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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

UK: a logjam « Previous | |Next »
May 9, 2010

Neither David Cameron, Gordon Brown, nor Nick Clegg had a good election. The key question post the UK election and its hung parliament is whether the Lib Dems will hold firm on insisting on electoral reform (proportional representation) as a condition for supporting either of the two major parties? Will they play hard ball? And who with?

The grossly disproportionate mismatch between votes and seats needs to be addressed given this kind of breakdown:

Tories 36% of vote, 49% of the seats.
Labour 29%of vote, 42 % of the seats.
Lib Dem; 23% of vote, 9% of the seats

It is increasingly clear that a deal with the Conservatives to ensure a minority Tory Government will not deliver proportional representation---the Conservative's offer so very little on this. They would also use a coalition deal to ensure a Conservative victory in the next election in six months or so.

RowsonMUKpostelection.jpg Martin Rowson

While there is no Conservative majority, there is only the most tenuous of anti-Conservative majorities - a prospective 'rainbow coalition' of Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Greens. The money/bond market will not react kindly to a 'rainbow coalition'. The momentum is that the Lib Dems were edging ever closer to the Tories--- that's what the headlines have been saying.

Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian observes that:

The Tories have the edge on the two criteria that mattered, promising both stability and legitimacy. Any Con-Lib coalition would not only have solid numbers in the Commons but could claim a moral right to govern, led by a Tory party which had passed Clegg's "most seats and votes" test..... Lib Dems believed Labour could not match the Tories on either count. .... Labour might feel like natural bedfellows to most Lib Dem supporters, but any progressive coalition they might cobble together would be perilously frail – reliant on assorted Irish and Welsh nationalists and a sole Green MP to march in lockstep with every last member of the Labour and Lib Dem parliamentary parties. What's more, feared Clegg, any coalition with Brown at its head would lack legitimacy, led by a prime minister rejected by the voters

With Brown
gone Clegg will now have to decide which is the best offer, which partner is most likely to deliver it and prove most acceptable to the electorate.

So far Clegg failed to win enough concessions on electoral reform from the Conservatives to satisfy his 57 MPs, who called for formal talks with Labour to begin after informal soundings over the weekend. However, some Liberal Democrats still see a deal with the Tories as a more realistic prospect, not least because of the parliamentary arithmetic. These are the Orange Lib Dems --named after the David Laws, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne's Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism (2004), which advocated market solutions to a range of issues which Labour regards as the prerogative of the state.

A formal Lib-Con coalition, with Liberal Democrats sitting in a Cameron Cabinet, is now seen as the most likely method of co-operating if there is such a deal, rather than a commitment by Clegg's party to support a Tory minority government in key Commons votes.

In The Independent Sean O'Grady says that getting into bed with the Conservatives would mean:

A violent Liberal Democrat split – inevitable with a Lib-Con deal – suits the Tories fine. After that, they might be able to recruit the "Orange Book", market-oriented Liberal Democrats they've been wooing for years. The result would be to reduce the party to a rump. The last time the Liberal party joined the Tories in a coalition, in the 1930s, the party split three ways. It could easily happen again...For them [the Conservatives] the Liberal Democrats are not partners in power, but enemies to be destroyed – by stealth if necessary, as outright electoral assault has not worked. The last thing they will give the Liberal Democrats is a permanent lock on power.

So the Conservatives cannot be trusted on introducing substantive electoral reform--proportional representation for the House of Commons. Their best offer is committing the Conservative party to a referendum on a new, alternative vote (AV), system of electing MPs.

So the Lib Dems started talking to Labour, formally after Brown says he will go. Is Labour serious?

Update 2
The logjam has been cleared. The new government is a coalition of Cameron's modernizing Conservatives and the radical centre Liberal Democrats after the Lib Dem talks with a divided Labour foundered.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:18 AM | | Comments (8)


The Tories claimed that a hung parliament would immediately result in an equity market collapse, a run on sterling, the end of the UK’s AAA credit rating and an eventual desperate resort to the IMF.

It didn't happen. The rhetoric was done to help usher in a Conservative majority through fear.

Electoral reform is a big sticking point in the Lib Dems negotiations with Cameron's Conservatives to discuss the outlines of a common policy programme to deliver stable government.

The latter have suggested reductions in the number of MPs, an elected House of Lords and a fixed-term parliament –but they are only offering an inquiry into electoral reform. That is not enough. There had an inquiry in 1997 and a referendum was promised, there wasn't a referendum. So the next step is a referendum.

Minority government is the Tories' preferred option: get yourself on the government benches, make a few announcements, rebuild your finances a bit, then hold a fresh election at the earliest opportunity.

With no change to the electoral system, they can reasonably expect that to yield a majority.

Wtf is wrong with Clegg?
Why do they always get mentally constipated at the psychological moment; when they could actually do some good.
A rickety coalition with Brown to fix the electoral system, a chance to at least road test a liblab coalition and if not an election a year or so, and the people can put in the Tories if
Lib Lab looks that bad.
The Tassie "election" writ large, this is high farce and yet there is a way out if only they would show common sense, let alone guts?
Leave Cameron, Murdoch and that mob back in dementia ridden Hobbessian antiquity where they belong, for chrissakes!

all is not as it seems. The Lib Dems have been holding secret talks with Labour whilst talking to the Conservatives.

If the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Tories, the Liberal Democrats might well split at grassroots level. The only way that could be prevented was if Cameron gave something rock-solid on voting reform.

Cameron and the Conservatives are not willing to whip their MPs through the lobbies to ensure there was a referendum on the alternative vote, the least proportional system.

Gordon Brown has resigned. Is that a "game-changer"?

The Lib Dems are split between right and left. Nick Clegg, for instance, has been making speeches about the great sea-change in British politics.

This refers to the experiment in big government having failed: it hasn't delivered the more socially mobile, socially just, society that it purported to and in any event can't be sustained financially in the way it has over the past few years. Clegg also favours an aggressive tax-cutting approach.

As Peter Osborne argues in The Observer:

Ideologically, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats share one massive idea. They are both doctrinally suspicious of central government. They favour localism, decentralisation, individual freedom and accountability. The want to destroy the big state and all of its paraphernalia: bureaucracy, secrecy and central control.

Labour in contrast have been the architects of the surveillance state and all its apparatus of ID cards and arrest without charge.The problem is that the Murdoch's press hostility to human rights and individual liberty has seen the Conservatives backtrack on liberty.

Will Cameron have the political courage to resist the Murdoch empire and Thatcherite Conservatives ---who see the Liberal Democrats holding the country to ransom in pursuit of a new voting system--- change the British political system through introducing proportional representation?

Cameron made clear last night that PR is out and the most he will offer is a referendum on the Alternative Vote system. So the Lib Dems started talking to Labour, formally after Brown says he will go. The Conservatives are outraged---its treachery on two-timing Clegg's part etc etc.--the only viable solution is a Conservative government that pushes through dramatic spending cuts, and education and welfare reform.

The markets say so.

The Lib Dems have been debating what Liberalism means in the 21st century--it has to mean more than economic liberalism that stresses the role of the free market –to several societal issues, such as public healthcare, pensions, environment, globalisation, social and agricultural policy, local government, the European Union and prisons. S

There is a dividing line in the LIb Dems between those who advocate a social market economy observing social liberal values such as the Beveridge Group and who "recognize the limitations of the market; and those (such as authors, contributors and supporters of the Orange Book) who advocate a free market economy.