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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Third Way Out of the LibDem Coalition Dilemma. None of the above. Get the Power off the Sofas and into Parliament Where it Belongs.

 

All the talk is of the Liberal Democrats becoming part of a coalition government. The advantages and otherwise of all the possible coalition permutations have been discussed in their minutiae.

The LibDem quandary is that forming any sort of coalition in the current circumstances is effective electoral suicide. The LibDems are ideologically incompatible with the Conservatives at the grass roots level. As for Labour, Rainbow Alliance or no, the numbers just don’t stack up.

Yet despite this coalition mine field the LibDems are in danger of developing tunnel vision, becoming so obsessed on the idea of coalition government that they fail to see the bigger picture and the Third Way.

The reality is that the LibDems do not have the electoral mandate to be this important in deciding the hue of the next government. If the electorate had wanted the LibDems to have this power they would have increased the number of LibDem MP’s not decreased them.

With no electoral mandate and no obvious coalition partner the LibDems should take a deep breath, take a step back and decline to form a coalition with either of the two main parties. Perhaps this will mean that they will not, in the short term, get Electoral Reform but in the short term Electoral Reform is unlikely anyway because the Conservative Party and enough Labour MPs just don’t want it. Instead what the LibDems can achieve by eschewing coalition government is the knocking of Presidential politics into touch and the dragging back of power to it’s rightful and constitutional home, Parliament.

Let the Conservatives form a minority Government and allow Parliament to debate and scrutinise their policies. Get the power off the sofas and back into Parliament where it belongs.

If Parliamentary debates actually have to persuade and each and every vote is crucial then people will pay attention. Increasing public engagement with politics, in particular the workings of Parliament, is more important than going for broke on electoral reform. Besides electoral reform has built up a momentum of it’s own and what better way to demonstrate how it could work than genuine Parliamentary Politics where persuasion, not a massive majority, is the order of the day.