The New Labour era is over. But a coalition involving the Liberal Democrats remains unproven.
It appears that we may have a coalition between one of the main parties and the Liberal Democrats. Gordon Brown has resigned, the New Labour era is over, and David Cameron has been invited to the palace to see the Queen to be asked to form a Government.
Douglas Alexander has said that a coalition which includes the SNP would not be acceptable or tenable. Brown is resigning as Labour leader to enable succession of another leader as Prime Minister. Nick Clegg has negotiated, but it is not clear what the outcome of their discussions were.
It seems, ridiculously and perversely, that Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has blocked the Lab-LibDem Coalition. For what reason? With Labour and the LibDems both left-of-centre, a coalition between them would be incredibly sensible. Yes, they would be a disaster for Britain, but it is coherent. It would be a realignment of the left.
A progressive coalition would be hard to stomach, but it is at least ideologically combatible. Would it split the LibDems? Would it split Labour ? Yes, clearly, in both cases, but that would be worth this goal being achieved.
And yet, such a coalition would have no mandate in England where the Conservatives polled 9,911,062 (39.6%), Labour 7,037,229 (28.1%), the Lib Dems 6,067,303 (24.2%). In terms of seats, C 297, L 191 and LD 43, giving the Tories a big majority of 63 in England.
But now that Brown has resigned, it is the end of New Labour . The end of Labour for now.
David Cameron ‘modernised’ his party, which meant – like Blair – ceded some of its ideological ground and sought to appease the left. Notting Hill Cameronism is not what Conservative voters thought they were voting for, but they voted for it nonetheless – but that may be what they get – indeed, many voters did not vote because they could not stomach Cameronism.
Labour has 26 seats in Wales (on 36.2% of the vote), Conservatives 8 (on 26.1%), Plaid 3 (on 11.3%) and Lib Dems 3 (on 20.1%),while in Scotland Labour won 1,035,528 (42.1%) and 41 seats, Conservatives 412,855 (16.7%) but only 1 seat on just under half the votes in Scotland than Labour got, with the Lib Dems on 465,471 (18.9%) and 11 seats, and the SNP on 491,386 (19.9%) and 6 seats.
Across the UK, in fourth and fifth places respectively, UKIP polled 917,832 (thanks Mr Clarke) and the BNP 563,743 (thanks Labour for nothing) – predominantly in England – but no seats, which they would have got under Proportional Representation, as favoured by the Liberal Democrats. Both UKIP and the BNP got more votes than SNP or Plaid but do not figure in any negotiations.
It is not clear that a Labour-LibDem coalition would stand in much favour in Scotland or Wales. In Northern Ireland, where I come from, I will not list the vote shares of the parties, but the DUP got 8 seats, Sinn Fein 5, SDLP 3, Independent 1, and Alliance 1, and the Conservatives and Unionists none.
How would such a coalition govern the non-devolved aspects of Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland? Surely, a Con-LD coalition would encourage greater devolution – including the all-important tax-raising powers – for the ‘Celtic fringe’? This would stave off the secessionist talk in Scotland, and unrest in Wales and Ulster, especially after what the UKIP-vote-stoking Ken Clarke said that, “In the end you can always do a deal with an Ulsterman, but it’s not the way to run a modern, sophisticated society.”
Cameron could not win the unwinnable election, which says a lot about the modernisation project. Brown has lost the election, and yet (despite the phenomenal gains), Cameron did not win it either, and Clegg’s party lost seats.
Frankly, we did not stomp the streets to support our excellent Conservative candidates, to end up with a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. But that is what we have.
The alternative, a Labour-LibDem coalition, would be a disaster, but a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is as yet unproven. Perhaps on this occasion, if not on others, Mr Cameron should have listened to the advice of that great sage from the true heart of our Party Lord Tebbit on not to form a coalition with the LibDems as it would cost them the next General Election, and on avoiding becoming the victim of a winner-takes-all auction led by Mr Clegg.
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