Monday 10 May 2010

Tipping Across

The (Peter) Mandelson/ (Alistair) Campell strategy in place before the election seems to be moving towards centre stage, following an election where, as expected, no party won.

Suddenly negotiations that were actually secret (no leaks anywhere) have burst out. The Conservatives met in shadow cabinet a second time and as they did Gordon Brown announced he was standing down by the Conference in October.

The Conservatives then became desperate, and lobbed a Alternative Vote referendum bone to the Liberal Democrats at the last minute. Cameron is desperate for power.

The Liberal Democrats have little in common with the Conservatives. Of five of us who regularly go to the pub, three of us voted Liberal Democrat. Three of us do not want to prop up the Conservatives. This is similar up and down the land: most Liberal Democrat voters were anti-Conservative, and regarded Cameron's The Big Society as the cut State.

Constitutionally once Cameron becomes Prime Minister he can dissolve Parliament. He has the ability to promise anything and singularly shaft the Liberal Democrats. If the Conservatives put into power much of their programme (and quite right that they should - their economic proposals would have priority) and then shafted the Liberal Democrats, those of us who voted Liberal Democrat would have to vote Labour next time.

This is why some Labour MPs and ex MPs are now saying Labour should go into opposition. They don't want power. They want the Conservatives to make the cuts and for them and the Liberal Democrats to take the blame. Thus after four years of damage Labour would reap the reward, using first past the post. They also say, rightly, that the need for (albeit left of centre) nationalists to be on board would mean the cuts falling on England. So it could be that some Labour MPs would not vote for a broad left coalition.

It is why the Liberal Democrats should indeed go into broad coalition with the left. First of all, we do not want the Tory damage. The cuts have to be necessary and careful. We have a mixed economy, and the public sector does provide utility. Secondly, the electoral system is rotten and perverse, and if it takes political power now to change it then so be it. That is also the House of Commons and electoral arithmetic. Next time votes should turn into seats. You can still get majorities if people want them. Parties will then evolve into coalitions themselves that can say what they want, rather than an appearance of being the monoliths that they are not.

Parties have worked together in the devolved assemblies and in councils. It isn't impossible. The Liberal Democrats have to get political reform - it is needed - or they will be decimated at the next first past the post election. Even if they get blamed for economic cuts, PR will push their seat numbers up, and there will be a proper voice for a libertarian left that can recover.

Remember who voted for you, Nick, and why. That's the point. Now you have political power, exercise it. Do the necessary regarding careful management of the debt, but more so change the political system. The nationalists want this too, so does the Green member and the Alliance member.

Should the Conservatives fail to get into power, and do not receive for one of theirs the Prime Minister's token, there could be quite some infighting there. So let them do that. Let the Tories shed its public relations skin of change and show itself. Who is to say in any case that the Tory MPs will behave themselves in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats?

Obviously MPs will have more power now compared with the Executive, and this is how it should be. But in making a government, the Liberal Democrats should join with those nearest to them, for whom the 23% joins with the 29% and some others - the majority of the electorate.

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