On Sept 5 2014 Labour’s readiness to work with the LibDems secured a stunning victory on the Bedroom Tax.
Perhaps that brings back memories of May 2010.
Remember May 2010? That was when Gordon Brown paid the price for causing the world economic banking crisis by allowing poor people to live in houses with extra bedrooms.
It was when the LibDems chose to go into Coalition with the Tories – and so, among other things, to punish those poor people who had obviously caused the melt down of the financial system.
The sight of Labour and LibDems voting together on 5 September perhaps made some people feel it might all have been different.
It prompted one of our members to send us this review of Andrew Adonis’s book about May 2010.
Alas, that book makes it very clear that the LibDems deliberately chose the Tories – and that they did so because they were basically in agreement with the Tories’ economic viewpoint.
‘I have just been reading Five Days in May, Andrew Adonis’s insider account of the negotiations which ended in the formation of the Tory-Lib Dem government. Adonis argues that a Labour-Lib Dem coalition could have been perfectly practicable instead.
Nick Clegg maintained that there was a constitutional duty for the party holding the balance to seek first a coalition with the party which won most seats and most votes. There is no such constitutional rule in Britain, and in Europe, where coalitions have been more common, it is neither the rule nor the accepted practice.
It was also said that the figures just did not add up for a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. Adonis argued then, and argues now, that they did add up. The Tories had 307 MPs, Labour plus Lib Dems 315, just 11 short of an overall majority. But in a crucial vote of confidence it would have been electoral suicide for the 9 Welsh and Scottish nationalist MPs to bring down a Labour-Lib Dem coalition and let the Tories in. From Northern Ireland, the SDLP MPs would have been likely to vote with Labour, the 5 Sinn Fein MPs would be absent, and the 9 DUP MPs were at daggers drawn with Cameron’s Tories, who had sided with the Ulster Unionists against the DUP. The one Green MP would have been unlikely to back the Tories.
Friday’s vote on the bedroom tax, in which the Tories were roundly defeated, in spite of their three-line whip, their filibustering and their wrecking points of order, suggests that Adonis was right.
So why did the negotiations on those five days not produce a Labour-Lib Dem coalition? In important areas Labour was offering a better deal than the Tories.
Not only would Labour have given a vote and a referendum on PR, Labour would also have backed a form of PR.
Labour would have gone along with the Lib Dems in reforming the House of Lords into an elected second chamber.
And there would be no prospect of a rapid exit from Europe under a Labour-Lib Dem coalition.
If Gordon Brown was the problem, Brown, prepared as he was to do anything to save the country from a Tory government, offered to stand down as Prime Minister within two months – surely the minimum time needed to elect a new leader.
The Labour negotiating team thought that their meetings with the Lib Dem team went well, and that an agreement on key issues was reachable. They were astonished by media reports that, according to the Lib Dems, they had gone very badly.
What was bad about them? Reference was made to the hostile body language, especially of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. This sounds like an excuse, and also wimpish. Anyone who quakes at a frown from the two Eds should lie down in a darkened room and continue taking the pills.
In May 2010, the Lib Dems went first to the Tories, and throughout spent many more hours negotiating with them. The conclusion is irresistible that from the outset THAT was the coalition they wanted.
Adonis maintains that on the crucial issues of the economy, on austerity, on public spending cuts and the shrinking of the state, the leading Lib Dems were in complete accord with the Tories.
On these issues, not even a Lib Dem flysheet could have been inserted between them and George Osborne.
For this reason they were reluctant to permit a meeting between Alistair Darling and Vince Cable to seek common ground.
The Orange Book Liberals, including that book’s author David Laws and also Nick Clegg, are Neocons, and to them a coalition with the Tories was the obvious answer.
Nick Clegg made strenuous efforts to keep the negotiation with Labour going, begging Gordon Brown not to go to the palace to resign.
Adonis argues this was in no way an indication that Clegg was sincere in considering a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. He was stringing Brown along, using the threat of a deal with Labour to get more out of the Tories.
Clegg was playing a hand: and subsequent events have shown just how badly he played it.
Brown and his close advisers soon recognized what was going on, and the car was ordered to take the Prime Minister to see the Queen.
So what Adonis’s book shows is that it was not the case that the Lib Dems had no realistic option other than to go into coalition with the most right-wing Tory government since the Second World War: rather, they gladly chose to do so.’
May 2010 – a sorry tale. September 2014 – might it have been different?
Adonis’s blow by blow account suggests not.
The LibDems CHOSE the Tories – not in spite of the Tories’ right wing economic doctrines, but largely BECAUSE of them.
Without May 2010 there would have been no need for September 2014 – because there would have been no Bedroom Tax.
But then, those wicked poor people who brought us all to financial ruin would not have been punished.
Surely we couldn’t have had that.
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