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Monday, December 27, 2010

An electoral pact should not be on the agenda

This morning's Independent suggests that David Cameron may well be privately encouraging moves for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to fight on a joint ticket at the next general election.

They say that Tory traditionalists are planning to stir up a rebellion among Tory MPs and grassroots members against the idea, accusing a "defeatist" Prime Minister of planning for another hung parliament and insisting that the Tories can win an overall majority at the next general election.

Personally, I think that this is a storm in a teacup. Neither Cameron nor Clegg could get such a pact through their respective party and it undermines the whole concept of coalition politics in which two or more parties work together for the good of the country but do so as separate entities. Only the media and a few mavericks seem to think this idea has any legs.

The strengths of the UK Coalition lie in its diversity. The Liberal Democrats have brought a distinctive agenda to the table and are able to act to moderate the worst excessives of the Tory right. Their influence lies in the fact that they are an independent party rather than one wing of the Tory party. The Tory left would never have this much influence even if they were stronger.

It is for these reasons that merger of any kind is off the agenda. And in my view a pact, in which the two parties would be viewed as one body, is the start of that process and should be avoided. It may give us short term gains in some seats but we would be devastated elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrats have set out their stall and they now need to stick by it. We should be arguing at future elections that not only do we now have experience of government but that coalition government can be beneficial to the UK. That means that we must be prepared to work with Labour as well as the Tories if that is what the voters decide. A pact would restrict these options and shackle our negotiating position.

If we went into an election so closely tied to the Tories we could not then threaten to walk away if they then refuse to make the necessary concessions in post-election talks. Such an arrangement would be a disaster waiting to happen and should not be countenanced.
"Only the media and a few mavericks seem to think this idea has any legs."

Exactly, which is why posts like this play right into their hands. There is really no point in discussing what every serious person knows is a complete impossibility. You merely risk adding legitimacy. The title of your post should be "An electoral pact is not on the agenda". Or, better, don't post on this nonsense at all.
I am reminded of the period of time between November 1992 and April 1996 when there were "closet" electoral pacts between Labour and the Lib Dems in English local elections. I am particulary reminded of the Rugby, Eastlands ward on Warwickshire County Council when the Labour candidate in the 1993 elections "forgot" to sign his nomination papers and left the field open for a straight Con / Lib Dem fight which the Lib Dems won by a landslide. My opinion is that this debate will carry on for as long as the Lib Dems poll less than 11% in the opinion polls.
Hi Peter,

I read the same article in the Independent and my thoughts were something along the lines of "all very nice, but what do the people of the UK want?" I guess that this type of "news" is really a symptom of politics being for the political class, not the rest of us. In the real world, we are just desperate for the government to focus on fixing the mess and opposition to be effective in exposing where a government is being stupid. You write good stuff when you are trying to fix a problem.


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