Friday, July 23, 2010


Lib Dems' decision to join the Coalition Begins to look like Suicide

Today at Chequers (pictured) Cabinet members discussed 'political' matters. The huge problem, apart from Cleggy's poor showing at PMQs, is the fact that the Lib Dems are dying as a political force. I had some sympathy with them after the election. It was easy for left of centre types like me to criticise their deal with the Tories and say it was the last thing Lib Dem voters wanted when they voted for their party on 6th May. But on the other hand, the country desperately needed a well supported government to deal with the economy. The alliance with Labour was just not on, so what happened was kind of unavoidable. The Lib Dems, one might say, had a 'duty to commit suicide'.

Because that is what I think Clegg and company have done for them. The latest Yougov polling shows Tories on 43%, Labour on 35% and Lib Dems a perilous 13%. Party members are drifting towards Labour and the party risks being 'hollowed out'. Clegg and Cameron are keen to cement the alliance and were expected to reassure their colleagues that both parties would 'ultimately benefit' as long as they stayed the course in tandem, till 2015. Hmm. But here's some questions to mull over:

1. What will Lib Dem members think when the cuts really begin to bite and front line services return to the levels of the early 1990s? Will they want to deal with the public odium this will cause?

2. What if key measures like university fees and the referendum on AV is defeated after their 'allies' have done their best to rubbish the system?

3. Who will Lib Dems feel like voting for in 2015? If the two parties are still in league, won't any vote seem wasted unless it's cast for an opposition party?

4. Is it not already clear that the Tory right abhor their new partners and are none too keen on Dave either?

5. Is it not already clear that if the Lib Dems want to survive as a coherent, credible party they will be forced to leave the coalition?

6. Moreover, isn't it crystal clear the Tories and Cameron are benefitting enormously from the coalition- Dave's approval ratings are hovering around 48!- while the Lib Dems are being hideously damaged?

Wintour, in the linked article, suggests Cameron will have to actively help Cleggy to achieve some prominence and win some support. It's just that this will be so hard to do. And when Nick had a chance to be prime ministerial on Wednesday, he blew it. Oh Lor!

Wintour's article quotes Julian Astle, director of Centreforum as saying:

The [poll] divergence is not that surprising. When everything in British politics is dominated by the deficit, and the left is queasy about cuts, left support for the coalition is going to reduce. As soon as Clegg joined with the Tories, it was clear the party can only play it long. My guess is the polls are going to get worse, and it may last a long time. The party is going to have to grit its teeth and say at the next election: 'Yes it hurt, but yes it worked.'"

For an interesting analysis which suggests the centrist consensus around Nick and Dave is flanked by the Tory right and the Lib Dem left read this

If you want my view right now, I'd not lay any money on this arrangement lasting more than two years.

Errrmmm ... public services were not too sparse in the early 1990s or cheap. If anything they were to pervasive and over-priced, and that only got worse under Labour. So why are you assuming public "odium" as a small modicum of sense prevails?
Most experts on the NHS-e.g. Chris Ham- would agree it was close to atrophy through underfunding in the mid 1990s. I incurred a stroke in 1992 while out jogging and my local hospoital, for lack of a bed, left me overnight on a trolley in a corridor. There were huge queues waiting for operations. Which planet were you living on in the 1990s?
I very nearly died in 1980 through lack of a doctor in the "hospital" I was in at the time; right now, both of my two closest relatives are awaiting treatment and have been for months. The NHS now is much, much more expensive than a decade ago ... but is it delivering better treatment for us? Not a chance.

I also see two huge flaws here: first, the second comment here confuses "public services" with "the NHS" - and secondly, it's already been made clear that the latter will NOT "return to the levels of the early 1990s", meaning the cuts you seem to be scared of are imaginary anyway.

As for #3, anyone scared of a "wasted vote" wouldn't have voted Lib Dem in the first place - and the real choice will be between the coalition or a return to the disastrous doom and bust policies of the last decade. It seems rather pessimistic to assume anyone will see that as the lesser evil!

I see nothing new here, really: whether a coalition or a single party, there will always be people inside and outside who disagree with aspects of policy. I'm a Conservative voter (though not a party member) and strongly oppose the decision to ring-fence overseas aid, for one - what makes this work in a democracy is that the whole package is still more palatable to most of us than the previous regime's disastrous agenda, not that we support everything about it!
If I were a betting sort I'd still go for 7th May 2015 as the date of our next general election.

Surely the LibDem MPs aren't crazy enough to follow one awful error with another.

Having seen the disastrous, if well-deserved, impact on their poll ratings of going into an unnecessary coalition, they'll have to hang on and hope that things will get better rather than risk the government collapsing.

Mind you, the Liberal turkeys famously voted for an early Xmas in 1979...
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