Things have been moving quite remarkably over the last few days, and with real life intruding there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to capture it here.
Overall, I’m happy with the outcome. Mark Thompson discussed the risks of a Confidence and Supply agreement, and I agree with that. It was a solution that gave us nothing, but left us exposed to sharing the blame. We’re now in a position to moderate a Conservative government, and will have some responsibility for taking the country forward.
Clearly there are risks, the Liberal Democrats, as with the other two major parties, have internal groupings, both left and right leaning. We will lose activists, I’d expect that we’ll also lose representatives in the various places that we have a presence. Some will go to Labour, some will become independent, some may go Conservative. I have every confidence that these considerations were taken into account in the recommendations from the party leadership to both our MPs and the Federal Executive. I’ll be disappointed in those that go, but it’s their decision to make.
We did exactly what we said we’d do, gave those with most seats and votes the first opportunity to form a government. Discussions with Labour had to take place, to give an appreciation of which structure could be best for the country. The Labour led coalition was never viable in my opinion, the numbers didn’t stack up and unless there was a lot of give on the topic of civil liberties then it would have been a betrayal of liberal principles.From a personal perspective it would have been very difficult to stomach alignment with the party behind the National identity tracking system, unbridled DNA retention, excessive detention without charge and intrusion on personal communications.
The devil does, of course, remain in the detail but from what we’ve seen of the agreement so far I’m pretty comfortable with direction:
Both Lib Dems and Conservatives talked about rolling back much of the civil liberties restrictions of the last regime, so a fairly straightforward agreement there.
I’m glad that the lower limit on income tax is there, that’s really significant.
Political reform – A referendum on Alternative Vote isn’t great, but given the passions around the subject it’s probably the thing that was least likely to suit people. However in conjuntion with a fixed term and election to the upper house then it’s fairly significant and has a lot of potential to change things for the long term.
Trident replacement is being trailled as a big deal. In practice we weren’t that far apart. Conservatives haven’t made a strategic case for renewal but want to do it anyway, Lib Dems had a half baked scheme to replace strategic with operational level weapons. Both involved reviewing where we stand.
Spending cuts – We both recognise the need, the disagreement was on when and how. In practice actually implementing these huge cuts takes time, we need to understand what the impact will be on service delivery, and how many people it’ll put out of work. That needs to inform the decision making. I would like to see a smaller state, a much smaller state in fact, but getting there is going to be painful. It’ll be a real test of both Camerons resolve and the partnership to take the pain.
On a more parochial note, the approach to Defence remains a concern. Both Conservatives and Lib Dems talk about culling the Civil Service in MoD, probably not viable without impacting on operational capability. There is a need for procurement reform, personally reducing governance and political interference will make a difference, but I’m not optimistic that’ll happen. I also remember what the last Conservative regime did to defence, and I’m uncomfortable.
So in general a pretty positive mood, part of that is relief that we have a direction.
We shall see.