In a Pact Programme …
I am still amazed by the way that the media still can’t get their mind around the implications of having a coalition government. Some members of the public are not doing to well either.
They seem determined to find winners and losers in the Queen’s Speech. We seem to have two-party leaders who for better or worse (and I have my doubts) have thrown in their lot with each other. Have Cameron or Clegg betrayed their followers? Or did the Labour leadership (by its negotiating stance) betray its followers?
No one “won” the election, (despite some Tories claiming their, almost feudal, “right” to rule,) so no one party can “have their way”. So the alternative is either complete stalemate or a coalition and that means compromise.
For voters to say “we voted for this or that policy and did not get it, therefore we are betrayed”, shows up again the confusion as to what the British electorate actually vote for. Despite “Presidential” style debates, we do not “vote for a Government”, but for individuals who are meant to represent us as part of (the lower house of) Parliament. Therefore it is unreasonable to expect to “get” the contents of a particular manifesto; we can only vote for people who support a particular manifesto (that is the nature of the party label). Unless there is a majority in Parliament supporting a particular manifesto, coalition is inevitable.
Unless there is such a majority, we cannot expect the leading party (or any other party) to “keep their election promises” and implement their manifesto. All the manifestos have the implied introduction “if we were to form the next (majority) government, we will …”; without that majority, all bets are off.
However for a party to indicate in its manifesto how it might compromise its policies would be suicidal – at least it would with the current maturity of the press, of the electorate and of the party memberships.
- The media, would sense uncertainty and would go sniffing for “splits”,
- The electorate, would sense that the party concerned may think that they cannot win,
- The party membership will be up in arms about the priorities for compromise – this will lead to “splits” to entertain the press and put off the electorate.
To cope with the various permutations of coalition (in terms of other parties involved and their relative strengths) the manifesto will also be horribly complicated – so even fewer people would read them! Only the mischief-makers in the press (and the opposing parties) would read them.
So we have compromise and this means some features of politics which, while they are decidedly novel, we have to learn to accept:
- An open admission of disagreement
- Open arrangements for handling disagreement
- Some rather odd appointments such as an Energy Secretary who does not believe in Nuclear Power serving in a coalition where the majority do
- Agreement to a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV – which possibly does not carry majority support in either party).
This latter point may in the long-term turn out to be the most contentious.