There are plenty of places you can go if you want to read about how any deal between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would ‘kill the Lib Dem vote’ (Phillipe Sands), cause it to be ‘swallowed’ by the Tories (in a more thoughtful piece by Anne Perkins) or could invite a mass-migration of Lib Dems into Labour (see the tweeting of HopiSen).
See also the commenter, ‘How could I be so stupid?’ on Rentoul’s blog for a Tory-hater’s perspective.
The basic premise is distressingly tribal. If you voted LibDem, you are being betrayed if the elected MPs then support a Conservative administration. This premise is: if you vote Lib Dem you are finding an alternative way of opposing Tories. That is all your LibDem vote means – a neat way of standing against Tories in places where distaste at Labour-support somehow prevents that option being used. So if you don’t oppose Tories, then you are not doing your job.
Let’s remember a few things.
- Voting Lib Dem means supporting a fairer voting system
- A fairer voting system means that most of the time power in Westminster is divided between different political blocks that have to negotiate with each other
- The negotiations are only meaningful if there is more than one outcome possible! Read some of the Guardianistas and you would think that the only allowable result is Lib-Lab. What sort of ‘new politics’s is it that offer,s as an example of how to proceed, some automatic stitch up between two of the parties – and one that explicitly rejects Clegg’s honest pledge to first talk to the party with the largest mandate?
- For those who believe, passionately, in possible coalition politics as a default setting for the future, the next few months and years are crucial. They are a chance to show the voting public how it produces better, more democratic, more negotiated, um, more liberal and democratic outcomes. Personally, I don’t think a presumption that it must mean a permanent soft-left coalition is a good advert. When that ‘coalition’ has just dropped 5% in the national polling, it is a very awkward advertisement indeed.
The anger from the Left at being denied first-dibs reminds me of the same sense of entitlement that characterises the Tory attitude to power, ironically. ‘What right have you liberal nobodies got to prevent us taking control?’ seemed to be the dominant attitude of a Tory press gone mad after Cleggmania. Now we have the equally insulting “Don’t you realise that we in the Labour party know perfectly well what all your voters wanted and curse you for not realising it”.**
What I find particularly galling is their pleasure at the logic of a future two-party squeeze eliminating the LibDems at the next election. Yeah, nice way to show your disgust at the current electoral system: revel at how its perverse results might give you some revenge some day. Remember this whenever you hear Labour types making pious statements about electoral reform, just after extolling their efforts in getting voters to vote tactically.
No, LibDem voters did not want a Tory government. Well, they are not going to get one! In an excellent post at Liberal Vision, Angela points out that if we end up with a Lib Dem-Tory coaltion, a vote for the Lib Dems has prevented the Tory government most feared: the majority Tory government that would have been able to force through inheritance tax cuts, subsidies to marriage, a ferocious line on immigration and Europe, a gerrymandering piece of political reform and so on. How sad that some LibDems might think our leadership of Clegg, Huhne, Laws and Cable might be unable to change anything in a Tory government!*
Of course, negotiations might fail to produce enough. Of course, it is possible that a Labour deal might be tempting, particularly since his fingernails have finally given way. But voting Lib Dem has ensured that the Conservatives are negotiating at all. If there had been no LibDem surge and the 3rd party was left with 40-5 seats (the likely result for most of 2005-7), the Tories would have been negotiating only with themselves, in my opinion. If a Lib-Con alliance of some sort now operated for a few years, the Lib Dems could say, proudly, that they achieved something at this election.
** here is a PERFECT example from Polly Toynbee. Apparently they would only deal with Tories because ‘the establishment leans on them’ and ‘dragooning’ them. If the Lib Dems don’t resist the Conservatives, they lack “intellectual, political and moral fibre”, and to take an “inauthentic view of legitimacy”. And here is the killer, the begged question, the you-are-no-different manoeuvre:
True legitimacy resides in a coalition of principle between the parties that stood for election on the most closely shared values. Their voters are the ones that confer legitimacy.
Lib Dems have opposed Labour for 13 years, but when it comes to the crunch, Polly says they have no choice. That’s democracy?