Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Liberal Conservative Coalition

A lot has happened in my absence, some of which I may never now comment on. The main thing, however, has been the election and the brave new world that is Coalition Government.

As a Scot who lived through the Thatcher years, someone who has always been instinctively left of centre, and a lifelong Liberal Democrat, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I would not be in favour of a deal with the Conservatives.

You'd be wrong.

Much has been written about the making of the deal and the deal itself and I don't want to retread those arguments. Instead I want to applaud the fact that we have arrived a pragmatic solution in a situation which could have resulted in either an unstable minority Tory government or an unstable and politically disastrous minority Lib-Lab coalition.

While the idea of a re-alignment of the left is attractive, seeking to achieve this in these circumstances would have been electoral suicide, in England at least, for the Lib Dems. It would also have been damaging to Labour who would, I believe, have been seriously punished in future elections.

A Liberal Conservative government was, therefore, the only serious contender once it became clear David Cameron was serious about negotiations. The concessions he made went much further than a minority coalition partner could have reasonably expected. The Lib Dems have got more than they could ever have imagined. While voting reform may not have been promised, it is striking how many actual Lib Dem polices have been adopted by the new government.

And government is where the challenge now lies - proving that Lib Dem policies can make a difference and improve people's lives. That Lib Dem ministers can be effective, promoting the ideals and principles of Liberal Democracy through actions rather than rhetoric.

Entering coalition is not a sacrifice or surrender - it's a grown up acknowledgment of the need for strong government when the parliamentary arithmetic did not support one party. It is not about abandoning long held principles but rather about pragmatic comprise within those principles.

Most parties are, in any case, coalitions of differing factions. Most people do not get 100% of the policies they personally would choose or vote for. We may be entering a Brave New World but we may well find it's not as new as we think!


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