Monday, March 05, 2007

Lib Dems confirm coalition plans with Labour.

In yesterdays keynote speech to the Lib Dem conference leader Ming Campbell set five 'tests' which a Labour Government would have to pass before he would enter negotiations over a coaliton.

Crucially, for Lib dems, changing the electoral system isn't one of them.

For years the Lib Dems have refused to say if they would go into a power sharing deal with either of the main parties ahead of a general election that gave a hung result; a position I have always said would be unsustainable if polls suggested a hung parliament looks likely.

Obviously, given the Labour and Lib Dems shared past and the fact that the have worked in coalitions in Scotland and in wales, most people imagined that the Lib Dems would favour a coalition with Labour but this is the first hard confirmation.

What is even more interesting is the 'low price tag' Menzies is attaching to a deal. Previous talks (as happened in the lead-up to the 1997 election) failed over the Lib Dems insistance that any coalition would introduce Proportional Representation as the price of their support.

The BBC were reporting yesterday that there was disagreement amongst senior Lib Dems about the significance of Menzies moves; with many on the right of the party distancing themselves from his speech.

This is a very interesting -if slightly risky- political move. There are great benefits to the Lib Dems in the north of England and in Scotland in being seen as the 'sensible' partner in a left of centre Government which will undoubtably increase the Lib dems appeal north of the border.

However the prospects for Lib dems in the South of the country under such a scenario look decidedly grim. If the majority of voters in England decide that they don't want a Labour Government why would they vote for the Lib dems in marginal seats like Torbay, who are promising to prop up Gordon Brown in No 10?


Barrie Wood said...

Where electoral arithmetic demands it and agreements have been reached you'll find a fair number of Lib Dem / Tory partnerships in local authorities throughout the country.

At national level you couldn't forge a partnership deal with a party whose policy platform amounts to nothing more than platitudes. For those reasons alone I'd be virulently opposed to a deal with the Tories.

As for Scotland it is the Lib Dem policies on free care for the elderly, no tuition fees, fair votes (STV) and greater environmental focus that have justified the coalition with Labour in Scotland, thus far. Who knows what the SP elections will bring, but to now the benefits of arrangements there are apparent to Lib Dem supporters and the wider electorate.

It is VERY UNLIKELY the LD will prop up either of the other main parties if there's a balanced Westminster parliament in 2009/10.

That, of course, doesn't suit the thrust of your argument, but once again you've got things wrong.

Western Lady said...

This was disasterous - at least the way it was reported was bad for us because the BBc made it look a) as if we didn't know our a*se from our elbow and b) because if Ming does a deal with Labour before an election we'll lose votes back to the Tories in the South West for certain.

I supported Ming for the leadership but I wouldn't have if I'd known this was his strategy.

Torbay Left said...

WL - I think Ming's strategy and the 'spin' from the media looking for a story are two quite different things.

I have always seen the LD in competition with Labour for the progressive vote - that is opposing the Tories largely.

And, all this froth, gets us away from talking about the Tories' polices (or lack thereof).

Anonymous said...

But surely there is a strategy behind Mings move?

Yes he may cause some problems if you believe that we win because of Tory voters but in seats like Torbay we win because of left leaning voters working together.

I don't think many Tories voted Lib dem, even in 1997.

Labour people in the South West need to know that we won't back the Tories if they give us their vote.