Of course we didn’t, but of course we can’t vote for a coalition – you can only ever vote for the one party you’d most like to represent you in parliament. So why the vicious diatribes are continuing is a complete mystery to me – we got the result we voted for, regardless of actual intent. But commentators are disagreeing, suggesting that the ConDemNation coalition is illegitimate and not reflective of the will of the people. From Johann Hari:
Elections are supposed to be an opportunity for the people to express the direction in which they want the country to travel. By that standard, this result is an insult. Don’t fall for the people who say the Lib Dem vote was “ambiguous”: a YouGov poll just before the election found that Lib Dem voters identified as “left-wing” over “right-wing” by a ratio of 4:1. Only 9 per cent sided with the right. Lib Dem voters wanted to stop Cameron, not install him. So before you start squabbling about the extremely difficult parliamentary arithmetic, or blaming the stupidly tribal Labour negotiators for their talks with the Lib Dems breaking down, you have to concede: the British people have not got what they voted for.
Clegg has betrayed progressives across the length and breadth of Britain. He had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair the century-old rift on the centre left and forge a radical and progressive alliance in favour of electoral and constitutional reform. I suspect Labour will now sit on its hands in any future referendum and the Lib Dems might be on their own campaiging for a “Yes” vote. Their new partners in government have already stated their plans to oppose any change to our dysfunctional first-past-the-post system.
Clegg has also betrayed the longer-term strategic interests of his party for crude and short-term tactical gains.
What neither of them calculates however is what the likely effects of forcing the Tories into a short-lived minority administration would have been. Getting blamed as the party which refused to underpin ‘strong and stable government’ would have been an appalling (and probably disastrous) moniker to enter an October election with, which remember the Tories could easily have fought and the Lib Dems not. It’s all well and good to decry the loss of a mythical ‘progressive alliance’ with Labour but a) that coalition would have been an unstable, minority alliance and b) has collective amnesia suddenly struck about Labour’s 13 year record? ID cards, abuse of the National DNA Database, attempts to lock people up without charge for 45 and 90 days, interference in inquests and the right to jury trial, destitution of asylum seekers and the detention of their children, the Digital Economy Act, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, denying the vote to prisoners, the Iraq War, RIPA and SOCPA legislation – were ANY of these pieces of legislation and invasions of privacy, breaches of civil liberties and human rights ‘progressive’? I think not. Why Hasan, Hari and others ignore these points is a complete mystery to me.
I don’t like the Tories in Number 10 - I really don’t. But we have a Great Repeal Bill on offer, which is likely to include some, if not all, of Deputy PM Clegg’s Freedom Bill, and indeed have seen initial successes such as the end of ID cards and the National Identity Register, not to mention the end of detention of refugees’ children. Is it entirely likely that early, and ‘savage’ budget cuts will cause serious social and economic disruption over the next 12 months? Yes, and the Lib Dems might well damage themselves beyond repair by being directly associated with them, but given that Labour rebuffed their advances to attempt a coalition with them, I don’t know why there’s so much sniping at a party which at long last finds itself to enact large swathes of its platform. It was the best out of a bad set of choices. How on earth is that a betrayal?
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