miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
NB: this post is in response to a person I consider a friend. I hope I can still say that after she's read it...

I can understand people who hate the Tories. I'm from Yorkshire. I can understand the disquiet of lots of members of my party at being in coalition with the Tories; I share it. What I don't understand is what people who claim not to be Labour supporters hope to achieve by continually bashing the Lib Dems when what they are actually objecting to is Conservative party policy which we are actively trying to restrain. What do they hope to achieve by attacking the people who are doing what they want done?

I can understand why Labour supporters are doing it: they are conferring an electoral advantage onto the Labour party by denigrating the option their supporters are likely to choose of the two governing parties. The fact that it's all tribalist nonsense, and when you dig beneath rhetoric you still couldn't slip a rizla between what the reds and blues would actually do in sole power is neither here nor there.

I can understand why some segments of the mainstream media are doing it: the red-blue pendulum suits them very well indeed.

What I don't get is people who claim not to support Labour yet who still trumpet the Labour party's lines; or who claim to be independent journalists but who parrot the memes of the mainstream media.

What would they have us do?

Leave the coalition? 6 months of Tory minority government, followed by an election which the Tories would win outright*? that would be better, would it, for a person who claims to detest the Tories?

Assert ourselves more? Well, I hate to break this to you people, but we're outnumbered 6 to 1. I genuinely think that in terms of actual legislation, we're punching a long way above our weight in government.

The thing that annoys me more than anything else is the continual trotting out of the line that the Lib Dems have betrayed their voters. Exactly how have we betrayed our voters? By doing our level best to get Lib Dem policy enacted into legislation? By preventing the Tories from riding roughshod over as many things as humanly possible? Perhaps it's by getting Lynne Featherstone into a position where equalities legislation is being meaningfully enacted, or by having Julian Huppert on the Home Affairs select committee, making sure that a sensible evidence-based approach to things is actually represented? Or is it, and I suspect this is closer to the truth, that we have betrayed our voters by actually getting somewhere, when a certain segment of our voters would prefer us to just sit on the sidelines and carp, rather than doing something useful?

I'm with Andrew on this one: it would have been a betrayal of our voters to let the Tories govern alone when we had the opportunity to stop that from happening. And we didn't do it.

By all means insult the party's media handling; it's been rubbish, and I've said so myself. By all means tell us that our priorities need to change; I've said this myself too. But when you start throwing round emotive words like betrayal, and "yellow Tories" and all the other gutter sniping we're getting used to now, just be aware that we're going to bristle.

* anyone who doubts this is naive in the extreme: not only are the Tories the only ones with any money left to fight an election, but all they would have to say is "do you really want this incompetent shower back in?" and "they criticise our policies: let them tell us what they would do differently" to scupper Labour. And if an election were held tomorrow, under FPTP, Labour would be the only other party in contention.

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Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
I've voted Lib Dem for about quarter of a century, but the Lib Dems have lost my vote. It's not because of the coalition in London though.

The Scottish Lib Dems turned down a coalition with the SNP in 2007 because it would have meant agreeing to letting Scots have a referendum on independence. Levels of support for independence itself are arguable and much lower, but any time I've seen opinion on the subject polled, about 70% of the Scottish electorate want a referendum. But somehow, denying the electorate a say in a referendum they want was a principle worth staying out of government for. That's when the Lib Dems lost my vote.

Since then, they've crossed two other red lines for me. Their reaction to the Megrahi release was all wrong (politically motivated on something that was fundamentally a matter of law and precedent), and breaking the pledge on student funding in England and Wales was worse than failing to deliver on a manifesto "promise" - in terms of my personal political opinion of this issue, and of general trustworthiness.

Coalition government can be a good thing, so I don't believe it was necessarily wrong to go into coalition with the Tories, but - partly with the benefit of hindsight - I think a bad mistake was made by not insisting on getting at least one big-ticket concession entirely the Lib Dems' way. They should have held out for either student funding or genuine PR, and refused to go into coalition without at least one of them. It might have been possible to sell the compromise on the second one as necessary to achieve the first; but as it is both have been botched. Although they may be outnumbered 6 to 1, without them there is no partnership and no majority; and if a deal really wasn't possible, there are other options in a hung parliament - confidence and supply, or issue-by-issue agreements. The Lib Dems could still have exercised influence without a coalition.

They failed to compromise in Scotland on a principle that was worthless, and compromised in London when there were principles worth sticking to.

Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
softfruit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] softfruit
I'm only going to comment on the bits about life south of the border, cos I don't pay enough attention to Scottish Parliament politics to make any useful comments.

But two things: first re, "Although they may be outnumbered 6 to 1, without them there is no partnership and no majority"

The same can be said of the 50-odd most illiberal / right-wing / term-of-your-choice on the Tory benches though. We aren't getting Lib Dem policy on tuition fees (50-odd MPs elected in favour, versus 560-odd elected on the platform of £15k fees); but equally we aren't withdrawing from Europe, abolishing the minimum wage or what have you that THAT flank of the coalition would no doubt love to be in a position to squeeze through. Get a big-ticket big-cost thing like fees, and what would the quid pro quo have been?

Second, of the option of a short phase of minority Con government for six months or whatever til Cameron won his majority in October 2010. If I remember right, Major didn't have a majority for the last 18 months or whatever it was. How much influence did the Lib Dems have from the opposition benches then? I seem to remember about one Private Members Bill sneaking through and that was all. Watering down Tory proposals and getting none of our own, or getting watered down versions of theirs and ours: I know which I prefer! :)

Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] davegodfrey
I don't recall the LibDems getting involved in any issue-by-issue agreements while the Tories were running a minority government in 1997. They were relying on the Ulster Unionists to prop them up. I the LibDems had approached them and offered assistance for a couple of bills in the Queen's Speech I'm sureit would have been mentioned.

Having said that however I'd much rather have the LibDems trying to slow down the Tories reckless desire to ruin everything.

Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
The problem with not getting a big ticket thing is that you're now fighting a rearguard action all the way to the next election with no big success to point to. Very noble, but the chance to change politics is gone for the foreseeable future.

Say you had managed to get a big-ticket deal but back-bench Tories rebelled; they didn't "win" the election as it was, and divided parties don't generally do well. Unfortunately you're now the ones in this position instead of them.

Say a coalition deal wasn't possible on those terms. You could still have taken a broadly cooperative approach to striking deals with (extracting concessions from) a minority Tory government on an issue-by-issue basis, making a point of being constructive when possible but sticking to your principles when not. You could have come across as the good guys, while still having an influence.

Your second point assumes that there would have been a second election, and that the Tories would have won it. Neither of those are foregone conclusions. The Tories are well short of even Major's knife-edge situation, despite standing against an unpopular PM in Gordon Brown.

Finally, it's sometimes possible for the opposition parties to get things done despite a minority government - in the last term at Holyrood, a rainbow coalition of opposition parties has formed on a few issues to force things through that the government didn't want. Maybe that's easier in a body of 100-and-something MSPs rather than 600-and-something MPs, but it might have been worth a try.

Sure, it might not have worked out. But - in my current and changeable opinion, of course - you missed an opportunity to remain the party of hope while still getting things done. I sympathise - if I try to put myself in the same position, I might well have done the same thing. And personally, I think the greatest blame falls on the Labour neds who sank any prospect of a formal rainbow coalition, rather than on the Lib Dems.

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
You might be right about that. Or you might be wrong. We'll never know.

Good luck. (Genuinely meant - even though I've decided my vote's going elsewhere, the UK as a whole doesn't have the option I'm taking and the Lib Dems are next best.)

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
Actually, I agree with you re the 2007 decision--I was working in Cowley St at the time, when Ming was leader, and it became apparent that the reason was solely personal antipathy to Salmond, who is considered by many non-SNP supporters involved in politics to be less trustworthy than anyone else at all.

But that doesn't change that the politics were stupid, for a party committed to democratic constitutional reform to not allow a simple yes/no referendum on an issue they knew the answer to already is daft, it would've killed the SNP to lose that vote but they wouldn't do it due to antipathy to Salmond. Fortunately, both leaders involved are gone now.

Re the national stuff--with you on Fees, the pledge was a mistake in hindsite (my candidate signed it with my support, hey, I'm human too), as what actually happened was negotiating the lowest possible fee increase politically.


I think a bad mistake was made by not insisting on getting at least one big-ticket concession entirely the Lib Dems' way.

They didn't get one. They got 4.

By the terms of the manifesto, of the campaign material, of what Clegg was pushing for throughout the campaign, they got all 4 big policy issues they wanted.

The problem is...

They should have held out for either student funding or genuine PR, and refused to go into coalition without at least one of them

Student funding was never going to be on the table, from either main party, both had committed to much higher fee increases (the Browne review terms of reference were a "cross party" stithc up between them, both would've implemented it in full). Between them, they got over 70% of the vote.

You don't get what you vote for, you get what the majority voted for, and if 70%+ have voted one way (even if pollss say they want something else), trying to force it through would a) be horribly undemocratic and b) cost far too much political capital better spent on other things.

We're getting genuine PR for the HoL (or whatever it's to be called), and the best offer on the table,f rom either party, was AV for the commons.

Plus, there's no way you could get genuine PR in a referendum with the fear of coalition and "instability" and similar.

If you believe in consensus politics, as I do, then you need to prove it can work.

Holding out for two issues, one of which wasn't a key pledge, the other would've been painted as entirely for partisan advantage, would've been a terrible, disastrous mistake, refusal to go into coalition with the only viable partner would've destroyed the idea of consensus politics, relegated the party to being "just" protest votes and made the whole thing pointless.

We'd have lost a lot more support by staying out than going in. Worse, we'd have lost the whole point of existing.

The problem is that the party campaigned on key policy pledges, and got all 4 of them. Most individual candidates courted votes by making a separate, different pledge that wasn't a key issue.

But a lot of people have different priorities, so regardless of what was negotiated, some will be unhappy because of different priorities.

I wrote a lot of election literature during the campaign last year, including leaflets for Jennie in her council campaign and for our Parliamentary candidate, my branch covers a third of a constituency. I know what we were actively campaigning on and what our key big ticket issues were.

We got them. All of them. Some are being phased in, some are subject to referendum, but we got them.

We're also getting over 50% of the manifesto, including a policy Jennie and I personally proposed and helped write. If we'd tried to hold out for your, personal, preferred big tickets, we'd a) been unlikely tog et a coalition ergo not got anything at all and b) even if coalition had happened, they'd have been such big concessions the rest of what the Govt was doing would be a lot more Tory.

They failed to compromise in Scotland on a principle that was worthless, and compromised in London when there were principles worth sticking to.

Arguably, Clegg learnt from the failure in Scotland. And he and Alexander knew that what you say was "worth sticking to" was 100% not politically viable given the way the numbers had stacked up. If they'd got 28%+ and 100+ MPs, yes, worht fighting for, lots more leverage, lots more legitimacy.

But not enough people voted for those principles. Not enough leverage. Not enough political capital.

I, genuinely, think confidence and supply or issue-by-issue would've led to a repeat of '74, and Cameron would almost certainly have won a 2nd election, the mountain to climb had become a foothill, and with the levers of power he could've spent 6 months talking about how disastrously Lsbour had left things.

Even if that wasn't inevitaqble, it was far too big a risk.

This proves coalition is viable, that it's not unstable, that it can be done. That's the biggest single change needed for British politics, ever.

That'd be worth it even if we weren't getting 50%+ plus, all four key pledges, PR for the Lords, referendum on AV, etc etc etc.

Instead we get all of it.

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
Hmm. I think we'll have to agree to differ on most of those points, especially since they're about perceptions that'll only be shown to be true or false by history.

I recognise your point about the extent of what you've achieved by coalition, and apologise if I inadvertently sold you short but I think you may be underestimating how much of your popularity hinged on the pledge, unofficial or no. Time will tell.

It seems likely a referendum on independence would fail, but not necessarily by a large margin. The headlines don't tend to compare poll figures for "yes" against the poll figures for "no", as a real referendum would; they compare "yes" against everything else, including don't knows. Even then, I'm pretty sure a "no" vote wouldn't kill the SNP; even by many of their opponents' estimation they've done a good job over the last four years, and the proposed referndum was always going to be toward the end of the Holyrood term. A "no" vote would only mean no practical prospect of another referendum for a few terms.

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
Oh, it's absolutely perception. Part of the reason I wrote the lengthy reply was to make things clearer in my head and try to put the arguments down well as I need to get used to making them over the next few years, especially in 2014/2015 where it'll really actually matter again.

It's also a matter of priorities--for me, a top priority is voting reform, and I want STV, but I've always thought we'd never get that in one go, so wanted AV early as it's easy to implement. STV for the reformed Lords is also very near the top of my priority list, as was, for example, scrapping ID cards, the issue that got me back involved in frontline politics again back in 2006. They're dead and gone now, no longer an issue, but they would've been a contentious one if any form of Labour coalition had formed,possibly even a deal breaker on their own.

may be underestimating how much of your popularity hinged on the pledge

I'm not, I assure you. Whichis why it's essential we try to get the defence of that decision right--I truly belive without LDs in Govt Fees would be set at 12K+, possibly completely uncapped, and I'm not sure we'd be getting maintenance grantsback or the rise in the repayment threshold through.

It was a big issue for me, and I'm pissed off, but I'm mostly pissed off at the way the leadership, especially Vince, handled it in the early stages--they could so easily have sold £6K/£9K as a major concession from the Tories instead of making it look like a sellout, but that's spilt milk.

And yes, agree with your last para--I think it would have failed, it might have come closer, but get it out of the way and it stops being an issue for a few elections, so you can concentrate on the actual issues. But, again, spilt milk, both leaders are gone, and lessons are learnt.

(locally in Calderdale we're in coalition with LAbour, the leader of the group defected from us acrimonoiously over a decade ago, but many local members have still not forgiven him--but it's understood as a business arrangement and the best option available, which is good, I thought we'd get more problems than we did over it TBH)

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
I appreciate the full reply, even if it wasn't entirely for my benefit ;-) and my reply was short.

Good luck with STV; the only reason AV is going to get my vote is in the hope it keeps the debate open. I've never been so tempted to spoil a paper in my puff.

PR seems pretty successful up here, whether it's the additional member system for Holyrood or STV for the councils; but I'm not sure much of England's ready to hear that.

I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
What were the four key Lib Dem pledges? (And out of interest, what was the policy you and Jennie wrote?) I'm trying to learn more about politics but I've lost track slightly.

Re: I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb

4 Key Policies

Some summary details:
 Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket.

increase capital gains tax and close tax loopholes in order to raise the basic tax threshold to £10K from about £6.5K, giving everyone more take home pay but crucially removing the lowest paid from tax completely--partially implemented, threshold will be £10K by end of Parliament, major work on tax avoidance loopholes being done to close as many as possible, not a simple taxk.

 A fair chance for every child.

Basically, the pupil premium, increasing per pupil funding for the poorest kids regardless of where they are, Labour's policy was to increase funding to poor areas, but this lead to some schools in wealthy areas becoming 'sink' schools and discourages schools from taking kids from less well off backgrounds, etc. There's more to it, but it's being implemented.

 A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener.

Green taxes, a green investment bank, a few other things--most obvious headline thing is the Govt supported insulation initiative where you can get your home insulated and the cost is clawed back from the decrease in your heating bills over time, but paid for up front by the Govt (not clear on details on that one, Huhne's doing it, Huhne's good, it was his idea).

 A fair deal for you from politicians.

Electoral reform (vote Yes next month), reform tot he constitutition, greater transparency, power of Recall if an MP breaks the rules (not on statue books yet, but is promised), bunch of other things as detailed on the link.

Our policy was replacing maternity leave with transferable parental leave, fairer to families with non standard arrangements (like, say, Jennie working full time, me part time), plus lots of evidence says it'll help reduce gender pay gap over time. And it'd be good to give fathers the option of taking paid time off rather than simply expecting mothers to do it.

Re: I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
Thank you, that's really useful!

Re: I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 11:14 am (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
And I will be voting Yes next month although I've banned Softfruit from talking to me about voting systems because it was all too geeky!

Re: I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
Good policy. Congratulations to you both.

Re: I am sure this is a stupid question but it's a genuine one

Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
ggreig: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ggreig
La-la-la, I'm not listening to your modesty ;-)

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