How can the Liberal Democrats support the Conservatives in government? How can a left wing party join forces with the party that spawned Margaret Thatcher? I get asked these questions an awful lot and to tell you the truth, I find them hard to answer. I find it hard it hard to comprehend how this coalition works. The two parties, the Lib Dems and the conservatives, are in two totally different corners of the ideological boxing ring. The answer to this conundrum of how this government works is simple, compromise. Just bow the compromises are compromising the Lib Dems. So the question on everybody’s lips is will this be make or break for the Lib Dems?
Personally I think this is the time for the Lib Dems to break out of their small party shell. It’s a chance for the party to go “Look we can govern responsibly and solve crises like the biggest peace time deficit the U.K have ever had.” Just this once in a lifetime chance comes with its danger. The biggest one is looming over the Lib Dem’s heads like a rather large storm cloud. The threat of the Tories consuming the smaller Liberal Democrat party should not be underestimated. To the general public the dividing lines between the blue team and the yellow team are becoming more blurred as time goes along, especially after key Lib Dem flagship policies like the abolition of tuition fees hit the policy chopping block and the party’s opposition to the 20% VAT rate seemed to have dissolved. Yes to the general public we must seem like the Conservatives with a different coloured rosette. That image will go over time. The reason I am certain of this is that the coalition partners are at their core fundamentally different; the roots are different, the basic ideology is very different and the Lib Dems take great pride in their party and won’t let it be consumed by anyone. So keep this in mind, while the Lib Dem ministers have to compromise on the big stage, the ordinary MPS and members will continue to fight the Tories with all their might. Even though Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, may be palling around with the Tories, he still must do one thing. Answer to the feisty grassroots who are not afraid to speak their minds.
That brings me quiet neatly onto the sturdy, steadfast, proud grassroots that are the Lib Dem’s conscience, soul and heart, that I am proudly a member. Some are fans of the coalition, some are not but they are united behind the Liberal Democrats. Leaders come and leaders go, but the grassroots are always there and are a foundation stone for any party. They are a foundation stone that unfortunately the media ignore. For the journalists and political pundits it’s all Nick Clegg and Vince Cable. Well news flash Nick Clegg isn’t the be all and end all to the party. In fact the party leader would not have a party to lead if it weren’t for the 1000s of ordinary men and women, who give up time and effort for the party. These grassroots are not to be trifled with; they are principled, stubborn and proud of it. They are also in a different universe from the Tories, actually the closest thing to the Lib Dem grassroots is Labour and even they seem to be on a different planet.
So why didn’t the Lib Dems form a coalition with Labour? It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. No one won this election, but Labour certainly lost it. Even with the Lib Dens, Labour would of still needed the SNP or maybe the greens on top of that to form a majority. There were other choices but no real workable alternative. One path we could of took was for the Conservatives to form a minority government, but a minority government would of been weak, unable to make the choices to get us out of the financial mess Labour left us in. You can almost guarantee there would have ended in another election in around October of 2010 which would have either produced another hung parliament or a tiny Tory majority. Another option would have been to have an election straight away. Just imagine another 6 weeks of election mania, the cost of having another election as they don’t come cheap, the stock markets would have nose dived and no guarantee of different result, it doesn’t sound like a good equation to me. If it wasn’t the same result and the Conservatives had managed to limp to safety, I can bet you they would set about picking up where Thatcher left off, destroying public services, deregulating the financial sector that caused this mess and deeper, sharper cuts than could ever of been imagined from this coalition government. So yes I much rather have the Conservatives, especially at this time when they have excuses for the ideological cuts they want, I sleep safer at night knowing that George Osborne is being supervised by the ever watchful Danny Alexander. So taking all those choices into account, really the only viable option was a Tory-Lib Dem coalition (no matter what the daily mail says).
Another plus of the Lib Dems being in government is the injection of long overdue Liberal ideas into the ticking heart of government. The biggest is the referendum on AV. The referendum will finally allow the British people to chose how they want their MPs to be elected. People can chose between the outdated, unfair old system called first past the post that allows safe seats to be like seats for life for MPs who don’t think they really need to do anything as the will be elected anyway, or want AV which will make every voted count, make you MP work harder for you. This choice gives power back into the hands of Britain and you can pretty much bet that you wouldn’t have got it without the Liberal Democrats being in government. There are also other Lib Dem policies which will help make this a fairer Britain. The pupil premium will help disadvantaged student have a fair start in education by giving more money and resources to their education, this will help reverse the shameful figure of that by the small age of 7 a child from a poor background has already fallen behind a child of the same age from a richer background. The Freedom bill will restore freedoms to British citizens and cut back on costly and infuriating red tape and the review of anti terror legislation has stopped the inhumane practice of hold a person for 28 days without charge. These are all first rate examples of a smaller party walloping one at the old system. That is main advantage of being in coalition, the Lib Dems get creditable policies that would of been ignored and what we have been fighting for years finally make it onto the statute book. Without the Lib Dems being in government those policies that help people lives would never have materialised.
No one said at the start of this coalition that it would be easy. It is difficult for the Liberals but it is worth it even though sometimes it’s hard to see why. All you have to do is listen to Tim Farron (MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale) “Just because I sleep with my wife doesn’t make me a women.” It perfectly described the Lib Dems, we may be in coalition with the Conservatives but we are certainly not Tories. You can see that too in the number of Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the rise in tuition fees. We may be a small party but we are strong and have principle which we stick to. Granted the Lib Dems haven’t been able to enact all those principles and promises in government but they still hold them dear. So yes I am proud when I see Nick Clegg at the despatch box and yes I do carry my membership card everywhere I go. So next time you bash the Lib Dems just think of everything we have managed to do and just consider the consequences if the Lib Dems hadn’t gone into coalition, just consider if we had made the wrong choice.