Saturday, December 08, 2007

 

Can Lib Dems dominate the 'next decade'?


Martin Kettle today suggests the next century, despite their low teens poll rating, might just belong to the Liberal Democrats. He cites in evidence, what we must assume was the near alliance between Labour and the Lib Dems in 1997 when Ashdown might well have landed a Cabinet post had things gone according to Blair's earlier plans. He also points out how a small party can exceed its apparent reach at an election and actually by gain power: witness Alex Salmond in Scotland.


However, apart from these somewhat nebulous points Kettle does not offer any other justification for his prediction apart from this also somewhat nebulous observation:

The next 10 years will be full of temptations and dilemmas for that broad centrist majority of British voters who want to combine economic efficiency with social justice, individual liberty and internationalism.

The current contest for the Lib Dem leadership, has not yet suggested that Huhne and Clegg have cast on the waters anything approaching the message required to reel in that 'broad centrist majority'. I suspect that whoever is elected will plough a furrow not so very different from either Ashdown or Kennedy in that their policies will be determined in relation to the other two bigger parties.

And this, as before is because it will be the progress or lack of it for Labour or the Conservatives which will determine how far away from power Huhne or Clegg(I think it'll be the latter by the way) will end up in 209-10. Indeed the only way the third party can climb the mountain will be via a reform of the voting system- justified as it is but opposed by the party which most benefits by it- Labour- and by the one which refuses to consider the alternatives, the Tories. Labour might well have passed its 'tipping point' of support as Kettle suggests, but in 2009 Gordon might still be able to deny Cameron an overall majority given the inbuilt bias of the system towards the governing party.

In such a situation the Lib Dems will be able to allow both suitors to mark their card for future collaboration and, like a Jane Austen heroine, choose the one who makes the best offer i.e. the one which promises PR. Then the century might have a chance of belonging to the Liberal Democrats, but, not, I feel sure, before this crucial political transaction has happened.

Comments:
The interesting thing about the PR debate is that there is a mostly unspoken assumption that people will continue to vote (or note vote) as they are doing under FPTP. I think that is rather unlikely.

Anyway, if we assume the Tories are still the real enemy nationally then this is quite useful.

Iain Dale can't tell the difference between frontline jobs and bureaucrats. He wants to cut "bureacrats" and that actually means doctors, nurses, teachers, police etc as they are the ones that Gordon has increased.

He is throwing his toys. Comments and links welcome.
 
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