Fellow Labour blogger Luke Akehurst points out that electoral support for the Liberal Democrats is already falling apart, just a short time into their government coalition with the slash-and-burn Tory Party.

On the ‘how do you feel about Lib Dems’ spectrum I fall broadly on the open-minded part of the scale. I am open to the fact that they are a well intentioned (if slightly naive) and borderline progressive force, open to the idea that they are in the vast part really dim and easily taken in, and open to the idea that they are unprincipled. in fact, I would say that the latter is likely for any party without a ‘core’ of social weight to protect.

This all sounds more negative than I have usually felt about them.

I suppose I just get frustrated with the easiness of the ride a lot of the public give their party.

The point that I am trying to make is that I am not ill-disposed to a lot of the policy that comes with social liberals. I know that despite all their local electoral dirty dealing, and general lack of roots, they feel this way about the more liberally inclined of us in the Labour Party.

The policies that the coalition is enacting are philosophically divisive. The cuts have barely started to bite, and already the Lib Dems are on a rating that loses them a third of their MPs. When they do bite, even the most gung-ho private sector employees (the people who phone 5Live talk shows) are going to know perfectly good, productive and hard-working people who lose jobs, benefits and even housing.

Unless the social-liberal wing can swing the coalition seriously left, these are the good days, electorally speaking. And from anything that goes badly, the Lib Dems being far closer to the centre than the Tories, the Lib Dems will be set to lose far more support, by virtue of the fact that their supporters look a lot less like nutters, and therefore have a lower tolerance rate than the Tories. Bearing in mind that so many LD voters are behaviourally disposed towards protest votes in the first place, don’t expect them all to hang around.

Four things can happen. 1, Labour could destroy itself by swinging too harshly left or right. 2, The Lib Dems could bring down the government. 3, The Lib Dems could split (unlikely). 4, the Lib Dems are electorally annihilated.

For Libs, 4 should be the most obviously worry. Personally, I think it is the most likely, too.

For the left non-Lib Dems, helping more humane Libs to option 2 will be crucial. It would also confer an advantage upon Labour and the non-aligned left. the Lib Dems would gain from it, or at least cut their losses. Above all, it would hurt the Tories.

A recent conversation brought up one issue: what is the best way for Labour people to aid those within the Lib Dems most likely to make this happen. My friend worries that Labour voices could be seen as too shrill, thus causing left Lib Dems to reflexively turn towards party loyalty.

Perhaps. But my view is that conditions in the electorate will eventually make this an impossible position to sustain, in a similar way to what happened to the Labour Party around 2004/2005, and again in 2009/2010 – when both leaders were put under serious public pressure to resign. This did not happen just because Labourites fancied a ruck (though there may have been careerist elements in both moves).

Somewhere a divergence in this government must take place. Our job must be to make sure that Labour and lefties within the Lib Dems both come out of that on the right side.

So, people in the Social Liberal Forum and the Beveridge Group. Firstly, with frankness, yes, I am a Labour Party member, and I think what you government is doing is wrong. I shall therefore oppose it electorally, and I will electorally campaign against any party constitutionally capable of doing deals to enable Toryism. Including yourselves.

As well as it being objectively regressive, immoral, and without a mandate, I think that your government has a 90% chance of manifestly failing, and a high chance of facing electoral destruction. Humbly, I therefore suggest that you being to work on getting out of it as soon as possible and joining Labour, perhaps as an independent (and crucially Keynesian) opposition.

But secondly, when it comes to fighting battles within the current government, you have my support, and the support of those like me, because we understand how agonising it can be to support a government that attacks what you believe in, though I must say, I think we got a good bit more out of Blair, despite him not needing us like the Tories need you.

Partly for these reasons, but also because we agree, I will be demonstrating my good faith as a Labour member by agreeing with you on prisons, half agreeing on Trident, agreeing on most civil liberties issues, and by campaigning with you for a more representative voting system. I will also campaign for a Labour Party that lives up firstly to our historic and trade union inspired dedication to personal freedom and civil liberties, and secondly to our future as a party for a green industrial and energy strategy.

This government is a horror. It is far from unreasonable to assert that. Three months ago, you would have agreed.

It is eye-wateringly and unnecessarily Thatcherite, and fundamentally illiberal. We have a cap on immigration! And look what Boris is up to.

Let’s get rid of Cameron, and build a liberal left in parliament. How long would you have us wait?

6 thoughts on “Disunity is given – the question is time

  1. (note: not a LibDem)

    The problem with criticizing the LibDems for entering this coalition is in the second word in their name. They are, in fact, principled enough to form a democratically mandated coalition even with a party they and most of their members loath on a physical level. Because they’re democrats.

    My main criticism of the party for some time has been too much Democrat, not enough Liberal. It’s why I’m not a member. But their actions here are most certainly principled. Joining the coalition was not the easy route to success, it was a move which (as you say) may damage them very badly. They did it because it fulfilled their democratic principles.

    The budget sucks; I’m an independent small business owner in a much-villified sector. But I’m very glad that (for example) Theresa May has Lynne Featherstone standing behind her rather than being able to make shit up as she goes along.

    Would I have rather seen a Lab/Lib coalition? Yes. But I would genuinely have rather not seen a Lib/NuLab coalition. Cameron’s Tories are actually less evil.

  2. …and of course the fate of parties who’ve joined up with the Tories in the past is worth recalling. Where are the Liberal Unionists and Liberal Nationals/National Liberals now? Oh…

  3. Hi John,

    It’s not very democratic if they carry out lots of things they have no mandate for, especially things like hte VAT rise, that the Tories have no mandate for either.

    It’s a majority when put together – but a majority didn’t vote for it.

    “They did it because it fulfilled their democratic principles.”

    I think they did it to scotch the argument that third parties have no point to them. Which is a shame, because it’s actually turning out to prove exactly that.

    “But I would genuinely have rather not seen a Lib/NuLab coalition. Cameron’s Tories are actually less evil.”

    I take it you’re not really into public services…

  4. Public services, well it depends on what public services your talking about, in my area the bins are collected by a private firm, the redundancies package is four weeks thanks a lot your gone, the pension plan is well take it out your self. Of course the council next door pays 7.50 an hour, good pensions and a dam sight better redundancies, whats the difference, well the council next door is now going to make 1,000 people redundant.

    I’ve said it before it was Brown who stated he wanted 100,000 civil servants laid off, they closed the benefits office in my area, they closed the tax office, and they tried to close the job center but had to reopen it.

    The fact is if labour was in power now we’d be coming through the same cuts OK they might have taken longer to hit the same level, and if anyone tells me saving are not cuts your raving mad.

    Whats the difference between new labour and the Tories , because I’ve no idea.

  5. Cutting more slowly means more people in employment for longer for a start. It also means you can look more at cutting new investment, rather than cutting things you have already begun spending on.

    I think we should try to push for revenue neutral, i.e. spend an equivalent amount on new investment to everything wasteful you cut back. Probably the bulk of it would be tax breaks on R & D.

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