Monday, 19 April 2010

That coalition

Naturally there is much discussion as to what the Liberal Democrats will do if there is a balanced parliament. (Why do both the press and parties, including the Liberal Democrats, persist in using the negative term "hung" rather than "balanced" which is both more accurate and has positive connotations?)

An item on the Radio 4 "Broadcasting House" programme on Sunday morning vividly illuminated the nature of the already existing coalition in British politics. The item was a short clip of Nick Clegg attempting to take his turn in a Commons Prime Minister's Questions, against a background of oafish barracking from both sides of the House. Apparently this is not a "one off" incident but a regular feature, with both the Labour and Conservative parties combining to unsettle, ridicule, silence the legitimate representative of a substantial portion of democratic opinion. "Get off our patch," they are both saying. "This is our territory and there's no room for you, regardless of how many votes you have."

There is nothing new in this. In the early 80s I was coordinator of the Liberal campaign in the election for the West Yorkshire County Council. At the count it turned out to be a bad night for the Tories, with many of their seats falling to Labour. "You must be very disappointed," I said to my opposite number in the Conservative party. "Not at all," she replied. "It will be our turn next."

As it happened there wasn't a "next time" as Mrs Thatcher didn't like the result either and so abolished the Council, along with the GLC. However, the story illustrates the complacency engendered by two party politics, and the desperate coalition between Labour and the Conservatives, in the parliamentary bear garden and hundreds of other instances, to keep the political arena reserved for themselves and obstruct any one else, be they Liberal Democrat, Green , UKIP or whatever, from entering the field.

We shan't be able to stop the interviewers from badgering Nick Clegg as to what he will do in the event of a balanced parliament, but would they please ask the other two parties:
a) about the existing coalition and
b) since they both "agree with Nick" to such a great extent, which parts of Liberal Democrat policy they are prepared to adopt to gain our support?


  1. Actually - I think you'll find it was only Gordon, in a desperate bid to cling to power by denying David Cameron a majority, that "agrees with Nick" ;)

  2. I thought they both did, but I'll watch again just to check. I do believe in arguing from facts rather than impressions.

    I suspect they'll both be careful not to "agree with Nick" this coming Thursday.

  3. Indeed... alas, I thought that the debate was not so much a thrashing out of facts so much at what Shakespeare might have described as a lot of "of sound and fury... signifying nothing."

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  5. Revised comment:

    It's the silly exchanges at Question Time in the Commons, and the billboards paid for by Lord Ashcroft and the Unions, which are sound and fury signifying very little. The debates on terms ensuring fairness are a chance to get at the truth.

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  7. I want to know what original post said now!

    I still maintain that the first debate was an awful lot of noise and nerves, coupled with a smothering moderator and uneven sparring between the three with little emphasis on the issues. The second debate felt instantly more meaty - my only regret was that some questions didn't have time to be discussed in more detail.

    And no arguments from me about PMQs, which makes for great political theatre but tells us nothing of value. And agreed, mass advertising the Conservatives (Lord Ashcroft contributes less than 2% of funding, versus Labour's majority Union funding) and Labour put out are similarly vacuous; but then I also find the distorted bar charts, misquotes, outright lies and half-truth smears in many items of Lib Dem literature I have seen, to be worse than vacuous.

    (Incidentally, if you're wondering why I deleted my reply, I mistyped the Ashcroft statistic!)

  8. The trouble with PMQs is that, although political anoraks such as ourselves might find them good theatre, most people find them a turn-off. This is particularly true of those most in need of the help and protection of the state, for whom politics is not a series of "clever-dick" jokes, but a matter which seriously affects their quality of life.

    If Lord Ash croft's millions are only 2% of Conservative Party income, you must be getting a heck of a lot of money from others. How about passing some of it on to us in the interests of that English value of "fair play.?