Friday, July 30, 2010

So was there an alternative?

It would have been nice if Liberal Democrat participation in government had led to us being feted in the country and a massive surge in our popularity.

But no one should really be surprised if there has been a dip in Lib Dem support according to the opinion polls, although how far this is the case has been disputed.

While the Lib Dems aim to transcend class-based two-party politics, it is hard to do so completely. The Labour versus Conservative struggle remains a reality, and those people who voted for us, but who defined themselves as 'anti-Tory' were never going to be happy. Likewise, back in the 1980s I can remember canvassing people who has voted Liberal in 1974 but who said they would never vote for us again because we kept the politically bankrupt Callaghan government in power through the Lib-Lab pact.

It is of course sad to find with some friends, loved ones and work colleagues that conversations about politics are now distincly awkward because of the coalition. What is particularly frustrating is to find all attempts at argument based on the post-election arithmetic/need for stable government/number of Lib Dem policies in coalition agreement greeted with 'But you shouldn't have done a deal with the Tories' as if that single sentiment trumps any attempt at reasoning.

Which brings me to last nights interesting but essentially superficial documentary by Nick Robinson, which I imagine will be available for a few days here. Lord Adonis argued that the parliamentary arithmetic was a mere alibi for the Lib Dems who had already decided to to a deal with the Tories. [Mean-spirited aside - It's a bit hard to take Lord Adonis getting all sanctimonious about Lib Dem behaviour when he is a turncoat who quit the Lib Dems in a rather-too-obvious search for high office under Labour.]

My question, therefore, is whether anyone has actually articulated a coherent argument as to how this Progressive wet dream of a Labour-Lib Dem-SNP-Plaid Cymru-SDLP-Alliance-Lady Sylvia Hermon might have actually have worked in practice and delivered stable, reforming, cuddly, spending-cuts-and-VAT-increase-free, electoral reforming with full STV government in practice? Even if Nick Clegg and David Cameron do both talk a bit posh, wear brogues and comb their hair in a similar way, that doesn't mean that Nick wanted a Lib-Con coalition all along.

With the Labour party having been in power for thirteen years and having lost its overall majority and holding fewer seats than the Conservatives, it was always going to be a high hurdle for the Lib Dems to put Labour back in power - really to be justified only if we could achieve full proportional representation. Given that a Lib-Lab coalition would not have had a majority, that many Labour MPs clearly didn't support such a deal, while others were not prepared to work with the SNP (whose support would be needed to sustain the coalition) it really is impossible to see how such a government could have lasted more than a few months before collapsing ignominiously with no achievements to his name. This seems to me a pretty convincing argument and by no means a mere alibi. So has anyone on the left put forward a serious response to it other than 'I don't care, you shouldn't have done a deal with the Tories'?

1 comment:

Jo Steel said...

No they haven’t! Their alternative would have led to a Conservative minority government, a slide on the pound and a further election within a year, which would have probably resulted in another hung parliament – back to square one! However, I am disappointed that the prospect of real, progressive electoral and constitutional reform appears to be fading under the coalition.