Friday, 14 May 2010

I almost agree with Nich (Norfolk Blogger) But...‏

Frankly im gutted that the Norfolk Blogger and Broadland District Councillor Nich Starling disagrees so fundamentally with the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive decision to work with the Conservative party in a coalition. I have great respect for Nich as he is well know in his community and a hard working councillor and is highly principled and a critical believer in Liberal Democrat policies (he is not a fan of the EU for example). I also enjoy reading his blogs about nation politics but I also really like the way he covers Norfolk politics, this has been an inspiration for me covering both national and local politics.

If you had political fights with the Tories for 20 years how would you feel. Many would feel and react the same as Nich. Frackly its not easy to swallow and I'm not looking forward to getting our hands dirty. Nich reasons to not sit with the tories are all reasons I agree with and all reasons why I find it difficult.

I have already argued why I was not concerned about a hung parliament or a coalition with the party with the most votes. I also think that no matter which way the Liberal Democrats went we would of been lambasted and people would of left the party or stopped voting for us. I'm not going to try an persuade Nich Starling. He a much more articulate debater and writer than I am and I do not believe I could change his mind anyway. He has made his mind up and I can fully understand why hes not happy.

I can't disagree with Nich on some of the points he raised. for example AV is not proportional and the right wing press will do its damnist to ensure AV itself does not come in let alone a fully proportional system. The Tory party will campaign against it. Although I would be very interested in seeing how Labour handle this referendum. However AV I believe is better than FPTP as at least an MP can claim to have 50% of the vote. Then again we have to win this referendum first.

I still also believe that we have to prove to the Tories that coalitions can work and to the public which would support our argument for a PR system if the Tories and the Lib Dems can hold together a coalition government.

I also agree that we do not have the most powerful cabinet positions althought I would argue that Home Secretary is a dead end job (always leads to tears). I do wish Paddy Ashdown received the Defence minister post. I think if we had more MP's we would of received one of the more powerful ministerial positions. I also agree with Nich that education should of been a Lib Dem position.

Nich does mention that the Lib Dem MP's were tempted by ministerial cars. Well I'm not so sure about that, Liberal Democrats don't become MP's for power if they did they would join one of the other two big parties. Liberal Democrats genuinely believe in the values of the party and it's so much harder for Lib Dems to win a seat because people believe that we can't have any power. Surely if Lib Dems are to be more than a pressure group at national level we need to get our hands on power. Yesterday the Labour MP for Bolton East Yasmin Qureshi on BBC Five Live accused Lib Dems of wanting power. OK I admit it we do want power. Did labour not want power? Surely Lib Dems should want power to get some Lib Dem policies life in the real world.

As I see it all of our options would of lend to Lib Dems being lambasted

1.Not a full coalition: Lib Dems would still be seen as 'supporting the devil' and to of wimped out. Lib Dems could still be blamed for Conservative policy.

2.No deal with anyone - Right Wing press would of claimed that we wimped out and others would say what's the point of a party that bottled power. We would lose credibility as a party that is scared of power.

3.Rainbow Coalition: The SNP would of loved this more power to them then anyone, holding parties to ransom on any Scotland cuts, this would not of lasted. Labour just think the Lib dems are a political arm of Labour with some crazy Liberals to boot. Labour were not prepared to give us anything.

I also believe that under FPTP (which is designed for a two party system) There will always come a time when the 3rd party gets to a critical mass where it takes votes away from the other two main parties. When this happens it has too make a decision to move it forward. This could of happened during the leaders debates, but it was not to be. That moment won't happen again. So this is it, this is the only way. In a Hung parliament is the only chance the Liberal Democrats are going to get. I would support the Liberal Democrats in a coalition with Labour or the Conservative party because this is the only chance. Liberal Democrats can't seem to increase their support beyond the current percentages until they can be seen to govern.

I don't want to be in a protest party. I don't want to be in a party where people only vote for us because we are not Labour and they want Labour out or we are not Tory and they want the Tories out. I want people to vote Liberal Democrat because we have values that they believe in that they want to see in power. I also want people to vote for their party and to not have to vote tactically. Its time Liberal Democrats stopped trying to get the tactical vote and started to get a genuine built up support for its ideas. I want people to vote positively not negatively. In Bracknell the Liberal Democrats came from 3rd to 2nd using arguments not bar charts.

Lets take a risk because this is the only way Liberal Democrats will get to change through crisis management and risk taking. I just hope the Liberal Democrats come out the otherside. It's certainly too late now. I also hope the Norfolk Blogger can stomach the decision for a full coalition.


  1. Well said.

    This ain't going to be easy. I'm in my 29th year of campaigning mainly against the Conservatives in Essex and it's an odd feeling seeing us allied with them. But this is what a hung parliament is all about. And the country needs a decent government.

    Hvae a look at Conservativehome and see how just how the Tory right is reacting to all this. Still full of spite - but pretty unhappy right now.

  2. Personally I'm lovin it! Of course a Lib Dem majority would have been the best thing - definitely! And PR will be in steps: 1/ show that coalitions can work, 2/ show that we can handle power, 3/ try and get that referendum opened up, 4/ never stop fighting for the wider benefits of STV including the "locality" benefits of multi-member constituencies and 5/ never give up the fight.

    And a frail deal with Labour, I would argue was neither possible or desirable! They were the established power and totally wedded to it - we would have been very dirtied to have done a deal with the statist/illiberal war party whose instinct was to take away the 10% tax rate. Crazy people, so - crazy by association!

    I feel that this coalition has a bit of the Obama about it - could actually to be very reformist against the status quo of established and centralised power.

    And, immature as it may be, I like the fact that our people, party and policies stay in the news and we have some real control over our destiny - actually making the news.

    Great days, great expectations, but every reason to buckle down and win through. Dunkirk is over - we survived with most of our army!

  3. Nobody has yet to explain to me how we continue to grow as a party, why people should vote for us, and how we should campaign.

    If I were a typical Labour voter, I'd now see the Lib Dems as a Tory vote. So I no longer appeal to them.

    If I was a Tory voter, I would be seen as a Tory, but also a wasted vote, because I may as well vote Tory and get the real thing.

    If I was a Lib Dem voter, I might now be seen as a Tory, or a liar, or a political opportunist, so I may have lost their vote too.

    So where will our new votes come from ?

  4. I voted for you in north norfolk to keep out the tories - as Norman Lamb said to me personally.

    I won't even talk to your candidates in the future.

    You are unprincipled, spineless and embarrassing

  5. Norfolk Blogger That is a good question. I am worried too.

    Lets say hard core libdem voters are say 15% now thats the base. not every Labour vote will turn their back on us or every Tory.

    now I do know plenty of lib dems who like this idea and will still vote lib dem. This is who we should be building on. I think if we actually had PR our vote percentage may infact go down or stay the same anyway.

    Britian is not full of Centre Left Liberals, you only have to ask what people think about immigration to know that.

    I want as many votes are we can get. I actually think the main problem is most people dont understand coalitions.

    It all ready depends if people like what they see and if it lasts. This coalition if it last will develop and later me could get one of the more important roles. I still think under any of the cases I list we risk losing votes, dont you?

    Norfolk voter, you did keep out the tories infact the tories now have to take on some lib dem policies. votes should not be able who you keep out but who you want in.

  6. Dear Norfolk Blogger,

    I am in favour of this coalition as both being the only possibility as well as being essential to prove that the kind of pluralist PR based politics that we advocate can actually work.

    But it's not without concerns because any junior coalition partner can face a dilution of identity, to a greater degree than the senior partner. It should be thoroughly addressed by the party as to how we hone our identity and grow over the coming years. Ideas might include variously: from the superficial such as lots more colour and flags at conferences, to the circulating of much more 'values and principles' material, and I would say to really opening up and highlighting our policy process further to encourage the interested to get involved and play a part - and to do so in a party that wields some influence. We need to be that favourite team/brand for people in every way of drawing allegiance and participation.

    Weighing against my worries is that as a party we actually do have a hugely relevant "ism" and the political agenda is parked right on our front lawn. That we are also used to debating policy (with costs) as if we were likely to be in a position to implement it - taking really hard decisions which frankly in our decades of opposition we could just have been simply bi-partisan. So we are stronger and more mature than we might think.

    So reasons to be optimistic:
    * show that coalition and pluralism can work in practise
    * show that we can be responsible in power and have the experience of power
    * to stay in the news as distinct party, personalities and policies
    * to implement change, to introduce policies for the better across the board and be responsible for perhaps great enduring reforms
    * a referendum on AV (a start to greater reform) and other political reforms such as to the Lords.
    * the chance to innovate and shine especially in cabinet portfolios that we have.
    * the chance of building greater english support - including small business
    * even in exposed coalition differences - showing our distinctiveness
    * perhaps attracting new people to us who see that it is no longer wasted career/pastime
    * to be at the core/centre of the current challenges and events
    * to share a common period in power with Obama in the post market-rule, post debt-driven economics of a fledgling new world order.

    Every reason to not have joined a coalition with the new nasty (Labour) party or to have crawled under a stone and hoped that a hung parliament would go away.

    Every reason to be very robust with nay-sayers whether they be the Tory awkward squad, and corporate-socialists including those that may have found there way into our party thinking it was labour-lite.

  7. "* to be at the core/centre of the current challenges and events
    * to share a common period in power with Obama in the post market-rule, post debt-driven economics of a fledgling new world order."

    wow you must be so far up your own arse you can see daylight through your mouth. One things for sure - this 'coalition' is going to be fucking hilarious

  8. anonymous Lib Dems are closer to the core of current challeges then they were. And are in power at the same time as Obama, hows that not true

  9. Looks like cracks in the Con/Lib civil partnership are appearing already. You have been conned you libs and you now know it. Why didn't you just let the Tories struggle on in a minority governement to another election by when the political spectrum would have have expanded from the constricted twitching lefty center mess we have now.

  10. To use a real local point, in 2015 when it's the next GE, and let's assume that the coalition has held until then.

    How do you campaign as a LibDem against the Tories? Are you going to somehow unpick what the government has done and claim credit for some things (10k tax band for example) and distance yourselves from stuff like fox hunting (again, for example)?

    A guy I know told me he could never vote LibDem because Nick Clegg was so anti-Europe. OK, so he's almost certainly not representative of the electorate but it doesn't change the fact that it's going to be a very, very hard message to sell for the LibDems at the next election.

  11. Steve, the answer I think will form a blog post from me one day. Its done in so many countries I guess we can separate them

  12. I'm certainly not saying it's impossible, but it's going to be interesting to see how the parties (and public) approach the idea of coalitions.

    I'm a supporter of PR, and therefore coalitions (though the Tory/LibDem split isn't my preferred mix), so it'd be great to see the British public understand and support them in the same way as cultures across the world.

    Then again, we've never managed to integrate the European drinking/cafe culture into our society, I wonder if coalition governments are also a little too civil for our adversarial tastes!

  13. Steve if only our press was better at informing people. maybe we would have better government

  14. You'll get no argument from me there!

  15. Nich is right, we feel alienated in our own party. As someone who has campaigned for years for the introduction of PR, I find it sickening that Liberal Democrats would support a referendum on AV.

    Within my family and friends (most are Liberal Democrat members or supporters) NONE of us would support AV in a referendum and we will ALL be very actively campaigning against it.

    I never thought that this dreadful situation could happen, Liberal Democrats fighting each other on electoral reform. But what choice do we have but to oppose Nick Cleggs conversion to Liberal Conservatism and fight for real PR.

    Does anyone really think that the voters will back a referendum on one form of voting system and then a few years later another, and another and keep going until we finally get STV.

    Heads out of the sand folks, by this time next year we will be lucky if there are enough members left to fight ANY sort of referendum on AV.

    AV, I can’t believe that it is even an option! If the last general election was re-run under AV, we wouldn’t even have one Green MP. It emphasises the votes of the big parties, helps the medium size parties and stifles the smaller parties. So much for fair votes... it isn't even a 'Fairer' system.

    Mark Shepherd.

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