Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Myths about a progressive coalition

I understand why David Blunkett and John Reid believe that it is not in Labour's interests to enter a 'progressive coalition' with the Liberal Democrats and others. And it may be that such an arrangement does not emerge.

However, there are several myths about such a government which should be scotched from the start.

* It would not last as its majority would be precarious. In fact, there is no more reason why it would not last than there would be for a government with a small majority. With an understanding with other parties, there would need to be discussions before key votes. But that happens with contentious legislation and unruly backbenchers, as with the 2005 schools legislation. Given that there are 336 MPs who are not Tories, this need not be the case. With political reform and other issues, there would be every reason for minor parties to support the government. In fact, a Con-Lib Dem coalition would also be at risk to the vagaries of its backbenchers.

* The Tories won the election. No they didn't. If they had done so under their cherished First Past the Post system, David Cameron would be in No 10 now.

* The Liberal Democrats are being duplicitous for talking to Labour. This is pompous rot from the Tory press. In any coalition discussions, parties always talk to all potential partners. The voters gave us a hung parliament. They left the Lib Dems with the balance of power, not the Tories with an overall majority. The Lib Dems are sensibly keeping their options open.

* A Lab-Lib Dem coalition would be less legitimate than a Tory minority government. Really? One has 52% of the votes, the other 36%.

* The SNP would have to be part of any deal. No they wouldn't. With 13 Northern Irish MPs, there would be a total of 328 MPs with a 323 winning post. In addition, Plaid Cymru have three seats and the Greens one.

* The markets are reacting terribly to all this. Yesterday we were promised a stock market crash, and there was a huge surge because of Europe. Today, there was the inevitable correction but Sterling has risen against the Euro.

* It is a betrayal of the manifesto not to have a referendum on AV. Since the referendum was intended as a half-way house towards AV and it is also a half-way house towards STV, it is hard to sustain this argument unless you are a died-in-the-wool FPTPer. But it would be sensible to put both AV and a more proportional alternative to a referendum.

1 comment:

LFAT said...

"With political reform and other issues, there would be every reason for minor parties to support the government."

I disagree. Although in principle your statement is true, minor parties could easily cause havoc by shooting down legislation - even if they agree with it - in order to boost their own bargaining position.

It's happened before and it will happen again.