The deal Nick should do
A number of friends in both the Green Party and Lib Dems said to me yesterday that a ‘progressive’ majority deal would not be accepted by the British people, and that such a government, when it fell, would be replaced with a substantial Tory majority. Here is my reply:
I agree that Lib Dems, Labour, Plaid, the SNP, SDLP, Alliance and Green would struggle to make a long term coalition seem legitimate. This is entirely a fiction of the right wing press – its perfectly legitimate for a majority to form against the biggest party if these parties feel that they, and their voters, have more in common with each other. However, it is true that the Murdoch media would ensure the Government would be seen as a ‘coalition of the losers’, and do everything to undermine it’s legitimacy.
However, it’s also worth remembering that most Labour voters loath the Tories, and most Lib Dems prefer Labour to the Tories, so most of those votes would come through, I suspect. In fact, I suspect most people in Britain would prefer such a coalition to a Tory Government, once the post election confusion settled down. And I do think that there’s a compromise position.
The Lib Dems agree with Labour that there shouldn’t be any cuts in the next year.
Labour have said that they are wiling to agree with the Lib Dems on electoral reform – which could be pushed through in a year.
So the Lib Dems (with Nats etc) could do a deal with Labour to go into coalition (or confidence and supply or whatever) for a year, in which PR is pushed through (ideally in a bill, but a referendum if it has to be – which we could, just, win), public spending maintained, etc. We have a new election in 2011, once we are (probably) out of the recession, and with a new electoral system.
I think that most people would in fact accept a coalition for a year to steer the economy out of recession and push through political reforms – most agree with Lab/Lib Dems on these things. Especially if it was seen as a coalition to prevent immediate savage cuts to public services, and to change politics.
We could then have a new election with a fair voting system to start a new era of British politics, after the recession, and with a new Labour leader. While I agree that the right wing press would throw the toys out of the cot, I think most of those who voted against the Tories this time would stick with it – especially as Tory squabbling over how they ended up in opposition continued.
well, what do you mean by economic growth? GDP is such an arbitrary measure, that I don’t see how we can say it’s either positive, or negative. Growth of consumptive industries isn’t sustainable. Growth in theatre because more people start going, is. For me, the problems with the recession are around unemployment, and drop in tax take. This is why people have been calling for a ‘green new deal’ – encourage those positive bits of the economy, which create jobs, and provide services that we all want or need, do grow, and so lift us out of recession.
You can’t, at the same time, say a) GDP is a terrible and inaccurate measure, and b) all GDP growth is a bad thing. Personally, I go for the former.
‘after the recession’? Are you saying we are going to resume economic growth?
No. Economic growth means more house price bubble, more oil use, more energy use, more cars, more green field development.
UK economic growth has hit peak debt and peak oil. Probably peak UK-gas too. Recession is our long term future. There are a whole lot more banking crises to come too: securitised credit card debt, a proper house price crash, commercial property bubble, $600tn of derivatives to unwind, sovereign defaults…..
Somehow the govt will have to spend less money, alot less money. And soon.
The Green challenge is to make the inevitable economic contraction nicer. I recommend the Transition movement for ideas. The future will be small, slow and local. The central government will struggle find the resources to answer the phones never mind actually doing anything.
If you want some radical green politics how about a nationwide 40mph speed limit, it will save everyone money and human lives too.
Fun and games with so many unknowns and unknowables, isn’t it? To me the biggest one is the question of how loyal the supporters of the big parties would turn out to be if they felt, for the first time, that other options were viable. So for example, what would happen to the Tory vote if Ukip stood to win seats? If you get a Lib-Lab pact with PR you could just about imagine them ditching Cameron, fighting like ferrets in a sack, hemorrhaging support in an election that Murdoch could no longer buy and losing their relevance forever – and that is such a hopeful thought that it makes me a little nervous.
I think the question is not “could it be accepted by the British people” – it could, even with rightwing press going into nutsodrive. It is, can we rely on such a coalition to stay together. We’d need sops to the nats (which I’d be pleased to see especially if it meant more powers to Scotland), we’d lack authority on english issues, and we’d be at odds on everything to do with security and foreign policy. In fact we’d be in the bizarre position where on many issues the coalition would be split in half, with the labour majority siding with the conservatives! Some within labour are already coming out to publically condemn an alliance. They would be a real liability. How many people within labour would be unhappy enough to try to undemine the coalition? how many would be required for them to succeed?
That said, I agree with your analysis and it is the outcome I hope to see. Especially if Labour will support AV outright and referendum on PR.
I appreciate your point Adam, I was just being a bit selfish as we’ll be dealing with Scottish Parliament election in a year’s time too!!
Stuart – yes, perhaps 18 months – I went for a year because of the budgety cycle – though I don’t support the Lib Dem’s ‘savage cuts’ after a year, it’s maintaining spending for the first year that Labourand Lib Dems agree on, and I also think they could (just) get PR through within a year (Devolution, which is more complex, took 2 years – 19 months from the 11 Sept 1997 referendum…
More or less what I’ve been saying. However, I would push it to 2 years, and ensure everything that happens in those 2 years are set out clearly in the coalition deal. That should help with the stability factor
One terrible danger of a Tory government is a snap election this autumn (in which the Tories’ big cash-bank – and Cashcroft himself – would swamp the rest of us, who are all out of cash after this election-campaign). A rainbow progressive-majority government could prevent this hazard. This is a key reason for Labour, the LibDems, the Nats and the Greens to welcome the idea.
Furthermore, if the LibDems go in with the Tories, they will have to get a form of PR which is kind to small Parties – because they may well BE a small Party, after propping up the Tories… But the Tories will not yield up genuine PR that is kind to small Parties (such as AMS, or AV-Plus with a decent top-up or STV with reasonably large constituencies). But a rainbow coalition would.
I.e.: There are strong practical reasons why all of us should favour this idea. (For more, see my http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-green-party-can-help-stop-tories.html )