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Monday, February 15, 2010

Confidence and supply

The revelation that the Liberal Democrats are planning to rule out forming a coalition government with either the Conservatives or Labour if Nick Clegg holds the balance of power in a hung parliament will be widely welcomed within the party.

Today's Guardian tells us that Clegg would be prepared to throw a lifeline to the Conservatives or Labour by allowing either party to pass a Queen's speech if the aspiring government makes concessions in the four areas, described as the Lib Dem "shopping list":

• Investing extra funds in education through a pupil premium for disadvantaged children.

• Tax reform, taking 4 million out of tax and raising taxes on the rich by requiring capital gains and income to be taxed at the same rate.

• Rebalancing of the economy to put less emphasis on centralised banking and more on a new greener economy.

• Political reforms, including changes to the voting system and a democratically elected Lords, that go further than proposed by Labour.

Clegg would give the minority government a chance to deliver and would not expect his demands to be met in full by the time of the Queen's speech, the first major parliamentary test of a new administration. "People expect stable government," one aide said. "It is right to assume that if one party has a mandate it should have a crack at governing. If no party has a majority, then people will need to talk to each other."

Although coalitions are the natural outcome of any proportional system of voting, there is no history of them at Westminster other than at times of national crisis.

This is not a cop-out. The Liberal Democrats would still be intricately linked to the government of the day but they would be concentrating on getting things done rather than keeping their ministerial privileges.

More importantly, in contrast to Wales and Scotland, no party could commit to becoming the junior party in a formal coalition when they have no control over the date of the next General Election. These things only work properly when there are fixed terms and that is not the case in Westminster.

The risk is that at the first sign of a crisis the Prime Minister walks away and calls an election instead of honouring the commitments he or she has signed up to. That is why electoral and constitutional reform is an essential prerequisite to such an agreement. It is the only way to guarantee stable government.
The news was certainly welcomed by me. Sadly, Lynn Featherstone has now claimed that it is not true.

(The Guardian? Making things up? Whatever next?)

That is a shame, because I can see no way that we can form a coalition with either party without destroying our credibility.
The official line is:

"The people, not the party leaders, are the kingmakers and it is pointless and wrong to try and predict the future until people have had their chance to vote.

"The voters will decide the result of the election and then all parties will have to respond to that decision.

"In the meantime we intend to get on with our job of getting across the Liberal Democrats' four key priorities to build a fairer Britain."

That is we do not want to talk about it but that does not mean that the story in the Guardian is wrong.
Well thats great will you form a government with one of the Parties or not, no we will ask the people, yes like labour did in Wales with plaid.
If there is a hung Parliament we will talk to the party with the most support from the electorate. Simples.
Must be interesting experience to learn about your party policy in the Guardian - welcome or otherwise.
I wouldnt know as the statement by Nick Clegg I quote in the comments has been in circulation for many months as the party's position.

In any case this article is about strategy not policy, which of course is debated and decided on through the democratic processes we have put in place.
It's refreshing to see a party that puts the people and government first, not their ministerial privileges!
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