Friday, 3 August 2012

Cameron the Undeliverer - Is it time for Lib Dems to walk from Coalition?

So David Cameron is to drop Lord's Reform because he is unable to get the legislation past his backbenchers. There are also rumours about a similar thing has been happening to some other policies that are within the coalition agreement.

Now I'm not going to go into an argument here about how the Reform of the Lords is 100 years overdue, but its dropping is a catalyst to another story. I'm sure that Nick Clegg had a tough time with his backbenchers on issues such as Tuition Fees, Welfare Reform, the NHS and other issues. But by in large he has delivered those votes in the lobbies when it mattered, because when David Cameron said on the steps of Downing Street in May 2010 "We're all in this together" the Lib Dems accepted that.

The Conservative backbenchers seem to have forgotten that missive, they also seem to have forgotten that they did not win a majority back then and that a lot of the stuff that they wanted the Lib Dems have helped make happen at great cost to our membership, our vote and some say our political integrity. The last is a dubious point though. Yes we went into the election with a manifesto as did other parties. But when nobody could form a majority we entered negotiations with both the main parties to try and work out how we could help the country in that hour of need.

So a new document of intent was drawn up, the Coalition Agreement*. Now on political integrity to that the Lib Dems have been holding firm, but the Conservatives have been meandering, dropping parts of that here or there or publicly talking about how they will block the overtly liberal elements of it.

That shows weak leadership from Cameron and his whips office. That shows that he has lost control of his part of this coalition. It makes me wonder should the Lib Dems now just walk away from this Coalition and let Cameron have his way.

Of course then he will find it hard to get the majority he needs. There will still be rebels in his own party, bizarrely there always are in the blue corner of the green benches. But he wouldn't even have a majority in the first place.

The problem is would leaving a lame duck Prime Minister and a powerless administration for the next three years (we do after all have the Fixed Term Parliament Act) be good for the country?

No it wouldn't.

Would the country appreciate the Lib Dems maintaining their political integrity while watching Osborne burn trying to get any economic package through a minority House of Commons who disagree?

I seriously doubt it.

So the Lib Dems are caught between a rock and a hard place. We have a weak Prime Minister who is unable to deliver the liberal parts of the agreement, while we help deliver parts whichgo away or are opposed to Lib Dem policies, all the while looking like sell out, but not as big sell outs if we walk away now.

So it is time for David Cameron to step up, not step away. He has to forge ahead with the Coalition agreement implementation in the same way that Nick Clegg does. If he continues to be be unable to deliver, then we will have to look again at walking away.

Update Now I have already had some reactions that Lord's Reform was not in the Agreement, actually it was and it also was a Conservative manifesto pledge. The wording in the agreement is:

We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.
This looks largely to be what is in the Lords Reform Bill without the finer details worked out, which during 5 days of discussion was a matter that clearly there was some agreement in principle but not time to dot all the Is or cross all the Ts.

* Page 27 does mention Lord's reform and talk about bringing forward proposals after looking at it, largely in line with the Bill, because ALL parties were in agreement about the need in their manifestos.

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