May 7th, 2010


See you all in November

A minority Labour Government supported by the LibDems, the Nationalists, the SDLP and the Green would be inherently unstable. I would guess that those Labour people opposed to electoral reform could be herded - like cats - by the Whips but I am not sure even of that.

A LibLab coalition supported by the other progressive parties ( and OK there are questions about the SNP there, but let it pass) would have some major weaknesses on other issues. The LibDems would have to accept collective Cabinet responsibility on things to which they are fundamentally opposed like Trident or make more non-negotiable demands than electoral reform which could be seen as the tail wagging the dog. The LibDems would also be seen as appointing the Labour leader and thus the PM - my reading of the Labour Party's leadership election procedures is that while they go through the process, the Deputy Leader, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, acts as caretaker. Everyone is talking about a Milliband, but there would be a very good case for the Queen summoning Harriet Harman to the Palace.

At least both Labour and the LibDems are committed to electoral reform. My reading is that the requirement that things taken to the Lords be manifesto pledges just about works here, though of course a formal coalition has no manifesto so that requirement is looser anyway - I will take instruction on this.

Since the Conservatives have set their faces like flint against PR and alternative voting, I don't see how they can double back on themselves and give the LibDems anything they would want. And I don't see what the LibDems could guarantee the Tories - the problems with formal coalition with collective cabinet responsibility would be even greater and I can't see Nick Clegg selling the deal to his Parliamentary colleagues let alone the party at large. Indeed, I know various LibDem people on Twitter and here who have said that they would resign from the party over it.

My guess - and I have a long record of being wrong - is that Cameron will try and soldier on for six months in the hope of an upturn in the economy and no worsening of the recession and we will get another first-past-the-post election in November. In the meantime, he will vandalize everything in the name of austerity and try and monster all parliamentary opposition to this as meddling and electioneering.

We need a proper Progressive Alliance for the Autumn election. Prepare for hard bargaining and tough times.

We are none of us righteous, no not one...

There is an argument, an argument which almost persuaded me yesterday, which goes like this. Yes, my friends, LibDems and their allies, said, and have gone on saying, of course Labour gave us civil partnerships, and some measure of trans rights, and spent a lot of money on the health service (much of which was well spent), and better pensions, and foreign aid, and less of a bad recession than might have been expected given their over-trust of the banks,and devolution, and peace in Northern Ireland. And all of these were part of Labour's basic mission statement of being the good party.

But, they will say, all of this, good as it is, is outweighed by their concessions to the dark side. The wars, especially the war with Iraq; the complicity in torture; ID cards; more surveillance; utterly beastly treatment of asylum seekers, and most especially of their children; the sucking up to the rich; the casual minor corruption. Some of these may have started as concessions to the Americans, and the Tory Press, but they have stained Labour irrevocably and rendered them unfit to continue in office, or to be supported by other cleaner parties even if doing so brings electoral reform and an end to the sort of parliamentary dictatorship which made this sort of thing possible.

They will say that the Labour leadership - especially Gordon Brown - are criminals and should be in jail, and not in government.

And I listened, and was persuaded of the truth of much of it. And did not vote alongside them in the end because I would rather sup with the devil I know.

I am tempted to say this - if you deal with the Tory party, you are dealing with a government which - with the sole exception of ID cards maybe will do all this and more, and do it enthusiastically rather than in the face of its better angels. If you go into coalition with the Tories, even if you get electoral reform - and my judgement is that they will string you along with promises and never actually deliver - they will have dragged you into the sort of complicity with the appalling that Tony Blair and his clique dragged Labour MPs and ministers into.

Like New Labour, you will gain power and lose your souls. And it may look like the clever thing to do, as well as the right one, but it is neither.

Remember Jeremy Thorpe, who thought he was a very clever man, and ended up being dragged to disgrace by a dead dog.

Whereas, because Labour people are not, unlike the Tory leadership and most Tory MPs, scumbags deep down to the bottom of their souls (except possibly Peter Mandelson), you might make their working their redemption the price of doing a deal and PR only the fringe benefit.

I've read posts that argue that there are areas in which the LibDems and the Tories have policies in common = the pupil premium, for example. Let's take that as an example for a moment - up to yesterday the LibDems were arguing that their version of this policy was wholly different from the Tories', which, it was claimed, would be a disaster. If that was true, it remains true, and is it really going to be possible to negotiate a compromise policy here. Or with Trident, or immigration, or Europe - Labour does bad things because they think they have to to gain office, and maintain it, and because they get impatient with people and want to make them better, dammnit, whereas the Tories do them BECAUSE IT'S WHAT TORIES DO. Along with fox-hunting and breaking glass.

The good thing about the LibDems going into coalition with the Tories, or acting as their silent accomplices, would be simply this. No more virtue - you'd be in the blood and mire with the rest of us.