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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Media look for divisions in coalition

It is the case in all political parties and governments that policy and decisions are often born of compromises following full and frank discussion and the occasional bust-up. In many cases such disagreements are contained within the party hierarchy and only whispers of dissent reach the outside world.

In the case of a full-blown coalition there are more difficult dynamics at work which, when coupled with outside interests seeking to exploit known differences in philosophy and policy, can prove problematic. In other words we are going to get a split story every week or more often than that depending on what the current fad is.

This is particularly prevalent at the moment as the two parties put the finishing touches to the full partnership document and the Queen's speech. The fact that Gordon Brown went so quickly after it became clear Labour were not serious about a progressive alliance, assuming such a concept was workable in the first place, meant that negotiators did not have time to complete their work. This means that the more difficult stuff is on-going.

This morning's Independent captures a flavour of this work with a story about discussions on the Human Rights Act. They also refer to sentencing and prison reform, capital gains tax, social care, fox-hunting and the banks. All of these are in the mix.

We can expect many more of these stories in the months and years to come but we should be relaxed about that. This is not a single party government, it is a coalition and as such we should expect greater discussion and negotiation on each issue as well as more obvious compromise on each side.

We will not win on every issue and no doubt there will be red lines that some activists have drawn on which their continuing membership and support for a particular party rests. Nobody said government would be easy. Working with another party is harder still.

What matters is that the agreement we have drawn up is delivered and that the swathes of Liberal Democrat policy accepted by the Conservatives is put onto the statute book. We must not let this project be blown off-course by the storms that lie ahead.
As much as I don't want to criticise coalitions full stop (I support STV, which often produces them), this is a cop out.

There are policies the Lib Dems are now supporting that are the binary opposite to what they believe in.

Now, you can cop out and write mealy mouted words on compromise, but we are talking about 180- turns of principle here.

So to argue you go some policies is into government is only half the argument. You also have accepted policies that are the exact opposite to what you campaigned on.

It just reeks of power without principle, and I am one of the few people in my party who thought the rainbow alliance in Westminster was a non-starter.

The fact is that Government is not just about what policies your party got in, it is what other policies you have to support.

How can you now support £6billion of cuts that two weeks ago you argued would cause a double dip recession?

How can you now support a cap on immgration that two weeks ago was 'arbitrary'?

How can you campaign for another non-proportional voting system, after your party was again robbed blind by any non PR system?

How can you support a Government who will clearly support the recommendations of the Browne review? One of those recommendations might RAISE, not end fees?

Will you apologise to Plaid when the fees are raised? I didn't see you accepting that coalitions mean compromise then did you? You showed all the dexterity of a fist sandwich then.

How can you support a Government who clearly want to end the Human rights act? renew trident?

There are coalitions that are compromise and there are those that mean you leave your principles at the door.

The programme of Government is the important thing, the whole shebang, not the little titbits that your party brought to the table.

Ultimately, your party has failed in changing the voting system to end the system of majority government on minority votes.

You deserve to get hammered at the ballot box, sell outs.
Marcus, you protest too much. The fact is that this coalition document contains a huge number of Liberal Democrat policies that the Tories were opposed to a few weeks ago. Otherwise what would be in it for us. Plaid Cymru went through the same process when they entered into an agreement with Labour. There is a huge amount of principle here.

Obviously if we had 326 MPs instead of 57 then we could do much more but the reality is that we do not. On you specific points:

We have always accepted the need for cuts as have every other party. The issue is one of timing. As we have got assurances that this initial £6bn will avoid frontline services as much as possible, that we wil have real-term increases in health and more money for education I think we have a good compromise. David Laws, who is the Lib Dem in charge of finding the savinsg has said that he will put social justice at the heart of everything he will do.

In return for the cap on immigration we got the ending of detention for chiidren. Also the details of the cap have yet to be worked out so it may not be as arbitrary as you claim.

If we had a majority we would have pushed for STV but we dont so we are accepting a compromise of AV as a first step. I think that is reasonable.

Given the Browne Review has not reported you cannot assume that the Government will accept its recommendations. And remember that we are only in this position because Labour introduced Tuition Fees in the first place and Plaid Cymru agreed to allow top-up fees in Wales. That decision was not just contrary to your manifesto but to the partnership agreement you signed, a clear difference from the present situation. No apology is necessary.

There is no indication that this government want to end the Human Rights Act, indeed a compromise is being thrashed out now that I expect will retain it. The partnership agreement does not say that Trident will be renewed but that it will be part of the defence review. That was what we said in our manifesto.

There is no sell out here. This is a genuine partnership with important Liberal Democrat policies at its heart. You just have to look at Clegg's Freedom Bill to see that.
The Conservatives' main objection to the Human Rights Act is that judges appear to be making new law in the way they are interpreting the HRA.

The Conservative proposition before the election was for a new Bill of Rights which would incorporate the protections of the HRA. It is Liberal Democrat policy that there should be a written constitution.

I am sure there is scope for an agreement which would satisfy both sides.
Plaid Panteg should be against any form of proportional representation.

For their three MPs they had 165,394 votes c.f. the Welsh Lib Dems their three MPs were for 295,164 votes.

I support STV because it is the fairest system, not because it benefits my or any other party.

Sorry to dissapoint you.
Personally speaking, I believe that the Liberal Democrats have succeded in securing some of their key manifesto policies. I was very suprised that the Tories conceded a change in the structure of income tax for example (which I thought was a stand-out policy that resonated with many ordinary people). However I am already finding the news coverage increasingly tedious. Constant attempts to find a ciggarete paper difference in what the two parties say and do will be the order from now on it seems. I just wish that ministers were able to put it to bed now. Just by saying something along the lines of yes we have disagreed, yes we sometimes still do, but this is a coalition and processes exist for clearing up these issues. I know some are trying, but the media seem to think that pre-election comments are now the gift that keeps on giving.
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