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Monday, May 10, 2010

On those negotiations

Having been through two sets of talks to form coalitions I can appreciate the way that the Liberal Democrats at a Westminster level have learnt from the experiences of both Wales and Scotland. The first rule of course is not to negotiate in public. If you do that then you will not achieve anything as vested interests take over.

The second rule is to keep your options open so as to strengthen your negotiating hand. Alas that is one tactic that was not adopted by the Welsh Liberal Democrats back in 2007. It looks like Nick Clegg understands where we went wrong.

I suspect that the observance of the first convention is one reason why activists in both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats are increasingly agitating over red lines which they do not wish their respective party to cross.

In this morning's Independent the inevitable speculation, based on rumour, innuendo and the briefings of lobbying members suggests that meetings have ended in deadlock and that pressure is growing to find common ground on electoral reform. Despite that though talks continue to go on.

The problem it seems to me is two-fold. The media are not used to this sort of deal-making and want instant-results. They are not going to get them. Coalition building takes time and for a third party in particular there needs to be a sufficient amount of their core policies and principles in the final document to be able to sell it to their activists, members and voters.

Secondly, the lack of information is causing a huge amount of anxiety amongst the members of both parties that they will be sold-out in some way. Despite what I have written previously about stability and responsible government being our number one concern, I too want to see some progress being made on Liberal Democrat hobby horses such as fair voting come out of these talks.

This is fundamental to our pitch for a fair society and forms part of our agenda to clean up politics. As I have said, I do not believe that we are strong enough to get everything we want but I would expect some substantial progress.

It is for this reason that we should not be rushed by anybody into making a deal. It seems that the markets this morning have not crashed as some predicted. Indeed they appear to be taking comfort from the fact that these talks are offering stable government.

The imperative now must be for the Liberal Democrat negotiators to get the best deal they possibly can and for us to give them the room in which to work.
well peter with brown's announcement it looks like the libdems are going to engage in serious discussions with labour - as labour at last appears to be serious about electoral reform after years of flirting with the idea!

While we dont know what cameron and clegg have discussed it seems reasonable to assume that whatever carrots the tories have dangled in front of clegg's team conspicuosly absent from them would be PR. In contrast it seems that there is a guarantee from labour to support legislation on PR in the form of a referendum....with presumably a committment from labour to campaign for a yes vote in such a referendum!

There may not be a better chance for many years to secure PR for UK wide elections...an electoral system which if introduced would of course mean there'd never be a majority tory govt in westminister again!! This tantalising prospect really does seem to be in the gift of your party peter i - along with many others im sure - hope they take this opportunity to change uk politics forever!

Leigh Richards
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