Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Why we must have a Lab-Lib Plus coalition by Polly Toynbee (and some minnow thoughts from yours truly)

Polly Toynbee's analysis sums up my take on the recent political developments far, far better than I could myself and can be read here.

All I would add is that we are at a critical juncture at which point it is plain to see how desperate is the largely right-wing media for Cameron to become Prime Minister and how outraged their chief lieutenants are that he may not (see right-wing Cameron-supporting Sky News chief political hack Adam Boulton showing his colours in this hilarious spat with the excellent Alastair Campbell here).  Or indeed the leading article in today's Times, a superb newspaper, whose editor James Harding is first class and fair-minded.   Their article states boldly that "It is quite possible that we will look back on yesterday as the moment the Liberal Democrats demonstrated they are totally unsuited to the serious business of government."  And why?  Because they had the audacity to consider negotiating with Labour about the possibility of forming a coalition rather than conform to the narrative already long ago written by the right-wing media (and the so-called "markets") that their man David Cameron should move into Number 10.  

The Times leader continues: "Mr Clegg has been taught a depressing lesson by his party. They are constitutionally unready to govern. Ideologically, they were caught out with policies — such as ditching Trident and an amnesty on immigration — that were not those of a government in waiting."  Why such a blatant and over-the-top attack on a party which was lauded only weeks ago?  In what way are they constitutionally unfit to govern?  They are merely doing what they have every right to do under our antiquated unwritten constitution - namely negotiate with the other parties in order to seek a solution which allows on party leader to command the support of the House of Commons.  

Neither Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg are doing anything which in any way goes against the grain of our political system.  David Cameron did not win the election in the British sense of the word.  He won the most seats and a slightly larger share of the popular vote.  But he was not elected as Prime Minister by the British people. Our system is simple - the incumbent PM has the right to remain in office unless and until he can no longer command the support of the House of Commons.  He has correctly given the party which won the most seats the opportunity to seek to form a coalition, but it seems that right wing party cannot offer to the Lib Dems what they require.  Therefore, they are playing their hand well in talking openly to Labour and Labour has played its hand very well in keeping out of it for the first few days and in removing the main stumbling block to negotiations (i.e. Brown's continuation as Labour leader).  

What happens from here on in is in the lap of the Gods (or perhaps I should name the specific politicians!).  But it is certainly not undemocratic for the Lib Dems and Labour to seek to form a so-called 'progressive alliance' with the tiny parties.  

The debate about our system of voting and our unwritten constitution can be had another day.  But until now, I'll declare my hand as resolutely in favour of my party (Labour) doing all it can to ensure that progressive policies, strong management of the economy and economic recovery, radical change to our discredited political system and a commitment to fairness remain at the heart of the next government's programme.  They will not if the Conservatives were to take power with or without the Lib Dems in tow.

Those who favour a 'brief period of opposition' may well have a point: a Tory-Liberal coalition may take the flak for the inevitable tough spending cuts that they must introduce, the coalition may be inherently unstable, it may provoke huge instability within each party as the grass roots object to the indignity of working with the enemy.  Yet this may not transpire.  David Cameron is an astute and occasionally brave leader.  His negotiating team have shown poise, dignity, generosity and a spirit of compromise towards the Liberal Democrats.  This indicates to me that in this so-called 'new politics' the Tories may actually be willing and capable of making such a coalition work.  Many in Labour's ranks seem to think that opposition is preferable to the undoubtedly difficult period of coalition government that we may be about to enter into.  I fear that this may be the comfort of a bed in an open prison, watching the world go by but unable to participate.  The only question would be how long is the sentence that must be endured.  We know from past experience that Labour is often sentenced to long periods by the public under the first-past-the-post system.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.