Hughes wanted Lab coalition instead


4:40 pm - July 28th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The most senior Libdem MP outside of government, Simon Hughes, has said he would have preferred a deal with Labour instead of the Conservatives.

We have been forwarded an email Simon Hughes sent in reply to a voter, in which he explains why the party went into a deal with Labour.

In the email Simon Hughes says:

People sometimes argue that we were wrong to enter a coalition with the Conservatives, and should have done a deal with Labour. Many people know that that was my first instinct and would have been more logical given the historic Liberal position as a left of centre party.

In the event such a coalition just proved impossible. The total number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs did not come to a majority and arrangements with other parties would have at best produced a precarious coalition with a small majority.

There was a great danger that this would not have given confidence to the country that there would be a stable government over the next few years to deal with the sever economic problems which we faced. In addition it was increasingly clear during the negotiations that many senior members of the Labour party did not want a coalition with us and preferred the option of going into opposition.

Finally in the negotiations Labour were unwilling to make significant compromises in our direction on matters of real importance to us, such as the repeal of the legislation on identity cards. In the end a deal with Labour proved impossible.

And I am clear that the only other remaining alternative – which was to allow the Conservatives to run a minority government would have had all of the disadvantages of a conservative only government with none of the advantages of coalition.

In addition they would have for certain called an early election with a great probability of obtaining a majority for the Conservatives for the following five years. In a coalition by contrast many of the policies and much of the influence comes from the progressive Liberal Democrat tradition.

This is an excerpt from an email that focuses primarily on why Hughes supported raising VAT.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“outside of Parliament” — Government, surely?

is this seriously news to LC?

Didn’t he already say this on the first Question Time after the election?

Gawsh, really? You don’t say!

I’ll just mention the pope and bears and get it out of the way quickly, shall I?

Next up, the toilet habits of bears.

“Next up, the toilet habits of bears.”

No-one can say I didn’t try.

In a coalition by contrast many of the policies and much of the influence comes from the progressive Liberal Democrat tradition.

Um, he’s still living in cloud-cuckoo land then. VAT rise, Academies, cuts in benefits, “big society”, denationalisation of health… try as I might I can’t find any of that in the Lib Dem manifesto.

“Finally in the negotiations Labour were unwilling to make significant compromises in our direction on matters of real importance to us, such as the repeal of the legislation on identity cards.”
This sounds a little fishy to me, I have a hard time imagining that Labour’s negotiators (such as Mandy), were unwilling to make such a trivial change. More likely this is what Clegg told his MPs as an excuse.

Well thank you Captain Obvious!

Of course SH had a “first instinct” to enter a coalition with Labour, but as he makes clear in his email there was no choice because: a) Labour lost the election – supporting them would have contradicted everything we believe about democratic legitimacy; b) the numbers didn’t add up; c) the Labour tribalists in the Cabinet had no intention of taking coalition seriously.

I wish people like you would stop stating the bleeding obvious and get on to looking at what all 3 parties are actually doing in the new situation (and as a Lib Dem, I include the Lib Dems in that – there is plenty to critique and criticise).

Oh, and how about checking your work before posting. Simon cannot be the “most senior Lib Dem MP outside Parliament” and the party didn’t go “into a deal with Labour”.

I got this email about a month or so ago, it was part of the 38 Degrees campaign to get the LibDems to not give up on voting reform…

In shick additional news, Vince Cable said the exact same thing in the week the coalition was agreed. This was public knowledge at the time, the reason the negotiators were sent to talk to Labour is because the Parliamentary party insisted on it.

S. Pill, you list a chunk of stuff from the Tory manifesto that was included in the coalition agreement as if it was somehow news? Isn’t that as bad as Sunny quoting month old emails stating something we all knew? There are a lot of LD policies being implemented, there are a lot of Tory policies being implemented to, and some of the things being implemented are compromises. That was sort of the point…

@11

Yep. But it’s disingenous of Hughes to say that the LDs are having “much of the influence” and that “much of the policies” are coming from progressive LDs. They aren’t (with the notable and yes laudable exception of civil libs).

12 – it’s all a matter of perspective. Listen to the comments on ConHome and it’s all about how the Coalition has sold the right down the river, and how the LibDems have disproportionate influence.

@13

Hm, I guess so. Seems like every other day a LD MP moans about it being too Tory and a Con MP whinges that it’s too LD, so you’re probably right. I still regard this government as centre-right more than anything else, though, and I suspect history will judge the same.

Before Labour get their hopes up, read Hughes’ speech from the Special Conference where he was the main drive behind bringing the party behind the coalition:

http://simonhughes.org.uk/news/000263/speech_to_special_liberal_democrat_federal_party_conference__birmingham_16th_may_2010.html

Tim Jerk “Next up, the toilet habits of bears”

Since when have you been deciding what stories to run on this site? If you don’t like them then……………….

17. George W. Potter

““Finally in the negotiations Labour were unwilling to make significant compromises in our direction on matters of real importance to us, such as the repeal of the legislation on identity cards.”
This sounds a little fishy to me, I have a hard time imagining that Labour’s negotiators (such as Mandy), were unwilling to make such a trivial change. More likely this is what Clegg told his MPs as an excuse.”

Disbelieve all you like but, as someone who spoke to someone who was actually present at both sets of negotiations, I can tell you that it’s the truth. Quite simply speaking, most of the people now vying for Labour leadership decided that their career and electoral prospects would be better if they weren’t in government during this parliament and were able to sit back and criticise instead. that’s why they blocked a Lib-Lab pact. In short, nothing but venal self-interest with what was best for the country not getting a look in edge-ways. Then again, I never expected anything else from Labour.

18. George W. Potter

S. Phil – you do understand the concept of a coalition don’t you? You know, compromise, neither party getting all of their policies implemented and so on? I know it may be an unfamiliar concept but I’m sure you’re capable of getting your head round it; most of Europe seems comfortable enough with the idea at any rate.

@18

Au contraire. But see my comment @12 – I’m merely disputing Hughes’ interpretation of the facts.

This is not a coalition. The Lib Dems are getting jack shit out of it.

Rise in VAT, tory policy

Big cuts in spending, tory policy

Weird education policy that allows any right wing twat to set up a school, tory policy

Oh yes, sill me, the Lib Dems get some crumbs from the table like a referendum on the voting system. But that may not get through the House of Commons.

As for Con Home I would not pay too much attention to those jokers.

Mr S. Pill – We may not have planned things exactly like this, but giving more power to schools and away from the state, decentralising health care and government, cuts in benefits (esp for the middle classes), abolishing baby bonds etc, were all in the Lib Dem manifesto.

It’s just that some people seemed to assume that we didn’t really mean it…

@18 again

oh and most of Europe normally decide who to team up with before the vote… I’m not saying it’s a bad thing or owt, just that Hughes’ shouldn’t be blowing the LDs left-leaning trumpet too loudly when it’s clear as day that some very nasty, very right wing policies are being implemented under Clegg’s watchful gaze.

@19

I think that if Simon Hughes’ version of events is false then Labour would have challenged him on it by now. Instead, they’ve been attacking the coalition in very loud, shrill voices for scrapping ID cards, moving away from custodial sentencing, etc. Which does rather suggest that he was telling the truth, doesn’t it?

@23

Arg, speaking at cross purposes here: I’m not disputing what Hughes says about Labour being arseholes re:coalition talks. That much is pretty much on the record from a billion different sources and puts Labour in a bloody terrible light. All I’m disputing is that the LDs have somehow put a “progressive agenda” (mmm, gotta love them non-words) on the table of gov. Again, with the exeception of civil libs.

@Nicolas “This sounds a little fishy to me, I have a hard time imagining that Labour’s negotiators (such as Mandy), were unwilling to make such a trivial change. More likely this is what Clegg told his MPs as an excuse.”

Clegg wasn’t on the negotiating team, Hughes was

A Labour / Lib Dem tie up was a non runner, because you would have needed all the other parties. The so called rainbow coalition. Never was going to have a chance.

If Labour and the Lib Dems had had the votes then it would have been interesting. Still think the best policy was to let the tories form a minority govt and let them set a budget, and reveal their lies.

Did it gladden Simon Hughes to hear Blunkett on the BBC Today programme yesterday defending ASBOs, which are to be consigned to the dustbin by the Coalition.

Listening to Blunkett, I gathered that the like of totalitarian repression was the only means of making everyday life tolerable in parts of the Labour heartlands.

They must really appreciate that quality spin in Sheffield. Curiously, Nick Clegg’s constituency is in Sheffield too. Does he recognise the picture painted by Blunkett?

Whatever the drawbacks of the ASBO, it does not constitute “totalitarian repression”.

@28

cjcjc defending a New Labour policy? What next, Sally complementing David Cameron? Oh! Wonders will never cease. Iain Dale will be admitting he’s been wrong about everything ever next.

Oh FFS.

I was just pointing out that describing the ASBO as “totalitarian repression” doesn’t leave much room for describing anything that is genuinely so.

😉 yeah, I shoulda put a smiley in with that last comment …

@26 sally

“A Labour / Lib Dem tie up was a non runner, because you would have needed all the other parties. The so called rainbow coalition. Never was going to have a chance.”

The fact that it would have been difficult, doesn’t make it a non-runner. As copious evidence has shown, the chief reason it didn’t work was the attitude of NuLabour apparatchiks. Even before the results were called on election night there were a host of the usual NuLabour die hards coming out of the woodwork to firmly kill off any idea of a Lab/Lib coalition.

The fact that there was no countervailing voice within the Labour movement only underlines it’s politcal bankruptcy, the deeply corrosive effects of the whole illiberal, anti-progressive NuLabour project, and the abject failure of those leading the party to neutralise the dysfunctional effects of the Blair/Brown conflict which did so much to capture the party.

A minority Lab/Lib coalition, or a slim majority including minor parties, is no more intrinsically unlikely to provide a government than the widely touted alternative of a Tory minority administration. The LD’s may come (as I suspected at the time of the deal) to rue the day they accepted the offer.

The shame of it is that Hughes, Cable et al don’t seem to be in any position to alleviate the worst effects of Tory idiocy, altho even then you could argue they are doing their best with the bad hand dealt to them by a combination of the clueless British electorate and a deeply flawed electoral system.

You’d never have believed Hughes wanted anything to do with Labour after his confrontation on Newsnight with permatanned Labour smoothie Peter Hain on AV. Hughes was twitching, gurning and interrupting in a way that brought to mind the phrase tired and emotional

@33 schmidt

Oh be fair…! Hain and his ilk could have that effect on even the least tired and emotional.

Remember that Hain went over to the dark side long ago after (if memory serves) being in charge of the UK Liberal student movement in his youth.

The situation is that the LD leadership had a choice and they chose a coalition with the Tories.

That makes many feel awkward and so it should.

Using the justification that it was necessary ‘to retain market confidence’ is just promulgating that un-truth that the UK was heading for some Greek style meltdown or our credit rating was about to be classified as junk.

@28: “Whatever the drawbacks of the ASBO, it does not constitute ‘totalitarian repression’.”

I agree. That’s partly or mostly because: “About half of all anti-social behaviour orders given out in England and Wales have been breached, according to two reports published on Thursday.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6214662.stm

As they used to say of Czarist Russia – despotism tempered by inefficiency.

Blunkett might have paused to reflect on whether any business executive who happened to be listening to his interview on the BBC Today programme yesterday would want to commit investment to any of those inner-city areas where life would be intolerable without ASBOs to control feral youth.

Downstream, the likely outcome from depicting that bleak picture is diminishing job prospects for young people in those areas – doubtless followed by escalating demands for more and more government grants to promote business development in Labour heartlands to reduce youth unemployment.

Clever politics? I think not but I wonder what Nick Clegg thinks as he is another Sheffield MP?

32

I think it was a non runner. The idea of Nationalists coming to England to form a govt would have been a disaster. Brown was too slow to react. He should have gone before the election. (that cost maybe 20-30 seats) And he was too slow to go after the election. He was still trying to hang on until the the winter, when he was talking to Clegg.

But I agree Labour had 13 years to strke a deal with the Lib Dems but the did not want one. Now they are going to have to face the result of their idiocy.

“But I agree Labour had 13 years to strke a deal with the Lib Dems but the did not want one.”

Hardly anyone in the Parliamentary Labour Party, apart from Tony Blair, wanted an alliance with the LibDems prior to the election.

The fact is that the principal political crunch in the fight for control of the councils in many of the Labour heartland cities is not between Labour and the Conservatives but between Labour and the LibDems, who now control many of the councils which for a generation had been controlled by Labour with little opposition. It’s been said: the Conservatives are now the party of the south of England and the English countryside.

It’s been said Bob, but it’s not true. Here in Calderdale, the Lib Dems just formed a coalition to remove the Conservatives from their minority control, and while it’s a very nice town, Brighouse is hardly ‘countryside’, we’ve two Tory cllrs and one ‘independent’.

It was a lot more than Tony Blair, it wasn’t, unfortunately, enough, and the stonking 1997 landslide killed it dead, to the longer term cost of the country and the government.

@37 Sally

“The idea of Nationalists coming to England to form a govt would have been a disaster”

Why? They have MP’s in parliament at Westminster, so why not? Little Englanders often trot out the West Lothian question, and moan about the nationalist tail wagging the dog, forgetting that they are perfectly entitled to get the best deal they can for their sectional interests: that’s just democracy. If it seems like such a flagrant injustice to so many English people…then change the constitution and see how easy it is to get a Labour majority without scottish and Welsh Labour MP’s.

“Brown was too slow to react. He should have gone before the election. (that cost maybe 20-30 seats)”

I tend to agree with that (rare enough given most of your posts, lol), but it is all of a type with the dysfunctional nature of NuLabour, the lack of anyone other than political pygmies and deeply unpleasant illiberal control freaks to repalce him, and the flawed character of the man himself. In fact, he should have gone to the country immediately after he took over from Blair when the Tories were still in the doldrums.

@9

“a) Labour lost the election – supporting them would have contradicted everything we believe about democratic legitimacy”

So it is imperative that a party that were roundly thrashed by Labour ended up in government instead… etc etc.

42. Richard P

I agree with Tom – in any case, it is ludicrous to imagine that the largest single minority has an automatic right to govern. If a majority made up of smaller parties prefer a different coalition, that outcome is more democratic.

What was the alternative to the ConDem coalition, given that a coalition with Labour, the LibDems and the nationalists would have been highly unstable?

There would seem to be two possibilities: (a) another general election, possibly after: (b) a minority Conservative government. In the state it’s in, there is little prospect of Labour winning another general election for years to come – consider what the Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq war will produce!

I’m unsurprised that Cameron opted for the coalition as it looks as though he is assured of being PM for the next five years.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  2. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  3. Stuart Vallantine

    RT @DerekJohnBryant: RT @libcon Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  4. sunny hundal

    Posted excerpts from an email by Simon Hughes saying he'd have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  5. James Graham

    RT: @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF >> cue comments involving popes and bears.

  6. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal Posted excerpts from an email by Simon Hughes saying he'd have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  7. Quarrenne

    RT @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  8. sunny hundal

    Hughes says Labour were unwilling to back down ID cards, which made Lib-Lab coalition impossible http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  9. Stuart Bonar

    RT @jamesgraham: RT: @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF >> cue comments …

  10. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal Hughes says Labour were unwilling to back down ID cards, which made Lib-Lab coalition impossible http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  11. Joshua Fenton-Glynn

    #LibDem party chair Simon Hughes would rather be in Lib/Lab than Liberal Conservative and Unionist coalition http://bit.ly/bmX68h

  12. Paul

    Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF (via @libcon) <- Wouldn't we all??

  13. Nadia

    RT @sunny_hundal: Hughes says Labour were unwilling to back down ID cards, which made Lib-Lab coalition impossible http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  14. Colin Ross

    RT @rpcompaneros Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF (via @libcon) <- Wouldn't we all??

  15. Tom Stubbs

    RT @colinross1975: RT @rpcompaneros Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF (via @libcon) & …

  16. Laura

    RT @sunny_hundal: Hughes says Labour were unwilling to back down ID cards, which made Lib-Lab coalition impossible http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  17. Andy Buckley-Taylor

    RT @joshfg: #LibDem party chair Simon Hughes would rather be in Lib/Lab than Liberal Conservative and Unionist coalition http://bit.ly/bmX68h

  18. fljf

    RT @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  19. Ros Kayes

    RT @jamesgraham: RT: @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF >> cue comments involving popes and bears.

  20. Nigel Cooke

    RT @libcon: Exclusive: Simon Hughes would have preferred a deal with Labour http://bit.ly/dnYkpF

  21. Paul

    Hughes wanted Lab coalition instead http://bit.ly/donNyz

  22. Paul

    Hughes wanted Lab coalition instead http://bit.ly/donNyz #newsnight

  23. Humphrey Cushion

    Its on here: http://bit.ly/chM2Oo has sent it to everyone who has written to him about his policy u-turns #SimonHughes #newsnight

  24. LabourList

    Say goodbye to the ASBO / Five days that changed Britain / Who wins the 2nd preferences? (8 in the morning) http://bit.ly/9cdrse

  25. David Cameron should listen to his own advice | Left Foot Forward

    […] to housing benefit, sounded a warning shot on the VAT rise, and indicated his initial desire for a Lib-Lab coalition, Mr Hughes has – until this point – been a strong public defender of the […]





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