The Lib Dem Challenge: Coalition Government is Better Government
Fast forward to 2015, and the upcoming General Election.
The Conservatives are telling the country how much better they will govern if they weren’t held back by the Lib Dems. Labour will be telling us that they will save the NHS and have the answers to getting Britain out of stagnation. The Lib Dems will not feature in either of these plans. In fact, the Tories and Labour both hope that the Lib Dems are wiped out.
So what will the Lib Dems be saying to the electorate. We’ll be telling them what we’ve achieved in government, and what we’re aiming to do. If that’s all, we’ll get out our core vote of 10%, pick up another 5% here and there, and lose the remaining protest vote that has worked so well for us in the past.
This is why the Lib Dems need another narrative, and that narrative is about how coalition government is better. Good coalition government brings the best out of each coalition partner, it means policy is the best bits of each party. There’s a more open debate, an emphasis on the need to persuade, and the policy results are grounded in a wider consensus.
The mid term Lib Dem approach of differentiation from the Conservatives supports this approach, but only if Lib Dems are prepared to say which bits of policy are shared with the Conservatives, and which bits are part of the compromise between parties with different outlooks. A classic example is the debate on the 50p income tax rate. I don’t find it a problem that Lib Dems state very openly that this was a change that we accepted as part of the Conservative agreement to raising the tax threshold more quickly than expected.
Coalition governments aren’t about two parties coming together for 5 years and acting as one party. Coalitions are about two parties working together in the national interest and bringing in legislation that is a compromise for both parties and for that reason gains wider public support.
Wider public support for government bills is better government. That’s what coalition government can deliver. The benefit of coalition government is our core message to the British people in 2015.