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.
- 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.
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?