I have some sympathy for the beleaguered Lib Dems as they limp home for the hols. They say to each other, for very few others are listening, that we may have got in with the devil but at least – and at last – we are IN, we are part of our government with a chance to implement all those Lib Dem policies ao endlessly, and seemlessly, talked through at innumerable Party Conferences. Hurrah. At least one and half cheers.Well I must remind them of yesteryear when the Alliance seemed poised to sweep Labour to one side and, if not to replace the Tories, to relegate Labour to the dustbin of history. It didn’t happen. Labour reformed itself under first, the unlikely Kinnock, then Smith, Blair and Brown. Thirteen years of Labour government became history.
Now the Lib Dems have advanced further: first in Local Government, in a sizeable national vote, a popular leader in Cleggie and a half-toxic Tory Party. It has been enough to open the door to Government: one shove and they were in. Fix the rules and keep yourself in for five years, gerrymander the voting system and the Coalition and the Lib Dems will be there for a generation.
Is that how it will turn out? Maybe – but maybe not.There are two other possible outcomes. If a General Election were held soon the Tories would very likely win ouright, the Lib Dems would do badly (and in the local elections) and a stronger Labour performance would put them in a position to replace a subsequently unpopular Tory Party. No breaking of the mould. Or, and I think quite likely, at some time and probably sooner than most commentators think the Coalition will collapse and Labour will win in an early General Election.
I believe in the good sense of the electorate. If voters believe that the Coalition is bad for jobs, benefits, health, education and public security – and for THEIR families, they will find a way to get rid of it. There is a simple way to begin. Reject voting reform in the AV referendun and inflict a devastating defeat on the Coalition parties in next May’s Local Elections – those outcomes will signal the end of the Coalition.
So what are the odds of breaking the mould? Not bad. Its fortunes are so tied in to our economic fortunes that I am inclined to follow Sir Alan Budd’s fan charts in making a prediction The OBR budget report tells us that the Coalition Government’s economic policies have a 40 percent chance of success. (Why then are they still smiling?) It follows that there is a 60% chance that they will fail (there would be several million familes without a smile).
Events may favour you but still you fail. Those of us who wish the Coalition to be swept from office before the fabric of our social life is irrepararably torn down are dependant upon a resurgent Labour Party. And what are the odds of that? If history gives us a Labour revival for a second time the Coalition will not have broken the mould. It will have been pushed into the long grass. Hypocrite, I hear you cry. In favour of changing the party system and when given the opportunity you draw back and would wish to deny it. Well, yes, I am in favour but not this way and not with the Tories. I am in favour of embedding progressive not reactionary government; of an enabling State and not a disabling right wing, somewhat nasty, Tory administration. Lib Dem supporters have grown uneasy at these choices and it is to their credit. As for the Tories, do I hear the cries of cut and run?