Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 30 May 2011

Not confident about "Confidence and Supply"

On Saturday, Andrew Grice wrote in The Independent that sources have told him the idea of a "confidence and supply" arrangement between the Conservatives and Lib Dems is now back on the cards. It was mooted in the aftermath of the election result last year before the coalition was formed and would allow the Lib Dems to oppose certain pieces of legislation but allow through others that it supported. However it would mean losing the government positions and what we would effectively end up with would be a Conservative minority government with an arrangement for important legislation such as the budget to be supported by the Lib Dems in return for some influence.

Apparently there are suggestions that such an arrangement could be put into place a year or 18 months before the next general election as part of a "decoupling phase" for the two governing parties.

I posted a blog on this subject last year where I suggested the following:

The problem with this approach is that I am not convinced that all of the public will make the distinction between C&S and a full coalition. Some will just be vaguely aware that we "propped up the Tories". I expect this will be drummed into them by Labour candidates in every LD/Labour seat.

We should think very carefully before entering into something like this. I am far from convinced that this is the right way forward. It would be better to either walk away altogether or go for a full blooded coalition.

I think a halfway house could leave us with very little influence but considerable political exposure on the downside.

I am afraid I stand by this analysis. Except now it would be even worse. Because the Lib Dems would be strongly criticised for not have the staying power, guts, call it what you will to see the government through to the end of its term. Instead they will be perceived as having "cut and run" in order to try and distance itself from its own record in government. Whatever the downsides of a confidence and supply arrangement may have been initially, at least the party would have had a consistent story to tell about what it had decided to do. Were they to initiate any sort of "decoupling" like this I think the party would be reduced to a laughing stock.

But even worse, lots of people would not fully realise what had happened. They would still see the government in place taking decisions and the Lib Dems (largely) supporting it. So effectively a good chunk of the electorate would still perceive the Lib Dems as being part of or at least complicit in the decisions of the government. Except for the people who do realise and who deride them for bottling it!

As tempting as it might be for Lib Dems in parliament to try and find a way to extricate themselves from this government, the only realistic choice now is to stay the course and do their best to show the difference they have made in government.

Anything else will be seen as weakness and dithering which we know from previous experience in politics is usually fatal.

1 comment:

John Minard said...

And the Tories would still get the praise for Lib Dem policies, or be less willing to back them through the house!

We could have started out with C&S if that perhaps included joint working parties on shared legislative aims, however I agree that less Lib Dem policies would have been effected but maybe more Tory ones stopped. I doubt under such circumstances a 5 year parliament would have been possible.