What a Conservative- Lib Dem deal could look like

 Now that the Liberal Democrats have entered negotiations with the Conservatives, a possible deal may be reached by combining the Lib Dem ambition for electoral reform with the aim of reducing the size of the House of Commons they both share. Incidentally this may not be at all to unionists’ tastes as I hear the necessary boundary review could give another seat to nationalists. So watch this space in the longer term.

 The two parties are far apart on electoral reform but under pressure, maybe not impossibly so,  in the opinion of the Cosntitution Unit.

To persuade the Tories the Lib Dems might propose:

  • A quick (6 month) commission to investigate why First past the post operates so unfairly
  • A referendum in which Lib Dems and the Tories are free to campaign on opposite sides
  • Hardball negotiation: no electoral reform, no deal.

The Lib Dems want STV as in  NI , and to reduce the House of Commons to 500 MPs. The Conservatives also want to reduce the size of the Commons, to 585, but to retain First past the Post. To reduce the size of the House of Commons requires a wholesale boundary review of all constituency boundaries. That is difficult to achieve in one Parliament; but not impossible, if the boundary review process is drastically streamlined. The difficulty of adding electoral reform is the risk of delaying the whole process beyond this Parliament.

 Lords reform

The Lib Dems want a fully elected second chamber, while the Conservatives want to ‘build a consensus’ for a mainly elected second chamber. The Lib Dems will want a clear timetable, with a plan for legislation in this Parliament leading to the first elections in 2014 or 2015. The Tories may offer Lords reform in place of electoral reform for the Commons. There is some logic in that: the electoral system for one House needs to be resolved before deciding on the other.

Fixed term Parliaments

The Lib Dems support fixed term parliaments. Cameron has mentioned the possibility in the past, and might be persuaded. Legislation could be introduced in the first or second session, and would set the date of the next general election, and elections after that.

 EU (Referendums) and Sovereignty Bill

The Conservatives are committed to legislate to require compulsory referendums on future EU Treaties, and to restate the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament. Both bills are problematic, in terms of their legal effect, and signals they would send to Europe. The Conservative leadership might be relieved if the Lib Dems insisted they were dropped; their backbenchers will not.

 British bill of rights

Up until the election the Lib Dems supported a British bill of rights, as part of a written constitution. Faced by the Conservative threat to repeal the Human Rights Act, they have now pledged to protect it. They might be willing to discuss what a British bill of rights would add to the HRA, on the clear understanding that it would have to be ECHR plus.

 Party funding

The Lib Dems will want to revive Hayden Phillips’ 2007 review into party funding, which came close to reaching agreement. Both parties could agree a cap of £50k on donations, which would also apply to trade union contributions. The Conservatives will not be happy with any increase in state funding.

Right of recall

Both parties are agreed on a power to recall MPs found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

Brown would offer more than Cameron but with what result? Lab and LD together plus, 1 Green, 3 SDLP, Naomi and Sylvia are unlikely to add up to more votes that the Tories alone. T o put a Lab led rainbow coaltion over the top,the SNP would have to eat their words – not impossible, but looking thin.

Certainly it looks tight.

The Clegg move is probably what will drive the agenda for the next couple of days.  A deal with the DUP and/or the  Nats over shielding Scotland, Wales and NI from future spending cuts is no more attractive to Cameron than electoral reform and maybe less so in practice. It would produce fewer supporting votes in the Commons. If any deal with the devolved areas was struck to the disadvantage of the English regions he would face uproar from the English of all parties at a time when the UK may become embroiled in another international financial crisis.

However  the SNP leader Alex Salmond has just said he’s asking for civil service backup to take part in negotiations with both the Conservatives and Labour.

For their own sake, it would be inadvisable for the DUP to try to overbid with either major party now, for fear of turning future block grants into an England v the Rest battle ground – battles which the devolved areas would surely lose.

We may know more about the Brown position as he’ll speak when ( nearly) all the results are in at around 2.30 pm.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Brian,

    Why would the Liberal Democrats want to give the Tories a foothold in government in exchange for a few scraps ?

    Labour don’t have an Ashcroft so they can’t face another election. Accordingly they are weak and, as such, ready to deal. This’ll allow the LDs to extract key concessions such as PR/STV which will change the whole political map.

    I don’t believe Brown has a strong base in Labour anymore. The party swung behind him in the end because they knew that a switch ahead of an election would have been even more disastrous. A change in Labour leader is therefore inevitable, and there are Labour figures – Alan Johnston for example – who I think would do a fine job as Prime Minister, especially with Vince Cable as Chancellor.

  • Long to take up the Liberal Conservative whip?

  • Rory Carr

    Including trade unions in a cap of £50K on party donations would be grossly unfair and would only further erode the already limited access to power that labour interests have in comparison to the near monopoly stranglehold on power that is that of capital.

    That a single employer (and single voter) would be able, by virtue of a £50K political donation, to have equal influence over a party’s policies as that of a trade union representing many thousands of workers (and thousands of voters) is clearly unfair.

    That, say 20, employers in any given sector would be able to buy £1M worth of political influence as against many thousands of workers represented by one trade union in that sector limited to £50K’s worth borders on the criminal.

  • Anon

    Liblab should come out slightly ahead of the Tories. Their combined total is already 307. The Tories will probably make that, maybe one more. I think they need to make 315 to be viable but that would require them to hold almost everythign left, including sopme tight ones.

    You need 324 because of SF. SDLP + Alliance + Slyvia + Gre4ens is another 6. 321. In this case the PDs for another 3 would put you over the top. You might be able to get support onan issue by issue basis form SNP or DUP.

    LDs get basically a once in a generation chance for electoral reform. Tories won’t give it probably. Interesting times.

  • Rory Carr

    Isn’t there some stricture in the Bible against practices smacking of “Onan issue”, Anon?

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: to have equal influence over a party’s policies as that of a trade union representing many thousands of workers (and thousands of voters) is clearly unfair.
    Of course, there’s no reason why those thousands of workers couldn’t make personal donations that match or even exceed their existing political levy to the union. The union could use a reduced political levy to explain to them how they can do that, and why.

  • Joe Smith

    Could the two parties agree to a new Westminster election in a year’s time using STV, and the existing constituencies, as a stop-gap measure? It would simply require the grouping of existing constituencies in five or six seat groups. For example, Northern Ireland could be split into three six-seater super seats.

  • abucs

    If there isn’t a Conservative/Lib-Dem agreement it will be interesting to see how the DUP and Scottish Nationalists play their cards.

    Also, what part might the DUP leader Mr Robinson play in such negotiations ?????

  • Bulmer

    Labour offers a referendum.

    Tory’s offer a commission.

    Cameron will cut and run for round two as soon as he thinks the liberals are a busted flush so what price the commission ever reporting?

    I suspect Cameron is going to have to offer more.

  • DC

    The 6 million people who voted for the Lib Dems are owed something. 23% of voters represented by 9% of MPs…In any case its in the Lib Dems interest to get some measure of PR-when the backlash happens (and it will, whatever they do, as long as they are the third party its in the nature of the FPTP system).

  • A Lib-Lab government may now only require the SDLP/Alliance, and Lady Hermon for a majority as with 5 SF MPs abstaining and the casting vote of the speaker (provided it’s Bercow or someone from the opposition benches) the majority figure is 322 not 326. They gives them 320 at the moment, with one more to declare and a postponed election to come (though that is a likely Con seat)

    Tag on Caroline Green from time to time and they could get enough done to go to the country in the next 12 months under a new Labour leader and under a new electoral system.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    I think that the Conservatives will do a deal with the Lib Dems – they won’t need the DUP, and they won’t want to make any further concessions to the DUP. Naomi might actually end up the only NI MP in the Westminster government – the question is will she take the Lib Dem whip?!

    In the case of such a snub of the arrogant DUP by the Tories the UCUs might actually end up having the last laugh here over the long term (yes really!). I also do not agree with an above poster (Damian) “that the Conservative philosophy or brand has no support in NI” (I for one would support it!). Firstly, it does not help that the Conservatives are trying to launch this initiative at a time where they are having to propose cuts – perhaps in a few years time when the economy is in a better state of health they will have better hopes of success in the UK periphery. Secondly, the NI electorate are just not ready yet for the ‘normal politics’ that Cameron envisioned the UCUs bringing to NI. Neither was the local UUP leadership – Reg simply did not have the long-term vision to promote the prospect of normal an non-sectarian politics, and is in general not a good leader. Hopefully this disaster will force the UCUs to restructure more wholeheartedly around this more non-tribal form of politics, and choose a more fresh-faced and competent leadership for the future. The signs of the increased Alliance vote would be encouraging in this respect. (as for the increased tribalism/sectarianism that we’ve seen from the nationalist side of the fence, unionists must be strong and not fall backwards into Sinn Fein’s sectarian trap by acting reactionary and insecure)

  • smellybigoxteronye

    … oops sorry, double-post with all that stuff about UCUs – that was meant for the “Long-shot success” thread!

  • smellybigoxteronye

    I also think that Naomi *should* take the Lib-Dem whip. Not only will it be good for NI to have someone in government in such a Con-Lib coalition, but it will also be good PR for the government to be able to boast the only “cross-community” Northern Ireland MP as being in its ranks!

  • Greenflag

    I agree . The Lib Dems have been down the ‘commission’ road before and it disappeared into some Whitehall pigeonhole never to be seen again . Machiavelli would say deal with Brown’s firmer offer and with the Tories simultaneously .

    64% of the British people did NOT vote Conservative even if they won the largest number of seats .

    Labour plus Lib Dems plus DUP & SDLP /AP /Independent Unionist /Green and Scots/Welsh nationalists should ‘nt be too difficult for GB to negotiate .

    Labour would also be less likely to cut and run for another electoral bout than the Tories and would probably only consider such when they elect a new leader at some point before the end of the next parliament.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ I think that the Conservatives will do a deal with the Lib Dems ‘

    They’ll at least have to try seriously . For if they fail the next Westminister election could be held under the PR system and that would not be in the Conservative Party’s interest . But will they pay the Lib Dem price ?

  • abucs

    You’d probably want a bit of fat in your numbers to govern effectively with likely deaths, retirements, scandals etc.

    I’d imagine whatever party gets in, they will be making a lot of unpopular decisions and be under constant threat from the opposition – which always seems to know better.

  • Wasted Ballot

    Lib Dems seriously need to ask themselves what they stand for and whether they should continue after their awful performance last night. This election was theres to make the impact. They fell on their face and have cemented the fact that the party will never break through to a position of power.

    The fact that Clegg is even talking to the Tories will send shock waves through their voters, a majority of whom will be so repulsed by a Tory/LD coalition they will never vote LD again.

  • the old Manxman

    I suspect Naomi’s price will be 3 x 6 member seats for NI with STV when the electoral sort out happens.

  • Reader

    Greenflag: I agree . The Lib Dems have been down the ‘commission’ road before and it disappeared into some Whitehall pigeonhole never to be seen again . Machiavelli would say deal with Brown’s firmer offer and with the Tories simultaneously
    But wasn’t that ‘Whitehall pigeonhole’ a *Labour* pigeonhole?
    As George Bush once famously tried to say – “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”
    Neither of the main parties believes it is in their interest to have proportional voting. Brown was proposing AV, scarcely an improvement on FPTP. Instead, what the Lib Dems need, if they are ever to break through, is STV in multi-member constituencies. The deal might hang on who offers them the most seats per constituency, and with delivery on a fixed timetable in a single term.

  • Reader

    Wasted Ballot: The fact that Clegg is even talking to the Tories will send shock waves through their voters, a majority of whom will be so repulsed by a Tory/LD coalition they will never vote LD again.
    If they were Labour supporters, they should have voted Labour. If they didn’t know they were going to go into a coalition of some sort, they were daft. And if they think that rejecting one of the two possible coalitions up front is a good negotiating position, then they are idiots.
    But personally, I suspect that lib-dem supporters are actually slightly smarter than the average voter.

  • Greenflag

    ‘But wasn’t that ‘Whitehall pigeonhole’ a *Labour* pigeonhole?’

    Yes and it was a generation or more ago . Things change. Back then election turnouts were averaging about 7% higher than these past few elections although this one managed 65% .

    If you include the 35% of the electorate who stayed at home then a minority Conservative Government ruling without the Lib Dems would be doing so with the voting support of 23.5% of the total electorate . The Labour party has been in power since 2005 with a strong majority despite winning the votes of only 22.5% of the total electorate .

    I think the STV in single member constituencies would be sufficient . If that goes to a referendum it could pass . I would’nt suggest multi member constituencies at this point . Far too complicated for the English I’m afraid 😉

  • milesmajor

    “Wasted Ballot”
    How true re Tory/Lib coalition repelling many Lib Dems. The Lib-Dem party would fall apart. Mind you that might happen if it was a Labour-Lib Dem coalition.

    Best thing for Lib – Dems might be to allow a Tory minority government and allow them to criticise the Tories in power and not be dragged down with them afterwards.

  • I reckon four:

    Belfast – 4 (possibly reduced to the City Council area)

    Down/Armagh – North Down, Strangford, South Down, Newry & Armagh, part of Lagan Valley, Upper Bann – 5ish

    Fermanagh/Tyrone – Fermanagh & South Tyrone, West Tyrone, most of mid-Ulster, possibly part of Upper Bann – 3

    Derry/Antrim – Foyle, East Londonderry, Co Derry side of Mid-Ulster, North Antrim, South Antrim, East Antrim, Co Antrim side of Lagan Valley – 6

  • Garza

    Gordown Brown was giving threats to Nick Clegg last night over the phone. GB is a total grade A moron, its his way or the high way, not a good colation partner.

  • Ian Neale

    The only people who would benefit from PR are the Lib Dems.
    That is, over a short period of time. I live in Germany where they were given the PR system after the War, to stop them being led
    by another war crazy maniac into trying to invade the world.
    In Germany they have 16 states, all with a President and State Parliment and all elected on the PR system. It is absolute chaos,
    not one State has a majority party, there are mixtures of SPD with Greens, SPD with CDU, SPD with FDP, CDU with FDP and Greens! NO party can proceed with its manifesto, NO Party can
    satisfy its Voters or get anthing changed, If you notice how long it is taking the UK to get a new Prime Minister then just imagine
    how much time would be spent at Counsil elections !
    This really sums up PR, any kind of PR ! It just keeps certain
    countries quiet. the UK does not need to be kept “down” it needs to be strong to spread the Democratic word that it has preached around the world. Lib Dems are living in a world of self delusion if they think the UK would benefit from PR- it is a DISASTER , leave it alone !

  • Ian Neale

    The only people who would benefit from PR are the Lib Dems.
    That is, over a short period of time. I live in Germany where they were given the PR system after the war.
    In Germany they have 16 states, all with a President and State Parliment and all elected on the PR system. It is absolute chaos,
    not one State has a majority party, there are mixtures of SPD with Greens, SPD with CDU, SPD with FDP, CDU with FDP and Greens! NO party can proceed with its manifesto, NO Party can
    satisfy its Voters or get anthing changed, If you notice how long it is taking the UK to get a new Prime Minister then just imagine
    how much time would be spent at Counsel elections !
    This really sums up PR, any kind of PR ! compelte chaos ! Lib Dems are living in a world of self-delusion if they think the UK would benefit from PR- it is a DISASTER , leave it alone !

  • Ian Neale

    The only people who would benefit from PR are the Lib Dems.
    That is, over a short period of time. I live in Germany where they were given the PR system after the war. Apart from the Chancellor, they have 16 states, all with a President and State Parliment and all elected on the PR system. It is absolute chaos,
    not one State has a majority party, there are mixtures of SPD with Greens, SPD with CDU, SPD with FDP, CDU with FDP and Greens! NO party can proceed with its manifesto, NO Party can
    satisfy its Voters or get anthing changed, If you notice how long it is taking the UK to get a new Prime Minister then just imagine
    how much time would be spent at Council elections !
    This really sums up PR, any kind of PR ! complete chaos ! Lib Dems are living in a world of self-delusion if they think the UK would benefit from PR- it is a DISASTER , leave it alone !
    For an example of where the UK system worked well, just look at Blair and New Labour, having learnt from many defeats Labour changed its ways with success, under PR they would have stayed the same and kept in power with a shady deal with the Lib Dems, much to the detriment of the country.
    The Lib Dems should start taking a good long look at themselves and their politics, change that and you would have a better chance of serving the people of the UK, than changing the system.

  • Ian Neale

    The only people who would benefit from PR are the Lib Dems.
    That is, over a short period of time. I live in Germany where they were given the PR system after the war. Apart from the Chancellor, they have 16 states, all with a President and State Parliment and all elected on the PR system. It is absolute chaos,
    not one State has a majority party, there are mixtures of SPD with Greens, SPD with CDU, SPD with FDP, CDU with FDP and Greens! NO party can proceed with its manifesto, NO Party can
    satisfy its Voters or get anthing changed, If you notice how long it is taking the UK to get a new Prime Minister then just imagine
    how much time would be spent at Council elections !
    This really sums up PR, any kind of PR ! chaos ! Lib Dems are living in a world of self-delusion if they think the UK would benefit from PR- it is a complete DISASTER
    For an example of where the UK system worked well, just look at Blair and New Labour, having learnt from many defeats Labour changed its ways with success, under PR they would have stayed the same and kept in power with a shady deal with the Lib Dems, much to the detriment of the country.
    The Lib Dems should start taking a good long look at themselves and their politics, change that and you would have a better chance of serving the people of the UK, than changing the system.

  • Clive Hill

    What make every one think that Labour are stupid enough to REALLY sign up for PR in the long term, or give substancial guarantees regarding it’s introduction. They would lose about 88 MPs as well as the tories losing 92.

    Can the lib-dems not see that many labour MPs dont wish to be sacrificial lambs. If I was a Labour MP I wouln’t strike a deal that included PR any more than if I were a Conservative!!!

  • Munsterview

    100,000 Votes on average to elect a Lib-Dem
    20,000 Votes on average to Elect a Tory

    A Tory voting for P.R. is a turkey voting for Christmas!

    Neither the Tories of the Labour wand to change the system, why should they, it guarantees one party or the other no matter how incompetent their Leader or inadequate their politics total unanswerable power for their term of office. And all of this before the ‘Yes Minister’ types set out to nip any real change in the bud!

    Could Tony Blair have assisted Bush in the Middle East Madness if he was also dependent on a minority party to vote him through?

    There is an obvious need for a proper representative democracy in Westminster, but whatever party the Lib-Dems opt for will only do the bare minimum to bring them on board in the hopes that that what Albert Reynolds referred to as ‘ a temporary little arrangement’

    Except as the South has shown these temporary little arrangements also become permanent. Remember the P.D. ringing clarion call ” Be radical or be redundant’! They became a permanent fixture in government to the extent when the party disintegrated and disappeared, Mary Harney possibly the worst health Minister in Europe was held on in office with a hide like a rhino, immune to all criticism, cruising to happy retirement and a huge pension while Fianna Failure can, come election time, say it was her not us.

    Anyone that thinks a few New Lib-Dems will mean new politics, look to the Irish Greens in the South. Some of the bloody Fianna Failure backbenchers are providing more opposition to their own Parties political disasters than the Greens in Government who are supposed to be policing them.

    I attend History Conferences across the water a few times a year: the ordinary English people are sick, sore and sorry of the whole set up and also like here frustrated and feeling hopeless in the face of the inertness of Westminster to do anything competently other than milk the expenses system.

    And for the umpteenth time I again repeat that I have yet to meet an English Man or Woman for that matter that thinks any part of Ireland should be also part of the their political system.

    The position of Scotland is different, that produces debate, plenty different opinions and a little passion, but Northern Ireland just produces a weary indifference and a litany of complaints regarding costs. Now that the Unionists are about as useful to Cameron as tits to a bull, I wonder when we will see him back in the Six Counties?