No brain. No heart. No votes.

Another Con-Lib coalition could be the end of the Liberal Democrats as a political force

6th May 2015

“We will give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain”
Nick Clegg

“And bollocks to the electorate”
Wandering Teacake

Dear Lib Dems

This is not an open letter. It’s not even a letter. It’s a cry of anguish from a supporter of 20 years who sees the Liberal Democrats on the brink. I know you’re busy at the moment working out what colour ministerial Jag Nick is going to have for his next term in office, so I’ll keep this brief.

Don’t go into coalition with a Conservative government.

You may have thought it was a good idea last time. Hell, I even thought it was a good idea last time, but this time round it could spell the end of the Lib Dems. Because, regardless of what you may claim, you haven’t done a good job in government.

You may have expected, over the course of this coalition, to have built your reputation, and have a stronger base as a result of showing you’re able to govern, but instead you’re about to be decimated in the polls. Because you haven’t done a good job in government.

People like me have watched you abandon key Lib-Dem principles. At least, we assumed they were principles; I get the impression that some of the party, Nick Clegg included, would now be happier wearing a blue tie rather than a yellow one. You’ve abandoned those principles and we’ve seen five years of unfair, discriminatory, illiberal, divisive government. In short, if your plan was to hold back the Tories, you haven’t done a good job in government.

I want to impress on you here that a second coalition with the Tories would be a disaster, not just for the country, but for your party. Think about it: you’ve already surrendered and compromised over tuition fees, tax and benefits, the NHS, civil liberties, surveillance, legal aid. What are you going to surrender next time round? Our membership of Europe? You’ve nothing left to bargain with.

And please don’t try to stand on the idea that at least the past five years have been stable. Frankly, if that’s stability, I’ll take a little chaos, thanks. Where has stability got us? A flatlined economy, increasing public debt, more than a million people using foodbanks. The NHS being parcelled up and sold off, the Royal Mail and East Coast main line already gone. Only the rich now have effective recourse to the law. Still, the richest have made millions and offshored it all, so yay for that at least.

So you may be tempted by the possibility of another term as coalition partner to the Tories. But before you prick a finger for the blood to sign that pact, consider this.

Whatever you feel about the last five years, you have to admit you have damaged your reputation among your supporters. You know that – fairly or unfairly – many of them are not going to vote for you this time around. You also have to admit that your influence in coalition was not as great as you would have wanted.

Well, with less MPs your influence is going to be even less this time. Do you really think you are going to be able to act as an effective brake on the Tories, when you barely restrained them last time? Do you want to be associated with their plans for £12bn in welfare cuts, which are expected to fall hardest on the ill and the disabled? Do you want to help preside over the final destruction of the NHS?

Then consider this final point. It’s possible, with good will, to view your last five years in government as a betrayal of you as much as it was of your voters. I’ll explain. If we’re being charitable, we could accept the idea that you went into the coalition with good intentions, and you were let down by not being allowed to have as much influence as you thought you were going to get. There’d be questions to answer over your naïvety and your competence to make sound agreements, but there’s no shortage of those shortcomings in government, as it were. It could be possible, in time, to forgive and move on.

However, if you were to enter another coalition with the Tories, knowing what you now know, and with the experience of the past five years, you would be sending a clear message that you are satisfied with the role in which you have been cast, and happy to continue as the Tories’ bagman. You would show yourselves to be willing partners in the abuse of the disadvantaged, and make it clear that you are prepared to abandon key liberal ideals in order to keep the merest fingertip on power.

And we will never forgive you for that.


UPDATE 7th May 2015: Regarding the East Coast main line, the following clarification has been pointed out to me (quoted verbatim):

“Mumble east coast mainline not sold off mumble still owned by network rail mumble train operating company licenced to private operator mumble”

So now you, and I, know.


Is there still a party out there that cares about people?
Read my article on Open Democracy.

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