I started an interesting and challenging new job this week. Yet, while trying to get to grips with a new organisation, new tasks, and new colleagues I have been acutely aware of those other Liberal Democrats also starting new jobs. Admittedly their new roles are an order of magnitude more interesting and challenging than mine. However, the urge to be home watching the news channels, reading the web and blogging about it all has been intense.
So what do I make of a full blown Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition government? Well apart from being staggered, bewildered, astonished, gob smacked and hugely flummoxed, I am nervously excited. I am excited because change opens up opportunities and politics has really changed radically this week. I am nervous because the risk for my party is huge. If we get this wrong it could destroy us.
I wrote on Monday lunchtime about rational reasons why I could support a deal with the Tories. But I surprised myself during the period between then and the making of the deal with how emotionally comfortable with that idea I had become.
This says a lot about my personal desire for a change of national direction. But it is also about the attitude displayed by the Labour Party. The Labour Party is the reason why I support this coalition deal.
I shall explain why.
I wrote on Monday of the need for new leadership and stable government. How we needed this to tackle the economic situation and carry out political reform. And that a deal with Conservatives could be in the national interest if it could deliver this. But I added a caveat that substantial and meaningful political reform had to be a central part of the package and that this had to include proper reform of the voting system. If it didn’t it would not be acceptable.
I don’t fully understand the nature and implications of the referendum on AV, but I don’t think it is enough. We have got an elected upper house and fixed term parliaments as well as some other really good reforms, but AV is not proportional representation.
Oh and where is STV for local government elections? I want what Scotland has got. Did we argue for this?
AV is not good enough. So I should be saying no to the deal. But I am not.
The reason why is the realisation of just how utterly incapable of rising to the occasion the Labour Party was. It wasn’t just all those Labour MPs that spoke out against doing a deal with the Liberal Democrats because of tribalism, fear of true radical reform of the political system, perceived partisan advantage, or just that they preferred opposition to the hard choices of government. It was also the arrogance and the complete failure to grasp the reality of the situation displayed by the Labour negotiators.
As James Graham says in his excellent article on Comment is Free;
“For me, this represents a final let-down by the Labour party after 13 years of disappointments. It has become a hollow shell of what it once was. There is hope that it can now reinvent itself as a genuinely progressive party that rediscovers the enthusiasm it once had for individual human dignity. Sadly, however, the early signs show that it is going to retrench into a tribalist sect interested only in gaining outright power for itself. The fact that two of the things the Labour negotiating team would not even contemplate was dismantling the database state and ending the detention of immigrant children makes you realise quite how corrupted the party has become in office.”
It is not just that the Labour Party doesn’t deserve to be in government, as tired and as hollowed out as they are; they are no longer capable of meeting the challenges of government.
This coalition will be good for the country and I will support it. Whether it is good for the Liberal Democrats remains to be seen.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.