Monday, March 31, 2008

LibDems: Tory Coalition No Longer Unthinkable

CentreForum, a LibDem inclined think tank has today published a paper arguing that LibDem-Conservative could collaborate in a future government. Even five years ago such thoughts would have been considered heresy by the majority of LibDems. How times have changed. The document begins...
By challenging the Conservatives to become more socially liberal, David Cameron has made his party less objectionable to Liberal Democrats. By challenging the Liberal Democrats to become more economically liberal, Nick Clegg has made his party less objectionable to Conservatives. And by developing a similar liberal critique of the current government – as too centralised, too big and too interfering – Cameron and Clegg have committed their parties to the same over-arching political challenge: to break decisively from New Labour’s top down, centrally planned approach to governance and put real power back in the hands of the British people.

And it concludes...
The election of a self styled ‘liberal Conservative’ as Tory leader should have increased the likelihood of meaningful co-operation between the two parties. So far, such co-operation has been conspicuous only by its absence. There are several reasons for this.

First, the parties have spent most of the last century and a half eyeing each other suspiciously over the progressive-conservative divide. This mutual suspicion runs deep and will not be quickly or easily overcome. Policy positions may be ever changing, but the culture of a party, and the core instincts of its members, are not.

Second, there are good reasons to believe that the Conservative party is not engaged in as fundamental a re-invention as David Cameron would like the electorate to believe. At its 2007 conference, the party committed to reducing significantly the number of foreigners entering the UK, increasing the number of people in prison, and introducing a £3 billion tax cut for the wealthiest families in the country. Meanwhile, its hostility towards the European Union remains undiminished. Such an agenda can be justified, but not by reference to liberalism.

Third, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives remain in direct opposition in much of the country, particularly in suburban and rural England where Labour has little or no real presence. As long as the success of each party depends on the failure of the other, co-operation will prove difficult, if not impossible.

However, none of these factors obscures the central point: that the Liberal Democrats are today closer to the Conservative Party than they have been for many years. By attacking the government from the left, Charles Kennedy, an instinctive social democrat, managed to distance his party from Labour without ever bringing it closer to the Conservatives (a policy continued by Menzies Campbell). The same cannot be said of Nick Clegg, an instinctive liberal with no interest in leading Britain’s most left wing party. Under his leadership, the Liberal Democrats have resumed a position of ‘equidistance’ between the other two parties – a position they will attempt to hold until the next general election. If that election proves inconclusive, no one can predict with certainty which way Clegg and his colleagues might jump – something that could not have been said of the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy or Sir Menzies Campbell.

CentreForum is very influential in LibDem circles. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the party leadership "encouraged" them to write this paper as a kite flying exercise to gauge the party reaction. No mention of it on any of the LibDem blogs I regularly look at. Perhaps I can spur them into reaction! Anyway, read the whole document HERE and tell me what you make of it.


asquith said...

"Second, there are good reasons to believe that the Conservative party is not engaged in as fundamental a re-invention as David Cameron would like the electorate to believe".

Well, DUH.

If the Lib Dems ever entered such a coalition (which I don't think they will), I'd be on the outside condemning it. Just like the Asquithian (true) Liberals condemned the falsehoods and errors of Lloyd George and his acolytes.

But I will concede that on a lot of matters, we can form a joint force against Labour. And if there were a minority Conservative govenrment, the Lib Dems should support it on some/most issues, on a case by case basis.

But it would be an error to subsume our identity in a coaliton.

Anonymous said...

Iain you are a closet libdem and always have been.

It is time to confront your lifestyle choice and come out to your friends and your readers. These days its nothing to be ashamed of (even though you should rot in hell with a red hot poker up your bum.)

As I have suspected, you really want to embrace Nick Clegg, smack Vince Cable a high five and go all fluffy and inclusive.

Go on, you know you want to, you perv.

Anonymous said...

If this should ever happen - then I would resign form the Conservative Party - It is another attempt by the Dims of 'lets get in under any means whatever' - talk about party first, country second, they are the most untrustworthy party ever.......
josephine - Eastbourne

Dave Cole said...

A couple of points. If the LibDems are going for equidistance, will they find a constituency that is not siphoned off to one of the other parties? In essence, is their enough clear blue/red/yellow water between the two parties to allow a third?

There are, as the document points out, some interesting areas of commonality between the Cameroon end of the Tories and the Orange Book LibDems. However, there are certainly some LibDems who would be, ahem, very upset if there was pact between LibDems and Labour, not least the people who left Labour to form the SDP. There are also plenty of Tories - enter Nadine Dorries, stage right - who wouldn't be overly happy at the prospect.

Can you clarify, Iain, that you're not flying a kite for anyone either :) ?

Iain Dale said...

Dave, not sure what you are hinting at!

Anonymous said...

As a Conservative I'm strongly against any such coalition. I'd not vote Conservative if they tried this on. What I hate more than a Labour government is a government with LibDems in it. The LibDems are the most pro-EU party, what they crave deeply is for British self-government to be completely given to EU institutions and they will not rest until we are a completely subjugated people.

Ted Foan said...

Don't ever trust a LibDem. He speaks with forked tongue.

Newmania said...

Honestly Iain , I expect better of you . How can you print this transparently propagandist Lib Dem dog whistle to wavering Conservatives . Can I remind you that Nick Clegg only just won against the socialist Huhne and that the Lib Dem Party was at about 4% until the SDP decanted into it getting up to the teens . It is a socialist Party which after Blair is if anything the left of Labour . There may well be socially Liberal Libertarians nervous about the Conservative party that we should do more to welcome but colluding in this fiction of the Liberal Party’s equidistance makes about as much sense as taking their stupid EU position seriously .

There has been nothing in the Press recently except the threat of a Lib Pact over Constitutional reform ,or as I call it the Brown/ Mugabe approach to losing elections . It has been taken for granted by every commentator I have seen that the deal on the table is Brown and Clegg .

If they do not lie bout it they will have nothing to deal with will they ? Duh…Furthermore the polls have moved decisively to the right and what do we see the lying scum bag saying ..well exactly what they have said before at opportune moments and exactly what we could have predicted all too easily.

“no one can predict with certainty which way Clegg and his colleagues might jump”

Yes I can ;Labour .Clog`s Party will not have it any other way and he has little power in a Party who only elected him as their front man and could hardly bear to do that. You will note that all his orange flavoured reforms have gone dead quiet once he was installed a telling sign.

Iain this was certainly floated out of the Lord Haw haw Lib Dem PR machine. The truth is vote Clog , get Brown and then get some AV or PR formula to kill of Conservatives forever


Trust the Lib Dems

You have always been far to kind about them in my humble opinion. We can deal with the worries of liberal minded centrist people of course we must do , but not that invidious lie machine , not now not ever.

Anonymous said...

I have to confess to laughing my arse off every time the Pointless Party goes off into one of these little reveries and then emerges to tell us, de haut en bas, that they may be prepared to consider a coalition with X.

It's really simple - the only circumstances in which anyone esle would consider a coalition with the Lib Dhimms is if they were the largest party in a hung parliament.

Given that the Tories look like being that party this time round, the socialists of the Lib Dhimm Party are simply flocking towards the current best hope of some power. If it were Labour that looked like it were going to be the biggest party they'd be talking up the common ground they have with them.

What they have is greed for power at any cost and not a principled bone in their bearded, jelly-like bodies. They are useless, amoral bunch of ideological prostitutes.

asquith said...

Newmania, Huhne is not, and never has been a socialist. He certainly has a valuable role to play in the Lib Dem party and is a great contributor to liberal thought. And his opinions are nothing like as far removed from Clegg's as you assume: all parties, especially the Tories, have differences of views but at least we don't have fully-fledged factions like your lot. I suggest that you stop maligning someone who is worth a lot more than you'll ever be.

Anonymous said...

WALOS ( What A Load Of S***)- that's what i think about this! The point should be: 'Have the Liberal Democrats made THEMSELVES less objectionable to Conservative supporters?' I don't think so. I would not support ANY government entering a coalition with such two faced jumper wearing twats. They colluded with Lying Labour over mass immigration over the last 10 years, which has shown to be of no benefit to the country (in today's Express & Mail- with thanks to the appropriate commitee in Parliament). They colluded over anti-English sentiment in their 'devolution' soiree's with Bliar. LibDems are 'beyond the pale' as far as i'm concerned.

Bob Piper said...

Nicholas said... "As a Conservative I'm strongly against any such coalition. I'd not vote Conservative if they tried this on."

Nicholas, you poor deluded fool. Do you really imagine the Lib Dems would stitch up this deal in public BEFORE an election? Get a grip, man. You will have already voted before Clegg starts creeping around the darker corridors of Westminster to try to get his hush puppies under the Cabinet table of whichever Party offers him the most.

You may be deluded, Nicholas, newmania, as ever, just doesn't have the brains to work this out.

Dave Cole said...

Iain @ 1110 - not hinting at anything at all **whistles innocently**

If the Lib Dems offered the Tories confidence and supply but didn't join the government, would that placate those within the Tory party who would baulk at going into coalition with the LibDems?

Anonymous said...

"At its 2007 conference, the party committed to reducing significantly the number of foreigners entering the UK"

Usual Libdum gullible nonsense.

Newmania said...

Thats a bit harsh Mr. Piper I was saying much the same thing as you. You are quite right , this can only be propoganda and the deal will be done afer the election.

I only say it will only be done with Labour.

Asquith you call yourself after a PM who did not notice the First World War coming. You have chosen well.

Anonymous said...

Wrinkled I think Iain is a closet liberal which is not at all the same as being a LibDim.

However it takes 2 to tango & if the Tories aren't willing to offer anything, & by anything I mean a democratic electoral system, the LDs would be fools to prop up a Troy government. Ovet to Dave.

Asquith I am firmly on the opposite side in the argument over whether the party should be run by Asquith or Lloyd George but I don't drag it into modern issues.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Piper": I was talking about voting Conservative after a coalition deal. I thought that would have been extremely obvious. I guess not to grey-haired, senile Labour retards like yourself.

Bob Piper said...

Nickelarse, if you wouldn't vote for them after they've become the government that would really upset them, wouldn't it?

And you've got the nerve to call me a retard? Come back newmania, all is forgiven, I've found one dafter!

Newmania said...

Neil Craig- there is a snowball`s chance in hell of Labour-lite backing the Conservative Party.
Vote Clegg , get Brown its that simple.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. If that's the best come-back you had then you should get your doctor to check you out for Alzheimer's, then zimmer-frame back to your old people's home.

asquith said...

Neil Craig and Newmania, my point is that if the Tories and Lib Dems formed a colaition, I'd be joining the liberal opposition to said coalition, and so would most of the Lib Dems I know. Although you might not have suspected it, there are limits to my loyalty to Clegg! And if he did such a thing, I'd be against him...

But then, it's profoundly unlikely to happen anyway.

People who vote Clegg do so because they want to have Clegg. Your sloganising won't get you anywhere. We are equidistant between Labour and Conservative. Despite your persistent claims to the contrary, we don't carry a torch for clunking fist.

neil craig said...

Asquith if you are equidistant that means the party, or at least you & your firends, would never join a Labour coalition either, which suggests Newmania has overestimated your sense of political responsibility.

You make a persuasive case against PR since it implies coalition government. In such circumstances the LDs would always refuse the responsibility of government & would always create a minority government.

However I am not persuaded that you represent more than yourself (& perhaps friends) however it is for those within the party to disagree with you.

asquith said...

"Will I ever join a Conservative Government? No. Will I ever join a Labour Government? No. I will never allow the Liberal Democrats to be a mere annexe to another party's agenda."

So says, erm, a Mr. N. Clegg.

Camoron's "lovebombing" campaign shows how insincere and repulsive he really is. We know what the man wants, to pose as a liberal, steal the shadow of liberalism and ditch its substance so him and his Tory mates can go on in the time-honoured way.

And I for one will not be helping him do that.

Scipio said...

The right/left analysis doesn't work anymore. Far better to think of it as a triangle with socialism on one corner, liberalism on another and Conservatism on the other. Some Tory MPs are closer to an authoritarian Labour party than a liberatarian lib dem party. Some lib dems are closer to Labour on higher taxation than tax cutting Tories. each policy can be plotted within the triangle.
Draw the diagram and try it out - it works as a tool of analysis!

Wider points:
1. The Liberal Democats are NOT a socialist pary. They are a centre/centre left party which have expanded the thinkings of the Thomas Hill Green/Hobbhouse school of social liberalism which influenced the great liberal reforms of the late 19th and early 20th century. To call them socialist just because they believe in higher taxation than the Tories is lazy, and ignores the aspects of lib dem policy which is blatantly un-socilaist! We may not like them, but we should at least be honest about what they are!

Socialism is not defined by taxation alone. Unlike socialists, they believe that a meritocratic and just society which benefits the individual can be created within the framework of both democracy and the free market (and so do we). Socialists do not believe this and believe democracy and the free market should be overthrown for the collective good of all.

I would describe the Lib Dems as a social liberal party, the Labour party as a social democratic party, and the Tories as harder to define! Whilst both the Lib Dems and the Labour party have other parties which are identical to them in Europe, the Tories are unique, as we are not a christian democrat party, nor a nationalist party. We are in fact Europes only moderate right-wing party!

2. The Alliance with the SDP, later forming the Lib Dems clearly showed that most members then were mostly left of centre on social/tax issues. The last true old-school liberal in the liberal party was probably Grimmond!

3. Liberalism (as oppossed to lib demmism) has widely influenced the Conservative party. It's just that under Thatcher we were economically liberal, but didn;t see the disconnect where we needed to exand economic liberalism into social liberalism.

If I was to go back in time 100 years I would not feel comfortable with the high-Tories of that day, reactionary and oppossed to extending the franchise as they were. I would be somewhere between a Disraelian/Wilberforce Tory and a radical liberal (not a Gladstinian though).

4. Today's Tory party is much more like the late 19th cetury liberal party than it is the late 19th century Tory party. The tory party is increasingly influenced by libertarianism rather than liberliasm per se.

5. There is much common ground between lib dem MPs prepared to be honest about their liberalism, and socially liberal Tory MPs, and the only thing which stops them working together is stupid partisan dislike of the other party - which mostly eminantes from a local level.

7. There are however still significant differences between the bulk of lib dem MPs (non Orange book MPs) and economic right wingers in the Tory party.

8. It is perfectly possible to be socially liberal, committed to pluralism and much liberal thinking, but simply believe that economically, higher taxes are justified. You can be a high taxer but not a centraliser! Many lib dems are high tax, high spend - but devolve the spending away from central gov. They are pluralist rather than collectivist.

9. THere is more common ground between the Cameron and Clegg than between Cameron and Brown or Clegg and Brown. Clagg and Cameron could hold their noses and work together. Cameron and Brown - never. Brown hates Cameron and his class too much for that!

10. Finally - if working with Clegg is the cost we pay to get Brown and his sleazy cabal out of power, then let's negotiate!

Anonymous said...

asquith said...


And if he did such a thing, I'd be against him..."

"Camoron ...

And I for one will not be helping him do that."

Now that you've spoken they must both be bricking it.

Anonymous said...

I must admit to being disappointed that not a single LibDem reader here has come on disagree with Asquith & say that the party would ever enter a coalition government. If so what is the party for?

asquith said...

Excuse me, are you the same Neil Craig who got kicked out of the Lib Dems for being practically a UKIP member?

I agree with Adrian Yalland. On "The World's Smallest Political Quiz", I was on the exact border between left-liberalism and libertarianism. I strongly believe in personal freedom, and tend to be economically liberal, though I don't believe the market should be totally unfettered.

Scipio said...

Asquith - the difference between a left liberal and a right liberal (at least as far as I can see) is probably down to degrees. i.e. the degree of state involvement, and the degree of taxation.

I actually think that the Tory party are increasingly morphing into a liberal party - or at least a party which increasingly espouses liberal solutions to problems. Ironically, this is more confimed to social liberalism - where we are now more socially liberal than we have ever been before. Yet, on economic stuff, we seem to be buying more into the Blairite view that public spending is probably the best way to create a more just society.

Whilst I agree that some redistribution is an absolute essential, there is a moral and an economic case for lower taxes, and that lower taxes can benefit the less well off (and indeed they should benefit first).

asquith said...

Yes, Adrian. I think you're somewhat more economically liberal than I am. But you'll appreciate that I'm not a left-of-Labour socialist. I believe capitalism can bring prosperity to the worst off. But I also believe a capitalist society can only be just if there is some reasonable chance of social mobility, and I further believe that this requires state education, etc.

Additionally, investment in things like training for the long-term unemployed will reduce the demand for the state's welfare "services", and thus enable us to build a low-tax economy.

What I will say is that being "socially liberal" doesn't mean "not hating gays", it means actively having a compassionate approach. And I think a lot of Tories who call themselves socially liberal fall short of that.

Though having said all that, perhaps in a PR system where there were 5 or 10 parties, perhaps you and I would end up on the same side!

Scipio said...

Asquith. Under PR I would probably still vote Tory (assuming the Tory party didn't disintegrate into its constituent parts), but ideologically, I would describe myself as increasingly libertarian as oppossed to strict liberal.

However, go back a hundred years and I would almost certainly have been either a Disraelian Tory (influenced by the moral compassion of Wilberforce) or a radical liberal in favour of the various reform acts etc.

Social liberalism is wider than being 'tolerant' of minorities - true. And I am a social liberal in the sense that I believe in both tolerance/acceptance of minorities (although I am by no means a fan of multiculturalism, as this creates needless tensions) and the value of helping the 'worthy poor' - that is to say those who are willing to be helped. This probably comes from the fact that my family are all working class, but all have actually worked and suceeded for themselves. My mother and father hail from a council estate in Brixton, yet my mother, father, myself and all of my siblings either ran or run their own companies! We have the protestant work ethic, and we all believe that we, not the state, should benefit from our own hard work, securing the future of our families first and foremost.

I am a true believer in social mobility, and dislike the priveledges that certain people enjoy simply by the luck of their birth - at least if they haven't worked to earn it that is. I have zero problem with those who make their own wealth!

I am certianly no class hater like many lib dems and socialists are or seem to be. I think that most people born into priveledge recognise their luck, and are therefore amongst the most generous and charitable of types. THere are however some disagreeable ones - like DEreck Conway's brats with their 'f*** off I am rich' party! They give the middle class a bad name just as the Chav gives the working class a bad name.

I certianly don't buy into the rubbish that if you are born poor, then woe is you cos the system will repress you and keep you poor. I believe that inherited wealth, connections and priveledge give you an easier ride for sure, but that anyone can 'make it' if they really want to. So I am against bashing the rich on principle.

In essence, I dislike people being stereotyped by class, colour or creed, because we are all individuals. I believe only the individual knows what is best for the individual, and that the state will only ever try to find compromises which suit the majority - which is why the state should do less, and do what it does better. I dislike poverty - especially my own - and I believe that every vote should count equally, providing you are playing your part in building a better society, and not simply taking the rest of us for a ride. I think that just cos you are rich doesn't mean you should be milked, and that often those who contribute most to the taxman benefit the least from it, with those who contribute leaset benefitting most.

Therefore I want a social contract which recognises that whilst we are all in this together, and a degree of social collectivism is required to prevent civil unrest and the extremes of injustice which nam's cruelty will alwasy ensure (so I a a bit Burkean too), we still as individuals need to be able to pursue our own best interests (without interference from state or social pressure), providing we 'do no harm' to others.

I firmly believe that the state is usually NOT the best vehicle for geting things done (people are), and that post war history has shown that the more the state seeks to do for people, the less they are inclined to do it for themselves - leading to an ever more active and expansive state machinery, which will only ever seek to fill voids, leadin to poor delivery of services and ultimately compromise!

Classic Millian liberal thinking!

So, a smaller but better functioning state. Less regulation, but strong law and order on the things which really matter.

For example, give people the right to drink 24/7, but punish irresponsibility by the individual resulting from drunken behaviour - not force landlords to act like arms of the state and enforce standards of behaviour on people who are essentially only acting lawfully in drinking. It's a different approach - putting the onus back on the individual. Labour seek to deny the individual has any responsibility for his own actions, and that we should always seek to blame others for our situation - even when it is us drunk in the gutter!

I say we have to take responsibility for ourselves, and the state should force us too. Then we will be happy!

And here endeth the first lesson

asquith said...

I agree substantially with your views, Adrian. Do you see that we're actually quite close to each other in our thinking?

As it's just after lunch, I won't write a lengthly post! But I welcome the chance to talk to you on future occasions.

This is why you should get yourself a blog :)

Scipio said...

So Asquith - you going to come and join us on the Tory benches then?

As for the blog - I will, again, just when I have time!

asquith said...

No, Adrian, since your views are not common in the Tory party. There are still too many elements that I don't like. Apart from the usual Michael Howard-esque authoritarians, the majority of Tories (including the 2005 intake) have a fairly woeful record on such issues as the environment: I wouldn't be able to join forces with them if they're against me on something I regard as highly important.

Despite what I might say sometimes, I generally like what Cameron is doing. But I'll stay on the outside, keeping the fecker on his toes :)