Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 15 February 2010

Nick Clegg is right to rule out a coalition

So it looks like Nick Clegg has decided to go for option 3 as I highlighted in this post back in November. He has ruled out a formal coalition with either of the other main parties. Instead he would look to support a Queen's Speech that included the following:

1) Investing extra funds in education through a pupil premium for disadvantaged children.

2) Tax reform, taking 4 million out of tax and raising taxes on the rich by requiring capital gains and income to be taxed at the same rate.

3) Rebalancing of the economy to put less emphasis on centralised banking and more on a new greener economy.

4) Political reforms, including changes to the voting system and a democratically elected Lords, that go further than proposed by Labour

I think on balance that this sort of approach is the right move. I have been asked numerous times by both Labour and Conservative activists which party I would want to go into coalition with and I have seen our senior MPs asked this over and over again. There is a danger that if we don't nip this in the bud it will dominate any discussion featuring the Lib Dems in the next few months and we find ourselves constantly being put in the position of defining ourselves in this way. Instead, Clegg has now set down the red lines in terms of what we would want to see before offering cooperation and has also eschewed the possibility of ministerial office for himself and colleagues.

I do wish that number 4 had been defined a bit more clearly though. Electoral reform can mean all sorts of different things. Far better to have said Single Transferable Vote and leave people in no doubt what we mean.

The interesting thing about this list though is that from what I have seen and heard I would imagine the Conservatives would have problems with some of these, especially number 4). It might mean that the party cannot support a Queen's Speech from them, however frankly that's their problem. There seemed to be a feeling around a few months ago that a hung parliament could be a nightmare scenario for the Lib Dems as pressure was put on us to agree with or vote down a putative Queen's Speech. As I said at the time:

The idea that Cameron could try to corner the Lib Dems ... I do not think is likely to work. It would be perfectly reasonable for us to support the things we agree with and oppose those we do not. If that meant voting down a Queen's Speech (if we were forced into that position) then so be it.

Now that Clegg has laid out the terms by which we would be willing to discuss supporting a minority government (of either main party), I very much hope spokespeople of both red and blue hues are regularly put on the spot and asked if they would be willing to support the Lib Dem principles outlines above.

That would make a nice change and I think people would be interested to hear their responses...


Anonymous said...

Er, except he hasn't.

Mick Anderson said...

It does rather assume that the Lab/Con PM promising the policies actually delivered. The encumbent doesn't have a good track record on this, and Mr Cameron lost a lot of trust with his revised position on Lisbon.

At least with a handful of Cabinet posts as part of a coalition, you could have a voice in Cabinet, and direct control over some Ministries.

That would be more tangiable, and would help show what the Party is capable of.

Voter said...

With the demise of Himmelgarten and Charlotte Gore's blog, I thought you might want to know that I have just started a blog of my own.

My first post is about STV (which Mr Clegg wants in a Queen's speech) and since it disagrees with you, you may find it of interest. Please feel free to comment

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

No-one eager for office would have the slightest difficulty in framing a Queen’s speech that could shown to the people as meeting Clegg’s demands. Whether Clegg et al would allow themselves to be taken in by the same, who can tell but if you make imprecisely defined demands, you cannot object when they are met in an imprecisely-defined way.

Still, four points is good and much better than a message that says “we are planning to come third and not cause anyone any problems afterwards”.

The much more interesting point about a hung parliament is what options Dave will think he has. The one he should be mindful of is taking the really commendable part of what Clegg has done and not seeking office above all else for its own sake, rather he could say his party has not been endorsed sufficiently strongly by the voters and accordingly he declines to form a minority government. That would fix New Labour well and truly - and possibly some others! ;-) Through the first few weeks after the election, the government is going to have to confront reality such that even the British people come to appreciate what a sombre fate awaits them. Let those who are to blame shoulder the blame.