Lets be frank, this is shaping up to be a rather demoralising election. Not only are our results nothing like what we expected, Clegg looks like he is going to pass up the chance for reforming our electoral system. Clegg’s argument that Cameron has more of a mandate seems hypocritical when you consider that the voting system has once again resulted in our vote share being a lot higher than our share of the MPs. We get around 7% less than Labour but end up with around 200 seats less than Labour – this is why electoral reform is so key.
I have talked to a few people who I managed to convince to vote LibDem – including my mum and my sister. After talking to them, and my own personal view, if the LibDems prop up a Tory government, I will feel ashamed to have argued that voting the LibDem’s would be a forceful anti Tory vote. Both my mum and sister have commented on how they wish they had voted Labour. These views, you will find, are pretty universal when considering Clegg’s cosey approach towards the Tories. If Clegg supports the Tories, this will seriously damage the party’s chances of becoming the ‘real’ progressive party in politics. You will see the rise of Labour, as people wont think the Liberal Democrats are any more committed to their central values than the other two parties.
It is not only the historical event of electoral reform that we will throw away, it is the ability to achieve economic stability. Vince Cable has already made it clear he is against the Tories budget, as are most sensible economically minded people. It appears as though Clegg is making economic deals the basis of the deal. Well then that shows how the ‘deal’ should be even more of a no brainer. Vince Cable has to be listened to, yes Clegg has gained popularity recently, but Cable is hugely respected and has warned about the dangers that the Tories’ economic policy would result in. It is rather interesting that Vince Cable seems to have vanished.
Hopefully, even if Clegg tries to pass this Tory deal the democratically structured LibDem party will reject it, as most of us are progressive left/centre minded people and would feel sick at the thought of supporting a party so ideologically in conflict with our values. Clegg really needs to think carefully before jumping into bed with Cameron. He needs to remember that he will not have a much better chance for political reform, he definitely would be able to get STV onto the referendum paper with Labour too. All he will get with the Tories is a Jenkins commission 2 – and I am of the understanding that thankfully this is a key area that is causing disagreement with talks between us and the Tories.
Speaking in general terms, we are obviously going to be disappointed with the election result, but at the same time I think we should be happy about the gains and the holds that we managed to achieve (Sarah Tether for example). I think the loss of Lembit Opik is a testament of many of the concerns that were voiced by people such as myself. My specific issue, as many of you know, was his attitudes towards women – especially his column within the Daily Sport where he often used patronising language to dehumanise women. I don’t think that writing in a ‘newspaper’ such as this really corresponds to fighting for the equality of women – I am not proposing for the abolition of porn etc but what he effectively was doing was undermining key areas of our campaign such as the Real Women campaign. Opik’s seat loss was more a personal not a political incident.
Clegg may think that the LibDems wont be tarnished if we don’t support the Tories in a formal coalition, instead just allowing them to have minority rule - but he should think again. He will have let so many people down who are ideologically committed to electoral reform, people who have switched from smaller parties to change the system for the better. People, including me, are going to wonder why they bothered for a party who were wiling to compromise all their values on the basis of a so called ’mandate’ – even though it is important to highlight, no-one actually achieved a majority! We need to think again, or I am afraid, Clegg will see many of his supporters feeling rightly cheated – the Tories will destroy the lives of so many, and I, as I am sure most LibDems agree with, really do not want to be part of a positive endorsement of that!