Saturday, 26 June 2010

It wasn’t a betrayal

Almost two months on from the election, and Labour and opponents of the Lib Dems are still banging on about what they say is a betrayal by the Lib Dems. This started when they formed a coalition with the Conservatives, and it's brought up every time the party actually allows the Conservatives to go ahead with a policy that was in their manifesto. I see this as a betrayal myth, and I want to explain why. I don't like to bring this up again, because it party relates to the done-to-death discussions after the election about whether the Lib Dems were right to ally with the Tories, but the same "betrayal" accusation keeps being flung time and time again at the party, so I feel  that I want to present a counter-argument to this.

Firstly, I think it's fairly obvious that the Lib Dems had no choice but to form a coalition with the Tories. The only other option would have been an unstable and fragmented coalition between Labour, the Lib Dems, and many of the small parties in Parliament, all with their own agendas. This would have resulted in all sorts of pandering to the small parties, resulting in a mish-mash of policies that no-one really supported. Even still, there'd have only been a small majority, so any any rebellions or parties refusing co-operate with official Government legislation would have resulted in the Government being unable to get anything done and potentially collapsing in on itself. Had the Lib Dems followed the calls for a 'Progressive Alliance', it would have also shown contempt for democracy and the votes of the electorate. Whilst the Conservatives did not win an overall majority, they did have the greatest number of votes - a higher proportion than when Labour won in 2005 - and it would have been a shameful if the party which came first was confined to the Opposition benches whilst parties with a small proportion of the national vote and tiny number of seats were able to influence the actions of the Government. Furthermore, the criticism from Labourites about the Libby Demmies having chosen 'the nasty party' instead of them smack of hypocrisy, given that tribal Labour MPs sabotaged the agreement, and if reports are to be believed, Brown was deliberately obnoxious and rude to the Clegginator on at least one occasion during the process of thrashing out agreements.

[caption id="attachment_950" align="alignright" width="212" caption="The Con-Lib coalition was the only sensible option"][/caption]

Another option would have been to go into a less formal agreement with the Conservatives - sometimes referred to as a supply-and-demand agreement. Once again, I expect this would have been unstable, with Lib Dem MPs feeling able to withdraw support for the Government whenever they wished. In a time when decisiveness is needed to sort out our messed up finances, I wouldn't want the Conservative Government constantly having to run to the Lib Dems to get approval before doing anything, and if they won't give it, having to give into Lib Dem demands just to stave off collapse. If the Tories refused to meet Lib Dem demands, there could potentially be a Government held to ransom: with an ultimatum being give into our demands or give up as the Government. Moreover, the very people who lambaste the Lib Dems for allying with 'the Nasty Party' are actually potentially better off with the official coalition. We can see from the Coalition Agreement and recent budget that the Liberal Democrats have had an influence on the programme of Government, visible in such measures as raising the threshold for income tax. Whenever the Lib Dems support the Conservative agenda, Labour calls it "selling out for power", but I call it sensible compromise. It would be wrong to expect the Conservatives to have changed fundamental policies on such important areas as  immigration, the EU, and the economy, and as I have said before, it would show contempt for the will of voters if they were expected to. No surprise there then for the champagne socialists at the top of the Labour party to be advocating ignoring the electorate.

Of course, the Lib Dems could have simply refused to ally with the Tories or Labour/everyone else, resulting in the Conservatives attempting to govern alone without an overall majority and with tenuous support from the Democratic Unionist party from Northern Ireland. Once again, I don't think this would have been in the interests of anyone. Sooner or later - and I expect sooner - the Government would have been blocked, perhaps as early as the budget, and would have been unable to continue. There'd have been another election, wasting yet another 6 weeks whilst we endure the whole process of the election campaign all over again, leaving important issues unresolved throughout.

I understand that it's almost crigeworthy to see Lib Dems publicly supporting the Government's budget and cuts when only a month or so before the sane people had been condemning going into cuts too quickly, but I don't think it would be right for a party that came third to prevent the party with the largest carrying out their budget. It comes down to respect for the electorate - more people voted for the Conservatives than any other single party (of course, the total vote for other parties combined adds to more, but that's the odd way our electoral system works) - and those voters deserve to have their vote being put into action, not nullified by the actions of a small group of MPs with yellow rosettes. I'm expecting we're going to see the Lib Dems accused to betrayal every time they let the leading party put something into action that they hadn't previously agreed with. Those who heckle each time there's compromise seem to suggest that the election should have counted for nothing, and it matters not a jot whether the party with the most votes and seats get to carry out their manifesto.

Before finishing, I'd also like to point out to any new readers that I'm not a Lib Dem or Conservative supporter, though I do feel somewhat inclined towards the Tories. I'm worryingly fickle, and therefore unable to support a party for more than a few weeks. Recently I returned by support back to Labour, before having my previous belief that they're all blinkered to reality reaffirmed and packing my bags again. I've long felt a strong affinity for UKIP due to my views about the EU,  but there are some things I can't agree with the party on everything, and will have to try to overlook.

Anyway: in summary, The Lib Dems allying with the Conservatives and allowing much of their legislative agenda to remain intact was not a betrayal: it was both common sense and showed respect for the decision of voters. The real betrayal would have been to ignore the wishes of the electorate and form a weak rainbow coalition.

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