Thursday, 13 May 2010
The ConDem pact
We have a new government. It's not what many people wanted, but the vagaries of First past the post mean that is not irregular. I for one am cautiously optimistic. Yes we effectively have a tory government, and I can't say I trust them as far as I can throw Mount Everest, but that's beside the point. This coalition deal was one of only two realistic options on the table, the progressive 'rainbow alliance' was never an option. I'll explain more on that in a minute, first I'm going to pick out one or two things from the text fleshed out during the 5 days of negotiations. In doing so I hope I can explain my tentative positivity.
It isn't the first item on the list, but for many people that voted Lib Dem this election it is their number one priority. The coalition agreement is generous on Reform, with Fixed term parliaments coming into power immediately (A no-confidence dissolution vote will now require 55% of the house to vote in favour). Also in the mix is a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system for Parliamentary elections, and a proposal to see a proportionally elected upper house.
This was one of the cornerstones of the Lib Dem campaign, and it is surprising how closely the coalition document matches their manifesto. The personal allowance will increase in real terms each year, with an aim to reaching the £10k target by the end of this parliamentary term. This will become the priority tax cut, moving ahead of the inheritance tax cut in the cue. A rise in non-business capital gains tax will help pay for it.
Based on the Lib Dem freedom pledge in their manifesto a 'great repeal bill' has been touted. Henry Porter makes the case for this far more eloquently than me. Also of note (though included in the immigration section) is the ending of detention of children for immigration purposes.
Those are my highlights. The full outline is available to view here.
So yes, the government is going to be tory lead. There is also a glaring problem with the deficit that makes spending cuts likely. Unfortunately Cameron's party is likely to do this with more relish, but at least with The Lib Dems looking over their shoulder hopefully thier priorities will more echo my own.
So for my mind this was probably the best result that could have occurred from a really dodgy situation. As a Lib Dem voter I'm aware that the party could be associated with a very unpopular government which could lead to their eventual downfall. So why the acceptance? It's probably best to look at the alternatves.
1) Confidence and supply -
There was the option for the Lib Dems to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with the the Conservatives. I explored this option in a previous post. However in hindsight, this would not have provided a government that lasted very long. Further, though they would have the power to veto elements of Conservative policy, they would have far less chance of getting their own policies enacted. The benefits listed above would have been vanishingly unlikely.
2) Progressive coalition
Well this was the holy grail to many a left-leaning voter, lock out those bastard Tories and get some good done. All wonderful in principle, however the Lib-Dems and Labour together did not hold enough seats to form a majority. That meant that other parties would have needed to jump on board, mainly the Welsh and Scottish Nationalists.
Fair play to them for effort, but the SNP and Plaid Cymru were campaigning on the back of spending increases for their respective countries. This would have been very hard to accept during budgets in which public spending had to be cut. Agreements on budgets were unlikely. Also, when negotiations began between the Lib Dems and Labour, Labour MPs made public their opposition to a coalition. When considering such a slender majority in parliament, any dissent would make the government untenable. For all our hopes and dreams, Labour and the Lib Dems combined just didn't get enough seats.
So there we go, agree? disagree? Let me know below the line.