We are now officially the voice of opposition


12:28 pm - May 12th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Saturday morning after the election I was briefly interviewed by Vanessa Feltz of BBC London and I said Nick Clegg was in a ‘lose-lose situation’ because he was going to be pilloried for whatever coalition decision he took. She laughed at me and said that surely he should be happy as kingmaker.

I don’t claim to understand Libdems that well, but there are an awful number of bad assumptions being made.

1. For a start, while I don’t doubt that Labour memberships will jump up quite a bit, it’s rather naive to assume that Libdems will embrace the Labour party in anti-Tory anger without requiring an actual change in policy (on ID cards, civil liberties, constitutional reform etc).

I suspect a lot of left leaning Libdems will wait and see, after being told by the likes of Simon Hughes and others that they simply could not go into a deal with Labour because of the maths and lack of incentives. A lot of Liberals hate the Tories but not as much as lefties and Labourites do. So they have to be wooed rather than taken for granted.

2. The number of concessions Cameron has offered the Libdems are, it seems, quite a lot. And more keep tumbling out. In fact I suspect even many Libdems are quite surprised how much ground Cameron was willing to cede to them. This will also keep them on side because, as I said last night, if the coalition fails then both parties will be punished brutally at polls.

3. But that said, Libdems are in for a long ride of disappointments. Sooner or later the Heffers and the Tebbits (now channelled via Tim Mongtomerie) will exact their pound of flesh. The Cameroons may claim to be liberal Conservatives but they still have a base that is solidly conservative.

And the right-wing base of the Conservatives is also far more organised and powerful than the left-wing base of New Labour ever was. Which means that by five years time, either the Libdems will desperate to get out or will have mostly been absorbed and forever tied to their new allies.

4. And so I’ll reiterate the point I made last night and explain why this is now the official voice of the opposition: the only way to expand the Left tent is to offer a home to those Liberals who will not want anything to do with the Con-Lib coalition.

Labourites would be foolish to assume that the UK will keep a massive anti-Tory majority, especially since Cameron will try his hardest now to remain centrist and keep Libdem voters on side. He never really liked hard-right ideologues like Norman Tebbit and Simon Heffer anyway, and now he can successfully use the Libdems as his shield and a prop for power. The right-wing base has nowhere else to go.

5. In the face of a centrist Tory-Liberal coalition, the worst mistake the Labour party could make, and the Left could make, is to go really left-wing and start appealing only to the tribalist Labourites. I’m afraid, at this point, that constituency isn’t big enough for power.

What is needed now is a self-assured centre-left opposition that has the narrative to offer an alternative vision while also being able to peel off disgruntled Libdem voters.

6. And lastly, I see that various Labourites can’t help but vent their rage by making sarcastic remarks like: ‘yeah, what are you people who advocated a coalition with Libdems saying now, fools?‘ I refer them to this article. Since senior Labourites didn’t want to try harder to build that coalition, there’s no point blaming those who advocated it in the first place.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Elections2010 ,Westminster

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Reader comments


I thought you voted for this Government Sunny?

Oh, Sunny. You’ve always been the voice of opposition and always will be.

On point (1): The obvious course of action, for LibDems unhappy with Labour policy on these matters, is to join the Greens, who AGREE with LibDem policy in these important regards.
On point (4): Agreed. There is still though a slight oddness, in having this blog be the official opposition – when it has the word ‘Liberal’ in the title…

‘while I don’t doubt that Labour memberships will jump up quite a bit, it’s rather naive to assume that Libdems will embrace the Labour party in anti-Tory anger without requiring an actual change in policy (on ID cards, civil liberties, constitutional reform etc).’

This is right on the money and it’s vital that the party leadership candidates understand this. Many people – like me – who have rushed to rejoin the Labour party have done so precisely because, with Brown and the 1980s-scarred players out, there is the possibility for the party to orientate towards the Compassite plural left.

By definition, those who are joining (or rejoining) now are not tribalists. They left Labour, or did not join, in govt because there was a final straw. Too cosy with banks, Iraq, civil liberties, failure to attack inequality with sufficient gusto. They are rejoining to pursue a new agenda, not a tired re-tread of the bizarre mix of Old Labour ‘democratic centralism’ and New Labour’s ‘intense’ relaxation.

Those dinosaurs railing against the Lib Dems and electoral reform ought to remember they won’t win again without these new members campaigning and Lib Dem voters – mostly reformers – taking a punt on the red rose.

Brilliant post – thanks for this. I’m currently in the process of writing a blog myself reiterating why turning the Lib Dems & their supporters into the new version of Satan is both short-sighted & unhelpful to Labour & the left.

Personally, I’m in the left-leaning Lib Dem campaign and as you stated in point one in ref to Simon Hughes, I’m choosing to wait & see before taking any grand leaps into the abyss in terms of political alliances. Also as you rightly pointed out, I can’t square with joining Labour at present until ID cards get knocked off the agenda & they improve their thinking on civil liberties & constitutional reform.

For all the Labour die-hards out there, try not to burn too many bridges with your Lib Dem supporting friends at this stage – it won’t help in the long run and who knows, if you leave them to draw their own conclusions they may well join you on the Labour side of the fence.

I’d sooner try to keep the LibDems together tbh. Let’s wait & see how it pans out.

it’s rather naive to assume that Libdems will embrace the Labour party in anti-Tory anger without requiring an actual change in policy (on ID cards, civil liberties

What changes in policy are required here?

They both committed to scrapping ID cards.

They both consistently voted against Labour’s illiberalism for the last 13 years.

Really good piece the one comment I would like to make is that so far as :

5. In the face of a centrist Tory-Liberal coalition, the worst mistake the Labour party could make, and the Left could make, is to go really left-wing and start appealing only to the tribalist Labourites. I’m afraid, at this point, that constituency isn’t big enough for power.

is concerned I wouldn’t bet against it.

I wish you well Sunny…. but I think you have your work cut out.

I ought to be an ideal candidate for recruitment, but I’m going to need a hell of a lot of persuading that new New Labour (Labour Squared perhaps?) is worth my support.

As other posters have said, I feel like my political compass has gone: I’m honestly at a loss where to turn.

I need to know New Labour is dead, not just re-branded and under new management. I need to see the body, preferably with a stake through the place where it’s heart should have been. I need to know that the unholy alliance of Blunketts, Reids etc who helped condemn us to years of Tory government will be patted gently on the head, and given a good strong kick in the arse.

I need something to believe in, I’m just not that confident that I’m going to find it in the Labour party!

Sorry, my @7 is a dreadful misinterpretation of what Sunny wrote.

By definition, those who are joining (or rejoining) now are not tribalists. They left Labour, or did not join, in govt because there was a final straw. Too cosy with banks, Iraq, civil liberties, failure to attack inequality with sufficient gusto. They are rejoining to pursue a new agenda, not a tired re-tread of the bizarre mix of Old Labour ‘democratic centralism’ and New Labour’s ‘intense’ relaxation.

also right on the money.

12. Stuart White

I totally agree with this post. There is an opportunity here for Labour to reach out to Lib Dem supporters and activists, but it is going to require a willngness on Labour’s part to really shift its position on civil liberties and democratic renewal.

I am really cheered by the comment by jesusjohn. And at the same time I understand and respect the position of people like Kim.

Right now, the liberal left – by which I mean the group of people who believe in civil liberties, democratic renewal and economic egalitarianism – is not well represented either by Labour (not liberal enough) or the Lib Dems in coalition with the Tories (not left). Those of us in the two different parties (and the Greens) need to keep talking to one another. The last thing we need is to start shouting at each other across the party divides.

Kim @ 5 has it right. There are still many things which unite the liberal left and LibDem supporters and there is no need for us to burn our bridges. If anyone doubts this then go and see what Harry’s Place are saying about all of this (or rather don’t if you value your sanity).

@Stuart White

Your comment has thoroughly cheered me today, especially the comment about being willing to respect the position of people like myself. That kind of respect & understanding is ultimately more likely to bring about positive gains for Labour/the Left than continuely shunning & throwing stones at people.

I also think you make a good point with your definition of the liberal left and the fact that none of the 3 left parties (if we include the Greens) fully represent those ideas.

Ultimately, I think that both the Lib Dems & Labour will be in for an interesting time in the coming months.

Also in my own comment in @5, that was meant to say left-leaning Liberal camp rather than campaign!

@Sunny

“the only way to expand the Left tent is to offer a home to those Liberals who will not want anything to do with the Con-Lib coalition.”

Why not actively try to constructively work with the Lib Dems in government? It might be more constructive than lobbing rocks at them. For the first time in decades, we have civil libertarians in government. There is no virtue in being part of the opposition for the sake of it. And Labour are discredited, in the eyes of the public and the genuine (i.e. non-loyal-to-Labour) Left. How are they the basis for any real opposition to a mixture of left and right from the government?

Maybe all of those Labour MPs who scuppered the LibLab pact? The ones, even on the ‘left’ of the PLP, like Diane Abbott who opposed it and oppose PR? They’re not worth working with, they threw away the country’s best chance for a centre-left alliance, purely for electoral self-interest. Can’t trust Labour.

17. East Londoner

I did notice that one of the earliest LibDem policies to be ditched was the amnesty for illegal immigrants which I thought had a certain sense of irony as, from what I remember, that was the policy that persuaded Sunny that the LibDems were really an OK bunch of people.

We must wait to see how all this pans out, maybe they will find some sort of centre right nirvana and can safely ignore the tory wingnuts and liberal weirdy beardies (yes I know that is a stereotype).

Personally I think the chances are that it will all go horribly wrong, the constituent parts are simply too unstable. After a while it is going to sink in to Tory MPs that around a quarter of the available ministerial jobs have gone to the part of the coalition that provides only 15% of its members and this will be a severe restriction on the possibility of career advancement for them (most will have given up highly paid jobs, they wont want to be backbench voting fodder for long). There will be friction over policy areas and the LibDem grassroots will soon realise that any chance of AV let alone anything more is a mirage (though some might be satisfied with the House of Lords elected under some sort of PR system – but will the Tory diehards buy this?).

The Labour Party cant assume that it can just bumble along and victory next time will fall into its lap. We need a proper open contest for the leadership with as little factionalism as possible. Policy areas do need to revisited and mistakes acknowledged. As many people as possible (including ex LibDem members if they so desire) need to be involved in this process.

However despite the defeat we are in a far better situation than could have been envisaged, the council results last week have started the process of rebuilding the councillor base (so necessary to help win parliamentary seats) and we have shown that where enthusiastic grassroots campaigns were run they were successful. This is far better than in 1979, 1983, 1987and arguably in 1992 better than the position the tories were in 1997, 2001 or 2005.

This was not a wholesale rejection of Labour values but the end of the road for the “New Labour” concept which despite its many failings (most prominent the disastrous support for George Bush’s war in Iraq) has left this country a far better place than in 1997. It was poignant that along with Gordon Brown, Peter Mandleson and Alistair Campbell were there for its final moments.

@jesusjohn

“Many people – like me – who have rushed to rejoin the Labour party have done so precisely because, with Brown and the 1980s-scarred players out, there is the possibility for the party to orientate towards the Compassite plural left.”

I don’t see upon what basis you think this possibility exists, given how the party has operated in the past. What will you do if it doesn’t happen? Leave again?

The Liberal Democrats are to the left of New Labour. They’re in government. Why not give them a chance before you run to the party that gave us Iraq?

“The Liberal Democrats are to the left of New Labour.”

We have always been at war with Eurasia.

First test should be Firsk and Malton in two weeks time.

“In the face of a centrist Tory-Liberal coalition, the worst mistake the Labour party could make, and the Left could make, is to go really left-wing and start appealing only to the tribalist Labourites”

Spot on.

Labour needs to occupy the centre ground and wait for the tories to stab DC in the back, the coalition to fall apart, and the trickle of gains to the opposition starting. But it also needs to have the necessary internal discussions on the reasons for defeat, and not to plan to be ahead in the polls now, but plan to do so in 4 years.

As a quasi-“tribal” Labour supporter I am wondering why so many of my party colleagues seem to take it for granted that Labour is the natural focus of the ‘progressive’ alliance which the LibDems ‘ought’ to have joined. The late government did many good things, mainly on class/inequality issues (the aged, minimum wage, Surestart etc) but on other key progressive issues it fell woefully short and may well have been less progressive than the new government turns out to be. Civil liberties, green issues, banking reform are just a few of these – Vince Cable was an enthusiast for banking reform on which Brown/Darling dragged their feet; and could anyone be less civil libertarian than that succession of Labour Home Secretaries? I hate to say it, but Teresa May might represent a shift to the left (let’s wait and see). I’m not saying support the coalition, which in many other ways (and some would say on more important issues) will be awful, but let’s face facts: it’s not just the opposition of dinosaurs or the parliamentary arithmetic which ditched the lab/lib coalition, but the real question of whether we actually are, on those issues, an appropriate focus for a progressive alliance. We have a lot of tough questions to ask ourselves before we can hope to stage a revival, or even to attract dissident LibDems.

Why not actively try to constructively work with the Lib Dems in government?

Because ultimately the Conservatives will try and absorb and take over the Libdem agenda. I don’t want to be part of that, but I’m happy to be in opposition and argue for a position that I think Labour should adopt in order to stay true to its Left ideals, and win power.

But it also needs to have the necessary internal discussions on the reasons for defeat, and not to plan to be ahead in the polls now, but plan to do so in 4 years.

Agreed.

I did notice that one of the earliest LibDem policies to be ditched was the amnesty for illegal immigrants which I thought had a certain sense of irony as, from what I remember, that was the policy that persuaded Sunny that the LibDems were really an OK bunch of people.

I know. But I also accepted that the Libdems weren’t going to be in power to implement that. But I’m glad at least Clegg had the courage to make the case rather than go for dogwhistles likes Cameron and Brown did.

I hope Labour can, in the future, adopt this position, and I will argue for that.

24. Cheesy Monkey

No, we don’t want another centre-left groupiscle – what, more fudge and kludge? We need a proper left-wing, democratic, socialist and socially-libatarian party.

We’re not going to get it, mind – Labour will have a leadership election and vote in a Blairite, and the Labour Left will stay where they are doing fuck all because they’re too scared of losing their seats.

The Lib Dems will split – the Orange Book weirdoes are getting their wish of a merger with the Tories and the old SDP rump will be reabsorbed into Labour, with the Left cut out because they were too slow to do anything about it.

Happy fucking days are fucking here again.

@19. John

“”The Liberal Democrats are to the left of New Labour.”

We have always been at war with Eurasia.”

http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

Slightly to the left, and way less authoritarian. As it stands the Greens are a more natural home for Liberal Democrats than Labour.

24

A realignment on the centre left is possible, but presupposes either PR (..and who know’s how that’s going to go?) or some splintering of Labour or the LD’s in the next General Election.

I think there’s a lot to be said for a Socialist Party carved from the left of the Labour party, an SDP from the LD’s and Labour, and a centre/liberal group. That should give plenty of scope under PR for a centre left, or even centre right, government.

Interesting that the Tories themselves reckon UKIP may have cost them around 20 seats last week… I wonder what (if anything?) they are going to do to try and address that little problem when in coalition with the LD’s?

So …you are now the opposition ..to the party you voted for? How many flip flops can one man perform ?

28. Stuart White

JohnB @ 22: ‘…let’s face facts: it’s not just the opposition of dinosaurs or the parliamentary arithmetic which ditched the lab/lib coalition, but the real question of whether we actually are, on those issues, an appropriate focus for a progressive alliance. We have a lot of tough questions to ask ourselves before we can hope to stage a revival, or even to attract dissident LibDems.’

Absolutely!

The greens can never be a depository for any even vaguely left votes ..they are against economic growth …pro massive tax hikes …its hardly pro working class is it?

30. Gaf the Horse

I’ve been a Lib Dem voter all my life, and joined the party this year, (long before the leader’s debates and Cleggmania), to try and get a LD MP elected in my local area, (we failed). The only time I have ever voted for another party in a general election was in 2001 when I tactically voted Labour.

I’m not sure how this coalition will go, I hope it works, but if it doesn’t I’ll be looking for another home. However it won’t be Labour. The behaviour of some Labour MPs over the last few weeks has been shocking, and their lack of interest in and commitment to electoral reform is appalling. Why would I want to pledge my support to a group of people who have made it quite clear that they prefer to sit on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs while (they hope) Britain crashes and burns. They have had opportunities to change our ludicrous electoral system time and time again, but self interest has interfered every time.

If I need a new home it will be the Green Party, the real home of progressive politics.

Gaf the Horse @30
‘If I need a new home it will be the Green Party, the real home of progressive politics.’

Well, that may explain why you were a LibDem in the first place: the comfort and security of utter powerlessness (until yesterday). I was thinking in terms of real politics – you know, power to actually do things?

Which doesn’t mean you’re not largely right about New Labour.

I think John Band @22 has it:

“As a quasi-”tribal” Labour supporter I am wondering why so many of my party colleagues seem to take it for granted that Labour is the natural focus of the ‘progressive’ alliance which the LibDems ‘ought’ to have joined. The late government did many good things, mainly on class/inequality issues (the aged, minimum wage, Surestart etc) but on other key progressive issues it fell woefully short and may well have been less progressive than the new government turns out to be. Civil liberties, green issues, banking reform are just a few of these – Vince Cable was an enthusiast for banking reform on which Brown/Darling dragged their feet; and could anyone be less civil libertarian than that succession of Labour Home Secretaries? I hate to say it, but Teresa May might represent a shift to the left (let’s wait and see). I’m not saying support the coalition, which in many other ways (and some would say on more important issues) will be awful, but let’s face facts: it’s not just the opposition of dinosaurs or the parliamentary arithmetic which ditched the lab/lib coalition, but the real question of whether we actually are, on those issues, an appropriate focus for a progressive alliance. We have a lot of tough questions to ask ourselves before we can hope to stage a revival, or even to attract dissident LibDems.”

If the coalition does what it says it is going to do, then the left gathered here has lost the Civil Liberties narrative as a distinctive; it may be an agenda that you believe in, but it can’t be used a a rallying point in an us vs them debate if the Tories are a party in implementing it after 10 years of Labour not doing so.

What else will be available to be used as a rallying point?

I wonder if the thing that needs to be revisited is the standard “Tory” stereotype. Have they actually moved from what the “same old Tories” meme assumes they are?

I think those questions can only be answered by experience from now on.

I’m also interested that there is already chatter (Lord Falconer) about the need for a rapid adoption of a new Lab leader. He said 2 months on the BBC News channel.

I agree with some of what Sunny said. I think we all agree that the Blunketts and Reids and Burnhams of Labour are to blame for talking down and effectively sabotaging coalition talks.
I also agree that bridges shouldn’t be burnt.

That said. Let’s get this straight. Let’s say it loud and clear.

How many Lib Dem voters put the X there wishing to get not just Cameron as PM, but Theresa May as Home Secretary, (visceraly anti-EU) William Hague as Foreign Seceretary, Liam “Vintage Tory” “Rambo” Fox and George Osborne as Chancellor?

I disagree with what Sunny says here:

as I said last night, if the coalition fails then both parties will be punished brutally at polls.

Why both? How? It’s true about the LibDems, surely. They’ll get wiped out.

But the Tories? I don’t see why a Conservative voter would punish them. Where else would they turn? Some to UKIP, but I think whoever planned to migrate to UKIP has already done that.
A centre-right voter would try and give the Tories a stronger mandate next time round.

I said this elsewhere: at their all-time rock bottom (1997) the Tories managed to muster 30.7% of the national vote. With Michael Howard at the helm they got 33%.

That is a huge power base. Even if punished they wouldnt get much worse than May 6.

34. Watchman

Sunny,

“But that said, Libdems are in for a long ride of disappointments. Sooner or later the Heffers and the Tebbits (not channelled via Tim Mongtomerie) will exact their pound of flesh. The Cameroons may claim to be liberal Conservatives but they still have a base that is solidly conservative.”

There is the problem that Conservative party members are like Labour members; so long as there is success and progress, they will not turn on their leaders, despite ideological differences. Tebbit and Heffer may be read, but they are not taken as Gospel (remember it was the Conservative party that threw out Mrs Thatcher, supposedly in the minds of many ‘lefties’ a godess figure to them…), and the same party that is inately conservative has a very strong liberal streak which should allow common ground with the Liberal Democratic parlimentary party (and many of their members) for one parliament. I would say that the awkward right of the Conservatives has generally either withdrawn, joined UKIP.or got old: find me some young examples of Heffers and Tebbits who are elected or writing newspaper columns…

@31

Gaf the Horse @30
‘If I need a new home it will be the Green Party, the real home of progressive politics.’

Well, that may explain why you were a LibDem in the first place: the comfort and security of utter powerlessness (until yesterday). I was thinking in terms of real politics – you know, power to actually do things?

This is absolutely right. The Lib Dems finally have power – power equals compromise and realism – compromise and realism are eeeeviiiiil.

@Claude

How many Lib Dem voters put the X there wishing to get not just Cameron as PM, but Theresa May as Home Secretary, (visceraly anti-EU) William Hague as Foreign Seceretary, Liam “Vintage Tory” “Rambo” Fox and George Osborne as Chancellor?

Did they write a note on their ballot paper when they voted Lib Dem, to say “not to be counted in the event of the Conservatives being the largest party” ?

You do not choose the government. You vote for a party. If it wins enough MPs to form a government, it becomes the government. If it can’t form the government by itself, it will seek to form it with others. Lib Dems would’ve preferred a coalition with Labour, but as you acknowledge, Labour scuttled it.

If what you wanted was Labour, why didn’t you vote Labour? The Lib Dems never said they wouldn’t in any circumstances join a coalition with the Tories. I think Clegg made it pretty clear in the campaign he was more likely to join the Tories if they got the most seats and votes.

Claude, I think what this does show is that the era of tactical voting is over. Under a PR system, or most likely AV, you vote for what you want rather than the least worst/most viable option. Everyone does that. Whichever parties win enough votes to get a majority between them, form a government. That way you can’t say “I didn’t vote party X only to have them form a coalition with party Y” – vote party Z.

JohnB @22 isn’t me, just for general clarification. I’m always either “John B” or “johnb78”. And I’m not a tribal Labour supporter.

@36 Mark

If what you wanted was Labour, why didn’t you vote Labour? The Lib Dems never said they wouldn’t in any circumstances join a coalition with the Tories. I think Clegg made it pretty clear in the campaign he was more likely to join the Tories if they got the most seats and votes.

This is amazing.

This is treating people like ejits, I’m sorry, Mark.

In the run up to May 6, especially as the polls started portraying Labour as the third party, many senior LibDems publicly said “we are now the biggest/best alternative to the Conservatives”. Not to mention all that “Labservative” business.

“If what you wanted was Labour, why didn’t you vote Labour? The Lib Dems never said they wouldn’t in any circumstances join a coalition with the Tories. I think Clegg made it pretty clear in the campaign he was more likely to join the Tories if they got the most seats and votes.”
Likewise…why didn’t you vote Tory straightaway? If you’re so sure that they can be so wonderfully influenced from within…?

Secondly, werent you the one the other day writing here that you voted Labour tactically at the election? And now you’re lecturing others for being disappointed at the LibDems propping up the Tories?

“some young examples of Heffers and Tebbits who are elected ”

Depends on what you mean by young, and whether you extend “elected” to other governmental institutions. But Nadine Dorries springs to mind immediately, as does Dan Hannan, less well known is David Davis (Monmouthshire MP not the civil liberties one) who can always be relied upon to say something dull in the welsh media (his most famous one was probably his support for Russia in the Russia/Georgia war a couple of years back). At the devolved level there are usually a few going on local TV to say populist right wing stuff, and at local councillor level….well at that level of all parties eccentricity is part of the job description.

@39

and at local councillor level….well at that level of all parties eccentricity is part of the job description.

Yes, this chap springs to mind with regards to rather old-school Tory views. He can’t have got the Cameron memo before saying: “The problem with Colne is that there are too many takeaways. And too many Pakis, that’s why people don’t come to Colne”… oops.

And @38

Mark Lightwood has gone from supporting Labour, to the Greens, to the Lib Dems in the course of a few days. I think his opinion is worth half a pinch of salt to be honest.

41. JohnB, now JohnBax

@37 Sorry for the confusion, John B – my fault, you got there first. I’ll call myself JohnBax in future posts

@Claude – 33

“That said. Let’s get this straight. Let’s say it loud and clear.

How many Lib Dem voters put the X there wishing to get not just Cameron as PM, but Theresa May as Home Secretary, (visceraly anti-EU) William Hague as Foreign Seceretary, Liam “Vintage Tory” “Rambo” Fox and George Osborne as Chancellor?”

Whilst I wouldn’t even attempt to answer this for everyone who voted Lib Dem, speaking for myself & my partner and people with a similar mindset & values to us – then the answer is not many. We’re both very anti-Tory, I would personally pay good money to punch Osborne in the face and plan to be one of the first on the protest line if Theresa May attempts to push women back behind the kitchen sink. To classify all Lib Dems/Lib Dem supporters as Tory-lite in the wake of this coalition is as narrow-minded and short-sighted as the pre-2010 classification of them as Labour-lite. I would venture that most are neither and that more than you imagine are anti-Tory but also dislike NuLabour’s constant erosion of personal freedoms & civil liberties. It’s not as simple as saying that if you’re not Labour you must secretly by pro-Tory and to imply that negates the whole spectrum of different stances one can take on an issue (or even parts of an issue).

43. Chris Baldwin

“5. In the face of a centrist Tory-Liberal coalition, the worst mistake the Labour party could make, and the Left could make, is to go really left-wing and start appealing only to the tribalist Labourites. I’m afraid, at this point, that constituency isn’t big enough for power.”

Perhaps, but there are degrees of leftness and there’s no reason to suppose that a mild shift leftwards would be an unpopular move. Something along the lines of repealing the Tory anti-union laws and re-nationalising the railways.

44. Nick Cohen is a Tory

Mark
1. What about prison reform. Will the coalition Tories / Lib dems be allowed to push through needed ideas to reduce the prison population. Or the rate of the prison population will reach the 1% of the US.
2. You know that the conservatives get most of their ideas from the right of the US republican party. Workfare, privatised medicine and educational vouchers.
3.

45. Culverin

@Claude – 33

I agree, with just about everything you’ve said…. people sound desperately naive on this blog and should take their rose tinted spectacles off now.

Come off it, Ian Duncan Smith Minister for Welfare? The LibDems have been shafted on the economy, political reform (as the Tories with their money will campaign against), foreign policy, health, immigration, nuclear power and the Tories of course get their ‘married tax break’.

Clegg et al seem to be under the illusion that party acceptance simply means the parliamentary party, but of course, that’s blissfully ignorant of those others who fund the party, campaign for the party and most importantly vote for the party – how many pro-Tory LibDem voters can there be?

Naturally, this ‘partnership’ is perfect for Cameron…. he not only gets what he wants but his massive media operation will be able to blame anything that goes wrong on the LibDems with the LibDems having little ability to respond. You’re absolutely right Claude, it’s the LibDems who will be wiped-out.

When my membership came up for renewal in the summer of last year, I said I was withholding due to Nick Clegg’s ‘British Public Being Kingmaker’ overtures to David Cameron until I received clarification that I wasn’t essentially going to become a glorified Tory. I didn’t receive that clarification although they still wanted my help during the election. I guess what I’m saying is that I smelt a rat last year and I am so disappointed that I’m right.

I wasn’t casting a ‘getridofGordon’ vote, I was voting for Vince Cable (plus anything but the Tories/LibDem policies) and petitioned others to do so too. I guess this, in Nick Clegg’s eyes, makes it fine that Susan Kramer lost Richmond Park to Zac Goldsmith because everyone’s like-minded chums now.

I’m livid, I’ve been ripped off by Nick Clegg, and yes, it’s tempting to join the Labour Party in anger but I think I’ll wait to see if the predicted double-dip recession happens before spending any money.

46. Culverin

@44, Nick Cohen is a Tory

Exactly, has everyone forgotten ‘Trust me I’m Dave’ backing John McCain/Sarah Palin?

The only areas where there is agreement between the Tories and LibDems is generally where the LibDems have gone right.

I really don’t think there’s any easy way to frame so many people getting shafted. I guess this makes Clegg the true ‘heir to Blair’…. Blair took Tory into Labour and Clegg’s gone the whole hogg and taken LibDem into Tory.

Grinning idiot!

Labour has to offer something to make it tempting for Lib Dems to come over to them. New Labour pushed a lot of shit that was to the right of your average brown shirt. I think the idea that these people will have no choice but to come back to Labour with their tails between their legs is arrogant beyond belief.

The Labour party can hide behind “there were not the numbers to form a coalition” and that is true, because a rainbow coalition would have fallen apart. But if Labour had got 30 more seats would they really have done a deal with the Lib Dems? Judging by the reaction of some Labour people yesterday I’m not so sure they would.

The idea that this deal will fall apart and therefore Labour can sit back and laugh is complacent rubbish. They need to get there act together, and then, if/ when it falls apart that will be a bonus.

48. Culverin

@ 47 sally

Ok, I understand your point but you (and I) seemed quite happy to swallow whatever Clegg said.

Don’t tell me that he hasn’t planned this for a long time – he was going on about it last summer.

F***ing crook!

49. Watchman

@39 Planeshift

Dan Hannan? You mean the man whose book underlies most of the deal agreed between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives? The self-described Roundhead and Whig? I can only presume you haven’t read him if you associate him with the Tebbits and the Heffers (who, to be fair, also believe in liberty, but seeminly only for them). But I thought someone would bring him up…

The less liberal David Davis is hardly the brightest, but he is also not noted for diverging from the liberalised society line pushed by the party (despite his use as rent-a-quote by journalists I am convinced are out to confuse me).

And Nadine Dorries holds views on abortion that are normally classed as right-wing (but probably better classed as pro-life, which is a position which has no necessary political or religious association), and views on accounting that may be questionable, but is generally actually pretty liberal. A divorcee with gay friends who has posted on her pride that her daughters can wear short skirts if they choose is hardly the most likely extreme right-winger! Despite everything, Ms Dorries is a long way from Sarah Palin.

I think you may be confusing caricatures with actual people there, although I can’t blame you round here, where Dan Hannan appears to be regarded as the Devil and Nadine Dorries as some sort of embodiment of evil (just because she has different views on certain issues, which as an ex-nurse she does have experience about, for all I disagree with her).

50. Culverin

@ Nick Cohen is a Tory & Sally

Just to clarify, my final remarks on each post are aimed at Clegg.

Didn’t want you to think I was having a go at you.

“Come off it, Ian Duncan Smith Minister for Welfare?”

Yes, unfortunately nasty Tories will get in to positions of power when elected. Our job, either on the Lib Dem, or Labour side, is to do what we can to stop nasty policies resulting.

“The LibDems have been shafted on the economy”

Lib Dems got their tax threshold (though staged), capital gains rise, the reform on banks, plane not passenger tax, stopped IHT change and is able to pursue tax evasion. I would hardly call that shafted.

“political reform (as the Tories with their money will campaign against)”

Everyone is assuming the Tories with their money can win an “election”, I think that last week proved they couldn’t, even with the full fury of the media behind them. Sense prevails, and a good ground campaign that spells out what are key fundementals on reform to AV will mean a change for the better.

Plus LDs get their fixed term parliaments and house of lords (seemingly) fully elected chamber if they persevere.

“foreign policy”

Yes, here they had to take more of a compromise position, though on things like the Euro it’s not like there is even an opportunity to do that right now anyway.

“health”

I’d be interested in where you get your information as, from what I can see, only statement on the NHS has been that spending will have real terms rises on the NHS.

“immigration”

We’ll see what the final policy area is, but while a cap is introduced it will be largely a show cap, there will be an instance where a powerful person wants in and the Tories will make the exception for the sake of the economy (or the footie fans), that’s if anyone ever reaches the “cap” they set on the 12% of people that they can cap.

Unfortunately asylum gets kicked in to the long grass, but the maltreatment of kids of asylum seekers doesn’t. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll also keep the move to allow asylum seekers to work, but maybe that’s a hope too far.

“nuclear power”

Aye, but then democracy also speaks doesn’t it? Over 50% of the country voted for parties that want more nuclear. At least Lib Dems are free to pursue the anti-argument.

“and the Tories of course get their ‘married tax break’.”

Which is a horrid idea but isn’t going to kill anyone.

52. John Palmer

From their agreement:

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

If you can’t get an overall majority then change the rules so you don’t need one. Once the Lib/Dems sign up for this their days are numbered.

55% of 650 is 357.5 say 358 MP’s needed to overthrow the government. Only 292 Conservative MP’s needed to support the government in a vote of confidence. The 305 they got (not including the Speaker) should allow 13 to go down the pub and have a good laugh.

53. Rabid Racoon

What really marks the difference between the liberal right and you lot is that what matters most to the right is the will and rights of the people, and that democracy is served. What matters to you is that you harness the state for the benefit of your ilk with no regard to anybody who thinks differently. This is not liberalism, this is out and out authoritarianism.

There is no such thing as the liberal left, left thinking can only be implemented by restricting the freedoms of the masses – cf labour 1997-2010. The Right dont throw these kinds of hissy fits when we dont get what we want, we compromise and determine why, if it is that the people didn’t want it then so be it, that is a higher principle.

Something you should all remember is that 71% of the population voted to get labour out of power – that is a pretty strong mandate against whatever it is that labour stand for, statism maybe ?

I’ve said before that Libcon should support the liberal wing of the conservative party and help to push out the old right wingers, if you could look past your ‘tories HURRRRR’ attitude (as Nick clegg has done) you would probably find you have far more in common with liberal tories than main stream labour.

Sure there is a lot we will never agree on but there is much that we do agree on so perhaps we can fight with each other once we have fought the battles against the people who we all disagree with.

The thing is a lot of people seem to be underestimating just how much some of us hate the Tories. Sure, those on the right of the Lib Dems don’t hugely dislike the Tories and the party core aren’t going to switch allegiance because a coalition has been formed. That’s not the case for someone like me who is a centre left/left wing swing voter. I really didn’t want a government that would cut the best things Labour have done (and yes I know they’ve done bad things too and I’ve been irate abut some of them). Well the majority of MPs in that governing coalition and the big cabinet posts are Tories and they have been enabled by Lib Dems. I have never liked the Lib Dems more than I have disliked the Tories so I’m sorry but I can’t vote for the party again. My only choices now are Labour and Green.

55. John Palmer

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

If you can’t get an overall majority then change the rules so you don’t need one. Once the Lib/Dems sign up for this their days are numbered.

55% of 650 is 357.5 say 358 MP’s needed to overthrow the government. Only 292 Conservative MP’s needed to support the government in a vote of confidence. The 305 they got (not including the Speaker) should allow 13 to go down the pub and have a good laugh.

56. Matt Munro

@ 53 Very well put. “liberal left” is an oxymoron, a way of presenting big state authortianism with a wolly jumper, clogs and beard so it seems a bit less threatening. The moneyed, metropolitan midle class love it of course, because it allows them to control the plebs from a position of privelidge, whilst pretending to care about them.
As recently as the 1950s the liberal party were considered of the right, if not on the right, they were a kind of benevolent toryism. During the 1960s the liberal party was infected by the hard left and genuine free market, laissez faire liberalism was overtaken by a mushy, state sponsored egalitarianism which mutated into the socially engineered, state controlled dystopia we are just waking up from. The sad thing is they still genuinely believe they are “progressive” and that none of this shite has been tried (and failed) before

57. Charlieman

@17 East Londoner: “I did notice that one of the earliest LibDem policies to be ditched was the amnesty for illegal immigrants…”

That policy had to be dropped, whether the LibDems formed an alliance with Labour or Conservatives. Both the other parties opposed it.

As a long term aspiration for liberals of all party affiliation, the policy deserves to stick around. It is a common sense idea that is workable but which generates instinctive hostility from those who have not seriously debated the subject. The proposed amnesty had so many caveats that it is impossible to assume that the potential beneficiaries would not become worthy UK citizens. The liberal left needs to talk up this policy over the next five years.

The LibDem proposal to raise income tax thresholds was perceived as a wacky idea initially, but almost everyone now thinks that it make sense. Eventually the immigration amnesty will be viewed in the same way.

Sunny,

I have to take issue with your last point because the whole point is this; Clegg always wanted to deal with the Conservatives, he has got his wish and for anybody to pretend otherwise is to ignore the vast bulk of what he said. The article you link too actually proves nothing; it’s a horribly one-sided account in a newspaper which will feel the need to justify it’s editorial stance in calling for a Lib Dem vote.

It’s all very well Lib Dems saying ‘oh weren’t Labour horrible’ but when were they allowed to ‘clarify’ issues as the Conservatives were? When were Labour negotiators allowed the luxury of consulting their own party? Maybe the last point is the fault of the Labour leadership and I accept that but the first one certainly isnt! The fact is quite clearly this; the negoiations with Labour were used as a lever in the parraell negoiations with the Conservatives and it is my honest opinion that the facts support the Labour accusations that there was little enthusiasm on the Lib Dem side either; after all, we could rightly chuck back, why David Laws, a known right-winger and ‘Orange Booker’; why not others more suited to Labour?

59. East Londoner

@57 I was just making the point that this was the tipping point for Sunny yet as soon as they had a sniff of power out it went

Something else from the Guardian this evening

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/12/osborne-cable-bank-reforms

I suspect this will be the first of many cases where it will be shown that the real power lies not with LibDem cabinet ministers but with the Tories. They will get some easy victories on green issues etc but fundamentally this government will try to implement the tory manifesto.

60. Mark Worgan

Can’t help but agree with this post, as a Labour Party member I can’t say I’m not a little bit annoyed with some Lib Dems but not for the tribal reasons that no doubt some dinosaurs would like us to be. It is important to remember that until last Friday we were fighting a particular enemy: a Conservative Party that would cut services to the poorest while rewarding the richest as well as being at best reactionary anti-European and intolerant and at worst threatening many things that people on the left of all hues hold dear, we saw the best way of doing this as defending a government which while making good calls and great strides in some areas had a record in others which was at times shameful. There is however no use fighting old battles as no doubt the Blunketts and Reids of this world will try to do, as much to protect themselves as anything else. If we reflect on the things we got right and wrong then no doubt we can attempt to attract back to the Labour Party those who couldn’t support us because for them these mistakes were more important than other considerations.

Which leads me on to the coalition, it all looks very jolly today with the jokes in the rose garden, the talk of a new form of consensus government etc and no doubt with his media backers Cameron will have a fair wind for a short while. I do not doubt however that Cameron will come across the same dillemmas which the triangulation tendency of New Labour led us to perhaps get things wrong. The Mail, Sun and ordinary Tories (not just the hardliners) will no doubt be crying out for red meat soon enough, there will no doubt be cries of ‘lock ’em all up’ ‘barmy Euros’ etc before too long, not to mention the tricky cuts, tax breaks that Dave and co will have to negotiate. Lib Dems will no doubt be disaffected by this just as they hated Labour when we gave the right its pound of flesh. That’s when the real test will come, and we must be ready with, to steal a slogan, the real alternative.

61. Nick Cohen is a Tory

“What really marks the difference between the liberal right and you lot is that what matters most to the right is the will and rights of the people, and that democracy is served. What matters to you is that you harness the state for the benefit of your ilk with no regard to anybody who thinks differently. This is not liberalism, this is out and out authoritarianism.”
Is that the same Tory Party tat sent advisors to Pinochets Chile and their only complaint ids that they couldn’t get rid of the lefties that quickly.
Didn’t Mrs T have lovely cups of T with Pinochet. I can’t remember Brown having coffee with Castro.
The idea that Tories like yourself rabid rodent are in it for the will of the people is enough to make me reach for the sick bag.

There is no such thing as the liberal left, left thinking can only be implemented by restricting the freedoms of the masses – cf labour 1997-2010. The Right dont throw these kinds of hissy fits when we dont get what we want, we compromise and determine why, if it is that the people didn’t want it then so be it, that is a higher principle.

Are you real, remember Tebbitts rant at Kate Adie. Don’t your read your press and hear your politician for hissy fits. Christ moron , get out a bit more.
Compromise. So this lady is not for turning was incorrect.

Something you should all remember is that 71% of the population voted to get labour out of power – that is a pretty strong mandate against whatever it is that labour stand for, statism maybe ?

I’ve said before that Libcon should support the liberal wing of the conservative party and help to push out the old right wingers, if you could look past your ‘tories HURRRRR’ attitude (as Nick clegg has done) you would probably find you have far more in common with liberal tories than main stream labour.
The crusty right wingers are the Tory party. For god sake man don’t you read the Daily Mail

Sure there is a lot we will never agree on but there is much that we do agree on so perhaps we can fight with each other once we have fought the battles against the people who we all disagree with.
What ?

There is also a worry about opposition here generally.
At least with a Labour government most of the media / blogosphere hated Labour
Now you have
1. All the newspapers, bar one in the country supporting a party in government.
2. BBC so far up the arse of the coalition
3. ITN / Sky have always been Tory
4. Channel 4 who are lauded over by Camerons mate Daniel Johnson
5. The blogosphere which was 70% tory but now with the libe dems make its about 80-85 % pro government.
Democracy is about opposition.

62. Culverin

@51 Lee Griffin

“Lib Dems got their tax threshold (though staged), capital gains rise, the reform on banks, plane not passenger tax, stopped IHT change and is able to pursue tax evasion. I would hardly call that shafted”.

You seem to conveniently ignore the fact that the deficit is going to be attacked this year. Was this pretty easy to give away or was Vince talking bollocks when he said there was a real risk of another recession, a Tory recession if you took too much out of the economy too soon?

If there is a recession, all these ‘concessions’ are likely to be ‘reviewed’.

Foreign policy is a shafting, the LibDems are essentially being forced to adopt the Tories’ bellicose approach to Europe and the outside world…. hey, why don’t they do it properly and move their MEPs into that fascist grouping in the European parliament?

Health, I would suggest you wake-up and see that this is going to be privatised, where possible. Wonder how they’ll ‘frame’ it – Academy Hospitals? How’s privatisation worked elsewhere (trains, utilities, prisons, etc)?

I accuse you of wishful thinking on immigration…. if’s, buts, ‘hope’. The press will continue to lead the way and Cameron will gladly head the lynch mob (the grinning, cooing, coy Clegg by his side no doubt).

Point taken with nuke power.

Married tax break…. we seem to have come full circle back to Ian Duncan-Smith. What a great job the LibDems did in stopping this one – such a prejudiced and regressive policy is only a sign of things to come. Yes, nasty Tories are going to attack the poorest, the weakest and the most vulnerable in society and the LibDems will just roll over.

Don’t you remember George Osborne’s little speech about how wonderful the Tory ‘budget airline’ councils were and how they would be a blueprint for a Tory nation?

A nation where services to the disabled, to the old, to the homeless, to the poor would be withdrawn because, of course, some charity or volunteers would come along and fill the gap.

The reality is that many people in Tory London Boroughs are desperate and without help – it’s third world!

Clegg et al have sold their supporters, their voters and the country out like cheap tricks and no matter how many Cowley Street spooks come on here to argue small details, this is not what we voted for. How many LibDem seats exist simply because they’re the alternative to the Conservatives? Yes, plenty – what a stitch-up and an insult to democracy!!!!!!

63. Culverin

@ 61 Nick Cohen is a Tory

Regarding the BBC being up the arse of the coalition, yes, of course they are – they’re terrified of Ofcom going and being given away to Sky only to be left as a shell.

Nick Clegg will obviously have to go and kiss the feet of King Rupert pretty soon, oh, and he should keep his social diary open….. there’ll be dinner parties with Dave/Sam, Rebecca Wade, David Freud, Andy Coulson, etc in Notting Hill. How cosy it will be, the blushing bride meeting the in-laws.

Really lovely!

64. Rabid Raccoon

@nick cohen is a tory

you are fighting an imaginary enemy, you are screaming at demons which dont exist and accusing me of supporting things I dont.

I deeply resent the statement that I am “in it for the will of the people is enough to make me reach for the sick bag” to be the case.
I wish I could understand why you think that way, all I cant think is that you have built up in your mind this idea of some baby eating 2 headed monster who represents your deepest fears about what a government could be and are not actually paying any attention to the real world and the real people who form the goverment. You are selecting people who have little influence on government, selectively quoting them and then claiming this is what everybody thinks like.

One of the nice things about the liberal right is the heterogeneity of thought and the tolerance for the way other people think and the desire to listen to other peoples ideas. I read sites like this because I am interested in the ideas of people who dont think like me. I really think that the left could learn something from this.

I see your pinochet and raise you ‘extraordinary rendition’ torturing people, illegal wars etc. etc. again its no use screaming about the kind of real politik that is necessary for a country to mainitain any kind of sensible foreign policy. Ultimately it is necessary to do deals and commit actions which are not inkeeping with the philosophies of the party and country. Its just life.

‘democracy is about opposition’
yes to an extent, it also about letting everybody have their say and then deciding, as a society the best course of action, then, most importantly accepting the will of the majority. In this case the majority was 71%.

65. Rabid Raccoon

ps the daily mail is not the tory party, it is a bunch of old nutters who I dont agree with.

most people that read it do so because it is funny and a light hearted and reactionary take on the news, nobody really believes it

Well it looks like we might have five years to organise and ponder.

(Two nights ago I posted questions and comments about fixed term parliaments (but have lost track of where – apologies to Rob and Mat? who both raised points.)

I think we need to look very closely at this apparent commitment to constitutional change and its implications.

It appears that the legislation will impose a fixed term of five years and have a threshold of 55% ‘no confidence vote’ for the dissolution of parliament. It thus appears that even if the LDs left the coalition en masse, the government would not fall. There goes one of the justifications of LD supporters here for coalition rather than support.

It is not a constitutional reform mandated in this election. A proposal for fixed term parliaments (without specifics iof term and threshold) was only visible in Labour’s manifesto (we lost –remember?), can only be discovered at the deepest level in the LD manifesto and was never in the Tory manifesto.

Sure, this is the practice in devolved Scotland, NI and Wales, but it was never debated in this campaign nor presented in any of the LD and Con leaflets which showered through my door on an almost daily basis. Did anyone get a leaflet about it? Hear a Tory or LD discuss and justify it?

I stand by my statement that this has not been widely or deeply debated. (Pace Rob and MatGB, I know the liberal arguments for this, and something about the international history of the movement towards fixed terms).

Not only was this not debated, and contrary to what Rob or Mat suggested, this is not a highly visible plank in any active and current ‘reform’ organisation aside from the marginal and exclusively LD front (one Tory-I think) – Campaign for Fixed -Term Parliaments; look at any of the key active and current campaign group’s websites and see how whether this is a prominent feature.

Mark Lightfoot – I think he was the Mark – claimed that “a five-year fixed term parliament {is} – in itself, more progressive than most of the things Labour have done in 13 years on constitutional reform.” More progressive than devolution to Wales, Scotland and the establishment of a London Assembly, abolition of the hereditary peers? Wow just wow.

Every other constitutional reform has been widely debated and clearly signposted in manifestos. Not very democratic. In this specific context – of a (not) powerful executive, it is not even a liberal proposal.

TBH I could be persuaded on this one, even though I do not conflate liberal (traditional meaning, not US political version) with ‘progressive’ (to be defined).

67. CrookedBill

I think the biggest message that Labour can take out of this election is that they can’t take anything for granted. They have to be proactive in opposition to win, its no use just waiting for the coalition to fall to pieces as the nuts on the right of the Tories start sticking the knife in. If this coalition proves anything, its that the Tories nearly blew it with their smug complacency, only really discussing anything beyond “HEY WE’RE NOT GORDON LOL” when they realised they were close to throwing it all away.
Labour needs to take stock, elect a consensual leader (no more of this Blairite/Brownite) partisan bollocks, and get its principles back. Obviously the civil liberties argument has been taken by the lib/cons but on economics and social justice Labour can put forward a coherent, plausible alternative to the government. Looking foward to the next one!

Two nights ago I posted questions and comments about fixed term parliaments.

I think we need to look very closely at this apparent commitment to constitutional change and its implications.

It appears that the legislation will impose a fixed term of five years and have a threshold of 55% ‘no confidence vote’ for the dissolution of parliament. It thus appears that even if the LDs leave the coalition en masse, the government cannot fall. There goes one of the justifications of LD supporters here for coalition rather than support.

It is not a constitutional reform mandated in this election. A proposal for fixed term parliaments (without specifics of term and threshold) was only visible in Labour’s manifesto (we lost –remember?), can only be discovered at the deepest level in the LD manifesto, and was never in the Tory manifesto.

Sure, this is the practice in devolved Scotland, NI and Wales, but it was never debated in this campaign nor presented in any of the LD and Con leaflets which showered through my door on an almost daily basis. Did anyone get a leaflet about it? Hear a Tory or LD discuss and justify it?

I stand by my statement that this has not been widely or deeply debated. (Pace Rob and MatGB, I know the liberal arguments for this, and something about the long and international history of the movement towards fixed terms).

Not only was this not debated, contrary to what Rob or Mat(?) suggested, this is not a highly visible plank in any active and current ‘reform’ organisation aside from the LD front – Campaign for Fixed -Term Parliaments; look at any of the key active and current campaign group’s websites and see how far you must search. Where has this been highlighted or signposted as a key reform?

Mark (Lightfoot-?) claimed that “a five-year fixed term parliament {is} – in itself, more progressive than most of the things Labour have done in 13 years on constitutional reform.” More progressive than devolution to Wales, Scotland and the establishment of a London Assembly, abolition of the hereditary peers? Wow, just wow.

Every other constitutional reform has been widely debated and clearly signposted in manifestos. Not very democratic. In this specific context – of a (not) powerful executive, it is not even liberal.

TBH I could be persuaded on this one, even though I do not simply equate liberal (traditional meaning, not US political version) with ‘progressive’ (to be defined).

PS thanks to Mat and Rob for comments on previous thread.

69. Nick Cohen is a Tory

“One of the nice things about the liberal right is the heterogeneity of thought and the tolerance for the way other people think and the desire to listen to other peoples ideas. I read sites like this because I am interested in the ideas of people who dont think like me. I really think that the left could learn something from this.”
What tolerance of thought.
everyone who opposes your neo liberla view of the world is castigated. Your not interested in an exchange of ideas or just the same tired old neo liberal economic view of the world. i bet you haven’t changed your idea on any subject in the last 10 -15 years

I see your pinochet and raise you ‘extraordinary rendition’ torturing people, illegal wars etc. etc. again its no use screaming about the kind of real politik that is necessary for a country to mainitain any kind of sensible foreign policy. Ultimately it is necessary to do deals and commit actions which are not inkeeping with the philosophies of the party and country. Its just life.
Your tories and idiots like Cohen backed up these foolish wars and rendidtion. I didn’t and many of us on the left certainly didn’t.
You like to see your self as non aligned but you haven’t the self reliasation that your more tribal than most.
You seem to think that it only left of centre administrations are corrupt and incompetant and illiberal. My point, was all administrations tend to go that way and I get little tired of rabid thatcherites like yourself saying it was different under the Tories

‘democracy is about opposition’
yes to an extent, it also about letting everybody have their say and then deciding, as a society the best course of action, then, most importantly accepting the will of the majority. In this case the majority was 71%.

that is not the point doughnut.
Read JS Mill and the tyrany of the majority.
Also I doubt many lib dem voters thought they were going to end up a Tory government.
If there no opposition mouth pieces then the country is just elective dictatorship

70. John Palmer

66. Elaine

I agree with your remarks on the 55% clause.

Hidden in the depths of the Lib/Con agreement is a potential deal breaker.

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

55% of 650 is 357.5 say 358 MP’s needed to overthrow the government. Only 292 Conservative MP’s needed to support the government in a vote of confidence. The 305 seats they got (not including the Speaker) should convert their minority government from being short of a majority by 20 seats to being a majority government with a 13 seat majority.

They will no longer need the support of the Lib/Dems and the coalition will break up shortly afterwards leaving Nick Clegg with egg on his face and the Conservatives free to do what they want for the next five years.

The Conservatives can only get this legislation through the Commons with the help of the Lib/Dems but the Lib/Dems would be signing a suicide note if they supported it.

The duplicity behind this clause proves the adage that if you sup with the devil then use a very long spoon.

John Palmer – thanks

Yes, I agree with your specific calculation and how it could be played out.

The fact (which someone will raise) that other parliaments have even higher thresholds is irrelevant. There is no democratic mandate for this change.

More people (on other sites) are also challenging the 5 year term provision which seems to be at odds with most other parliaments that have fixed terms.

But my major point is that there was neither wide nor deep discussion of this in the election. This is a major constitutional change. It is therefore completely undemocratic.

In this specific context in which it has been introduced, it is not even a liberal bulwark that is the classical liberal claim. With a 55% threshold it entrenches the power of a minority party. So in fact, it operates very illiberally.

If the claims are true that the LDs demanded AV be put in place by legislation, rather than subject to a referendum, this re-inforces the point. Any serious civil lbertarian or political reformer must be committed to deploying democratic processes for constitutional change.

Is this how the LDs want to achieve poltiical reform: on the quiet, in a clubby room and by the back door?? not in the full glare of public debate?

There is nothing liberal or democratic about this specific proposal. I really think that Labour and the Green need to oppose this specific proposal, even if they are committed to fixed term parliaments in principle.

I’m struggling to understand how the new confidence rule is worse than the old convention. Perhaps John or Elaine will be kind enough to explain.

73. Nick Cohen is a Tory

the daily mail is not the tory party, it is a bunch of old nutters who I dont agree with. most people that read it do so because it is funny and a light hearted and reactionary take on the news, nobody really believes it.
The Mail is the mouthpiece for conservative party workers from every thing to crime to immigration.
What do you think they read the FT

I haven’t figured you out frothing rodent.
1. Your are a liar, most likely
2. Or the most niaive twat poting on the blogosphere

74. John Palmer

71. Elaine

It will need the combined support of all the centre-left parties including the Lib/Dems to stop this legislation. If the Lib/Dems side with the Tories then there is no way of stopping it. Once it is passed then what was a minority government will become a majority government and they will no longer need the support of the Lib/Dems.

Cameron said that his favourite joke was Nick Clegg, he will be laughing all the way to the breakup of the coalition if he gets this legislation through. The only party ever to convert a minority into a majority with the aid of a mug.

75. John Palmer

72. ukliberty

“I’m struggling to understand how the new confidence rule is worse than the old convention.”

There are 650 MPs in the Commons. The government can be dismissed on a vote of confidence if they fail to get more than 50% of the vote, ie, 325+1=326 votes. This ignores the fact that the Speaker and the 5 Sinn Fein MPs do not normally vote.

Any government that fails to pass the magic figure of 326 MPs is called a minority government and can lose a vote of confidence at any time and be dismissed. The Prime Minister resigns and a new General Election is called.

The Conservatives only managed to get 306 MPs elected so were short of a majority by 20 seats. They could have been thrown out when they presented the Queen’s Speech if the rest of the Commons didn’t like it. This is why they had to form a coalition with the 57 Lib/Dems. This gives them a total of 363 MPs with an effective majority of 363-325=38.

A coalition is a bit of a drag, especially when you have very little in common with the other party. You continually have to tone down your more extreme legislation. Cameron had the brilliant idea of slipping an innocuous looking clause into his agreement hoping that no-one would notice. He raised the threshold for a vote of confidence from 50% to 55%. He now needs only 292+1=293 votes to defeat the measure. His can easily do this with his 305 MPs (minus Speaker) and has pulled off the the stroke of a lifetime. He no longer needs those lefty Liberals and quickly tells them to take a long walk off a short pier. He has the freedom to do what he likes for his full 5 year term. Clegg will have to face a lifetime of ridicule and his party will take decades to recover.

John Palmer
Great posts on fixed-term and 55%: concise and clear on the issues . You are right: unless significant numbers of Lib Dems (or Tories) oppose this, it will become law.

I migrated my discussion on this to the “Letter from a Lefty Lib Dem|” thread and elsewhere; I am a bit disorganised this week to put it mildly. Also made some points on Left Foot Forward thread on 55%.

Sunder Katwala’s post on Next Left http://www.nextleft.org/2010/05/libdems-destroy-defence-of-55-rule.html exposes this as the shabby ‘party politricks’ (my phrasing not his) it evidently is. It looks like the LDs are the origin of this proposal.

I am dismayed but not shocked by the ferocity and/or shallowness of the defence being offered by some LD supporters on this issue. You would expect some serious engagement with the democratic and constitutional issues involved.

Thanks for the discussion.

@Elaine

Will Straw of Left Foot Forward thinks 55% is too low. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have 66% – guess who gave it to them? Labour.

This bizarre tribalism of “when we do it it’s okay, when they do it it’s not” is befitting of the tabloid press.

78. John Palmer

76. Elaine

I agree with your comments, Wilson and Callaghan would have given their right arms to have been able to move the goal posts like this. They ran for years with minority governments, I can remember them bringing sick MPs in on stretchers to get legislation through. They never dreamt of just altering the constitution to get a majority, Callaghan could have avoided losing the vote of confidence in 1979 which led to the disastrous Thatcher government. He only lost by one vote, 310 to 311.

I’ll try to follow your posts on the other sites you mentioned.

79. John Palmer

77. blanco

The difference is that both of these governments have PR and coalitions are normal. A higher percentage then leads to more stable government.

Until we get PR then we should stick to a simple majority, shifting the goal posts is a bit shabby and will lose both partners a lot of credibility. If the partners fall out we could drag on for years with a discredited government struggling to get legislation passed but parliament unable to get the majority to get rid of them.

Blanco

I agree with John Palmer’s points in response.

If you read my posts (the difficulty in doing so is mainly my fault – since they are scattered on three threads), you could not so easily sneer at my “ignorance” – since I mentioned Wales, Scotland and NI, international comparisons as well as political reform groups.

Please don’t automatically label people “tribalist” without looking at their posts or asking them a question. It is exactly the kind of response that I find shallow and dismaying.

I am still waiting for a justification of not only the principle of fixed term government and super-majority thresholds, but also of the detail of this specfific constitutional change and how it was achieved.

I am very open to argument on the principle (but do, as John Palmer does, to think it ‘fits’ PR systems better), but still maintain my opposition to the way this was done (without a scintilla of a democratic mandate from the election) and the rationale given for it (see Katwala’s report on LD statements on Newsnight – or go to Newsnight and watch it) .

I take constitutional and political reform quite seriously. In this case I started off by asking a question about why fixed term parliaments were ipso facto labelled “progressive” (not just liberal) and after some extra research, looking at the accumulation of evidence and reading a variety of arguments on a variety of sites, arrived where I stand now. I have nothing further to say that would be useful so I will sign off this discussion. Hope John Palmer keeps up his very considered and clear contributions.

As I said on another thread, if this had been done by a Labour Government, we would see a tidal wave of “Chavistas” charges launched at the Labour Party by the Daily Mail and Telegraph.

I will now be encouraging people to write to their MPs to ask them to oppose this constitutional change.

BTW Will Straw asks this question in a ranging discussion – he doesn’ t actually answer it unequivocally.

Best wishes.

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