The first well-known Liberal Democrat, Shirley Williams, has finally come out against a formal coalition with the Tories. However, Shirley’s criticism, in terms of substance, is not that pleasing when we consider that she would prefer the LibDems to prop up a minority Tory government with a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement. This would be the worst possible outcome, in my opinion, for the LibDems. Not only would we have scampered any chance of real political reform (especially electoral reform), it would be very likely there would be an early election with the Tories capitalising due to their lucid funding possibilities.
Whilst half rejecting the Tories, Williams ironically and indirectly supports the Tories’ offer of a ‘Jenkins’ 2′ all-party committee on electoral reform, as The Guardian report:
“She called for an all party committee on political reform, chaired or advised by the former MP Tony Wright, who left the House of Commons this year after chairing a respected committee on the reform of parliament and whose recommendations met with varied success including some of its elements opposed by the government.”
I think most people agree we are beyond the stage of needing any further committees. Most people are full aware that we need a real change to our political system. Thus, what Williams is trying to phrase as a rejection of the Tories’ ideologically is actually indirectly, a support of part of their coalition proposals. We can’t seriously expect another committee to lead to anything else other than further deliberation and pointless discussions – by the time we have even decided anything, the Tories would have probably called an election and then this historical chance would be wasted.
Regardless, whilst I am not going to delve into the discussions regarding whether the union is desirable or not, Williams is right to remark that:
“The Tories have been talking almost entirely about England.”
There is no surprise when considering that the Tories only managed to secure one MP in Scotland! Whilst they did better in Wales, it shows that all this talk about the Conservatives having a clear ‘mandate’ is really only concentrating on the Tories’ results in England (and even then, they don’t have one). It makes the case for the SNP’s nationalist argument, as why is it fair that the Tories would have governance over Scotland when the Tories only have one MP there? These coalition talks between the Tories and LibDem are clearly Englandcentric – this is another reason why a progressive alliance of Labour and the LibDems with the SNP and other minority parties would be more productive.