Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Still not getting it

Shock horror! Lib Dem conference votes against the Coalition education policy.  Even more shock horror Lib Dem ministers say it will make no difference!

Perhaps our media – including the more serious political TV programmes – believe that politics is entertainment therefore anything is fair game for the shock horror treatment.  I think I prefer to believe that their neurons are still trying to catch up with the result of the election and the way that parliamentary democracy (particularly coalition government) works in so many other countries.

  • Party leaders ignoring party conference resolutions is nothing new:
    • The Conservatives have never believed in the power of party conferences – so they do not allow them to even “resolve” anything.
    • The Labour party have often had to ignore Labour Party Conference resolution – because sometimes they have been plain potty.  But then this is also the party that uses anti-terrorism legislation against an old man at their conference who dared to shout “rubbish” at a cabinet minister.
    • The Liberals also suffer from potty resolutions that often embarrass the leadership.
  • Parties are capable of passing far more resolutions than can be included in an election manifesto – then by “selection” at manifesto writing time the party leaders can avoid the more nutty ideas.  In addition conferences can pass conflicting resolutions. (This could be the legitimate source of media fun targeted at ordinary conference members.)
  • The Liberals were asked to endorse the Coalition Agreement – and they did this by special conference.  Now at their annual conference they are trying (constitutionally) to make Liberal policy.  Constitutionally they have no say over the Coalition’s policy – neither does the Conservative Conference.

Again this highlights the difficulties arising from seeing an election manifesto as a set of “promises” arising from the policies of the party concerned.  A manifesto is a programme for government; at the time of writing it might (just) have been relevant, consistent and coherent and was based on the assumption of the party concerned getting a workable majority.  But the world moves on (“a week is a long time in politics”), and manifestos would (if printed on appropriate paper – and subject to health regulations) be just like our newspapers – tomorrow’s chip-wrapping.  And workable majorities can be undermined either by the electorate occasionally declining to hand-over absolute power (despite a voting system designed to hand parliamentary majorities to electoral minorities) or by stroppy backbenchers rebelling.

However, to acknowledge all this forces the media to start thinking responsibly and spoils their fun and prevents use of prepared head-lines.

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