Coalition Anyone?

A week to go before the votes are cast and still both Labour and the Tories refuse to talk about coalitions, or any kind of informal deals. Which is strange, as all the polling evidence points to another hung parliament. This refusal on the part of the two main parties is both undemocratic and insulting to voters. How can people make a realistic assessment of how to vote if the main parties are desperately and deliberately concealing vital information from them? If companies deliberately withhold information from potential shareholders they can be sent to jail! But politicians seem to be immune to even basic standards of decency.

Jim Murphy was at it again this evening on BBC Scotland, refusing point blank to answer any question about coalitions or deals. He even had the effrontery to say he would talk about this only after the election. So much for trusting the voter! Murphy and Labour are not alone in this of course. The Tories follow the same line, though they claim (falsely) that Labour and the SNP have agreed on a deal of some kind. However the Tories refuse to say who they would be prepared to deal with and on what basis.

Paradoxically the only party to openly talk about a coalition is the LibDems. Which is unsurprising as getting into office seems to be the only remaining principle the LibDems have left. The recent nasty coalition between the LibDems and the Tories is without doubt the main reason why everyone else is terrified of talking about coalitions. The LibDems at Westminster seem to have achieved the rare feat of discrediting the whole idea of coalition government for most people.

The LibDem approach to all elections is also very dishonest and undemocratic. Their key pitch is that if you like our policies, then the more MPs we get elected, the more of our policies we can implement. Sounds reasonable, but a moments reflection exposes this claim as dangerous nonsense. Let us say, for example that the LibDems have six key policies and that a majority of their voters really like policies 1, 2 and 3, but either don’t like or are indifferent about the other three policies. However, once in power, the LibDems find they cannot implement policies 1, 2 and 3. Not only can they not implement them they actually vote for something worse. This of course is pretty much what happened in 2010. The LibDems have been rumbled, and big time. Voting LibDem is like signing a blank cheque – you have no idea what, if anything you will get, and worse, you have no idea how much it will cost you, in damages to the economy and society.

So, it is quite understandable if the other parties are loath to talk about coalitions, and most have explicitly ruled one out. However, to stick your head in the sand and refuse to even acknowledge that some kind of deal or arrangement with other parites will be needed to form and sustain a government is perverse. And, as I have argued above, undemocratic and demeaning to voters.

We have a right to know how the various parties will approach the consequences of a hung parliament, if this is what emerges on May 8th. Not just the smaller parties, but Labour and the Tories should be forced to come clean. So far only the SNP has made its position perfectly clear. They will not vote for, or support a Tory government, under any circumstances. They would vote against any money for Trident and would vote for anti austerity measures, reform of the UK constitution(what passes for this) and for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. A progressive alliance which would also be supported by any Green, Plaid Cymru and SDLP MPs. There should be plenty there for a Labour government to endorse. It is alas, most unlikely that Labour would vote to remove Trident, so the SNP would vote against this measure. But with the Fixed Term Parliament legislation, even if a government were to lose a vote, this would not in itself trigger an early election.

So we have a very good idea of what the SNP would support and what they would oppose. Alas, we have nothing from Labour about how they would seek to build on this Progressive Alliance of SNP, Green, Plaid and SDLP. Perhaps when it comes to decision time, Labour would prefer a Tory government. Who knows they might even prefer a Grand Coalition with the Tories, as happens in Germany? It would be nice and in the interests of democracy if we, the voters, were to know just what Labour plans to do in the event of a hung parliament. It is not too late Ed!

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