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.