(pic from my Lewishamdreamer Flickr profile)
Clegg’s putting his money where his mouth is. Some of you don’t like it, but he’s read the political wind, seen now is the time for coalition government, which after all is what proportional representation would deliver, and pulled an extremely unlikely coalition off. If PR really is that important to you, you’ll appreciate that some coalition formulations will be distasteful, but are the will of the electorate. If Clegg had stood to one side he would have betrayed the entire basis for wanting electoral reform in the first place, and by leading by example he may yet prove to a sceptical electorate just how right the call for change in the voting system is.
Last week Jackie Ashley said:
I think he would be mad to engage in a full coalition, with cabinet seats and the rest of it. That would infuriate his activists and make him jointly responsible for Tory cuts. He needs to offer a deal from the outside, while he reviews the biggest mystery of the past election, which is why the Lib Dem poll bounce did not translate into any advance on the ground. It isn’t all the fault of the unfair electoral system.
And that’s the danger of course – that he gets tainted by being in power (particularly with such economically ruthless Tories) but there’s only so long the party can stand by and watch others take and use power, before they start looking a little pointless. It’s all well and good having noble policies and ideas, but it’s pointless if they aren’t used, which (sorry to say) means compromises have to be made. It’s undesirable but it’s the way of things, but Clegg clearly came to terms with that and decided to risk everything by moving his party back into government for the first time in three quarters of a century.
The electorate have shown that they will not be cowed by the media northe markets into voting for a particular outcome. Instead, they have sent a message that has confused everyone by its unfamiliarity. What can it all mean? Well, clearly they are not happy with the government as it is, nor are they convinced that the Tories offer something better. Instead they have voted for something different and sent the parties away to hammer out a consensus. Under a PR system, there would be a mandate for such an administration. It is only the familiarity of our current electoral arrangement that allows the media to treat the result as some terrible misunderstanding.
Clegg’s decided to show us what it would be like. And of course if he does provide ‘sound and stable government’ through this coalition, he’ll have made a better case to the British public for PR than any party political broadcast or policy document could ever hope to. By agreeing to a high-risk referendum on AV and perhaps hoping he’ll prove the case for PR by example he gets to play a high stakes poker game. On offer is genuine, lasting change to the political system itself; if he plays it wrong however the Lib Dems are essentially dead.
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