On Coalitions

A lot of Labour supporters – and Green supporters – have been up in arms for the last day or so, practically frothing at the mouth and screaming because Nick Clegg has said that

if Labour gets the smallest share of the vote of the three main parties and the most seats, he would not tolerate Brown remaining prime minister.

(from here. Warning – Murdoch paper.)

A lot of Labour supporters seem to be seeing the Lib Dems as basically the same as Labour really (in the attitude that ‘Liberal’ Conspiracy takes), and as some kind of secret backup plan – and so they’ve been incredibly hurt by this, and got angry, accusing Clegg of saying he will form a coalition with the Conservatives, and screaming ‘vote Clegg get Cameron’.

But look at what he’s actually saying:
IF Labour come third in the vote
THEN we would not tolerate
GORDON BROWN remaining Prime Minister.

What this *DOESN’T* say:
We won’t work with Labour if they come second
We won’t work with Labour with another leader
We won’t work with Labour as the junior partner in a Lib Dem-led coalition.

It’s very simple – if Labour come THIRD (not second, note, THIRD), Gordon Brown doesn’t get to be Prime Minister any more. That’s all he’s said.

I’ve spent much of this election staggered at the sense of entitlement coming from the Tories, their sense that they don’t need to actually do anything because it’s their turn to be in power – but even they don’t have the nerve to suggest that IF THEY COME THIRD they should run the country, and be angry at A DIFFERENT PARTY for not agreeing with them about that.

Just to be clear, I don’t think we will form a coalition with the Tories – in fact I would leave the party if we did so, because I remember the Thatcher and Major years too well, and even though I actually have no rational basis for preferring Labour – both parties being evil, as far as I can see – I have a visceral, irrational hatred of the Tories. So if I thought I was supporting a Lib/Tory coalition, I would leave today. It’s not going to happen.

But all along Clegg has made clear exactly what would have to be agreed to form a coalition with either other major party – tax rises on the rich to pay for tax cuts for the poor, spending more on education for poor children, electoral reform and a change from an economy based on financial services to a more environmentally-friendly one. Those don’t sound especially Tory to me.

I suspect it simply never occurred to him until this week to say “the party with the most votes should be in charge” because it would take a sense of entitlement the size of a small galaxy to demand to still be in charge AFTER COMING THIRD, and to make that demand of a party WITH THE WORD ‘DEMOCRATS’ IN ITS NAME.

To be honest, I think Labour and the Tories would make better coalition partners together than either would with us. As I said in the comments to this post by millennium, “Let the war criminals and the idiot sons of privilege go into coalition together. They deserve each other.”

In this election, for the first time in my lifetime, there’s a chance for *REAL* change. Vote for the party *YOU WANT TO WIN*. If you want a bunch of corrupt war criminals, vote Labour. If you want a bunch of inbred aristocratic cretins who think they have a right to rule because their great-grandmother slept with the Queen, vote Tory. Me, I want a Liberal and Democratic government, so I’m voting Liberal Democrat.

But if the Liberal Democrats come third, I won’t go stamping my feet and demanding that Nick Clegg get to be Prime Minister anyway, as Labour supporters are already doing. Because I am mature enough to know that ‘coming third’ is not the same as ‘winning’.

The second part of my Beginners’ Guide will be up tonight.

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5 Responses to On Coalitions

  1. Oliver Townshend says:

    If Labour gets the lowest vote, Brown will stay Prime Minister and get form government unless Cameron and Clegg form a coalition. That’s the legal precedent, and was recently seen in my home state of Tasmania where a similar event happened. Its note as simple as Clegg would like to think, because the current Government are the ones who get the first chance to test on the floor of Parliament.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      If Labour gets the lowest vote *and highest number of seats* Labour will remain in government unless the other two parties form a coalition – crucial difference there. If the Tories get a higher number of seats they can form a minority government.

      To be honest if Labour *did* get most seats/fewest votes, we’d likely be in a 1974 situation and have another election in the autumn.

  2. Don says:

    A note to reinforce this point. Lord Ashdown has stated categorically that the Liberals will NOT form a coalition with the Tories, as they are simply too far apart ideologically.

    http://www.people.co.uk/showbiz/showbiz/tm_headline=ashdown-nick-dave-can-t-work&method=full&objectid=22210068&siteid=93463-name_page.html

    A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for the Liberal Democrats, or at the least a Liberal Democrat LED coalition.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Great prediction! So I assume that you are no longer a Liberal Democrat? : )

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      You assume wrong, but I can see why – among the *many* predictions I got wrong, I thought that the Tories would want to actually implement their manifesto in a coalition, instead of ours…

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