It’s time for left-liberals to join Labour

3:57 am - May 12th 2010

by John B    

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Well, I called that one wrong. My analysis was basically sound at a party level: there was nothing that either Gordon Brown or David Cameron would be able to offer Nick Clegg that would be worth the savage electoral beating his party would end up taking as a result of joining up with either.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the ability of ambitious people to sell out their supporters for a massive dollop of bugger all, in cases where personal rewards are on the table. This was a textbook example of analytical failure; of course I should have been looking at the incentives for the agents rather than the incentives for the principals…

Birthrights, pottage, etc

So Nick Clegg gets to be John Prescott, and four other Lib Dems get cabinet roles (not confirmed at time of writing, but probably the poisoned-chalice ones – Home Secretary, Foreign Aid, Scotland… you get the idea). And when the Liberal Democrats lose all their seats next Parliament, I wonder if the Tories will reward him with a candidacy somewhere rural and blue where they weigh the vote…?

Meanwhile, as far as policy programmes go, the Lib Dems have basically acquiesced to the Tory manifesto. We’re still going to give the US tens of billions of pounds for the sheer love of the American military-industrial complex. We’re still going to put a cap on visas for filthy furriners. We’re still going to rig the tax system to bribe married Tory voters.

In exchange, schools in deprived areas will get a bit more money, the Tories will drop their plans to leave enormously rich people’s heirs completely untaxed, and we’ll have a referendum on Alternative Vote (remember, AV isn’t PR, it’s just “the current electoral system if it were designed by someone who wasn’t clinically insane”) at some point, which will probably fail when the Tories spend vast sums campaigning against it.

The only way this could possibly not be a terrible outcome for the Liberal Democrats is if Cameron has pledged not only to allow a referendum on AV, but that the Conservatives will support the “Yes” campaign. If that’s the case – which I haven’t seen any evidence for yet, and which would surprise me – then the collapse in the Lib Dem vote share at the next election will partly be offset and the party will at least survive.

What next?

The country will benefit in the short term. While the Tory government isn’t going to drop any of its core commitments, it’ll be deterred from doing anything really socially nasty by the need to keep the Liberals onside (equally, a lot of the socially nasty Tory PPCs who we all feared would get in last year were denied seats by the Labour resurgence in core marginals).

I don’t think that’s worth the long-term damage to the country caused by destroying the one viable alternative option for the non-authoritarian left, but heigh ho.

But the big winners, in a funny sort of way, are Labour. Who d’you think centre-left people looking for a change are going to vote for next time round, following five years of brinksmanship and savage cuts? Yup, that’d be the one.

I’ve made this point here before, but especially with this defeat (oh, come on, yes, I know, but it really was in the end, wasn’t it?)  and Gordon Brown’s departure, it’s time for lefties to join the party and lobby to get the Blairites out and the non-warmongering, non-civil-liberties-hating left in.

I’d also expect an influx of left-liberal former LD supporters into Labour (if I still lived in the country, I’d be signing up today) – join now, and you’ll have a say in who stands next time, and what platform they stand on. And in five years, or whenever the coalition collapses, it’s the duty of everyone left-leaning to get out there and flyer for Labour.

And if, by some miracle, AV does get passed, it’ll also be good news for the smaller parties of the left. Not great news – AV still won’t allow any of the 5-10% parties any seats, unlike STV – but it means that next time round you’ll be able to put Green first, Labour second and not risk letting in the Tories.

So overall, as a traditional Lib Dem supporter, I’m absolutely livid. As a liberal, I’m in two minds. At least the country’s not solely ruled by the Tebbit/Dorries party, at least there’s some hope for a left-Labour future, and at least there’s a tiny amount of hope for a multi-left future…

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About the author
John Band is a journalist, editor and market analyst, depending on who's asking and how much they're paying. He's also been a content director at a publishing company and a strategy consultant. He is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy and also blogs at Banditry.
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Reader comments

“if I still lived in the country”

thanks for the advice!

I’ve got a passport and a vote (both solely in the UK), I earn in GBP and my family live in the UK, so I don’t think it’s exactly hypocritical for me to get involved in UK political debate. If ever I reach the stage where I’m a citizen, voter, earner and permanent resident in another country, with the UK no longer being key to my existence, then I’ll stop going on about it.


the non-warmongering, non-civil-liberties-hating left

I’m no longer sure this exists in Britain. Not in the Labour Party anyway. Face it, they put up bugger all resistance to a warmongering and civil liberties hating government.

On the other hand, my ‘Delingpole Meter’* is off the scale, which suggests there is something good about the coalition. I think the Libs can sell it on the doorsteps as their being the party which stopped most of the headbanging nonsense. The Tory Right hasn’t been in power now for quite a while and looks set to remain rather powerless.

This is the Labour Party that scuppered any chances of a progressive alliance by a) being reactionary fuckwits for 13 years, and b) basically offering the Lib Dems nothing at all in return for propping the fuckers up.

6. hairy_yan

Here’s why I disagree: the Tories were always going to win this election, let’s be grateful they didn’t win convincingly or easily. Considering they could have formed a minority government anyway without the Lib Dems, they have agreed to some extraordinary concessions that are going to leave members of the Tory party reeling. Abandoning inheritance tax plans? A referendum on AV? I’m even hearing talk about scrapping ID cards and looking into “alternatives” to Trident. So Nick Clegg is deputy prime minister and senior Lib Dems get cabinet posts – that’s how a coalition works, surely? It’s not career politics, its co-operation and again marks some pretty remarkable concessions by the Tories.

If there hadn’t been a Lib Dem coalition with the Tories, the Tories would still be in power and none of the above concessions would have been made.

I think this is an outcome that should leave Lib Dems proud of their party. The Lib-Lab “coalition of losers” was a non-starter, as was the “progressive alliance”. Con-Lib won’t be perfect, but it might just work. Get over the (justified) knee-jerk hatred of the Tories and be thankful the Lib Dem negotiating team have managed to ensure that the nightmare of Torygeddon is yet to pass.


I agree with all of that. Tbh, if people are interested in shaping the future of politics, it would make sense for those of us on the left to join the Lib Dems. I do not understand the fascination of the left, including Labour, with opposition. Surely better making positive changes with power, rather than simply lobbing rocks at the government, is better?

What Labour fail to understand is that if, despite their projections, this coalition turns out to be popular as it combines the most populist elements of both parties in it, Labour will be locked out of power for up to a decade. Doesn’t sound like somewhere worth being.

So the last 13 years just get forgotten, just like that? The rising inequality, the abuses of civil liberties, Iraq, tuition fees? The abject failure at the end to be a firewall against this coalition.

To hell with Labour. The Greens are the last party left standing.

“the Lib Dems have basically acquiesced to the Tory manifesto”

I think we will be seeing this line trotted out more and more for the duration of the 5 year parliament. Why not have a look at the actual details of the agreement and judge for yourself to see who’s acquiesced to who:

Economic measures for an agreement which has deficit reduction “at its heart”

• £6b in year cuts in non frontline services subject to the advice from the treasury and the bank of england (Tory)

• Scrapping of national insurance rises (Tory)

• A substantial increase in the personal tax allowance from April 2011 with a focus on low and middle income earners, with a “long term goal” of a £10,000 personal tax allowance. There is no a timetable for this, but there is a promise to make further real term steps each year towards this objective. This is described as a “funded increase”. It will be funded by taking the money the Tories had planned to use to increase the employee threshold for national insurance, and by an increase in capital gains tax for non business assets to bring it closer to the level of income tax.

• Marriage tax allowance. The liberal democrats have agreed to abstain on this, which gives the Tories a “real chance” of getting that through.

Lib Dem pledges that have been dropped

• Tax relief for higher rate pensioners will not be pursued

• Mansion tax

Tory pledges that have been dropped

• Raising the threshold on inheritance tax which is described as “unlikely to be achieved in this parliament”.

Lib Dems priorities that have been secured

• Referendum to bring in some form of alternative vote system. Coalition members will be subject to three-line whip to force the legislation for a referendum through, but they will be free to campaign against the reforms before referendum.

• New pupil premium to be introduced, steering more funding to schools for every child they take from poor homes. Both parties back this policy, but the Lib Dem version attaches more money to it.

• Reducing the tax burden on low earners. This could go some way towards the Lib Dem aim of lifting tax threshold to £10,000.

• A wholly or mainly elected house of Lords.

• More equal constituency sizes

• Fixed term parliaments, including this one. The next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Legislation will mean such agreements can only be broken by an enhanced majority of the House of Commons.

Tory priorities that have been secured

• A cap on immigration and an end to child detention immigration controls (the latter was a Lib Dem proposal).

• Welfare reform programme to be implemented in full.

• School reform programme providing all schools are held accountable.

• A commitment to maintaining Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Renewal of Trident will be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will be free to continue the case for alternatives.

• The government will make no proposals to join the euro.

• No proposals to transfer new powers to the European Union.

• A referendum lock will ensure that any proposal to transfer new powers must by law be put to a referendum.

Areas that were already in agreement will see a major programme of civil liberties

• A great repeal or freedom bill to scrap the ID card scheme and the national identity register and the next generation of biometric passports

• Extending the scope of the Freedom of Information bill to provide greater transparency

* Adopt protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database

• Protecting trial by jury

• Reviewing libel laws to protect freedom of speech

• Further regulation of CCTV and other items

• Measures to boost economy in key areas such as low-carbon industries and investment in infrastructure. A green investment bank, a smart grid, retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping home information packs.

Areas of opt outs for either party

• Lib Dems will be free to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to put forward the national planning statement for ratification by parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

Banking reform

• A banking levy will be introduced.

• Bonuses will be tackled.

• A “more competitive banking industry”.

• More credit to flow to businesses. The proposals of the respective parties will be looked at before deciding which is the better one.

• An independent commission will be set up to consider Lib Dem proposals to separate retail and investment banking and the Tories’ proposals for a quasi separation. An interim report will be published within a year.

• The Bank of England could be given control of macro prudential regulation and oversight of micro prudential regulation under proposals to be put forward.

10. Spelling Opposition

“It’s time for left liberals to join Labour” so they can languish in opposition too?

Perhaps the wiser bet is for liberal lefties to join the Lib Dems…

John B,

You are certainly up there with Pollyanna in seeing the best of all possible worlds.

For your own viewpoint, that is.

And in five years, or whenever the coalition collapses, it’s the duty of everyone left-leaning to get out there and flyer for Labour.

No it isn’t. I am left leaning and I will continue to vote SNP. You have no idea what will be exercising the minds of voters in five years time. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that left leaning voters might not, for instance, decide to vote Green, or even Liberal.

You are just playing some sort of strange boosterism for the Labour Party. Which is a tad odd, given that the aforesaid Labour Party has a heck of a lot of retrenchment to do, particularily on the civil liberties front, before it becomes electable again.

12. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs)

“I do not understand the fascination of the left, including Labour, with opposition. Surely better making positive changes with power, rather than simply lobbing rocks at the government, is better?”

Well I’ve certainly heard this little theory before, as part of a sermon by the Reverend Blair.

And we got war, attacks on the poor and Labour ministers with their tongues firmly up the arse of the City.

Power for power’s sake. How very Inner Party.

13. Gaf the Horse

I just heard on 5 Live that the Tories had agreed to the abolition of the House of Lords and it’s replacement with a fully PR elected second chamber.


This morning I was ready to send my LD membership card back to them in pieces. I think I’ll wait until I see the full programme before I do anything. The Tories seem to have conceded much more than the LDs did. And since I support PR I would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that sometimes that means you have to deal with people you don’t really like.

14. pat wilkie

As a left leaning lib-dem of more than 20 years I believe in PR. PR means coalition government. The party manifesto made four pledges that it would fight hard to obtain in any coalition – and they have succeeded.
Any left wing lib-dem who cannot see this is not a lib-dem and should become part of the labour tribe.

As I’ve come to expect the last 12 hours, the deals being attacked, with no offering of what else could have been done. With so many Labour party MPs coming out all day Tuesday against any coalition, shaky numbers became impossible. Clegg didn’t sell the Lib Dems out, he got the best deal that was left on the table. Labour supporters are getting really annoying with their lack of attention to reality and what actually happened yesterday.

16. Misrule13

As someone who’s been a Labour member for many years, I would say, boy, are you lot in for a horrible shock if you’re thinking of joining what Polly Toynbee in The Guardian calls today the party of “the knuckle-dragging neanderthals”.

A big chunk of Labour is not progressive – it’s more conservative than the Conservatives. It’s tribal, it’s statist and it’s certainly not liberal. In fact, a major part of it *hates* Liberals.

There are many in Labour thinking of leaving. And it’s not about Blairite vs Brownists – those tribes are history. The party is divided with half pulling towards the future, and the rest pulling to the past, seeking comfort in the pretence that it is still 1982. I feel sorry for good MPs like Ben Bradshaw who are now increasingly isolated.

I am sickened that Labour torpedoed a progressive alliance and left the Lib Dem leadership little choice. I hate the fact that the Tories are back, but I feel comforted that the Lib Dems are there to take the edge off it. It’s early days. Don’t make rash judgments that you will live to regret.

I’m no longer sure this [the non-warmongering, non-civil-liberties-hating left
] exists in Britain. Not in the Labour Party anyway. Face it, they put up bugger all resistance to a warmongering and civil liberties hating government.

I think it is there to an extent within the Labour Party, but it has clearly diminished in size and influence over the years. And I think there are are certainly plenty of us outside the party. Although I disagree with some of John’s analysis I do think he has a point in that the direction which Labour takes in the next few years will be important for those of us who want a liberal-left government and the best way to influence that is probably from within the party.

i joined this morning,i actually believe this may be a chance to drag labour back from the right.But them i am an optimist

19. Mike Killingworth

Some interim thoughts on the biggest political bouleversement since the future SDP MPs saddled the Labour Party with Foot as its leader and bolted, in 1980. “Earthquake” is an overused metaphor, but this is one.

Looking back, it is surely significant that Cameron sought a coalition as soon as he knew he could not get a majority. He himself said “I am the new Blair” – and this shows that he is certainly more interested in office than the tribal future of his own Party. The government will probably have a year or maybe a little more of favourable polls while the voters wait to see what else is on offer.

I suspect that the cuts may not now have to be that deep – this is the markets’ preferred result (a stable majority government) and the weaker the Euro the better the £ looks by comparison. (Expect Brown to demand credit for keeping us out during the brief period when the “five tests” – remember those? – were met.) We will have to wait and see, but surely this government is in a better position to deal with “too big to fail” banks than a spatchcock Labour-led co-alition would have been. Note: all governments run the biggest debt they can afford to service, and have a vested interest in persuading markets to fund bigger debts.

Tories are telling themselves that the AV referendum will fail. I am not so sure. It would be cute to have three questions on the ballot paper – AV, elected Lords and EU membership. If this were held while the coalition was still reasonably popular (its constituent parties polled 60%, remember, last Thursday) I see no reason why it should not generate three “yesses”. Including EU membership on the ballot paper would scotch UKIP – why wouldn’t Cameron want to do that?

And AV is necessary for the two parties to retain their identities. Which is why, in the end, a lot of conservatives will bite their nails and vote for it. (Isn’t it Labour policy anyway?) Hopefully it will mean we buy some proper counting kit, such as the Indians use, and we put an end to the farce of 5am declarations.

20. Luis Enrique

A big part of this argument is that entering a coalition with the Cons will be tremendously unpopular with Lib Dem voters. I’ve also seen people arguing that lots of Lib Dem votes this time around came from Labour voters voting tactically to keep the Tories out, who will feel they’ve been burned.

Has anybody seen any opinion polls that might shed some light on this? It’s not obvious to me that this move is going to destroy electoral support for the Lib Dems
(but then again I have never claimed any instinct for how things will play, politically)


… the poisoned-chalice [roles] – Home Secretary, Foreign Aid, Scotland…

what do you mean? It was my understanding that Home Secretary is considered to be prestigious position. Do you mean that it tends to make good men turn bad?

22. ChristopherMars

Luis Enrique – Rather than Labour voters I would presume that what people really mean is that many Lib Dems are passionately anti-Tory voters who find the Lib Dems the most effective place for their vote. I doubt they’re the overwhelming majority of Lib Dem voters but they probably comprise a significant minority in marginal seats.

Whether these people will stay with the party will be interesting, as in many constituencies (especially in the south west) it would appear that with the Lib Dems in coalition it is impossible to make an anti-Tory vote. A vote for Labour will effectively let the Tories in, and a vote for the Lib Dems will reward a party that let the Tories in. I presume a lot will simply abstain.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t warm up to a government featuring George Osborne, William Hague, Liam Fox and A. Lansley right at the top just because Chris Huhne will be the Energy secretary and other crumbs… (interesting to note the delusion in some quarters when last night some LD activists were fooling themselves that Huhne was certain to be the new Home Secretary)

Am I alone in thinking that the Lib Dems have just signed their own suicide note?

Right now analyses of the future are a bit like watching Rolf Harris painting – we can’t tell what it is yet!

I’m probably like many left of centre voters who are not members of any party, and now find themselves totally at sea. I instinctively feel queasy about a coalition with the Tories, but am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I accept that in many respects this was probably the inevitable outcome of last Thursdays’s result.

I still have a nagging feeling however that a) Labour effectively scuppered any alternative deal, which whilst not easy could have worked; and b) although the Tories have given a fair amount to the LD’s, their agenda is still to scupper change: they have embraced the LD’s to gain power and try to do damage to the LD’s.

I could never join the Labour party as currently constituted: they stand convicted on too many counts. If “New Labour” isn’t dead (more’s the pity), I’m certainly not convinced that a lurch to the left will work for Labour any more than it did 30 years ago, or the lurch to the right did for the Tories post-Major.

I feel curiously “disengaged”: none of the major parties really seems to represent what I want. Perhaps post electoral reform I’ll feel differently, but as of now the LD’s won’t have my support any more than Labour will.

@20 From what I can grasp from my friends and acquaintances, a majority LD members are ready to swallow the deal (some are being overly optimistic in my humble opinionl but that’s their right). However, a scary proportion of Lib Dem voters appear severely put off.

Don’t forget that most of the post-2001 gains have come courtesy of disgruntled ex-Labour voters who would first and foremost be anti-Tory. I think we can safely say these people have been lost.

If the election system remains as it is, you can expect the LibDems’s share of the cotes to revert back to their 1980s levels.

‘Good article’. Just a shame that the word ‘Green’ was mispelt almost throughout it, as ‘Labour’…


Agreed. It seemed to me when listening to some of the radio commentary and justifications for the LD’s entering a coalition, that they were talking up how well they had done. And yet… they have none of the “major” cabinet positions, and I’m not really sure what a Deputy PM does… Prescott is hardly a great example.

Seems to me the only really significant thing to come out of the colaition for the LD’s is the AV commitment… which it is by no means guaranteed they will achieve given Tory opposition. For 23% of the popular vote in comparison with the 36% gained by the Tories, I’m not sure this is that great a deal.

In the end, I just hope we get at least a reformed voting system out of this coalition, and that the LD’s manage to ameliorate the worst excesses of the Tory Taliban. I’m not sure we can expect much more.

28. Luis Enrique


yes, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lib Dem vote did disintegrate, that does appear to be the consensus reaction from bloggers and hacks, after all. It just occurs to me that the Great British Public might look at the situation, and think all things considered the Lib Dems have acted reasonably sensibly, and they quite like them cooperating with the Tories rather than “playing party politics” (or something) and hence electoral support for them may hold up. Hell, there might even be some people who voted Tory to get rid of Labour, who might now switch Lib Dem. I guess we will just have to await some opinion polls.

(I think my personal political compass has broken, because I have been so annoyed by outraged Labour supporters carrying on as if the Lib Dems were another wing of some “progressive” party who duty it was to leap into Labours arms, that I’ve sort of swung towards them in a contrariwise sort of way. I expect once I think more seriously about what they’ve done, I might move back towards John B’s p.o.v.)

The Labour Party that scuppered any chances of a progressive alliance? I bet we hear this line trotted out a lot for the next five years, every time some illiberal piece of Tory nonsense passes while the Lib Dems bravely stick to their guns and don’t vote – something they could quite easily do without being MPs at all – every time Hague goes batshit insane on Europe, every time a nice juicy tax cut that does nothing for the poorest is paid for by anything other than making sure the rich pay fair taxes as well. Not a particularly auspicious start to government, to whine that you don’t really want to be there, that you didn’t really have a choice.

I suppose it would be rather amusing to have Labour members agree to avoid a destructive civil war only to have one started by renegades from another party unwilling to try to solve the problems in their own party. But I think if Lib Dems really want their party back they should stick to it and try to fight. To use one of the dominant metaphors of the past few days, when your partner runs off with the milkman you don’t start an affair with someone else’s partner unless you’re a complete cad.

Has anyone crunched the numbers yet on a Lib-Dem meltdown at the next election?

I can foresee swathes of Lib-Dem voters in LD/Tory marginals jumping ship and giving the Tories seats along with a journey back to Labour for many LD voters in urban/northern areas who didn’t imagine they were backing surrogate Tories.

Untested assumptions I’ll grant you, but chuck in a manifesto commitment to AV or some form of PR that’s been properly worked up and smells fresher than a last minute expedient, then things start to look interesting.

Someone on one of these threads said something like – no-one forecast this outcome three months ago, so don’t pretend anyone knows what will happen in the next three years.
Sound advice.

Though surely one can say that if the coalition performs well and holds together (the latter conditional on the former) then there is no reason why both LD’s and Tories should not both benefit.

Admittedly, the (old or new) Labour policies and government were tired and worn out.
Admittedly, there’s been a bit of new flavour in conservative recipes (e.g. low-carbon economy).
Admittedly, the Lib Dems’ score was not up to expectations (yet more than one fifth of the votes is no small beer).

That said, why embarking on a coalition with the Tories?
I see two reasons, and both are wrong.
The first is, once again, the tyranny of -short-termist- markets. “They” (who are they) want(ed) a majority government, assuming this could guarantee tougher spending cuts and deficit/debt reduction, which were at least partly due to the folly of the past period, lest some forget. Anyway, the markets got it. How long will it last? The market operators don’t care (I wrote short-termist). “The country will benefit in the short term,” as John B puts it. I find it weird that someone like Vince Cable, who has written and spoken brilliant words about the crisis, swallows that coalition.
The second is something often seen in politics, but that I wouldn’t have expected from Nick Clegg. It is about sacrificing strategy and the long term to tactics and the short term (here we go again).
My bet is that there won’t be any electoral reform any time soon. Because there are other things to do. Because a referendum would be too complicated and tricky. Because people would, in any case of vote, find a coalition so difficult to manage, that they’d rather stick to the current voting system. With, as a consequence, a return to the two-party system in the next election. Etc. It’s a hollow promise from the Tories.
The other aspect of that sacrifice is the likely disappointment of the radical or progressive liberals and their flight from the party.
Coming from the grand old tradition of British liberalism (the Lib part) mixed with a modern social democracy (the Dem part), the Lib Dems are (were?) one of the most original and least conservative (and even largely progressive) liberal parties in Europe. They are in for losing that identity and diluting their ideas (I don’t write ideology, because we are liberals) in a centre-right maelstrom.
I find it wrong and sad.
What should have been done then? Simple, a minority Conservative government supported from outside when necessary. This has worked without any problem in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for decades (and under a… proportional system). How long would it last? Probably not that long. But what would have been the outcome for the Lib Dems in the next elections (the “meltdown” as written above)? Probably better than the disaster to be expected in the next ones.
That has not been the option. So a number of Lib Dems might be waiting for a new “Gang of Four” to emerge. This time not from the Labour as in the early eighties but from the Liberals. What is at stake is to keep the progressive liberal tradition alive.. and to break the mould of the two parties.
Back to square….

33. Mitch Matthews-Dublin

From the moment Gordon Brown entered N.10 on the 24th June 2007, he was doomed to failure, listened to poor advice, clearly took to many wrong decisions and was blinded by trappings of power….

• His failure not to fright John McDonald for the leadership, didn’t give the people the impression of an election had taken place.
• His failure to break the link with Blair meant he was Blair’s legacy and therefore to the people nothing changed.
• His failure to call an election in October 2007 demonstrated his poor judgement and confirmed a lack of courage.
• His failure to maintain discipline and control of MP’s, Ministers, departments, policy, information and data, demonstrated a clear lack of trust and leadership.
• His failure to managed spending and debt meant that everything he had achieved as Chancellor was wash away.
• His failure to understand the mood of the people and how they wanted to be part of the discussion over issues like the Ghurkhas, the 10 pence tax band, the referendum on the European Constitution, MP’s expenses and immigration.
• But ultimately from the moment the Labour leadership failed to recognise the overwhelming opposition to a war in Iraq, when in 2003 two million marched in London – the new labour project was doomed to failure.

So for everything that has been achieved over the past 13 years, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and New Labour, will always be remembered for these and other failures.

We on the left need to come together and find our true sleeves

I get more and more convinced by the minute. The LibDems should have let the Tories get on with a minority government.

I would love to know how the “concessions” are going to be implemented. Did Cameron sign in blood?

For all the YAYs and HURRAYs that I saw this morning on certain pro-Lib Dem blogs, the £10,000 threshold was not actually conceded. There’s going to be a slight move in that direction. And it will not be funded by the so-called “mansion tax”, which the Tories rejected outright. Given also that NI rise will be shelved, How are they going to fund the raised tax threshold now?

For all the YAYs and HURRAYs that Cameron agreed to a fixed-term parliament (wow), the Conservatives will implement their welfare manifesto “in full” – which is tragic.

What will Vince Cable do when 4/5s of the MPs propping up his government will give his plans to split banks the cold shoulder?

35. Katherine

non-warmongering, non-civil-liberties-hating left

Please. If I want a left party I wouldn’t be joining the damn Labour Party, I’d join the Greens. In fact, I’m thinking of doing just that. At least they’ve got some women involved – anyone here notice the extreme XY domination of this new lot?

And under an AV system, the Greens might actually stand a chance of being noticed. The Lib Dems weren’t the only party being shafted by FPTP.

It will be interesting to see how many Lib Dem ‘concessions’ will actually pan out. Given that the Tories spent 18 years shifting the balance from progressive to regressive taxation, I can’t help wondering if the Lib Dems weren’t pushing on an open door when they proposed to further undermine income tax. Of course the lowest earners, pay little income tax (which is kind of the point), where they suffer is Council tax, excise, road tax and VAT. I wonder how much of the 700 quid ‘saving’ will actually make to the pockets of the poor. The point of this very expensive tax cut was that it would be paid for by further taxing the rich, not the poor. When we see the next budget, we will see how actually is stumping up the cash. I won’t be in the least bit surprised if the Tories have smuggled an income tax cut to the rich whilst lining up a regressive tax hike onto the straining backs of the poorest in society. An income tax cut is no use to you if you lose your job, but you pay VAT on just about everything.

No doubt Clegg was weeping into his cornflakes this morning as he was ‘forced’ to ditch his mansion tax. The rich have done rather well in these past decades, or so we were told, but now Clegg is deputy prime minister, he can see the other point of view.

At a time when we are trying to cut waste and civil service ‘non jobs’, what does Danny Alexander’s office actually do?

Genuine question: How does a higher tax threshold affect working family tax credits?

The most optimistic ‘concession’? A five year fixed term! Yeah, I can see what they think they are getting, but really! Anyone think that is going to happen? The LDs are cock a hoop at the idea they have won serious ground from the Tories!

The Lib Dems have been sold a pup in these negotiations; I doubt much will pan out the way the foot soldiers think it will.

Perhaps we can have an open thread listing the Lib Dem principles are systematically skittled away?

All the Labour people saying that every concession we know about, actually really isn’t a concession, is getting beyond ridiculous now. Grow up guys, your party didn’t want a deal. What’s left after that?

38. George W Potter

Yeah, as a Lib Dem I’d love for us not to be in coalition with the tories. But unfortunately Labour betrayed the progressive cause when they blocked any chance of a Lib LAb coalition. If you want someone to blame, blame the Labour leadership.

39. George W Potter

Here’s a judicious quote from the Guardian:

“On Monday night, Lib Dem MPs and activists were aghast as Labour MPs took turns on television to denounce the idea of a pact between their two parties as a “coalition of losers” even as the two teams of negotiators were in talks.

When their negotiating team reported back to their parliamentary party after their first meeting there was shock.

Every one of the Lib Dem negotiators gave an individual report back of their meeting with Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Lord Adonis, and they each reached the same conclusion: that the Labour team were uninterested, with no movement on ID cards, the third runway at Heathrow, or increasing the proportion of renewable energy from 15% to 40%.”

lespetroleuse @30,

” can foresee swathes of Lib-Dem voters in LD/Tory marginals jumping ship and giving the Tories seats along with a journey back to Labour for many LD voters in urban/northern areas who didn’t imagine they were backing surrogate Tories.”

The second depends on two factors being in place: the coalition being unpopular (not a given with government, and there is a lot of goodwill at the moment) and Labour not giving the impression of being divided and fighting amongst themselves. If neither of these are in place, then it is quite likely a succesful government and lack of viable and focussed alternative (especially if the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives say they are intending to break up the coalition and stand for election seperately) will probably mean that Liberal Democrats pick up seats against Labour (as will the Conservatives – check how many north Midland/southern Northern seats are now marginal), and they are likely hold their own against the Conservatives (the Liberal Democrats are very good at holding on to seats remember). If the coalition goes well, then the big loser is likely to be Labour, who do seem to be making the classical mistake of forgetting the key rule to figure out why you lost the election before electing a leader.


What’s left after that?

I have an idea for you: no full coalition but a confidence and supply arrangement. The more you see of the details of what the LD’s get out of this coalition, the more convinced I am that they could have achieved about as much without handcuffing themselves to a party that still has “something of the night” about it.

I’m think the LD’s will come to see they have been sold a pup: at present, it’s an unknown quantity, and everyone is too busy cooing about it to realise that when it grows up, the pup is going to be ugly and have behavioural problems.

@37, @38

Yeah, as a Lib Dem I’d love for us not to be in coalition with the tories. But unfortunately Labour betrayed the progressive cause when they blocked any chance of a Lib LAb coalition. If you want someone to blame, blame the Labour leadership.

Who says that we aren’t? As a matter of fact I’m not a Labour voter and I wasn’t entirely sure of a Lib Lab pact either.
Leaving the Tories to form a minority government was the answer.
Entering a coalition was not prescribed by the doctor.

43. George W Potter

One other thing, what you fail to realise John is that people do not join the Lib Dems in search of getting into power. Until recently we never had a chance of getting in government so people joined us because they believed in what we stood for.

This goes for the leadership as well, if they were just in search of red boxes and chauffeured cars then they’d have joined Labour or the Tories instead. For you to talk about them selling out their supporters for personal rewards is false, low and above all hypocritical coming from Labour who have been the biggest betrayers of the progressive cause in living memory.

44. George W Potter

@42 yep, a tory minority government was an option. but we’d have had to let them push their legislation through or they’d have called another election which we couldn’t afford to fight. That would have led to the worst aspects of the tories in government. Now at least we can reign in the party’s right which is definitely a good thing.

Now we have a centre ground government as opposed to the middle right government which we looked on course for so very recently.

Now at least we can reign in the party’s right which is definitely a good thing.

And the Tory right-wing majority will just sit there in silence. Coz, of course, they waited 13 years to let you guys call the shots. C’mon.

And there’ll be sunshine everyday next week.
And Tony Blair could manage to keep George W Bush and D Rumsfeld at bay which is why he supported them. And things can only get better.

You do realise that the moment the coalition collapses you guys have everything to lose while the Tories have little to lose?
At their very worst in 1997, when they hit rock bottom, the Conservatives got 30.7% of the votes.
Whereas now that the public will inevitably associate (for better or for worse) the LibDems with the Tories you can dream of managing over 20% for a very long time.

46. Arthur Seaton

Hadn’t this website best stop using the “LibCon” abbreviation now, for fear of being misconstrued? Apologies if someone else has already made this obvious joke….

GWP @ 43

Fine, people join the LDs for what the believe in, but how much of what they believe in will they ACTUALLY get from the Tories? So far, all they have are vague promises that are not worth the paper they are written on, for which they will have to inflict some pretty savage service cuts and a general attack on the weakest members of society in order to save the backs and bank balances of the richest people on the planet. Who joined the Lib Dems for that? Who, among the Lib Dems, stood in the rain for three hours to sack home helps and teaching assistants and invoke virtual labour camps? Who among LDs voted for a system of AV? Who voted to upgrade trident?

John B

Sadly some of us never had much faith in politicians to turn down shinny bits of coloured paper in favour of principles. Hence my article on how Clegg would sell out, which wasn’t spot on by any means, but took the view he would.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Lib Dem supporters now. It is easy to think of them all as idealist leftwingers – but affiliations are funny things.

A lot of anti-war labour supporters went with mitigation as their way of justifying the Iraq War (Well things there would have been worse if the UK hadn’t been involved to stay the hand of the worst US excesses)

That thinking has some appeal right now for Lib Dems. After all – few of them actually think the country will benefit from the next five years of government. It is a Tory government. That’s now how it works.

But I suspect those who are idealistic enough not to want to engage in mental gymnastics to justify this move will join the greens.

And that is a problem for Lib Dems. Few Labour supporters will back Lib Dems as a second choice after this, as that will appear to back the tories. So Expect Labour’s second choice to be Green at the next election.

Watchman @ 40

All fair points.

Too many Labour MPs put the election down to Brown including the erstwhile PM himself and it was certainly a factor worth some only guessable number of percentage points. I think Graham Stringer MP put getting rid of Brown as worth up to 5 points in the polls some little while ago.

Whether the coalition goes well and who happens to be the new Labour leader, I don’t see as entirely independent variables.

Much hinges on the analyses of why Labour lost (as you say) but also what it might take to win at anytime in the next 5 years. If what you refer to as the classic mistake produces a leader who is unlikely to win the next election, I don’t see them being given the leeway to continue to an election that Brown had.

And of course, any ongoing salience of the so-called progressive alliance will be clarified one way or another if the coalition promise of a referendum actually happens.

My view is that Labour cannot, and in any case is unlikely to be allowed by a coalition, to continue to be the disproportionate beneficiary of FPTP as currently drawn.

Landslides every 50 years or so built, in special circumstances, on an English taste for whatever dilution of policy will be swallowed by the key demographic in a portion of marginals offers no viable future.

“So far, all they have are vague promises that are not worth the paper they are written on”

Whereas of course Labour’s promises, had they offered any, would have been rock-solid, just like in 1997… Oh.

I’m certainly not indifferent to the possibility that the Tories will just renege on their commitments, no one could be. And if it happens, and depending on to what degree, I’d be advocating dumping them, with all the attendant risks that carries.

But seriously, shouldn’t you guys be concentrating on building a proper socialist party, rather than wanking yourselves silly over all the ways a Con-Lib deal could go wrong? Otherwise it does kinda come across like you’re more interested in tribes than actual politics.

Meanwhile I’m wanking myself silly over how the Lab leadership contest might go wrong…

Vote Balls!

52. Misrule13

It’s a mistake to think the Lib Dems will now suffer on second preference votes under AV. For a start, there is no longer a monolithic Labour vote. They only got 29% with massive tactical shifting, and the polls put their rock-bottom level in the teens.

Secondly, for every Labour voter that refuses to put the Lib Dems second, you’re just as likely – however much you might hate it – to get a Tory giving up the second preference vote to keep Labour out.

Leaving the Tories to form a minority government was the answer

Claude, they would’ve called a second election and won a majority. The Lib Dems are trying to make the best out of a bad situation, and have signed their own death warrant in an attempt to moderate Tory excesses and give us the best deal we could’ve had after 13 years of New Labour. Let’s face it, this government is already to the left of Labour in some areas like civil liberties.

Why does everyone assume this will, in fact, be the end of the Lib Dems? 2 months ago everyone assumed the Tories would walk it. They stumbled over the finish line, with Lib Dem help. People might, you never know, be as tribal as Labour supporters and bloggers and tweeters, and might actually like the Lib Dems for their pragmatism.


“But seriously, shouldn’t you guys be concentrating on building a proper socialist party, …”

Perhaps this is the “unfinished business” aspect of UK politics that we might see played out now? I don’t think I’m a socialist .. a social democrat perhaps. I’ve never been particularly convinced by the bolting together of the SDP and old Liberals. I can see the logic of a “Left” party, left-centre/social democratic party and a centre-liberal party more, with Tories, and possibly a home for right wing/UKIP “nutters” off in the long grass.

If the Labour party turns leftwards as a true “socialist” party, so be it. Who knows, possibly with a reformed voting system such a realignment could happen?

Alix @ 50

As an SNP voter, I am not too worried about the Labour Party’s failings. If you want to rip into the Labour Party, then I will agree with you. This is about the long term direction of the Country as a whole. For the Lib Dems to claim a victory when the flaws in the deal are staring everyone in the face, fills me with dread. Despite being SNP, I have no more desire to see English towns and cities go up in flames any more than Scots ones. I fear for the future and the Libs may suffer the brunt of any election fallout. If so, the get exactly what they deserve.


“People might, you never know, be as tribal as Labour supporters and bloggers and tweeters, and might actually like the Lib Dems for their pragmatism.”

You may be right, but unfortunately for the LD’s a large section of their support was tactical: many people like myself voted for them not for any love of the LD’s (still less the blessed Clegg!), but to keep the Tories out, and hopefully see a coalition which would introduce PR, not AV.

Pragmatism has it’s place of course, and coalition government presupposes compromise. The question is whether this coalition ends up being a pup sold to the LD’s. Initial signs are that they haven’t achieved what they should, but they probably have a honeymoon period to convinve floating voters otherwise.

This is one vote the LD’s have definitely lost however.

So, ‘I’ll do anything’ Dave is now entrenched in No 10 while Nick Clegg rubs his hands gleefully over his thirty pieces of silver, yes we’re now living in interesting times.
@54 there are a lot of people who hope that this gives Labour a chance to reform (in all senses of the word), into a party who are committed to socialism.

58. Gerry Haines

The Greens arre the only Party out there who will scrap Trident, and ID Cards, and fight against the cuts and closures of public services.

Greens are offering Lib Dems the chance to join a party that won’t sell out over electoral reform.

I would say to anyone who wants to oppose the Tories – join the Greens.

@Galen 10

“a coalition which would introduce PR, not AV.”

The Lib Dems wanted that. But Labour scuppered it.

Con-Lib govt will bring in PR for Lords and referendum on AV for Commons. Both are stepping stones – if they happen, on this issue alone, it will have achieved more than 13 years of Lab govt.

I think the lesson is that tactical voting doesn’t work – you voted Lib Dem, you get Lib Dem. More people voted Tory than Lib Dem – so you get more Tory, some Lib Dem. Not a bad outcome.

” would say to anyone who wants to oppose the Tories – join the Greens.”

If you want to spend your life in opposition, criticising people for what they do in government rather than actually being in government where you can stop the wild excesses, then join the Greens.

If you want to be pragmatic, constructive, and unlike the Greens in the 37 year history, actually ACHIEVE something – join the Lib Dems.

Just listening to Radio 5 just now. The howls of derision which went up when Theresa May was named as Home Secretary will stay with me for a very long time.

@57 “there are a lot of people who hope that this gives Labour a chance to reform (in all senses of the word), into a party who are committed to socialism”

1) with Miliband or Balls as Leader? Socialism? Really?

2) how did that work for you after 1979?

@61 How much worse would she be than David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw or Jacqui Smith? The Four Judges of the Apocalypse


One other thing, what you fail to realise John is that people do not join the Lib Dems in search of getting into power. Until recently we never had a chance of getting in government so people joined us because they believed in what we stood for.

Saints be praised, I knew my recent satire wasn’t completely unrealistic!

You go in to politics to change the world, not to interpret it (to paraphrase one bearded leftie from times of yore).

@63 Very much worse.

66. Gerry Haines

I would argue that the greens have achieved plenty under a system that is really biased against them.
We capture council seats and keep them – unlike the BNP who lost the lot in Barking.
We also have seats in Scotland’s Scottish parliament, and in the London Assembly, as well as MEPs. We have at last got a seat in Westminster and are currently recruiting more people than ever on the back of that win.

Give me one single example in Europe of the Greens as a credible and competent opposition -and government- alternative.
As an opinion movement they’re fine.
As politicians they often prove to be lefties with a green coat and are often very ineffective.


Fair enough as far as it goes. Part of me really wants to believe that it’s better than nowt, but I just can’t stomach it… I mean Teresa May as Home Secretary… honestly?!

I just can’t help thinking you’ve sold yourself cheaply: not one of the major cabinet positions, an iffy commitment to AV, signing up to £6billion of cuts in the first year…. and all for what?

The alternative of a confidence and supply agreement would have brought you almost as much, without having to buy into Cameronian Big Society. I hope you don’t live to regret it… or at least that we manage to get AV (as an admittedly poor substitute) introduced before the LD’s tear themselves apart or get a good kicking at the next election.

@54 there are a lot of people who hope that this gives Labour a chance to reform (in all senses of the word), into a party who are committed to socialism.

Me for one. Preferably with Ed Balls as leader.

Gosh shadow cabinet elections are going to be fun!

@63 Very much worse.

What evidence do you have?

Yeah, May as HS is a shocker. I have to say that if the LibDems have failed to secure a single senior cabinet post then that is pretty poor.

72. JennyForeigner

I’ve been a lib dem for ten years, a local executive member, and have spent the last two months volunteering almost full time. Donating hundreds of hours of my time, I’ve helped to keep this, and the neighbouring two seats safe.

During the negotiations I’ve alternated between fear, and hope, and anger at Labour not just for their record of refusing to listen and compromise, but for showing no interest at all for trying to work out a progressive alliance. We knew it wouldn’t really fly, but it was helping us to mitigate the Tory program.

I set myself a key test: where would the lib dem negotiators stand on the timing of cuts? The economy is the most important thing, and cuts this year endangers the recovery. I’m supportive of the negotiations, and pleased that the Tory government will not govern unchecked, but for me that’s the crucial sell-out, and judging by the faces of the lib Dem MPs, for them too. I would far rather have seen us take no cabinet seats at all, but sacrifice them to do something really good for the people of this country.

To hear about the change to the no confidence rules is a slap in the face. It’s undemocratic and its contrary to everything that I was a lib dem to achieve. So I’ll be resigning my party membership at tomorrow’s emergency local meeting. I wish them the best. I continue to hope that lib dem policies will be achieved.

I hate Labour, I hate Ed Balls and the dogmatism and the secrecy and the sense of entitlement and the illiberilism and the wars.

I’m going to absolutely hate the moment when I rejoin the Labour party and it’s going to be tomorrow.

73. david johnson

Completely disgusted by the naked careerism of Clegg, Cable, Laws et al.

I felt sick looking at the picture of NC and DC walking into #10 together.

I dont know whether I’ll join Labour, but I certainly wont be supporting the Liberal Democrats ever again.


I share much of your sense of outrage. I’m not an LD member, so it must be even more galling for you. In your position however, I don’t think I could bring myself to join Labour… at least not until they’d had a pretty comprehensive re-invention.

I expect quite a few LD members will follow your lead and resign, but joining Labour now smacks of jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

“we capture council seats and keep them”

The Greens were wiped out in London, they only have 2 councillors now. I understand to the far left of the party this is great, but for everyone else it’s really quite piss poor.

“not one of the major cabinet positions”

Apart from Deputy Prime Minister, of course. Might have meant nothing to New Labour but Clegg is pretty much Cameron’s Co-Pilot on this one (cue lame innuendos from sex-starved Labour supporters)

Also – the Tories got 306 seats, the Lib Dems got 57. First you lot were whining that only 23% of people voted for them and yet they have all this power, now you’re saying it’s lame of them for not having secured all four great offices of state.

@people “leaving” the Lib Dems and “joining” Labour

You were a member of a party that supports PR. PR produces coalition governments. You don’t get to choose who else gets more seats and will be the most viable coalition partner after each election – that’s up to the electorate.

If you thought the Lib Dems were just Labour’s anti-Tory bulwark, then you rightly belong to Labour.

If you’re angry at the Lib Dems for trying to make a right-wing government less right wing, what on earth are you doing joining Labour, a government that promises to be left-wing and then turned out to be much more right-wing in many ways than anyone could have imagined?

I’d understand at least if you were joining the Greens, who actually are to the left of both the Lib Dems and Labour. And not really of much importance at this time, although of course this might change in the future.

77. howard17

Now might be the time to reconsider what appear to have become the default idea that the Lib Dems are a progressive party. Of course, many individual members are progressive but it may have escaped their attention that their party has been stolen by ‘Orange Book’ Neo-Liberals who have far more in common in terms of economic policy with the Tories than any other party.
It should also be said that the Labour Party is often left sadly wanting on the progressive ‘index’. The likes of David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw et al are conservative authoritarians who are implacably opposed to PR.
So, what should genuine progressives do? Where will you find a party that is committed to social justice, is opposed to the cuts and wants to protect the environment from rapacious capitalism? You can join at


I think any reasonable person would accept that to have NONE of the major cabinet posts is a major drawback. Even if Clegg makes more of the Deputy PM post than previous incumbents…. what does it actually involve?

The more detail that comes out, the more of a pup it looks like you’ve been sold. To paraphrase Lord Steel: “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for the relatively unimportant parts of your manifesto the Tories can stomach to happen, in return for…. errrmmm….”

“So overall, as a traditional Lib Dem supporter, I’m absolutely livid.” – I can see how getting LibDem policy passed might be hateful to you.

“As a liberal, I’m in two minds. At least the country’s not solely ruled by the Tebbit/Dorries party, at least there’s some hope for a left-Labour future, and at least there’s a tiny amount of hope for a multi-left future…”

The hopes for a Lib-Lab coalition which I shared along with the entire parliamentary party was scuppered by a) Ed Balls and b) Labour backbenchers. If you are a Liberal and the Labour party left the country a choice between a Tory government and a Lib-Con Coalition, shouldn’t it be the Labour party which draws your ire?

“if I still lived in the country” – Ha! Jog on!

@65 Oh, come off it.

Worse than John Reid? Are you sure that’s actually possible in a democracy?

The Labour government was only prevented from introducing secret internment for terrorists (or to be more exact, people they thought were probably terrorists) by sustained opposition from outside the party. In response to anti-immigrant scaremongering, they instituted a system of deliberately refusing asylum seekers claims on technicalities, and forcing them to travel to far-flung offices for no reason to progress their claim. They instituted ASBOs, allowing people to be jailed for any reason a judge sees fit. They passed laws banning unauthorised protests too close to Parliament. Under the umbrella of ‘fighting terrorism’, they passed laws allowing the police to harrass protesters. They tried to bring in compulsory biometric ID cards, requiring biometric tests to access public services – the list is endless. I call that a total commitment to authoritarianism.

Should people who want liberal left-wing policies join that party? Of course not, unless you really think a grassroots revolution inside the party is possible (I’ll believe that if Jon Cruddas is the next leader…). I’d say join the Greens, if you actually want that. Really Labour’s recent record in government is not remotely liberal and erm… left-wing? – well, the obsession with PFI and introducing ludicrous internal markets speaks for itself, really.

Sure, people who supported the Lib Dems purely as a tactical bulwark against the hated Tories, or as a tactical substitute for a real left-wing liberal party will be disappointed by this, even angry. But people who voted Lib Dem because they actually liked Lib Dem policies? Less so, I think. They’ve certainly got far more liberal policies from this than they would ever get from a simple Tory *or* Labour majority…

@ ukliberty

Look at Theresa May’s voting on ‘’.

Look specifically at gay rights, women rights, rights for the poor etc etc and tell me why the hell she is a good home secretary.

Also, why join the Labour party?

We need a proper centre left party.

Everyone: every single major cabinet post is held by someone who is worse from a liberal-left perspective than their predecessor under Labour.

Theresa May is a homophobe; William Hague is a Europhobe; and George Osborne is an idiot. This is not a step up.

The four LD ministers are responsible for fuck all – Alexander had to be SS because there’s only one Scottish Tory and the role doesn’t actually involve anything now the SG exists; and Cable, Huhne and Laws are in minor roles that are all effectively subservient to Tories in major offices. The only hope for any real LD involvement in the government is that George Osborne is *such* an idiot that real economic policy will end up set by Cable and Laws by default…

And if you think Nick Clegg’s role will be any greater than that of DPM under Labour, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. He’s Tony Blair pre-Iraq, selling the “we’ll help (moderate the Tories / keep the US in line with international law) because we’re the good guys” line. And he’ll make about as much difference as Tony Blair did.

The *only* good thing about this government is that the Tories won’t be able to push through the nasty stuff they’d like to on gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, etc. But that reflects the make-up of the MPs in parliament, not the make-up of the cabinet.

@11: sorry for anglocentrism. The disclaimer “for English people and for Scottish and Welsh people who want to preserve the UK” should be applied where appropriate. Actually, a positive result of the election from my perspective as someone who’s pro-UK is that the government now does have some legitimacy in Scotland, *and* that with Labour in national opposition they’re more likely to pick up votes in the WA and SP.

@21: Home Secretary’s a major position, but it’s a poisoned chalice because you’re basically held responsible for both crime and the police. So whenever the rozzers cosh someone to death, it’s your fault and whenever someone murders a kid, it’s your fault. And as it turned out, the Tories wouldn’t even throw them that bone.

@39: because the most important issues facing the country are whether there’s a large (completely private sector, taxpayer-unfunded) building project in West London, whether we switch to windmills or we switch to nukes, and whether we waste a few billion on another daft database that won’t work, right?

@43: I’m not a bloody Labourite. In every election where I’ve voted, I’ve voted Liberal Democrat (plus a couple of Greens on the Euro ballot, and an independent local candidate or two). I’m a bloody angry liberal, who used to consider himself a Liberal Democrat. I might do so again at some point when I calm down, or I might not calm down…

@52 I wholeheartedly agree that the LDs wouldn’t suffer under AV. If AV is passed, they will win more seats next time round. But I don’t believe AV will be passed. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, both for the sake of the LDs’ survival and for the sake of the Greens.

The knives are out for Cameron and Clegg already.

I said last year that after Cameron won the election he would quickly face a leadership battle unless he provided tax cuts. I wonder if if he will make it past October?

John B, I still don’t think you’re really evaluating what the *alternative* to this deal would have been, which is a Tory minority government daring everyone else to vote them down, eventually *being* voted down, new elections, and the smug toads securing an outright majority at the second time of asking because the Libs and Labs are bankrupt and can’t afford another election.

So, please tell us what you think Clegg *should* have done, in the absence of a deal from the Labour party?

86. Tony Austin

Much as my heart lifted at the prospect of a Lib/Lab pact, it clearly was a non starter…coalition of the losers etc. What depresses me is to watch the Right of the LD’s hijack the party into being subsumed within the Tories for the price of folk like Laws (investment banker) getting himself a plummy job from his new masters. How long will it be till the LD’s split, half joining the Tories and the rest going to Labour? That’s if there will be any LD’s left after the next election…I mean what do they think makes it worthwhile ever voting LD again, when you get this as a result?
I haven’t spoken to one LD voter yet who’s not seething at what Clegg has done.
One last thing…voting LD in a local election and seeing co-operation with the Tories is just about acceptable…voting LD in the national elections and seeing our party being sold out so we can be governed by a Right wing Tory party is all together different.

87. The real Billy

Given that actions of so-called Lefties like Billy Bragg are we sure?

The Labour Government barely deserves the support of the Labour Party, the Party barely deserves the support of the unions and none of us deserve the support of those people who despite all came and voted for us this time. But push comes to shove in politics sometimes and these are the defining moments for anyone involved. People rallied to Labour when it became clear we were fighting in part for the very idea of a party of ordinary people not bought by millionaires or sold to the media agenda. When it became clear that this was a fight against the hectoring middle class who want a Tory government to protect them from the likes of us with private health and private schools in their gated housing estates. When it became clear that the Tories stand not for the Big Society but for the Two Societies: the haves and the have nots. As they always did.

Push came to shove last Thursday and Billy Bragg didn’t stand with those of us trying to build a better world. He stood with the Tangerine Tories instead. The guys who are falling over themselves this weekend to sell out the manifesto Billy loved so much in return for a space for their own snouts in the Tory trough. Many people Billy has inspired and influenced over the years stand to lose once the Liberals open the doors to power for the Tories. We will pay the debts of the city bankers sunning themselevs on the beaches of Belize with our jobs, our wages, our tax credits, our paid holidays and the futures of our children.

Its right and proper that Billy is remembered by Labour supporters and union members now for this betrayal more than his past songs and solidarity.

“Which side are you on?” I think Billy has decided.

88. Richard W

The Tories have not compromised on anything they particularly cared about. They are not stupid and know how the IHT would have been portrayed in the midst of deep cuts. Stringing the base along during the campaign and dropping it with the LibDems taking the blame from The Tory base suits them fine.

On Friday Dave set out what mattered to his party.

No further powers to the EU.

Trident replacement.

Immediate accelerated deficit reduction.

Cap on non-EU immigration.

If the LibDems got a good deal tell me where is the Tory compromise on the aforementioned?

@83 John B

I agree with every word you wrote. Who’d have thunk?

Especially because what the Tories offered on AV is only a referendum. With freedom to oppose, which should not be overly difficult with overwhelming media support and plenty of shallow columnists reminding the nation of the post-May 6 chaos.

More, AV is only marginally better than FPTP. Sometimes not even so. I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently if AV had been in place for the 1997 election the Labour majority (already humongous) would have been even bigger.
Talk about fairness…

One more point. At Work & Pensions we’ve got the most socially conservative person since the days of Michael Portillo (in his old pre-modernising incarnation) in 1994-95. Iain Duncan Smith has ideas that would make an American Bible Belter jump with joy. He’s from the proper Tory right. The Taliban of Section 28, abortion, “the faaamily” (said in a Barbara Windsor voice) and good old Back to Basics.

Ironic that the Liberal Democrats are going to actively support that…

Oh but I guess we’ve got fixed parliaments now…

@88: If the LibDems got a good deal tell me where is the Tory compromise on the aforementioned?

Have you read this?

“David Cameron and his inner circle ran an inadequate general election campaign which failed to offer a big theme to voters and has forced the Tories into sharing power, a leading Conservative thinker claims today.

“In a searing account of the campaign, the founder of the influential ConservativeHome website said the Tories never articulated a consistent message on the economy and made a fateful decision to agree to the television debates. These ended up boosting the Liberal Democrats.”

Maybe Cameron isn’t as able as he is cracked up to be. OTOH, maybe he got the outcome he privately wanted. For the present, I don’t pretend to know which it is.

92. Tony Austin

My predictions 🙂

Within the year, at least 1 LD MP will defect to Labour.
Within the next Parliament, Laws and Alexander will defect (if you can call it that anymore) to the Tories.
The Labour Party under David Milliband will surge ahead in the opinion polls and start mopping up results in by elections.
By the time the next general election comes, the consensus will be the the LDs should have let the Tories form a minority Government with at the most a “confidence and supply” arrangement.
Clegg will resign after the next General Election when he sees his party seriously lose seats to a resurgent Labour Party and far from breaking the mould of 2 party politics; his actions will have been seen to have strengthened it.


The link there to the piece in The Guardian about Tim Montgomerie should have been:

If it all comes together….

PR elected ‘Senators(!!!)’ in a new Senate. #Check
Referendum on AV#Check

(Which I suspect will pass easily, people aren’t thick, they will instantly see the benefits)

Moderate the Tory Party (which let’s be honest, is dying)
Fixed Term Parliaments #Check

With AV they would survive the inevitable heavy backlash against them with the loss of their core centre-left vote.

This was really the best scenario for them to pull this all off, a major party by the balls, willing to give in to it, needing a long parliament themselves to remain electable after they restructure the countries finances.

If they can get AV, then quite honestly Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will go down in British political history.

At first glance of the coalition it seemed like a betrayal but it is probably the most noble action I have ever seen a party perform. They are risking everything to pull this off, to go into the lions den to make progress towards what they and their supporters (and the progressive majority of this country) want and to civilise and moderate the Tory party at the expense of their reputation as a party.

I think this is perhaps why the Guardian is forgiving of this, maybe they see where this is going.

@94 see “if it all comes together”. If AV passes, then the Lib Dems will have secured their party’s permanent relevance in British politics. If it doesn’t, then they will have secured their party’s permanent destruction – or at least, they’ll have subsumed it into the Tories.

I was talking to a friend last night about how *utterly weird* the poltiically active (rather than just “like my dad and his dad before him, I wouldn’t vote for those bloody socialists”) Tories we knew at school/university were (we both turned 18 in 1997).

Despite the fact that even most Tories thought the Major government was a miserable failure by that point, they were people who actually *liked* John Major (although thought he was a bit leftie on Europe), thought that IDS was charismatic and able, and that Labour was genuinely made up of hard-left traitors who were going to introduce near-Soviet socialism.

So while it’s now doing much better to find young activists who are, erm, normal (because there are actually some good reasons to hate the Labour government ….) the Conservative party is deeply short of people aged 25-35 who aren’t *completely and utterly insane*. And people of my generation who were naturally centre-right, Economist-believing types by inclination who wanted to be involved in politics tended to join the Lib Dems instead.

Which poses an interesting question: given what we know *can* happen to right-wing parties (see: the batshit insanity of the US Republican movement at the moment), is part of the point of this move by old-school Tory top brass to move over the centre-right Lib Dems and bring in future leaders and ministers who aren’t Phillipa Stroud-like, far-right nutjobs…?

@85, simply, I think the Tories would have been able to cling onto power for a couple of chaotic years by selling out their principles on Scotland and Wales, and would then have done worse rather than better in the 2012 election.

I also think that, given the meagre list of concessions that they’ve actually won, the LDs would have done better to say “we will back a minority Cameron government on these key vote-of-confidence issues as long as [negotiated settlement allowing an acceptable budget to be passed and a vote on AV], but will not take ministerial roles and will continue to oppose Conservative policy in any areas that are against our manifesto and our core beliefs, just as we opposed the last government”.

That would have made the LD leadership appear principled, rather than power-hungry; and it would have allowed the LDs to continue to differentiate themselves from the Tories ahead of future elections (rather than the united front that Cabinet government requires). And I can’t see why the Tories wouldn’t have gone for it, either. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the Tories insisted on bringing the Orange Book team into Cabinet and would’ve have allowed a voting pact without a formal coalition – but colour me sceptical.

There’s nothing liberal about the Labour party.

They support child detention for f*cks sake….

98. Charlie 2

95. John b. Coalition governments work elsewhere in the World because people compromise in order to achieve a workable consensus. To compromise requires a person to be mentally flexible. Labour had from mid day Friday to Monday morning to draft a set of proposals suitable for the LDs. Many LD MPs and former leaders were keen to work with Labour. Yet D Abbott, A Burnham, Blunkett and Reid came out of against any change to FPTP. Quite amazingly the Tories were prepared to compromise more than Labour and prepared to have a written document produced . Labour have failed to compromise in 1997 and 2010.

Many people seem to believe hatred of the Tories is a virtue. Hatred makes one blind. Constructing a green economy will not occur through hatred of the Tories.

Under Labour 500,000 people now vote for the BNP. Perhaps if Labour had actually spent the last 13 yrs rebuilding our manufacturing and civil engineering industries rather than taking money from the City in order to create public sector employment in the regions( R Sunderland Observer p50 , 26/04/10) we would be in better shape. By failing to develop manufacturing and heavy civil engineering ( needed for high speed rail, wave powered electrical generation , etc) it has prevented the creation of middle income jobs which would have reduced economic inequality. It is the reduction of the number of people employed as craftsmen, technicians, scientists and engineers which has removed the ladder by which people may improve their life through productive work. In Germany car workers can earn $41/hr. The large numbers of well paid skilled workers in Germany greatly reduces economic inequality. Someone may be born in poverty, but if they can complete an apprenticeship and then through night school undertake the theoretical training and pass the relevant exams, they may become a chartered engineer and enter the middle classes. This was a career route for many engineers up to the early 1970s. As a rule a chartered engineer requires a person to be educated to degree standards and have at least 5 yrs post exam experience with an organisation. The training has to be undertaken via an agreement and it requires successful completion of various tasks, often with exams and an interview at the end.

Labour has successfully removed many of the paths whereby poor but bright and practical people can better themselves.

Labour middle class art graduates who dominate much of the education system, obsessed by class, stopped many of the polytechnics from offering night school tuition.RJ Mitchell- Spitfire; Chadwick Lancaster and B Wallis – Bouncing Bomb, etc, etc , all started as apprentices and studied at part time in the evenings. Consequently, craftsmen who had families could not afford to take time from work to complete degrees. When Margaret Hodge said working at supermarket was suitable job for a toolmaker, after Rover finally closed, it demonstrated the middle class white collar arts graduate total ignorance of manufacturing.

Labour is no longer the party of industry but that dedicated to pasing more rules , regulations and laws in order to increase public sector employment. The green economy will not be created by non-technical public sector workers.

99. Charlie 2

At long last , A Labour MP admits that it’ s policies have lost support amongst semi and skilled members of the working class. If Labour had spent 13 years training the unskilled and semi skilled so they became skilled together with increasing industrial production, rather than just expanding the public sector employment in the regions, perhaps they would still be in power.

Excellent wrap-up, Charlie 2, about Labour’s evolution (or better put, non-evolution) both on social and economic aspects.This is very much similar with what is happening to left-wing parties across Europe. Their sociology -and subsequent voting support- is increasingly made up of public servants (and quangos) and unemployed people.
You also point, and rightly, to two of the biggest problems facing the UK: “desindustrialisation” and “financialisation”. FYI: I raised these issues in (longer version on (Needed: Britain’s economic reinvention).
So I would agree that left libs should move to the left… if the left labs change!

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