Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Now is not the time to leave the coalition, 2015 is.

There has been a lot of talk from grass roots Lib Dems that now is the time to leave the Coalition, I read one piece that said we had done our bit, offered some stability, passed a budget and gained a referendum on switching to AV so it was time to leave.  I think he is wrong for a number of reasons:

Firstly, he's being naive if he thinks the AV vote will go ahead if we leave the coalition now.

Secondly, realistically the Liberal Democrats are never going to win an out right majority in an election, therefore we can only ever be an influence in government under coalition circumstances.  Our preferred voting method is proportional representation, this would almost certainly produce a coalition.  By leaving now it is like saying we don't believe in coalitions - or like saying to the electorate that under our preferred system you would suffer Labour-Lib Dem coalitions for eternity.  I think we need to show that we can work with anyone, even the Tories.
Finally, it is no coincidence that this person is a councillor up for reelection this year.  This is like saying we would rather put short term election chances ahead of implementing a long term plan and the overall implementation of our policies.  Besides, our rating is so low at the moment that even the stimulous of leaving wouldn't be enough of a boost for the polls, our only chance of positive polls is to see this through and hope that our reforms work out well and inpact on people's lives in a positive manor despite the cuts.

I am a supporter of the coalition in general.  In my opinion the only major mistake the Lib Dems have made so far is the tuition fees debacle and as I read from somewhere else this could have been so much better if it had been spun differently.  Imagine if Vince's first response to the Browne Report had been to say:

"This is a terrible report commissioned by the Labour Government, there is absolutely no way a University should be able to charge unlimited fees.  As a Liberal Democrat I would be unable to vote for this, as such we will make a more progressive policy with our coalition partners."

Sounds a lot better than saying he basically agreed with it.  Then when the policy announced actually release figures of how much it will cost students and emphasise that none of this is payable up front.  I still haven't seen official details published of what the average student will pay over 30 years compared with previously.  This should have emphasised how those who following university go on to be more successful end up paying more than previously where as those who aren't as successful in financial terms don't.

There have been a few other negative things, but we are in a coalition, it is about compromise.  I would much rather stay in government and see some of our policies getting enacted than in opposition and have none.  I would also much rather be a member of the Liberal Democrats than support Labour, I don't like the derogatory side of politics, just insulting the other side, I think the argument should be about what you would offer instead rather than just objecting to the other side without offering any different.  I also like my financial spokes person to know the rate of employer's national insurance (it's not like it wasn't a big talking point at the last election).  I don't want my reasons for supporting the coalition to be about why Labour are worse, so here is my good points:

Increasing the basic rate of tax.
Targeting funding in schools via the pupil premium.
A vote on AV.  (I'm not sure if I support AV, but it is better than FPTP).
Improving civil liberties - removing control orders, stopping child detention (has fallen from on average 50 being held to just 3 before any legislation has passed), removal of ID cards.
No deficit denial, active efforts to bring government spending closer to income.
There are more reasons, they are just my main ones.  I know the budget was a Tory budget, but I think it is better than a head in the sand budget (like the ones America have been passing) or what the Tories would have produced on their own. 

If this government fails before 2015 and another election is called it will just show that politicians don't mean what they say, and after the tuition fees that is the last thing we want.

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