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Confrontation and Coalition

The vituperation falling upon the Liberal Democrats from the Conservative press is not a pretty sight.

The people have spoken, and now it is up to the politicians that they have elected to behave responsibly and calmly in order to create a government that will serve out the Parliament and establish a stable framework for the decisions that must now be taken to strengthen our economy and our politics.

The Conservatives have offered a coalition beyond a confidence and supply agreement, and that is -at least on the surface- a handsome gesture. Labour have removed their leader, knowing that the British public would not tolerate his return to office. However the mathematics of the new Parliament does not permit Labour to form anything but an unstable and fractious multi-party coalition. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have more in common in their approach to the economy too.

Nevertheless, certain figures within the Liberal Democrats, such as Sir Menzies Campbell and Baroness Williams remain deeply concerned about going into a coalition with David Cameron. I can understand their point of view, but I do not agree with it. The fact is that the only stable coalition that can be formed is Liberal Democrat and Conservative.

Nevertheless, there are two critical points that the Conservatives must understand. Without electoral reform, such a coalition would be enormously damaging to the Liberal Democrats: PR, at least for an elected House of Lords and local councils should be conceded, while the possibility of AV/AV+ reform of votes for the House of Commons must be put to referendum. This is the minimum that the Liberal Democrats must insist on. Furthermore, the programme for both economic and political change must be agreed for a minimum fixed term. There can be no early election until these measures are passed, and again this must be a red line. Ideally Mr. Cameron should set the date for the next general election as part of the coalition agreement.

Unless these measures can be agreed, then a coalition can probably not be constructed in the way that Mr. Cameron hopes. Nevertheless, despite the wishes of Sir Ming and Lady Williams, a coalition with Labour would not pass the triple lock within the Liberal Democrats. I for one could not support such a coalition.

So, in the next few hours we can either agree a common programme with Mr. Cameron or agree that he goes it alone. Any deal with the SNP would be a catastrophe, and any deal with Labour would be in my view unacceptable to the majority of the British electorate, including many of those that voted for the Liberal Democrats. Labour lost more than the Conservatives did and the fair play of the British would take their return to office very ill indeed.

In the end, we have to trust to the fair dealing of the negotiating team. It is fair- even essential- to consider all options, but the reality is that there is on one coalition that works, and however reluctantly and subject to the points I make above, this is the one that we are trying to construct.


Newmania said…

White with fury , that about sums it up .There is no way back from this and the only way is to abolish democracy before the next election and live on the Labour Party
I would remind you that the offer of a referendum was on the table and the Conservative Party , and this is the sad thing , were actually quite excited at working with the Lib Dems.

I warn you this could finish the Lib Dems
Will Standan said…
If you do not have the courage to make electoral reform an issue during the election (especially when a hung parliament is widely predicted) why should the electorate thank you for making it an issue after the election? It will seem to the electorate like naked opportunism. The issues at the election were the economy, taxation, public sector spending, immigration and cleaning up politics. What gives the king maker the right to make it all about electoral reform after the ballot has ended?
Cicero said…
Newmania- time to "get real" You have literally no idea what is going on, so your fury- white or otherwise- is irrelevant. Liberal Democrats stand for our manifesto not for yours, so it is imperative that any agreement reflects the wishes of the millions who voted Liberal Democrat as well as the millions who voted Conservative. If there is no agreement that reflects this, then there is no agreement at all. The national interest does not consist of rail roading as many Conservative policies as possible into a botched programme, it consists of a coherent programme for stable government over the long term. That is why these negotiations are taking a while: they need to be substantive and detailed.

Will: try reading the Lib Dem manifesto. The commitment to political and electoral reform is so long standing perhaps we do not even feel that we have to emphasise it, but you will find that it is very clearly one of the four key elements of our electoral platform. Electoral reform is the centre of the Liberal Democrat political programme and has been for decades.

Without a commitment to working towards electoral reform, there is no way that any deal can be done. It is a critical key principle.

BTW both of you, the angry and ignorant vituperation coming from the Tory Press frankly makes me want to vomit- it is a classic example about why I bitterly oppose the Conservative interest in this country. They fact that I oppose Labour even more does not diminish my contempt for the Daily Mail and its cohorts. I hope that Tory bloggers are not going to continue to reach for the same mantle of the stupid party should they gain office.
Newmania said…
Oh untwist your undergarments CS. All is well thank god .I have to say ,I have high hopes of the next three years or so.
The way I see it is this , the coalition has a centre of gravity somewhere around Oliver Letwin .Now it just so happens that Oliver Letwin is a bit of hero of mine and so it is with a light heart and a sense of huge relief I bid farewell to New Labour.
If only the economic the circumstances were better but still is it possible that the parts might be greater than the whole ?

I see many advantages especially in providing a perfect excuse to ditch silly policies on both sides .I am quite certain ,for example, that Clegg knows that scrapping Trident is ridiculous , he certainly convinced me when he was opposing Huhne …oh god Huhne ..ugh…can he not be locked in the loo somewhere ? Just a thought .

Amnesty for illegal immigrants ,….come on , absurd. Europe …well , I see it as a dialogue, hem hem … No ID Cards yippee at least the aspiration to reduce taxes ! What a personal achievement for Nick Clegg as well as you look back you begin to see only mismanaged expectations made it appear otherwise.

I do hope your bulimic spasm passed brother Songs , does terribly things to the lining of the stomach vomiting your know ..
Cicero said…
Oh do grow up you cretin. Will be very happy quoting you at the next election.
Newmania said…
Is this the new collegiate spirit CS ?If , after taking power for the first time since the war (?), you are miserable, when are you happy ?
Will said…
I appreciate that PR has been a long standing objective of the Lib Dems and before them the Liberals; this is not disputed. I do maintain it was not an issue at the general election. Having said that events have overtaken me/us. The thesis of my comment and blog post is that the Lib Dems had over played their hand, that in reality the electorate had given them a weak hand. Certainly not strong enough to support such a fundamental change to our political system. Events have proved me wrong. I am amazed that the Lib Dems have obtained so many concessions but indeed that is what they have achieved.

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