Home Politics Lab – Lib Coalition? Why?

Lab – Lib Coalition? Why?

by Barry

Hearing the news this morning that Nick Clegg is covering all his bases by suggesting that his party would welcome a coalition with Labour after the general election, I’m left asking the question “why?” Why would we, as a party, want to jump into bed with the Liberals, especially with their record both nationally and locally.

I do respect many individual Liberals, theoretically they cover the centre ground, and I know that my politics is more left of centre than extreme left-wing , I had sympathy with many of the national policies too, things like the student tuition fees and raising the tax threshold.  Even when this coalition was formed, I did think that maybe its a good thing, they will hold the Tories back from unleashing their full arsenal onto the public.  But, how wrong was I.  In fact it wasn’t until a recent discussion that made me realise what makes the Lib Dem leadership, as a whole, tick.

The discussion was based around the differences in driving ethos between the parties.  What was interesting was the differences between Labour and Conservative, and how, because of them, while we don’t agree with the stances we take, we do know where they come from and why.  While it was quite easy to derive the Socialist principles of the Labour Party and the Capitalist principles of the Conservatives, we were both at a bit of a loss when it came down to what the bedrock of the Liberals really was.  For me, ethos is important, it means that when the chips are down and faced with complex and difficult decision, I have something to use to get to the root of what I should do.  So if we are talking about making difficult decisions about where and how to spend limited budgets, or where costs should fall, I use this ethos, these principles to guide me.  So, what does a Liberal fall back on.  It wasn’t until I was on my way home that it clicked, the Liberal Democrats are about getting into power.  

Your gut reaction to that will be, “yes, aren’t you all?”, which is true, but we want to get into power to deliver our ethos, in our case to govern using socialist principles, to help people survive and grow.  The Liberals just want power, and will cut anyones throat, including their own to get it.  This is echoed in local politics too, so many times have we heard the local Liberal Democrats claim successes of their national Party, but when they come to do something they don’t agree with, then they claim they are different and not associated to their national leadership.  As an example, they put on their literature about the raise in income tax thresholds (claiming the national position), yet in the Count Council chamber when talking about the Badger Cull, they conveniently forget that its their national party who voted the cull through, and their own minister signing the paperwork.

It seems to me that currently, you don’t join the Liberal Democrat party, you join the Lib Dem franchise, you sign up, get the literature to hand out, but do what you like and set the most convenient position possible.  Thankfully, the mechanics of the next election would mean a coalition with the Lib Dems is a scenario that is not likely to be even considered (this is covered by this article on LabourList.)   That said, before the general Election, there is going to be a local City and District elections, and I think the same warnings apply, until the Liberals find their moral compass and let it guide them, instead of a pure thirst for power, then they will remain a toxic franchise that works on press releases rather than real discussion, negotiation and debate.

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Declan Wilson February 17, 2014 - 10:12 pm

The Liberal Democrats went into government in 2010 purely because it was in the national interest to do so. There have been achievements which I think we can be proud of such as the raising of the income tax threshold and the restoration of the earnings link to the state pension (abolished by Thatcher and left to fester under New Labour). However I have always thought that a Lib Dem / Labour coalition to be a better match as both parties are broadly progressive in nature.

My worry now is that Labour will repeat their performance of 2005 and win an overall majority in seats with only 35% of the vote. How on earth is this democratic? To me, a big disappointment of the coalition years was our failure to achieve any meaningful constitutional change. We are already the most backward democracy in Europe with an unelected second chamber, an unelected head of state and a voting system which can produce some very distorted and undemocratic results. Unfortunately I can’t see this changing now in our generation. Labour should have backed Lords reform, this was a once in a generation opportunity and it has been lost.

Although I have my differences with some of the outcomes of the coalition, overall I think we have been a force for good (not that I expect any credit for it). Just think, had there been Liberal Democrats in government in the Blair / Brown years we might have stopped the destruction of one of the best private pension schemes in the world and maybe even prevented a certain illegal war in Iraq……

Who knows.

Declan (Lib Dem Councillor in Hucclecote).

Barry February 18, 2014 - 12:44 pm

Thanks for your comments Declan, however you kinda highlight my problem. Your one of the Liberals that I am referring to right at the start, your a decent bloke doing what you think is the right thing.

The problem is more around your leadership. In 2010, Cleggs stats were soaring with his comments on a wide variety of issues. Even when he took on the coalition I hoped he would be a force for good, however he has become a GateKeeper for some of the most devastating cuts to our residents.

But even look at a local level – Your local leadership prefers to do business by press release rather than by actually talking to people. When the County Council election results were known, where did your party announce their coalition intentions? To the other leaders, nope, just in a press release. Even more recently, when we did agree motion amendments, your party then went back on the agreed position and then went running to the press.

In terms of positioning, yes, I think the similar progressive ideology could work well. The reality is that your current leadership make it very difficult.


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