May 14, 2007

The Liberal Post-Mortem

Most observers in the UK consider that the next election could produce a hung Parliament- which would require a coalition of two of the three main parties in order for their to be a sustainable governing majority in the House of Commons. Obviously as yet we don't know what will happen- but its worth considering.

Especially in the light of the local election results- the Liberal Democrats in particular seem to have suffered losses on what Sarah Teather on the night described as a mixed night for them. One of their leading bloggers musing about the results, argued that two of the three reasons for failure were that Liberal Democrats ran councils as a minority and weren't able to achieve much- and that in Scotland the Liberals got thumped for Labour mistakes.

The Norfolk Blogger (for it is he) describes very adequately some of the dangers that the liberals may face soon in national politics- for the last scenario he maps out in particular may turn out to be the Liberal fate in the event of a hung Parliament- especially were they to keep Labour in office. Its an interesting dilemma for the liberals- reflected at local level- that to get into power they need a coalition and yet a coalition could prove their undoing.


Richard Havers said...

I've thought for a long while that we'll end up like the US in a two party system.

Vino S said...

I think a 3-party system is inherently dangerous for the 3rd party. In a hung parliament, where they have to choose which of the two main parties to back - then they run a huge risk of alienating half their voters. That's why countries with PR tend to tend towards 4+ party systems. For example, in Germany the liberals (FDP) are much weaker than here because left-liberals tend to vote for the Greens. That is because it is clear, from experience, that the FDP will tend to back the Christian Democrats. Those who don't like this but don't see themselves as social democrats thus vote for the Greens to provide a left-wing 'minor party' that makes it possible to give voters two choices (in most elections apart from the last one) - a CDU/FDP coalition or a SPD/Green coalition.

El Dave. said...

I should declare an interest by saying that I am in favour of PR.

Labour largely regard the LibDems as poisonous. There is an impression that there are many councils where Labour is the largest party but the LibDems support the Tories to form an administration.

Given the strength of the SNP, the weakness of the LibDems and the potential closeness of the election, it is entirely possible that Labour may have the option of forming a coalition with either or both of Plaid and the SNP. The role of the SDLP may be important (although equally the DUP or UU might ally with the Tories, particularly as Trimble sits as Tory in the Lords and the Tories are officially the Conservative and Unionist Party).

There may also need to be a period of political change and/or maturation as people adjust to a government where no one party has an overall majority. It is, for instance, possible to offer confidence and supply but not enter the government; that is to say, remaining outside the Cabinet, voting on individual issues but guatanteeting to vote for a minority government's budget (guaranteeting supply) and for the government in any confidence vote. That would imply that a smaller party recognises that it can't form a government but believes the general direction of the largest party is acceptable. It also allows for extraction of a particular concession - so Plaid might want a Welsh Parliament as in Scotland instead of an Assembly.

I will probably live to eat these words, but we can say fairly certainly that there will not be a coalition of national unity between Labour and the Tories!

El Dave. said...

Richard - with reference to Vino's point about the Red/Green vs FDP/CSU/CDU alliances in Germany, you could say that you have two parties but where people have a stronger say over what falvour of policies they want without entering the formal party structure.