Jonathan Fryer

How Labour Blew the Chance of a Progressive Coalition

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 11th May, 2010

Today has been the most exciting — and in many ways extraordinary — day in British politics for a generation. Suddenly it looks as if the country has its first coalition government since the Second World War, in which the Liberal Democrats will be the junior partners to the Conservatives. I am struck by the analogy with Germany’s coalition government, of Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU and the Liberal FDP, though Britain’s LibDems are much stronger than the FDP and should therefore, in principle, be much weightier in government. Of course, there is the technicality that the coalition deal has to be endorsed both by the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party and by a special conference of party members, which is expected to be convened in Birmingham this weekend. I hope to goodness neither of those groups will throw a spanner in the works. I know, many of us would have preferred a grand coalition of progressive forces, bringing together the LibDems, Labour and some of the smaller parties, such as the Alliance of Northern Ireland and the Green. But Labour blew that possibility yesterday by giving the clear impression to LibDem negotiators that they weren’t seriously interested in a deal (unlike the Conservatives). It was evident that too many Labour MPs were opposed to working in government with the LibDems; they wanted all or nothing. So Labour has wilfully put itself into opposition, which is actually what the electorate seemed to want them to do. And it will now be up to the Liberal Democrats to add a Liberal flavour to the change for Britain which David Cameron has been trumpeting. Some of the changes will be painful, given the huge deficit this country now faces. But Liberal Democrats will be endeavouring to ensure that it is not the poor who have to shoulder most of the burden of tackling that deficit and that we do move towards a fairer society.

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4 Responses to “How Labour Blew the Chance of a Progressive Coalition”

  1. Compassion Must Be at The Heart of David Camerons New Government: http://wp.me/pRHY4-Z

  2. SM said

    Guardian:” Labour appears to have bent over backwards to make policy compromises. In the end it was the Liberal Democrats who said no thanks, this is not going to work for us, and headed for Mr Cameron’s door instead”

  3. David Christopher Somers Bartlett said

    Can’t understand you – it seems remarkably bland and mild and seems to go out of its way not to break ranks. I find the situation quite ludicrous and seems to mirror when Clegg became leader – all the policies did a u-turn – and everyone just obediently followed.
    Given that I assume that of LDs generally, two-thirds would have been sort of “leftish” however the term was dressed up: we now obediently again all follow the one third, or less, one quarter, who would get on with the Tories.
    Think of all the campaigning and all the horror – oh the hated Tories!! Oh how terrible was the Orange book!!
    What I fear most of all is what it says about the capacities of the average LD activist to actually be Liberal, ie to think for oneself. Perhaps, following Cleggmania and the bubble of student/young people/intelligentsia – all those potential voters – even if they did’nt come out this time – what will happen in the next election, and all the by-elections local and national. This will indeed be interesting to see.

  4. Simon Green said

    Amongst Labour activists and members whom I know, all but one were against doing business with the Liberal Democrats. It was pretty clear that the likes of Balls, Straw and Blunkett had had their way and that a Lib-Lab coalition was not an option- not to mention Douglas Alexander’s best attempts to alienate the numerically important SNP. I think that we genuinely have to ask ourselves just how viable was a deal with Labour when the new coalition has already sounded the death knell for ID cards, the detention of migrant children, the DNA database and the Heathrow third run way. In addition we are about to take the first £10k of everyones’ income out of tax, introduce fixed term parliaments, hold a referendum on a fairer voting system and have secured preliminary steps towards restructuring the banking sector. These are all highly progressive measures that Labour had shown a lack of interest in, whilst in government.

    Labour ruled itself out of coalition and whilst we could have propped up a Tory minority government, we now have the chance to create stability and implement geuinely liberal policies that will benefit all.

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