which requires dedicated resources. No one commissioning practice is likely to spend its time and money doing this. Instead, the only source of information about the effectivess of a particular drug will be that that drug’s manufacturers. So GPs will on one side have patients with terrible illnesses making a loud claim on their budget, and on the other side big-pharma pushing expensive and no doubt often poor value drugs, all at the cost of others who need to be treated on that GP’s budget. We will end up with more money being spent on drugs that do not provide good value for money, and the rest of us will suffer.

    Here’s another problem with the prooposals. Let’s say a group of GPs would rather treat patients than be chief execs of their consortia (crazy i know, but bear with me). Given that there will be many, many (mainly US) corporate healthcare providers vying for business, it is very likely that the admin for that consortia will get contracted out. It is also likely that many of the people who will be employed will be ex-PCT staff, as they will ahve the relevant qualifications. So you will have essentially the same job being done then as is done now, by the same people, except that this time there is now a profit going to US medical companies. Is this really desirable? Is it a good use of resources? Does it provide any accountability, given that, especially in rural areas, people don’t have a realilstic choice of GPs? It is a shibboleth of the Tories that the priovate sector is inherently more efficient than the public sector – the expereince of Tube Lines and Metornet tells us otherwise, and indeed the cost of administration of healthcare in the US compared to here, tells us that this isn’t so in health especially.

    In both cases, while the NHS will be free at the point of use, the changes will mean that there are fewer resources, less accountability and greater profiteering than currently exist.

  • Dominic – what you said was:

    “I say again, what you somewhat disparagingly call ‘shibboleths’, i.e,. a non-privatised healthcare system and public housing, i call principles, and our lot in governemnt are allowing those principles to be whittled away and, in the long-term, abandoned.”

    That doesn’t seem to fit with a preference for medical insurance?

    David Allen – see Dominic’s quote above before accusing people (wrongly) of sneering.

  • John Fraser 4th Jan '11 - 8:16pm

    @Tabman
    Posted 4th January 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
    Dominic – you’re arguing at cross-purposes. Your statement seems to imply that health care and affordable housing ALWAYS has to be provided by government employees – it’s a principle, an article of faith, or whatever.

    My question is – why?
    ……………
    Its simple tadman.. becuase in a democracy we want democratic accountability for essential and civilising services. Just look at the chaos privatisation of gas and electricity and how the privatised rail has made it vittually impossible to have a proper planned tarilways policy.

  • David Thompson 4th Jan '11 - 8:20pm

    Compromise now appears to include control orders according to the Guardian reports this evening. Great. How many more ‘compromises’ are heading our way?

  • John Fraser: “Its simple tadman.. becuase in a democracy we want democratic accountability for essential and civilising services. Just look at the chaos privatisation of gas and electricity and how the privatised rail has made it vittually impossible to have a proper planned tarilways policy.”

    You’re conflating two wholly separate points. Its not whether the organisation is publically or privately owned, its to do with its size, and how accountable those running it are to those receiving the service. This tends to happen in centralised, monolithic monopolistic organisations regardless of whether they’re publicly or privately owned.

    A clear counter example is the RNLI – it provides an essential and civilising service that is widely regarded to be the best in the world, yet is neither privately owned nor state-run.

  • Andrew Suffield 4th Jan '11 - 8:45pm

    Plural politics should be where disagreements and compromise are accepted to be at the heart of Government and are public. There should be no sin in saying I will vote for xyz because I am part of a coalition, even if I don’t agree with it.

    I agree with everything you have said here, but must point out that this is explicitly banned in the UK government. The only real reason for this is because it traditionally always has been. The UK government “speaks with one voice”; members of it are required to keep their disagreements private, as part of their acceptance of their office.

    I do think that it would be a good idea to repeal this rule. Please write to your MP and ask him to support this.

  • being a party of the government that privatises the NHS

    The changes to the NHS were in the Liberal Democrat manifesto were they not? Assuming you campaigned for it, you are just as complicit as Clegg and Co.

  • Simon McGrath 4th Jan '11 - 9:12pm

    @John ‘Just look at the chaos privatisation of gas and electricity and how the privatised rail has made it vittually impossible to have a proper planned tarilways policy.’
    Really – any evidence electricity and gas is less efficient or more expensive since privatisation
    On the other hand look at state owned water in N Ireland and the lack of investment that has led to, compared to privatised water companies in the UK

  • I think Coalition unity has much to be said for it – I’d rather, for example, that we have improvements in those areas where we and the Tories disagree – such as Tuition Fees, Control Orders and so on; rather than they go behind our back (as they would) and engineer a compromise with the more authoritarian elements of the Opposition (as they would)

  • There is a certain irony of those who chastise the Liberal Democrats for breaking their pledge on Tuition Fees, yet also chastise them for not breaking their pledges on the NHS. Even more bizarrely, the two pledges come from the same chapter in the Manifesto: http://network.libdems.org.uk/manifesto2010/libdem_2010_life.pdf (page 42)

  • Tom
    “There is a certain irony of those who chastise the Liberal Democrats for breaking their pledge on Tuition Fees, yet also chastise them for not breaking their pledges on the NHS.”
    I also think there’s an irony that the same people are often the first to chastise the Liberal Democrats for keeping their pledge to seek a parliamentary agreement with whichever of Labour and Conservative secured the most support in the 2010 General Election.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '11 - 10:43pm

    The party simply HAS to find a way of getting across the fact that we have essentially a Conservative government with a little Liberal Democrat influence. Then it could well celebrate what effects that influence has had and be respected for it.

    However, it (or rather those leading it) embarked at the start on a promotional policy of “owning the coalition”, meaning we had to suppose everything it did was marvellous and had our full support. This has been ENORMOUSLY damaging to us. Far from showing “coalitions can work”, it has suggested they cannot, it has suggested the smaller party will inevitably get eaten up and destroyed by them.

    It does seem there are some at the top of our party who don’t mind that – they will keep their seats thanks to an electoral pact with the Tories, and it doesn’t matter this will destroy the Liberal Democrats as a mass membership party because the vast bulk of its members will walk out, because those at the top don’t think in terms of mass membership. To them, members are just an infernal nuisance, and they want politics to be as reported in the national media – all about the people at the top in Westminster. Once the pact with the Tories is in place, they will get plentiful funding from big business, so who needs mass membership?

    The Liberal Party painfully built itself up from having reached that situation. “National Liberal” became just a curious label some Conservatives adopted after half the party endorsed the sort of formal pact some in the national media are now urging on us.

    Look – I argued the case for the coalition myself when it was formed, and I still don’t see any alternative to it. Those of us who are on the left of the party but nevertheless acceped the coaltion have been treated VERY shabbily since by those on the right who have used it to try and assert their dominance within the party.

  • Matthew – you’re arguing that the coalition is killing theLib Dems. Meanwhile, the Tory right is arguing that its killing them.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1343869/If-Cameron-keeps-appeasing-Nick-Clegg-risks-killing-Tory-Party.html#ixzz1A2phY2fh

    I suspect there’s a middle between those two ends, don’t you?

  • David Allen 4th Jan '11 - 11:29pm

    Tabman,

    No doubt David Cameron is quite happy to see his far right wing grumble about the coalition and the Lib Dems. He will find their grumbles helpful when he tells any uppity Lib Dems why they can’t have concessions on policies. The Tory right wing are useful idiots as far as Cameron is concerned.

    Clegg is not equally happy when people like Matthew speak up against what the coalition is doing. So whereas the Tories will tend to exaggerate the strength and significance of their far-right wing, the Cleggies are desperately trying to downplay the strength of those in their party who still believe what they believed five or ten years ago.

    You’re probably right that “there’s a middle between those two ends”. The middle is Cameron getting his way on pretty much everything he wants, by balancing off the competing pressures from his right and his left. Liberalism it isn’t!

  • David Allen 4th Jan '11 - 11:45pm

    “I am baffled by all the complaints about involving private firms in the NHS. … what possible difference does it make as long as the NHS is free at the point of use?”

    Well, it’s a bit like saying that when you get bored with driving to work, you could always try switching to a hitch-hiking policy, given that your commitment to getting in on time is nominally undimmed, and there is plenty of evidence that hitch-hiking can work. Then of course, when you turn out to be late three times out of five, you tell your boss that it was all a big surprise, and not your fault at all.

    Yes, fully privatised systems can, with effort, be set up to put in the necessary checks and balances (via Ofgen and the like), and with goodwill, the inevitable pressures toward the development of a two-tier system where money talks louder can be held at bay. But if you say that you are “baffled” at the concern, what you’re saying is that you have no intention of bothering much with putting in checks and balances. In which case, non-Tory Lib Dems will be right to oppose a big expansion of private sector power!

  • daft ha'p'orth 4th Jan '11 - 11:54pm

    @Simon McGrath
    “I am baffled by all the complaints about involving private firms in the NHS. leaving aside that this started under the last government what possible differnce does it make as long as the NHS is free at the point of use?”

    Just going to point out here that ‘free at the point of use’ is not the best description for society’s expectations of the NHS. This has little to do with the involvement of private firms per se, but since you brought it up, I think it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.

    Many ‘buy now pay later’ offers are ‘free at the point of use.’ As we have seen with tuition fees, the concept doesn’t stop the powers that be from charging you punitive amounts of money after the event. My impression is that the attraction of the NHS is more the idea that everybody should contribute alongside everybody else in a manner proportionate to earnings – those (legitimately) requiring more from the service than others should not be individually financially damaged as a result of their usage of the service, before, during or after the (necessary, approved) medical intervention in question.

    ‘Free at the point of use’ may have sounded catchy at some point, but as pronounced by our current government, it has already been demonstrated to be a talking point containing a huge loophole – the service in question can be reformed until it is ‘ridiculously, punitively expensive after the point of use’ without ceasing to comply with this slogan.

  • “There are exceptions though. Tuition fees was an individual promise made by people in an election campaign that centred on no more broken promises. No amount of words changes that fact, voters were lied to.”

    Complete rubbish, nobody was lied to. A lie is something told when the liar knows full well that they will do something different.

    Having to change your mind about what is right to do having promised to do something different is a bad thing to do, but is far from lying.

  • Just curious to know by what measure 65% of our manifesto is being implemented by the coalition government. Is it clauses/word count/changed expenditure in £/etc?

    I share the view that operating in a coalition and making it work is better than leaving our policies on the shelf. However I am very unhappy with the implementation. Three big pre-election issues – VAT, Tuition Fees, Control Orders – all seem to have become “jetisonable” and regretably this is what will be remembered in the next few May local elections.

  • Carry on re-arranging those deck chairs won’t you?

    Of course compromise can be a virtue; the problem for the LD’s is that they are not seen as having compromised, but as having totally dilated. What much of the debate above forgets is that the non-members who (used to) make up your electoral support are quite capable of believing that compromise is a good thing, but that this particular Coalition deal is disasterous for your party and the country. The LD’s supine acceptance of such a junior position is already costing you dear:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lib-dem-support-hits-alltime-low-2176158.html

    By all means, ignore the large iceberg on the horizon, but don’t expect disillusioned former supporters to trust you again!

  • I can see once a hung parliament occured the Liberal Democrats were in a very tough position. The Labour Party basically said “well of course you will support us, that was your point all along”. While the Tories said on the issues you were honest about and we will join you, but not on our basic instincts. So what is best for a party, one that treats you as a non-person(Labour) or one who will take your interests into account, but may anger you(Tories). If you were ever to be serious as a singular party, You had to take the latter.

  • Spirit of 56 5th Jan '11 - 9:57am

    Cuse (many posts ago got it right as far as I am concerned)
    “We’re delivering on our stated aim of sorting out the economic mess the country was in Albeit in an entirely contradictory way to what the party campaigned on. Again – this isn’t compromise. It’s saying one thing to get elected and then saying another to stay in power. It can’t be defined as compromise.”

    The most fundamental compromise we have made is on the economic policy adopted to deal with the banking crisis. We campaigned for a Keynesian (Liberal) approach of slower and shallower deficit reduction measures and we are governing on a Conservative economic agenda. Once this approach was given away in the Coalition agreement all the other thoings we have had to give away follow on. This is the prinsiple we should not have given away but we have and it is this even more than the electoral lies over tuition fees, which are morally appalling, and no better than the actions of Phil Woolas in my opinion, which is going to be so electorally damaging.

    It is this economic sell out that takes us straight into accepting all the ill thought through privatising ideas of the Conservative agenda, the slashing of Local Authority budgets, the disgraceful NHS changes so will described here by Dominic Curran (particularly the neutering of NICE which has been doing an excellent job), the so called “Free Schools” project (as a school governor in an area where the local authority has done an excellent job we are being forced to consider mending something that isn’t broken becuase our excellent Local authority support is being dismantled) etc. etc.

    We are also having to defend what are clearly regressive increases in VAT, and before anyone claims this is a progressive change please read Economics 101! In compensation we are given little titbits from the Tory table like taking a few people out of taxation at the bottom end, which I suspect all parties would try to do, an underfunded amount of money to the disadvantaged in school which will not compenaste for the other changes in funding.

    Is anyone asking what our voters think of all this? I am sure people didn’t vote Liberal Democrat in the last election to have the Tory agenda foisted on them. I have an advantage in that I have worked for the party in the South and the North and know that a large proportion of our southern vote comes from disillusioned Labour supporters either disillisioned because of specific historic Labour policies or because in their seat only the Liberal can defeat the Tory. In the North a lot of our vote has come from more recently disillusioned Labour voters because of the Gulf War who saw the Liberal Democratic Party as Labour without the nasty bits and Tories who want to unseat a Labour MP. We have a core of real Liberals ,probably up to to 8-10% over the last few years, but this is not going to be enough to withstand the flood of people moving away from the Party whatever Iain Roberts may like to think of their views of the Coalition. Any well run business would be tracking this, are we?

    Some short term predictions, Labour to hold the Oldham and Saddleworth seat in the by election, a massive loss of council seats in May and the defeat of the AV proposition in the referendum, after this will the Leadership take notice?

  • @ Spirit of 56

    An excellent summation. I don’t think the leadership is listening, and I don’t think it will make a blind bit of difference even if they do lose all the votes you mention above. Clegg and his supporters are effectively “locked-in” for as long as the Tories want them…. their only hope is to hang on in there and hope against hope that things turn around before 2015, and that disillusioned voters will forget about the last 6 months, or forgive them for it if things turn out OK.

    Like many, I believe that is a forlorn hope. Their actions in entering the Coalition in the first place, securing such a terrible deal, and following the misguided policies you mention above, will prove to be a huge strategic mistake in my view…. no amount of special pleading that “there was no alternative”, or “we couldn’t afford another election” etc. etc., is going to convince disillusioned former supporters like me to vote LD again.

  • Spirit of 56 5th Jan '11 - 2:09pm

    @ Oranjepan
    “You should try the other books in the series (such as ‘Economics 123′, ‘Economics 1-10′ and ’1-99′)”

    In some ways you are right I am a Scientist and an amateur economist and do appreciate that the progressive/regressive argument is more complex particularly on VAT. There was an idiots guide on the BBC website recently that put both cases. However, my fundamental argument and point is that we are in a Coalition Government that is implimenting policies that are the opposite of the manifesto and the policies that I and many others campaigned for a very short time ago, the reason for this is we have done a complete U turn on economic strategy and the rest follows from this. The Tories are in a better position than we are as it is their economic strategy that the Government is following and therefore they have the accompanying policies, in all areas, that match this.

    We have been left with Liberal Democrat ministers implimenting and supporting this Tory driven agenda and unsurprisingly taking the flak from both the media and in the opinion polls. I still hope that the “Orange Book” Liberals do not support this agenda and have just been politically niaive in government, anything else would be profoundly worrying for our Party.

    There was only one coalition possible after the last election and believing in parties working together then this was probably the only feasible option but the resulting impression it gives of abandoning the key principles that we stood on only 9 months ago to allow the Tories to do their familiar damage to many of the things we (or maybe it is I) support is not good and makes me think that a minority Tory administration may have been a better option. Apart from anything else we could have been able to maintain our pledge to the students and the policy would still have gone through if the parties voted as they stated in their manifestos, the Labour Party was committed to the Brown report. No differennce in end result , hugely different for the reputation of our MPs.

    As far as my predictions are concerned I remain a Liberal Democrat but have resigned from our Local Executive and will not stand in any Local Election while the Coalition is destroying so many things I have fought all my life for.
    I still believe in PR and whilst AV is not PR it is the best we are going to get and I will actively campaign for this but with limited optimism as this will be good opportunity for the electorate to kick the “sell outs”.

  • Iain.

    Quote a response to your post!

    I’ve been pondering how best to sum up everything I’ve read above, and I’ve digested it into a soundbite (that I’ve no doubt read or heard elesewhere that has seeped into my consciousness).

    In essence, I think both you and the party have made a fundamental error.

    You’ve mistaken compromise for being compromised

  • toryboysnevergrowup 5th Jan '11 - 3:00pm

    The problem with compromising in the manner the LibDems have adopted is that it has actually led to the adoption of policies (e.g. on the reduction of the deficit and tuition fees) which run counter to what the majority of people voted for at the election and wanted to see. There is no god given right for a government to have all its policies implemented – especially if they are clearly against the wishes of the country as a whole. If LibDems really believed in new politics they would be quite happy to see the Government suffer defeats on matters where there is no clear electoral mandate – but at the moment the Government appears to be operating according to the old Leninist principles of democratic centralism where a small cabal (including Clegg as sole LibDem with a real voice) make all the decisions.

    What is happening now in terms of democratic accountability will end up giving coalition politics a bad name – and falls well short of best practice in most of Western Europe.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 5th Jan '11 - 3:08pm

    Spirit of 56

    You may have campaigned for a Keynesian (Liberal) approach of slower and shallower deficit reduction measures – but your Leader has made it clear that he had changed his mind on this before the election date. You are right however that the economy is central to everything – the logic of this however is that LibDems should split into two an Orange Book and a Keynesian wing (with perhaps a third party for those who enjoy sitting on fences) so as to avoid further frauds on the electorate.

  • I take it then Iain that you support the changes being made in March to the WCA test for the disabled? changes that will hit the most vulnerable very hard and leave most in the impossible position being stuck in a spiral of being unemployable, benefit ‘punishment’ cuts and poverty

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jan '11 - 6:13pm

    Tabman

    Matthew – you’re arguing that the coalition is killing theLib Dems. Meanwhile, the Tory right is arguing that its killing them.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1343869/If-Cameron-keeps-appeasing-Nick-Clegg-risks-killing-Tory-Party.html#ixzz1A2phY2fh

    I suspect there’s a middle between those two ends, don’t you?

    The obvious middle ground is to let Cameron and Clegg form their own party, so that the rest of us can have our parties back.

    I think, however, this is just a softening up exercise in the overall plan to destroy the Liberal Democrats. It ought to be obvious that any idea of forming a permanent alliance between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is ridiculous. It shows how out of touch media commentators are if they seriously think this is going to work. Do they seriously suppose that I, living as I do at present in a Labour-Tory marginal, am just going to go out and start delivering Conservative Party literature and canvassing for the Conservatives just because Nick Clegg orders me to do so? I don’t know of ANY Liberal Democrats activists ANYWHERE who would do that, so how is any sort of permanent alliance or merger going to work if it means there are no activists left working for the party at local level?

    But, I assume those pushing this line are not such fools as to seriously believe it would work, so the real aim of such talk seems to me to be much more sinister. It is what we have seen the right-wing media do time and time again with our party – they make up a path for us to follow, it is a ridiculous one, but they push it and push it and report it as if it is going to happen, and manage to find a few right-wingers at Westminster to sort of agree to it. Then a compromise which is half way there gets accepted and we on the left of the party are meant to feel grateful for that, while we are demonised as silly sandal-wearing beardies for stopping it going all the way.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    “I think, however, this is just a softening up exercise in the overall plan to destroy the Liberal Democrats”

    It wouldn’t appear to many former supporters like me that you need to believe in some conspiracy to destroy the LD’s; you are managing to do this admirably without external help. Note that what is important here is not the fact of the Coalition, it’s the whole tenor of the relationship, the well attested and self evident sense that it is indeed a “love-in”.

    The whole reason you have been abandoned by whole swathes of your former support is the realisation that the leadership of your party said one thing in opposition and during the GE campaign, whilst being prepared to basically sell the farm at any price to enter power.

    Reports of the LD’s demise may well be premature, but no party has a God given right to exist, far less to prosper. Only time will tell whether the decision to enter the Coalition will ultimately strengthen or weaken your party – but the present signs are hardly encouraging.

  • Dominic Curran 6th Jan '11 - 10:16am

    @ Galen10
    “The whole reason you have been abandoned by whole swathes of your former support is the realisation that the leadership of your party said one thing in opposition and during the GE campaign, whilst being prepared to basically sell the farm at any price to enter power.”

    I agree with the first line but not the second half of that paragraph. If you read the coalition deal, you’ll see that the LibDems got a very good deal out of it. Nick was widely seen as having played his negotiating hand very well after the election – if you don’t think even the commitment of a referendum on AV was an impressive concession to get out of the Tories, you don’t know the Tories.

    i don’t mind people saying Clegg has gone back on solemn promises he made during the election – that’s self evidently true – but i thoroughly object to the charge of opportunism/sell out for a low price. He got a very high price for his sell out, I’ll have you know. he did the right thing, and got a good deal from the Tories. the problem is his supine behaviour since…

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '11 - 12:29am

    @Galen10

    It wouldn’t appear to many former supporters like me that you need to believe in some conspiracy to destroy the LD’s; you are managing to do this admirably without external help. Note that what is important here is not the fact of the Coalition, it’s the whole tenor of the relationship, the well attested and self evident sense that it is indeed a “love-in”.

    Mr Galen10 – please do NOT insult me in this manner. I am a member of the Liberal Democrats, I have been a member of the party (Liberal Party before merger with the SDP) for 32 years. But don’t write “you” in this way, because the Liberal Democarts is more than its leader. I argued against electing him when he stood, I believe he has been a disaster as a leader throughout, just because I am a membr of his party does NOT mean he controls me or I agree with what he says or does, so do NOT insult me by writing “you” as if I am part of this.

    I believe our party needs to be recaptured and turned back into what it was when it inspired me to join and work hard for it. If you are telling the truth about being a former supporter of the party, instead of insulting me and abusing me by counting me in with this “you”, you would be cheering me on and showing that people like me in the Liberal Democrats who oppose its current leadership have outside support. If that can be shown, we CAN get things changed. If people like you can just be written off as Labour trolls, we have a harder job.

    The Liberal Democrats have NOT had a chance to give their view on the coalition since it was formed, so you should NOT assume we are all in agreement with everything done by the leadership of the party within the coalition. My own feeling is that the electoral balance left us with no alternative but to join the coaltion, but that it has been extremely badly handled by the leadership since. They should have made it clear form the start that they are only supporting the coalition because it was what the people voted for, and that seeing as how it’s mostly Tory it most definitely is not what they would be doing if they had the majority. They should have known how to avoid the “love bombing” they have had. Most of all, we should not have elected a Leader who was on the right of the party, Murdoch’s choice, and a rather shallow and easily led man. I said the same during the leadership election. So DON’T you write as if I am any supporter of Clegg. But I have been in this party 32 years, and I am NOT going to let him steal it from me. I would urge anyone else like me also to stay in and fight, not to slink away and abandon the cause.

  • @ Dominic Curran

    I totally disagree with your view that Clegg and his colleagues negotiated a good deal; this isn’t only about the supine failure of the LD’s since entering the Coalition, it IS about the fact that many LD’s still accept the false narrative that there was no alternative, and that they got the best deal they could. The fact is the Tories were in a relatively weak position; what realistic alternative did they have but to give in to LD demands? The issue is were the demands made on them high enough? Many people, including myself believe they were not.

    The demand should have been for control of the same proportion of ministries as the relative % of popular vote, including some of the major ones. You ought to have made cancellation of Trident and introduction of STV a precondition, as well as slower better planned deficit reduction. Instead we have a weak commitment to an AV referendum which may well be lost due to your collapse in national support, deferral of the Trident system as part of a shambolic and deeply flawed strategic defence review, rapid and deep cuts which endanger the economic recovery, and a total policy meltdown over areas as diverse as tuition fees, the bonfire of the quangos, the NHS and no doubt on control orders.

    There WAS an alternative. Your party and its leadership just didn’t have the cojones or the political nous to bring it about.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    Get over yourself and stop being so precious. I was using “you” in a general sense to mean LD members and those supporting the Coalition as per the original post; however, you are a member of the party, so in my view you are equally culpable even if you disagree with particualr parts of current policy in just the same way as a Labour party member who disagreed with New Labour still has to accept part of the responsibility for the odious nature of that party whilst in government.

    Good for you if you disagree with many of the policies the cabal around Clegg have foisted on you. Either put up, or shut up; if you feel that betrayed you should have the honesty to resign from the party or take immedaite steps to ensure that your views prevail by fighting to remove Clegg and his like from positions of power.

  • Dominic Curran 7th Jan '11 - 5:54pm

    @ Galen 10

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ve been in Libdem polictics for many years and when i read the agreement, i was struck at how much of libdem policy was in it. I think the 98% (or therabouts) backing for the coalition agreement at the subsequent members’ conference showed that many others thought it a good deal, too.

    You say that the Tories were in a relatively weak position – that’s not true. They had more votes and many, many more seats, and a significant element of the party who think they have a divine right to rule, which means they see coalition as a total anaethma (as opposed to us jolly liberals, who ‘get it’ to a much greater degree). as a result, the idea that cameron could have sold an STV referendum to his party, or indeed Trident cancellation, is, to me, laughable. I am certain that if no deal had been reached, Cameron would have continued as a minority government for maybe six months, and would have shown no interest in any signifcant policy changes in that time. He would have used that time to let the tory press attack libdems as being weak and hypocritical (witness how they still attack us even in coalition – imagine how much worse they would have been with us out fo government!) and would have gone for an autumn election, which he could have afforded thanks to his millionaire backers. The libdems would have been broke and pilloried, and would have lost many votes in the second election as people voted for ‘strong’ government by voting either labour or tory. we would then, in my humble opinion, have had a majority tory governemnt, the worst of all worlds.

    Naturally, this is only speculation, but not, i think, too incredible, and is i suspect the calculation at the back of Clegg, Laws and Alexander’s minds in May. I really don’t think it was a lack of cojones. But of course, you know better.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '11 - 9:11pm

    Galen10

    The fact is the Tories were in a relatively weak position; what realistic alternative did they have but to give in to LD demands?

    Sit still and do nothing. The Liberal Democrats would be roundly condemned by the right-wing press for not agreeing to form a coalition, and the press would mock our demands as ridiculous. Meanwhile, the financial markets, urged on to panic by the right-wing press, would be dropping. We would be blamed for that – “Look they would say, while Britain is in a crisis they hold us up by demanding S-bloody-T-V whatever that is”. I could write THE Sun editorial on this myself, they’d obviously bang the “patriotic” drum on Trident as well, easily done, Tories always did it in the past, won the 1980s general elections partly through that.

    Eventually, if we really sat and said “No deal”, Cameron as leader of the largest party would be appointed PM anyway (with sotto voce Labour support, in on the plan). You wouldn’t see the cuts etc you are seeing now, you’d see very cautious government, with the markets dropping (set up to do so) and Cameron saying “it’s all the fault of the lack of stability caused buy the LibDems”. By about now they’d be preparing for the general election they’d call in Spring on the lines “Give Britain stable government by getting rid of the LibDem MPs”. Which would happen. Sorry, however much I agree with your on STV and Trident, most of the rest of the country would see these as vanity issues, and us hanging out on them while the country is primed to crumble with the press screaming “blame the LibDems” would NOT be seen as a noble gesture, or even as admirable bloody-mindedness. It would be seen as selfish nit-picking by a bunch of loonies.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '11 - 11:51pm

    @ Dominic Curran

    “He (Clegg) did the right thing, and got a good deal from the Tories. The problem is his supine behaviour since…”

    Well, one has to wonder why the coalition agreement said next to nothing about free schools, or academies for all, or GP commissioning, and yet all those policies were launched within a month or so of the coalition formation.

    Do we suppose that Clegg asked “Oh by the way, are we going to do anything much with education and health, old chap?” Or do we suppose that he just forgot about those topics in all the excitement?

    I can’t believe Clegg didn’t know what was coming. I don’t think it is credible that everything can be put down to “supine behaviour since”. It must surely be that our negotiators knew they were signing a dodgy dossier, and willingly did so.

  • I only recently became interesting in politics with view to feeling like I was able to vote to change things I disagreed with. I have never voted again, like most people my age (20’s) we feel there no point in voting as little will change. for me I felt that Nick Clegg and Lib Dems could actually make difference in what I see a top down society. I made the effort to get registered to vote and went a voted for first time in my life with feel that I was actually making a change for the good. when the coalition happened I wondered what happen to things I was promised as lib dem voter. again I had hope that Lib Dems would help shape a new era in this country, but alas in reality “my vote was bought and sold for English gold” to quote Robert burns.

    Its Sad as seems that Nick Clegg has not backbone any more. In reality like many First time Lib Dem voters I know, who I encouraged to go out and vote. we really have no influence in government at all. In fact even if Lib Dems did get fully into power it would be same lies, cons and half truths. Comprise in this case is not standing up at all and making U Turns on every major policy so far. there has been nothing good to come out of this collision on Lib Dems side other that Nick Cleggs set for life financially.

    may people ask why young people don’t vote. you people don’t vote because they know it means nothing. young people are not stupid or unaware of what’s going on. they see all MP expenses Scandals. the Jeffrey Arches, the Peter Mandleson’s and know in reality policy’s are based on Money rather than what the people want. none of party’s stand apart for these things and in fact in most people’s eye’s are just as bad, look at Banks and how much money they paying in bonuses while VAT goes up 20% and price Fuel and Food goes up. the fact that Vince cable voted for the Student Fee’s rise, when one Lib Dems polices was to abolish fee’s. why should I want to be part of Lib Dem.

    So in conclusion, The best thing about the coalition for me is fact I now know that Voting is waste of my time. I would be better spending that time working or helping people in need, because in reality thanks new Coalition the poorer in our community’s are the ones who are going need our help.

    Kitten

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