Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Bought & sold for Lib Dem Gold

With the coalition now agreed and the government posts being handed out like sweets, there's some analysis of the Lib Dem position to be made.

Firstly, the list of Cabinet (and sub-Cabinet) posts they have gotten.  Five Cabinet seats and FIFTEEN junior ministerial roles, if rumours are to believed.  Those announced thus far:

Nick Clegg - Deputy Prime Minister
Vince Cable - Business Secretary
Chris Huhne - Energy/ Climate Change Secretary
Danny Alexander - Secretary of State for Scotland
David Laws - Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Plus the junior positions too.

Secondly, policy.  According to the BBC, as part of the deal the Lib Dems have:
  • Secured fixed term parliaments - for 5 and not 4 year terms.
  • Dropped plans for mansion tax.
  • Got Tories to drop changes to inheritance tax.
  • Changes to threshold for income tax in line with LD policy.
But they have also agreed:
  • Not to push to adopt Euro.
  • To accept a referendum on transfer of power to EU.
  • A cap on non-EU immigration.
  • Tory recognition of marriage in tax system.
  • To DROP OPPOSITION to Trident.
  • To accept a referendum on Alternative Vote - a non-proportional electoral system to replace FPTP, a non-proportional electoral system.
As I mentioned yesterday, a decision to take power - particularly for the first time - is a difficult one to take.  Basing it, as Muller & Strom did, on the Policy-Office-Votes triumvirate, there are some conclusions to be drawn.  We can't evaluate it on votes yet, since that will come at the end of the parliamentary term/ fall of the coalition - and the electorate will deliver that judgement.  But from what has emerged of the coalition agreement (policies) marked against the rumoured Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions (office) we can (or at least I can) see a clear winner.

If you asked someone in the immediate aftermath of the TV debates to tell you what the Lib Dems stood for, you'd probably get an answer that resembled "pro-Europe, pro-immigration, pro-political (electoral) reform and anti-Trident". And yet, in the coalition agreement, they've accepted limits on non-EU immigration, a referendum (which would likely respond negatively) to any future transfer of powers upwards to the EU, a referendum on a new electoral system that is no more proportional than the current one and will accept the Tory plan to renew Trident while they drop opposition to it.  Sure, they've got some policy concessions, but those were KEY policies and they've been ditched or watered down.  So, policy considerations for taking office look rather weak.

On the other hand, the Tories were so keen to form a government that they've allowed the Lib Dems to have a large hand in running departments, replacing five Tories who had been shadowing departments in opposition with Lib Dem Cabinet Secretaries and giving plenty of junior portfolios to the Lib Dems.  In other (and perhaps rather harsh) words, the Lib Dems have put the spoils of office ahead of policy concerns.  

If that is indeed how it transpires, how will the electorate respond after five years (or, indeed, five months - however long this lasts!) to these Lib Dem considerations of how to form a coalition government?


DougtheDug 12 May 2010 at 13:54  

But they have also agreed:

They never opposed Trident just the costs of renewing it.

They always wanted a new sub-launched nuclear missile system, just a bit cheaper than the system the Tories and the Labour party wanted.

All they've compromised on here is the cost.

Malc 12 May 2010 at 14:44  

Well... maybe. Their manifesto (pg 16 of the Scottish version) is perhaps deliberately unclear:

"Saying no to the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which could cost £100 billion. We will hold a full
defence review to establish the best alternative for Britain's future security."

That's what it says. But Clegg was, in the debates, pretty clear. He DID call for it to be scrapped. So yes, there's no real clarity. But I think a majority of Lib Dem activists would say that they were opposed to Trident - which might be the ball game later.

Doug Daniel 12 May 2010 at 15:54  

The Trident issue was a perfect example of media compliance. When Nick Clegg stated their position, he should have been properly challenged, particularly about what it was that the Lib Dems actually oppose in regards to Trident. He should have been forced to admit that the Lib Dems are very much in favour of nuclear weapons and were actually just interested in saving a couple of million quid. It was one of many things where the Lib Dems have been allowed to present the idea that they're different from the other two, when in reality they're all on the exact same page.

I have to say, I was wary of Nick Clegg when he first became leader. The only discernible difference between him and Chris Huhne seemed to be that Huhne was less pro-nuclear. I wonder if things would be any different if he'd been the Lib Dem leader?

DougtheDug 12 May 2010 at 16:02  


"Saying no to the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which could cost £100 billion. We will hold a full
defence review to establish the best alternative for Britain's future security."

It's perfectly clear. They want to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system but not with something which replicates Trident down to the last sub and missile.

I read somewhere that sub-launched nuclear cruise missiles rather than the ballistic missiles of Trident were the preferred option.

If Clegg's public utterances and the Manifesto simply don't match up that's no surprise to me.

Caron 12 May 2010 at 16:33  

I don't think this is fair. I think there's a very genuine attempt to try and build a decent Government.

I don't think it's money at all - if anything, it's like "Nick and Dave play the West Wing" - they seem almost caught up in the drama they're creating and they're loving every second of it. You get the feeling that they're actually excited by the chance to do something different.

How it'll all be when they really have to deal with the proper stuff I don't know. I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. The last thing I ever thought I would be doing in politics is working with Tories.

I think it's worth doing, though. The country's in a financial mess,there's an argument it needs a more stable government than the Tories doing it as a minority would have provided.

You're wrong to say we've sold out - we were never going to join the Euro anyway in this 5 year period.

Re Trident, as a fully paid up peace loving hippy, nothing other than getting rid of all nuclear weapons will satisfy me. I can't get that in my own party so I had no illusions of it being in any coalition agreement.

We also got Calman, which the Tories were trying to wriggle out of, back on the agenda. Also better FOI and our Freedom Bill and abolishing ID cards

And our pupil premium

And Vince is in charge of the banks.

Yeah, there are things in there that make me spit nails. There is no way on earth I'm going to be able to stand by calmly and watch us enable Tory welfare reform measures. The marriage thing, although we've got an opt out, it's only to abstain, not vote against. And immigration too is not going to be pleasant to support.

The Party's taken a massive risk with this - it could be committing electoral suicide, especially up here. They really think that they can deliver on this. I'm not entirely convinced, but I'm prepared to give it a chance.

The deal's also been backed by the MPs and the Federal Executive and neither body is known for its willingness to bend to the Leaders' wishes. People I trust on there went into the meeting intending to vote against and actually voted for it once they saw the detail.

Malc 12 May 2010 at 16:43  


"Sold out" is your phrase, not mine. All I implied was that Lib Dem gold (as in the party colour, though it worked in well) that had bought the new government. And I think that shows in what came out of the agreement.

I do think that this is a good attempt at building a secure government. And I applaud Nick Clegg for looking at national interest over party interest. I'm just not convinced that the Lib Dems get that much out of it.

I know you were never going to join the Euro in 5 years - but it IS a key plank of Lib Dem policy, easily thrown away for coalition. But as you say - we don't really know the ins and outs of it.

I did conclude by saying that the electorate will have the judgement on this - whenever the next election is. All I'm saying thus far is that it looks - from my point of view - that the Lib Dems have a lot of government posts but not much in the way of policy to show for it.

K 12 May 2010 at 20:12  

To be fair it was always going to be a tough decision. I still think the Lib Dems will tame the worst of the Tories. It'll be interesting to see how they actually govern. Considering the alternatives, I think both Cameron and Clegg have come out well out of this and deserve our support. Both men did what their old guard would never have done and compromised for the sake of the country. I’m pleased that we now have a whole new generation in charge after all those years with the Boomers running things. As the Independent predicted last week ( “the torch has been passed” from the Boomers to Generation Jones. Cameron and Clegg are both members of the latter.

voiceofourown 12 May 2010 at 23:59  

Caron wrote: We also got Calman, which the Tories were trying to wriggle out of, back on the agenda.

Control over water pistols and canine spectacles?
Rather less ambitious than you would expect from a federalist party.
Whither the Steele report, Caron?

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