Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the coalition: time to get real

Few things are as immutable as the addiction of political groups to the ideas by which they once won office.
John Kenneth Galbraith
I'm tired of reading vitriolic tweets sneering at the UK's coalition, which is by no means perfect, I know. The old two-party system, with swings from one extreme to the other, hasn't done us much good. Most people vote for the opposition to get the one in power out, because of unpopular policies, but popular policies wouldn't necessarily be good for us. Apathy, cynicism and disillusionment led to a general election result that no one liked and forced a compromise that even fewer wanted, especially Labour voters. Some of them have told me that the Lib Dems should have formed an alliance with Labour, not the Tories, but how could they? Imagine the hoo-ha if Labour had got back into government despite losing the election. Besides, Brown and Co didn't seem too keen. It's all water under the bridge now anyway; get used to it.

It was a mistake to have the voting reform referendum at the same time as council elections, and an even bigger mistake not to devote more time and money to a good pro-reform campaign, so we're still stuck with the old first past the post system.

If we end up with another coalition in 2015, I won't mind. In fact, I'd prefer it to either the Conservatives or Labour having a majority. Many local authorities function as coalitions of the three main parties plus independents and are forced to make compromises, which is what politics is all about. It prevents extremism of one sort or another and expensive, wasteful reversals of policy. European coalitions have worked, with the exception of Italy's, though as Paul Hoskins wrote in a Reuters article, "For Britain, the great unknown is the peculiarity of its famously confrontational political system which may not be best suited to a coalition style of government." Since one of the reasons that many voters have been turned off politics is the "famously confrontational" style of PMQs and other exchanges, maybe it's time that British MPs grew up and learned about the consensus approach. A lot less shouting, and a lot more co-operation.

The world is changing faster than the mind sets of most party loyalists.

Oh, and what have the Lib Dems done?

Illustration: Parliament in the early 19th century, source unknown.


DracNoisePerson said...

That would be fine if the Lib dems were doing their job instead of just kissing Conservative arse all the time.

Margaret Nelson said...

All the time? Something of an exaggeration and not strictly relevant to the point of my argument.

Imagine what the Tories would do without Lib Dems in the cabinet. So far, the Lib Dems have blocked relaxing the law on hiring and firing employees, cutting inheritance tax, allowing schools to be run for profit, and replace Trident, among other things. They disagree about immigration reform, Europe, the Human Rights Act, and another airport. If you doubt the differences, you only have to read some of the anti-Lib Dem stuff in the Telegraph to realise that most Tories don't think that anyone's kissing their arses.

DracNoisePerson said...

OK a slight exaggeration but they have back tracked on so many of their key policies. They really could have done so much more.

Margaret Nelson said...

Oh, and just some of the Lib Dems' achievements in government:
Click for an Infographic.

Steve W said...

I agree with you Margaret. I think the country has functioned much better in the last two and a half years with a coalition government. I hope we get another one in 2015 but it's difficult to know how to vote to achieve that end. Should one vote strategically?

Margaret Nelson said...

Tricky one that. I can't advise you. I vote Lib Dem because I'm a party member. If I wasn't, I'd probably still vote Lib Dem.