Ed Miliband could kill chances of a future Tory-Libdem coalition tomorrow


1:31 pm - May 4th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Ed Miliband says today that the vote on AV should not be a referendum on Nick Clegg. Of course I agree, but this is too little too late.

Unfortunately the Labour leadership has blundered through the AV debate from the start and allowed the ‘dinosaurs’ to set the terms of the debate. But he still has an opportunity after tomorrow’s local election to bury the chances of a future Tory-Libdem coalition.

There are two points to make here:

Firstly, Ed Miliband sat on the fence for too long. Labour names including Alan Johnson, John Denham, Harriet Harman, Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, David Miliband and Ed himself should have come out quite early on and planted their flags firmly on the ground.

It would have set the narrative that most of the big beasts of the current generation were for electoral reform. Instead, they ended up responding to the first shot by the Labour No campaign, and even then fairly tepidly. Even now, most Labour voters I meet on the doorstep don’t know where the Labour leadership stand nor see it as a way to stick up two fingers at Cameron.

Secondly, Ed M should not lose his appetite for electoral reform because it offers him a unique opportunity. Assume that the No2AV campaign will win tomorrow.

This means we’ll retain the discredited and deeply unfair system FPTP system that ensures most people feel apathetic about voting.

But it also means that at the next election there is likely to be a Coalition government again. The Libdems are back up at 15%. I expect this is mostly because they’ve suddenly started criticising the Conservatives, enticing Libdem voters back into their fold. Chris Huhne and Tim Farron will continue down this path, at the very least to save their own reputations, but also to position themselves as future leaders.

Assuming a similar situation where no party wins an outright majority at the next election, Ed Miliband will have to talk to the Libdems. A commitment to electoral reform will then have to be a key part of that package, something Conservatives cannot and will not offer.

A Labour commitment to better electoral reform might even attract Libdem voters and help win an outright majority. It will almost certainly ensure Libdems will not consider going into an alliance with the Tories again.

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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


The post man arrived this morning with a pile of brochures, six the no vote, two the yes vote, four for the liberal party telling me that without the Liberals we have a two party nation, bit of a fib but never mind, one from labour saying labour needs to govern Wales on it’s own, thankfully it does not look like it’s going to happen.

I had nothing from the Tories because they have no chance at all.

Plaid knocked on the door.

AV has been handled poorly very poor by both sides, nobody has shown the good the bad or the ugly. But in the end when I speak to people they do say, I’m not really interested it sounds to difficult. All people want to do is put an x next to the name of the Party, they do not want to think who is best, who is the next one and who is last.

I do not blame them really.

2. Steve Davies

Lib Dems are on 15% in a telephone poll taken over a long Bank holiday weekend, as ComRes themselves point out.

I postal voted for AV for two very good reasons:
1: The no-2-av leaflet was a steaming pile of condescending lies and dishonest tricks that REALLY pissed me off.
2: It’ll greatly annoy Alan at work if it passes.

I challenge anyone to come up with better reasons. 😉

4. Mr S. Pill

@3

I’m all up for annoying Alan. Vote Yes!

@2

More than likely an outlier; the average polling is stubbornly around 9-11%. The youGov poll after the BH weekend has the LD’s on 10%.

So… if the result of the referendum is, as expected, a thumping No vote then labour should offer another referendum next time? Is this like Euro referendums? Do we keep getting asked until we say Yes?

7. Mr S. Pill

@6

A referendum campaign on FPTP vs PR would be run hopefully a lot better than this shambles of a Yes campaign. Because PR is not the “miserable little compromise” that AV is said to be, but a proper game-changer – the No campaign in that referendum would have a lot more to contend with IMO.

This really is so vacuous . It’s impossible to guess – let alone ‘assume’ the result of the next election – and AV is as likely to cement a Tory-LibDem coalition as prevent it. It will certainly save Nick Clegg’s seat in Sheffield as Tory second preferences ride to his rescue.

As for your sage advice to Ed Milliband… Well, don’t give up the day job, although if blogging is your day job, perhaps do.

Even now, most Labour voters I meet on the doorstep don’t know where the Labour leadership stand nor see it as a way to stick up two fingers at Cameron.

That’s because:

1 – Labour was always going to split on AV (unlike the obvious positions of the LibDems and the Tories); it was just a question who would be in which gang.

2 – Using AV to ‘get’ Cameron ran smack into ‘If that b*****d Clegg wants it, then I’m voting “No”‘ And that goes double for any LibDem minister trying to sell a ‘Yes’ vote as means of preventing the Tories being in government in future (unlike, er, the Tory-led coalition we have now).

10. DevonChap

Labour really going to offer another referendum? You think that will go down well on the doorstep?

Do you want electoral reform to be solely a left wing issue? One of the reasons the Yes campaign is in trouble is that it only has been trying to gain left wing voters. I understand that the assumption was that Tories would vote No so why go after them but post the Coalition many liberal Tories (such as myself) were unsure, thinking AV wouldn’t stop Tory lead governments since the Lib Dems have shown willing to work with us. But the whole Yes campaign has been about creating a progressive majority (dream on) to lock the Tories out forever. Witness the fact until the Yes campaign ran into trouble Nigel Farage was kept off the Yes podiums whilst Caroline Lucas was on every one (I’d point out UKIP a lot more votes nationally than the Greens in 2010).

So you alienated possible supporters whilst not securing all left wing ones. If you make PR a left wing issue it will fail a future referendum as most people don’t want never ending progressive rule.

“A Labour commitment to better electoral reform might even attract Libdem voters and help win an outright majority. It will almost certainly ensure Libdems will not consider going into an alliance with the Tories again.”

…unless AV is rejected so firmly tomorrow that the Lib Dems conclude a referendum on electoral reform is simply unwinnable. In which case they might well decide that a cosy arrangement with the Tories is their best hope of retaining power.

(Of course, Labour might *also* conclude that such a referendum is unwinnable, or at least that it’s too hard a sell to risk putting in their manifesto. You can just imagine the Tories asking why Labour wanted to spend *another* ‘£250 million’ on *another* referendum so soon after the last one.)

…unless you’re suggesting Labour and the Lib Dems could agree between themselves to just change the voting system *without* a referendum? That hardly sends out a message that they’re listening to ordinary voters.

I suspect the fact is that outside of our little bubble universe of bloggers, activists and politics nerds, there is little public appetite for electoral reform. And that can be only partly down to the lies of the No campaign.

12. Watchman

Sunny,

It is worth pointing out that the Liberal Democrats would not accept electoral reform without a referendum (it is apparently party policy), so any deal with Labour in a future parliament would probably simply return us to where we are now.

If the opinion polls are accurate, then it is quite clear electoral reform is not wanted (you could technically say AV is not wanted, but do you really believe there are many, if any, proponents of other forms of reform (other than maybe multi-member constituencies) who support FPTP?). I doubt the population of Britain will change its mind on that in a few years, especially if they have just elected another coalition anyway…

Mind you, my money is now on a Conservative majority government in four years time (or thereabouts).

13. Lisa Ansell

To be honest it isn’t labour who blundered the debate. The whole debate has been blundered from both sides. Perhaps manufactured might be a better word. Can’t think of a single issue in recent political history that has highlighted the disconnect between Westminster and those who consider themselves politicos, and the rest of the country.

If it is a debate about making democracy more representative- how can people passionate about that watch swathes of country be disenfranchised and then bleat about that. If it is a debate about a fairer voting system- most people until months ago seemed passionate about PR or FPTP- but never AV.

A miserable little compromise, that might have an effect if it goes through, which is unlikely. Otherwise main effect of this debate has been that reform can now be seen as dealt with. Not helped by discussion of this as somehow about keeping the tories out? Bizarre. Electoral reform to help one party- great idea.

Agree v much with several of comments on here. Vacuous nonsense, of the type perpetuated by Heat Magazine for those who aspire to celebrity instead of politics.

@11 G.O.

Assuming people do vote “No”, it doesn’t ipso facto mean they are oposed to any change, or that they wouldn’t potentially vote “Yes” to a proportional system at a later date.

Many peiple tomorrow will vote no to give Glegg a bloody nose, others will vote no because they want PR not AV. Both are misguided in my view, but I understand both motives.

The LD’s are probably toast if people vote “No”, which will almost inevitably lead to a thumping Labour majority in 2015 (assuming the parliament limps on that long). In that scanrio, all we can hope for is that Newer Labour has sincerelt re-invented itself; I for one won’t be holding my breath given the number of Labour MP’s and cadres who are just as keen on FPTP as the Tories.

The LD’s are probably toast if people vote “No”, which will almost inevitably lead to a thumping Labour majority in 2015

That’s a pretty heroic assumption.

“Silly comments may be deleted . . .” So reads part of your comments policy warning.

Well, isn’t this a silly article? Speculating on how the electorate will vote at the next General Election really is as worthless and silly as crystal ball gazing. This kind of ‘advice’ to Ed is also worthless and no doubt will be revised in accordance with events that happen next week.
There are enough – more than enough – Tory trolls going hysterically all out to rubbish and discredit Ed Milliband – not least by damning him with faint and patronising praise. While I am no supporter of New Labour – I have a suspicion that Mr Milliband is a whole lot smarter and capable than he is currently being given credit or discredit for – certainly more capable and statesmanlike than the present PM stop-gap.. Mr M is eloquent, personable, shrewd and more than a match for Cameron in the house. I think the trolls can see the danger of his future Prime Ministerial qualities shining through and are having an early panic attack. Well good! Tomorrow will tell you what the electorate think of your Lib Dem panaceas for Labour – they will be the ones to argue/ remonstrate with – they are the ones that vote – and count.

17. Watchman

Lisa Ansell,

Can’t think of a single issue in recent political history that has highlighted the disconnect between Westminster and those who consider themselves politicos, and the rest of the country.

If it is a debate about making democracy more representative- how can people passionate about that watch swathes of country be disenfranchised and then bleat about that. If it is a debate about a fairer voting system- most people until months ago seemed passionate about PR or FPTP- but never AV.

Not sure about this – aren’t over half the MPs in Westminster and a similiar amount of politicos in line with the apparent national mood (‘what is this rubbish – can’t see any point in voting for it…’). Most Labour and Conservative opponents of AV are not passionate about FPTP, but rather can’t see the point of change for changes sake. It seems unfair to assume Westminster as a whole is caught up in this – this is merely an unfortunate side-effect of a coalition being formed, rather than an active debate amongst a distant elite.

18. Bills and Orders

The Tories need to dump the weak-ass, UK hating, Lib Dem drips and take Labour on properly this time.
And crush those Islamist appeasing sops.

If the referendum is lost and Miliband goes on to campaign for electoral reform in the future, it had better be some form of PR.

20. Watchman

Chris,

If the referendum is lost and Miliband goes on to campaign for electoral reform in the future, it had better be some form of PR.

Give or take the fact that PR is probably an even more difficult sell than AV, is the referendum is lost, and Ed Milliband has just stuck his and the Labour party’s brands behind the losing campaign, does not that suggest the chance of his effecting anything much in the future has been rather reduced?

21. Richard P

There would have been nothing wrong with improving the voting system without a referendum (did the public vote on whether to give women and workers the vote, or on whether to abolish dual voting, or whether to abolish the university vote, or whether to introduce STV in university constituencies, or whether to introduce the limited vote before that, or whether to redraw the boundaries and reduce the number of MPs?). Sadly, the precedent has now arguably been set that the voting system can’t be changed without a referendum – even though that is what has always happened previously (e.g. Scottish council elections, Euroelections).

If there is to be another referendum (and if AV is defeated by 2-to-1, it won’t be easy to persuade anyone that another should be held any sooner than 2030 or so), we should insist that outright lies about the proposed new voting system are simply not allowed. Much of the No campaign has consisted of complete untruths which anyone, regardless of their views on voting system, can discover in five minutes or less of research to be the most utter rot. It cannot be right to win a campaign simply by telling out-and-out lies to the electorate.

Galen10:

“Assuming people do vote “No”, it doesn’t ipso facto mean they are oposed to any change, or that they wouldn’t potentially vote “Yes” to a proportional system at a later date.”

No, but (as I think Sunny argued in a previous post) the chances of a referendum on some form of PR getting off the ground only a few years after AV has been rejected seem pretty slim to me.

And of course, some people who will vote yes to AV might vote no to PR. (In fact I’m one of them – I think AV is a sensible tweak to the current system, but I have yet to hear a knock-down refutation of the claim that PR actually puts a *dis*proportionate amount of power in the hands of smaller parties. Imagine a situation in which UKIP rather than the Lib Dems held the balance of power…)

God people are very stupid. The idea that the brown shirt establishment will see this vote as a ( no to AV, but reform still wanted by the people) is about as accurate as a daily wail editorial.

If AV, as looks likely goes down to defeat, this will be spun by the brown shirts as a YES TO FIRST PAST THE POST for another thousand years.

I am voting yes to AV, not because I think it is fantastic, but I know the tory brown shirts want a no vote. And the rule of power is you do the opposite of what your opponents want. Why Margret Beckett and John Reid think voting with the tory scum is a good idea is mind boggling. I guess they don’t really understand power or the tory party that well. Oh ,and all those people who think they will get another chance later on, on a better system are deluding themselves. When you have chance to give tories a good kicking you take it.

@21

It cannot be right to win a campaign simply by telling out-and-out lies to the electorate.

Such as publicly signing a personal pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees, then doing the opposite, for example?

Richard P/21: While I’m all in favour of honesty in politics, I cannot see any practical way in which a referendum campaign could be regulated for it (well, an impartial and critical news media could do it effectively and informally, but that just raises a different question…)

G.O./22: You can only hold the balance of power if it’s plausible that you’d – politically speaking – ally with either existing block, and have the size to make it matter if you did. (I’d argue that on those grounds the Lib Dems didn’t hold the balance of power in 2010 and still don’t, since they don’t have the numbers to convincingly threaten to switch to Labour’s side).

There is a well-known disconnect between the power of smaller parties compared with their size in a proportional system, but it tends to reduce their power, not increase it, because the smaller you are the fewer coalition combinations you make a difference to.

For instance, take 5 parties, A to E, who have 34, 28, 23, 8 and 7 seats respectively (total 100 for convenience). Any pair of A, B and C can form a majority coalition together – though B+C is marginal, so it’s likely A+whoever they get a better deal from. There is no combination which doesn’t already have a majority in which the addition of D or E or both gives it a majority, so those parties are very likely to end up in opposition.

It’s actually quite difficult to construct a scenario in which a fourth-or-smaller party can make-or-break either of the two most plausible coalitions, even before allowing for the fact that most parties couldn’t easily coalition with UKIP at all.

As regards PR in the UK, I suspect the only things that would get that properly on the agenda are either
– a situation where a party goes well behind on national votes, but constituency concentration gives them a narrow majority in the polls, or at least more seats than anyone else; or
– the sum of Labour and Conservative votes dropping significantly below 50%, at which point more voters have a direct reason to change the system than to maintain it, and the chance of neither of the big two getting a majority is high.
Until then we can carry on pretending that accidents of geography and history are fairness.

So… if the result of the referendum is, as expected, a thumping No vote then labour should offer another referendum next time? Is this like Euro referendums? Do we keep getting asked until we say Yes?

This the narrative the dimwits in the so called “no to AV yes to PR” crowd will have to contend with.

No AV. No PR. Silly idiots.

The only fair referendum would be one that offered a full range of options: FPTP, AV, AV+, STV, and PR: and was itself conducted on an AV basis. I favour STV, but I wouldn’t regard a FPTP-versus-STV referendum as any fairer than the current one.

On a purely tactical level: if this referendum fails there won’t be another one of its kind (would-you-like-THIS-kind-of-reform?) in a generation. Offering the kind of genuine choice that we’ve been conspicuously denied this time would be the only way to get a referendum, never mind win one.

That said, anybody who wants reform and votes No is an idiot. Would you have rejected the nineteenth century Reform Acts because they didn’t provide for universal suffrage?

Oh, and anybody who votes No out of Labour tribalism is an idiot too. FPTP may give Labour an advantage over the minor parties, but it will nearly always give a bigger edge to the Tories. Effectively, what Labour No is saying is: “We’d rather be in opposition than in coalition.” That is, by the most charitable interpretation I can muster, incredibly childish.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Makhno

“The only fair referendum would be one that offered a full range of options: FPTP, AV, AV+, STV, and PR: and was itself conducted on an AV basis. I favour STV, but I wouldn’t regard a FPTP-versus-STV referendum as any fairer than the current one.”

I see your point, but if you have a referendum to decide constitutional issues like this it seems important that people won’t quibble over the voting system. With only two options and no constituencies needed, all voting systems are the same: regardless of who wins today, nobody can argue with the result (or rather they can, but because of the blatant lies being told to the electorate rather than the format of the referendum itself).

‘This the narrative the dimwits in the so called “no to AV yes to PR” crowd will have to contend with.’

Dimwits is being charitable. I’d be surprised if they weren’t an astroturf wing of the No crew.

Just voted Yes, polling station was surprisingly busy.

On a side note, we never did see where the No campaign got its funding did we?
What a disgusting bunch of reptiles.

Mahkno/27: FPTP, AV, AV+, STV, and PR: and was itself conducted on an AV basis.

It would seem fairest if the voting was conducted using a system not itself in contention, surely? We’ve seen enough of the “You have to use the same voting system for everything” attitude that it would be seen as prejudging the result.

For practical reasons, too – if we assume, as is likely, that there’s a strong ‘FPTP-only’ bloc and a strong ‘anything but FPTP’ bloc, an AV election would probably result in a reform being chosen, but make it pretty random which one.

I’d recommend either the Schulze (Condorcet) method – to ensure that the winner is genuinely preferred by 50% if possible, or the Approval method (voters put a cross by as many options as they like; option with the most crosses wins) – which I don’t normally recommend but I think the tactical voting issues that it normally has wouldn’t apply here. Since neither method is particular suitable for parallel-single elections to a Parliament, the method wouldn’t be voting for itself, as it were.

@ 27 Makhno

“Oh, and anybody who votes No out of Labour tribalism is an idiot too. FPTP may give Labour an advantage over the minor parties, but it will nearly always give a bigger edge to the Tories. Effectively, what Labour No is saying is: “We’d rather be in opposition than in coalition.” That is, by the most charitable interpretation I can muster, incredibly childish.”

Sadly there are all too many Labour tribalists who will be doing just what you fear, and of course it was the New Labour boot boys who scuppered the chances of an alternative coalition last May; they DID actually prefer a period in the wilderness.

If the result is “no” today, I think two interesting issues arise:

1) what happens in 2015 if Labour win and the LD’s suffer the kind of melt down many expect; will Ed have de-toxified New Labour, or will it be much the same. More importantly, will they quietly bury the voting reform issue altogether, and hope they can resurrect two party politics?

2) What happens in Scotland if Labour get the drubbing many expect, and the SNP form a majority administration? Will it have an impact on the number of Scots favouring eventual separation, and if so…how do Labour expect to make up the shortfall in support in England?

cim

Thanks for that.

‘Balance of power’ is the wrong phrase I guess – you’re right, a party like UKIP couldn’t plausibly threaten to ally with Labour rather than the Tories.

Still, a claim like this one by Johann Hari –

“It would be impossible to repeat the Conservative years, where Britain took a sharp turn to the right, against the will of the majority. The Tories would be locked into compromising with centrist or centre-left parties, or face being locked out of power.”

– just doesn’t look right to me. It’s only true for as long as centrist or centre-left parties have more parliamentary seats than hard-right parties; if UKIP and the English Democrats (say) started getting more seats between them than the Lib Dems, couldn’t the Tories choose to ‘compromise’ with those parties by lurching to the right? (Especially if they could tacitly count on BNP MPs voting with them or abstaining most of the time.)

For instance, if you ended up with a House of Commons that looked like this:

38% Tory
32% Labour
10% Lib Dem
8% UKIP
4% Green
4% English Democrats
2% BNP
2% Nationalist/Other

– which looks unlikely as of right now, but is hardly the stuff of science fiction – a Tory-UKIP-English Democrat coalition looks all too viable.

(Of course, in those circumstances the electorate would have voted for a broadly right-wing government; but they wouldn’t have voted for *that* right-wing a government. Hard-right policies would be going through to the delight of UKIP, the English Democrats, the BNP and the Tory Right, but against the wishes of moderate Tories as well as centrist and left-wing voters.)

A simple ‘Do you want a more proportional system than either FPTP or AV?’ YES or NO? That would be the first step, then we would need to put two properly proportional options (maybe chosen by a citizen’s jury) to the public and spoon feed them the details.

Of course none of this is going to happen if there is a NO tomorrow, as it will be spun as FPTP for the next thousand years.

We reformers are in a sorry mess. Ed Miliband has already ruled out offering another referendum is this one is lost and anyhow he is an opponent of PR, so I don’t see how any of this is going to change.

A NO tomorrow makes yet another Tory majority government on a minority of the vote look a certainty for the next general election. Shame on Reid, Beckett and Blunkett and all those 137 Labour MPs who put the safety of their own safe seats above the interests of those voters on below average earnings (£21k). This is a worse scandal than their blind acceptance of undeserved expenses

G.O./32: I’m not sure – Con+UKIP+ED is only 50% there, so I suspect that the unreliable addition of a couple of percent of BNP votes wouldn’t compensate for even a fairly small moderate-Tory rebellion on hard-right policies.

Actually, I’m not sure I can see any stable coalition out of that set of figures. Con-LD-UKIP has the numbers but getting LD and UKIP into the same coalition would really limit what you could actually do. Con-Lab unity coalition is plausible numerically but they’d have permanent rebellions off both sides for doing anything except declaring war and crushing people on benefits, so much as they like those things I can’t see it happening.

Con-LD minority coalition, picking up votes as needed from either the right of Labour or from UKIP/ED depending on what they were doing? Possible, probably no less stable than Con-UKIP-ED, and keeps the moderate Tories happier.

(I would expect all three main parties to look fairly different post-PR, though)

@33 Neil

I share a lot of your frustration. However, I’d suggest that (barring some major turbulence) the collapse of LD support post a “No” result today will lead to a Labour victory in 2015, not a Tory one.

The referendum should have been in 2 parts; the first asking if people wanted a new system, and the second (given a “yes” vote in the first part) to decide which system to introduce.

Of course, if Labour were a truly radical, progressive force they would have dealt with this in their time in power, or at least have swung behind the “yes” to AV campaign this time.

There is still a huge question about where dissafected former LD’s and others on the left who will not support Labour have to go, and what influence they will have on the next election.

The Reids, Blunketts and Becketts of this world are not part of any solution I want to see; they are a part of the problem. Labour in England are still in deep denial as far as I can see; they need a good kick up the arse like the one about to be delivered to them in Scotland – we can but hope!

Actually, I’m not sure I can see any stable coalition out of that set of figures. Con-LD-UKIP has the numbers but getting LD and UKIP into the same coalition would really limit what you could actually do.

Isn’t it a good thing we have FPTP?

Tim J/36: We came pretty close to a “no stable government possible” situation with the 2010 FPTP election, of course: it’s not a consequence of PR. If Labour had held onto twenty-five more seats from the Conservatives, then both Con-Lib and Lab-Lib coalitions would have been minorities, and we’d have been in the same sort of “no viable coalition” mess as in G.O.’s hypothetical.

Doing so would have taken just over 23,000 extra votes (0.2% of the Labour total, 0.08% of all votes cast) provided those votes had been in the right places.

0.08% of the total vote away from a complete mess does not strike me as a ringing endorsement of FPTP’s ability to avoid unresolvable hung parliaments.

0.08% of the total vote away from a complete mess does not strike me as a ringing endorsement of FPTP’s ability to avoid unresolvable hung parliaments.

Yes, but there’s ‘can’t be ruled out as a possibility, although it has never actually happened’ in the UK and ‘an integral part of the system, and has happened at more or less every general election’ as in Israel.

In any event, PR isn’t on the table, and won’t be for a generation at least.

Tim J: Or, to cherry-pick countries the opposite way, much better to have a stable PR system with strong majority governments like South Africa than to have regular unstable coalitions under FPTP like Canada.

Whether a country generally has coalitions or generally has majority governments has a lot to do with the political landscape and the democratic system as a whole, but relatively little to do with the electoral system being proportional or not. The UK is somewhat an exception, there.

39 – There hasn’t been a coalition Government in Canada since 1920.

Let’s say Labour does promise electoral reform at the next election. They promised a referendum on PR in 1997, and reneged on that promise. So I don’t trust them.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shamre on me. I won’t be fooled by Labour ever again.

Tim J: But there have been a lot of minority governments on a “confidence and supply” arrangement, which is much the same thing in terms of the “unstable” bit.

43. Watchman

Erm, why is anyone expecting a Liberal Democrat collapse at the next general election? They may lose lots of people who should never have been voting for a classically liberal party in the first place (people seeing them as an alternative left-wing party, which they never have been), but I suspect by then their core support will be back up.

If the government is successful, they may even be able to threaten Labour in northern seats more as, importantly, they are not the Conservatives. It is easy to forget that tuition fees and the like will be off less impact then and there.

There is also the fact that Labour seem to see the next election as their’s to take, and are not actually doing anything to address the problems that lost them the last election (no-one won, but Labour clearly lost). It is hardly unlikely that they will lose more seats – less urban seats up for grabs, with the Conservatives perhaps making inroads into those that they failed to achieve last time.

@ 43 Watchman

People expect them to collapse because it seems fairly likely from all the evidence we have at present. It is of course possible that their numbers will rise somewhat prior to the next GE, but it is equally possible they will stay around the current high single figures / low double figures which probably represents the “real” core classical Liberal support in the country.

The reason your core support WON’T rise to previous levels, is that a large section of that support (including people like myself) were not classical Liberals, they were social democrats / ex-SDP / disaffected left of centre voters who wouldn’t vote Labour.

Your rose tinted view of a potential LD revival in the North is so much hot air I’m afraid. In Scotland, you are facing the prospect of being overtaken by the Greens, and (much to the surprise of Labour) disaffected LD voters are mostly voting SNP or Green.

The next GE is Labour’s to lose: they have to do little apart from watch the LD’s decline, encourage the Coalition to stumble on because neither the Tories nor the LD’s has any realistic alternative, and then clean up at the next election.

Whether they will be worth voting for is a moot point. It would be nice to think they will have changed by then, but it would be sensible to remain sceptical given their track record.

The LD’s are likely heading for the dustbin of history; they always were a slightly uneasy marriage of classical Liberals and social democrats.

Perhaps we need a new party? New Democratic Party anyone….?

45. Watchman

Galen,

Should point out that for all my fondness for Liberal Democrats (they are generally good drinking partners…) I am not one myself.

I think though that there are a couple of factors you have forgot. One is that the Liberal Democrats are experts in concentrating their efforts, so will be able to minimise damage by focussing on specific seats. Secondly, the Liberals are apparently now the toxic party – so people won’t admit to supporting them in certain areas and groups, so the opinon polls may not show their true standing.

I would also point out that by seeking to gather the ex-Liberal Democrat voters you clearly expect to return to Labour, Labour risks alientating its own core votes (who Mr Brown was appealing to at the last election) – it will be difficult to appeal to both groups, as the AV campaign shows.

I also predict that if AV is defeated decisively, the weakened leader will not be either of Messrs Clegg and Cameron, the former of whom was not a figurehead, the latter of whom will have triumphed and be seen as a winner. It will be Mr Milliband, who put himself at the fore of a losing campaign without the support of his party. Having won his party election in a way that makes him look like he should have lost (at least to those who don’t understand electoral college systems), he would then have lost again. This sort of thing becomes a problem for political leaders – and alienating much of your core support (bluntly, the working class Labour supporter is less likely to be an AV supporter than the middle class one) will not help. Labour need to offer something to win (the coalition is not going to break up if Chris Huhne walks out – it’s simply going to have a space for David Laws in cabinet…), otherwise the next general election looks like being the parties that reined in the defecit and ushered in a recovery against the party led by the man who cannot win a straight election and has nothing to offer.

Watchman –

“Erm, why is anyone expecting a Liberal Democrat collapse at the next general election? They may lose lots of people who should never have been voting for a classically liberal party in the first place (people seeing them as an alternative left-wing party, which they never have been), but I suspect by then their core support will be back up.”

But surely social democrats are just as much a part of the Lib Dems’ core vote as classical liberals? The Lib Dems are as much the successors of the SDP as of the Liberal Party, after all.

“If Labour had held onto twenty-five more seats from the Conservatives, then both Con-Lib and Lab-Lib coalitions would have been minorities…”

cim (37). That’s just not true. In 2010, the Tories won 307, Labour 258, and the Lib Dems 57. In your scenario, the Tories would have won 282 and Labour 283. When added to the Lib Dems, that would have made a total of 339 or 340, representing a working majority of around 30 (there are 650 MPs).


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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