After the election: Lib Dems have ‘influence’ rather than ‘power’…

Being a Lib Dem with government ministers (and everything) after all those years (nay, generations) in opposition, must be something akin to the feelings you have the very first time you ‘make love’. It’s something you’ve dreamed of for years, and you are undoubtedly happy it has finally happened.

But… it wasn’t quite what you expected.  Theresa May is certainly no liberal’s dream of a Home Secretary. But… at the heel of the hunt they may simply be relieved that they got the job of keeping the Tories decent and David Cameron to his new liberal Tories.  It is notable that there are no Lib Dems in the ‘big three jobs…

But… some power is better than nothing at all, particularly if you want to graduate from party of protest to a party of grown ups. I suspect most Lib Dems would rest a little easier if they’d driven their tanks through either of the two front lines, rather than being stranded in the lee of their own Maginot line.

But… as Mark argues on his blog this is a time for the party to demonstrate the strengths of coalition government. There is no way the population of the UK will buy electoral reform if its first peacetime coalition since the days of Churchill and the Liberal Unionists, can work in the positive way the theorists that the Economists think it can.

But… I suspect Cameron’s promise to put any such reforms to a referendum will be enough to kill it off.  Unlike Ireland, the UK has no written constitution requiring the approval of the beyond the assent of its elected (and unelected) members of parliament.

But… the big dirty secret is that the Lib Dems is a better fit with the direction that Cameron has been cajoling his party in ever since he took over in 2006. This gives the Lib Dem’s Orange Bookers a chance to provide post ideological agency for a party that’s been notable for its inability to generate its own big ideas.

But… whenever it is this government goes to the country, the Lib Dems will have to have found an answer to the voluble anger on Facebook and other places from Labour leaning voters who’ve been lending them a vote, not just this time out, but for most of the last twenty years, in order to unseat/keep out the Tories.

But… the Lib Dems will undoubtedly be used as a ‘mudguard’ against the Tory right, who must even now be reconciling themselves to the fact that whilst a Tory led government is better than one led by Labour, one containing a sizeable chunk of Lib Dems will shift the internal balance of power substantially away from them.

Finally, and more hopefully from a Lib Dem perspective, there will be rewards for all if they can simply stay away from anything too controversial, or dare I say it, political.  A good term in office, particularly if Labour complements it with a lunge to the left, may open up new vistas for the Lib Dems.

And the old accusation that they have no conception of government may be consigned to the past. And they bring the Conservatives a democratic legitimacy north of the border that the Tories can only dream about.

Their abiding problem is that long-term survival is not in the interests of either of the two big parties. And – unlike their two big rivals – they have no loyal regional base within which to bury/draw up large political reserves. They are pastoral grazers, not political ‘big farmers’.

They will need to keep plenty in reserve to win a national referendum, which, if Ireland’s experience is anything to go by, are notoriously given to saying no to any form of change.

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  • If the Lib-Dems vote for this to be a 5 year fixed term parliament, AND for 45% to be a pro HMG majority in any vote of confidence so as to maintain the Conservatives in power (albeit possibly while not getting legislation passed) then they will have given up all reason, patriotism and self interest.

    Ironically were teddy taylor and Enoch Powell to be Tory backbenchers the chances of this totalitarian step would be substantially lower.

    As the modern equivalents are rather short on principle hope is a little short however.

    Civil unrest seems likely, people fought for the House of Commons and sane people weren’t looking for a wannabe dictator to take its rights away.

  • Nowhere, anywhere does it say that the threshold for a vote of confidence is 55%. To quote from the coalition agreement:

    This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

    …and that power allowing the Commons to vote for its own dissolution is something completely new & separate from a vote of confidence, for which the threshold remains 50% + 1.

    The reason for the 55% on dissolution? To stop either party in the coalition (well, primarily the Tories) from collapsing it for their own gain whenever the opinion polls indicate they’d get a majority if they cut & run.

  • So if a vote of confidence goes against Cameron by one vote, and he can stop a dissolution because he has 47% of the MPs’ votes (just saying) then we don’t get the election which the lack of confidence in HMG by our elected Parliament calls for.

    Will we be forced into another coalition or a minority Government?

    Plus ca change, we don’t get the election we shall need very soon.

    The idea that our parliament should have its rules changed because the National Liberals and Conservatives don’t trust one another is a joke: that is their problem

  • union mack

    It’s the best they could hope for in the circumstances. Propping up a tired and discredited Labour party would have done them more damage, particularly as it would be held to ransom by the SNP and thus liable to fall at any point. At least by joining with the Conservatives, they can moderate the right wing influence, whilst also presenting the country with a fresh faced government. I’m a natural Labour supporter, but reluctantly I admit they had to take a break from governance. The new coalition has it’s flaws, but it’s firmly on the centre-ground, and there will be no ‘slash and burn’ old Tory policies.

  • robertemmett

    i hope those trendy progressives that vote lib/dem will think twice in future. vote lib/dem get the tories. at least voting labour, you get labour. i couldnt see this new era doing much good for the lib/dem vote

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “at least voting labour, you get labour”

    Eh, no, the Labour Party and the Liberals with the Nats and or the DUP thrown in had the arithmetic to form a government. The Labour Party decided not to go into power at least partially becuase they couldnt bear being dependent on the SNP and partially becuase they didnt have the balls for it.

    When one Labour joker had the nerve to stand up in the Scottish Assembly and complain about Tory cuts the boul Alex Salmond interupted him and reminded him that the Labour party ‘ducked’ government and put the Tories in power.

    Vote Labour or Liberal and get the Tories.

  • apollo293867

    Union Mack

    “The new coalition has it’s flaws, but it’s firmly on the centre-ground, and there will be no ’slash and burn’ old Tory policies.”

    NRC close seven sites.

    Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster A+E to close.

    A special police unit dedicated to tackling joyriding in west Belfast and Lisburn is to be withdrawn

    All announced in the last 2 days

    Got the picture yet?

  • Mrazik

    You seriously think these are Tory cuts?

  • Bulmer

    ‘The people didn’t vote for a hung parliament’ seems a popular rfrain from the Tory right miffed at their opportunity to ride roughshod over everyone like Mrs T. They’ve forgotten how unpopular the Tories became and remain. With the worst recession, a failing PM and a dead in the water Labour party, the Tories still couldn’t command a majority. Cameron knows it. Of course the LDs are the junior party, but they are the handbrake the country wanted on the Tories. The far right will be screaming by the weekend. So maybe LD may only influence but the turnip taleban faction can see that it’s their own influence which is in decline. Just as the public wanted.

  • bigchiefally

    I do wonder how many Lib Dem voters would actually rather their party was back in its usual home in the political wilderness. No power or ability to get any laws they want passed, but at least they would be able to sound sanctimonious again.

    Instead they find themselves in a position where they certainly arent going to get everything they want, or even the vast majority of the the things they want, but they will get some of it, which is infinitely more than they have done in the last 70 or so years.

    It seems bizarre that many seem to value this great advance lower than their ability to sound off from the sidelines being self righteous.

    They could possibly have gone into a rainbow coalition with Labour, the SNP, the SDLP, the DUP and maybe the welsh nationalists but I havent heard anyone even attempt to come up with a single coherent argument that advances the belief that this arrangement would have been stable or produced good government.

    Failing the arrangement with the tories they had one other alternative which would have been to have said no to everyone. This would almost certainly have prompted another general election in which I think a lot of voters would have been annoyed with the Lib Dems and voted against them.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    bigchiefally

    re. “They could possibly have gone into a rainbow coalition with Labour, the SNP, the SDLP, the DUP and maybe the welsh nationalists but I havent heard anyone even attempt to come up with a single coherent argument that advances the belief that this arrangement would have been stable or produced good government”

    Well Paddy Pantsdown said on the morning the Libs switched back to the Tories that a minority LIB-LAB government with the support of the Nats would be safe becuase the Nats would not want the Tories in. They did not need the support of the DUP as the SDLP, Plaid, and SNP would have been happy as pigs in the proverbial and kept the government afloat. Fact is the Labour didnt have the stomach/balls for it .

  • bigchiefally

    The reason Labour, and indeed the Lib Dems didnt have the stomach/balls for it is because they knew it would have been a disaster. The Welsh, Scots and Irish parties would have demanded a lower level of cuts than the economic meltdown requires happens. If these cuts had been lower than the ones imposed on England, which already more than pays its own way in the union, Labour and the Lib Dems would have been hammered, and rightly so, in the next elections in England. Alternatively they could have moderated the level of cuts across the UK to the puny ones the Celts would have accepted as their price for coalition, which would have led us all towards a Greek like future.

    Even those Labour leaders desperate to stay in power could see this, as could the Lib Dem ones who know their followers are much closer to Labour than the Tories.

  • Obviously lots of people did will and think they voted for a Hung parliament – hang all your houses being a popular refrain in the hearts of all sorts of people.

    I recall that it was said that Brown kept the DUP onboard re the 42 days detention vote by larding their pork barrel. Any evidence? Or were they rather piqued by Cameron’s overtures to their UU enemies as reported by Mick Fealty shortly beforehand?

    Somehow that didn’t quite turn out quite so deftly nuanced as Mick seemed to believe at the time.

    I don’t believe that Labour refused to go in with the Lib Dems for the reasons advanced above: Nick Clegg wanted to deal with his class war ally Cameron, and once he had used Labour to extract an absolutely minimal promise re an AV referendum left making a decision long enough that the estimable Gordon Brown felt he had to go to HM Queen.

    So our nation, its constituent countries, and our political system have been stitched up by a couple of arrogant sub aristos. More next week . . .

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    bigchiefally,

    Yes, I am familiar with that line of arguement- but your first point you made was regarding stability and the numbers show that arguement not to hold water. In relation to the point that they would have lost the next election well there are all sorts of reasons why now is not a good time to be in power and they also apply to the Liberals for example going into government with the Tories as they will have great dififculty explaining that to their voters next time out.

    That is not to underestimate the difficulties in dealing with the WestLothian\WestTyrone\CardiffWest political and financial problems but the performance of the economy will be the key determinant of the outcome of the next election not spending on the Celtic fringe.

    The palin fact is Labour put the Tories in power having told us all only days ago that if the Tories got power they would wreck the country economically and few would have thought that a vote for Labour was a vote to faciltiate just that and every time a Labour MSP get up to complain about Tory cuts the boul Alex S will remind the dull fecker exactly hose fault that is.

  • Seems none of you have read the insider account, which makes quite clear that Clegg kept Brown hanging on without engaging until he felt he had no alternative but to go.

    No Labour conspiracy – although backwoodsmen like Tom Harris MP and others may have wanted a time in opposition – rather Orange Book National Liberal preference.

  • After the debacle of 1931 the Conservatives won handsomely in 1935 and national Liberals continued to drag on until 1964.

    The party in power now, when Growth is predicted to be 2.3% next year will not be uniformly adorned with thorns.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Quietzapple,

    of course ther may be a variety of ‘insider’ accounts – but when someone does not fight tooth and nail to get power in the coalition negotiations and does not seem in the least disappointed when they dont get power it is reasonable to surmise that the they did not want it.

    If the Libs had done as you said and Labour really wanted to do a deal then Mandy would have screaming from the rooftops about the dreadful Liberals – the facts are they didnt want power (in somewhat difficult circumstances I admit) and seem delighted now they dont have it. Perhaps even if there was some bad faith on the part of the Liberals that should not obscure the fact that Labour ducked.

  • While some Labour peeps welcomed the prospect of a Rainbow Coalition, many like my self saw it as an unlikely expedient and some as a prospective pain in the National Liberals.

    Brown was likely in the middle group. He agreed to stand down by September to permit the talks he had first asked for to have a chance of success.

    Once Clegg had used the prospect of a deal with Labour as a ratchet to extract what sounds like a very dodgy referendum from his minor aristo soul mate, and other Lib wannabe’s saw that they’d look like proper coin alongside Osborne, Gove, and Hague, but not Darling, or the Millibands, or Mandelson, master Nick had to weasel his way out which he did discourteously in my opinion.

    Brown could not have been more serious about a deal: he laid down his office.

    Those who dissemble on this could not hold one candela to the man who actually changed the face of British politics so that Chameleon is a possibility, however perverse a version of Blair he may turn out to be.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Quietzapple,

    So you are agreeing that Labour ducked but coupled with a bit of Liberal double dealing because Nick really wanted to do that thing with the Tories?

  • @Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit 14 May 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Sorryish to be rude but remedial reading classes required:

    “Brown could not have been more serious about a deal: he laid down his office.”

    Are you trying to extend my patience? Or some other useful prerequisite?

    Turn yourself in son, Fealty might give you a conditional trip to the Isle of Man.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Queitzapple,

    “While some Labour peeps welcomed the prospect of a Rainbow Coalition, many like my self saw it as an unlikely expedient and some as a prospective pain in the National Liberals” – “Brown was likely in the middle group”

    Try reading your own contradictory jibberish you nimcompoop.

  • Still cannot comprehend that an unlikely expedient is the best which was on offer?

    There is no contradiction except to someone who finds all of life to be black and white.

    Nincompoop describes you well, you must obtain your vocabulary via exchanges such as this.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Quitzapple,

    “Nincompoop describes you well, you must obtain your vocabulary via exchanges such as this”

    More incoherent ramblings.