We finally have a government in the UK! We live in interesting times. Setting aside all previous debate on electoral reform, I think this will be an opportunity for both parties in the coalition. For the Lib Dems, it is their first opportunity since the disasterous Lib-Lab pact in the 1970s (in which they seem to have been used and ignored) to show they can be mature in a position of power. I’m a Conservative at heart, but I think that to have the Lib Dems play a bigger role is important to make sure that no one party has a massive majority and steamrollers through legislation that is ill-conceved as Labour did in the 1990s with a huge majority.
Large majorities are bad for any party. Not because it harms their ability to get legislation through – quite the opposite – but because it leads to arrogance and rushing through of statutes that turn out to be bad for the country.
Will we see the Lib Dems as the second party at the next election? Lib Dem supporters might disagree, and badger for a Lib Dem government. Political change, however, doesn’t come that quickly. More realistically if they can prove themselves when having a seat in power, they can use this as a springboard to become the official opposition in the next election, and then who knows? It is time for a change, just as in the 1920s the Labour party rose to be the second party in politics in the UK. When Kier Hardie founded the Labour party in the early years of the last century, it took them over twenty years to build up and come to power. Now it is the Lib Dems’ chance to do something similar.
Putting party politics aside, I think no party should be in power for longer than three terms – it is damaging for politics, and damaging for the country. Even I recognised that the 1992 election was not in Britain’s best interest with hindsight. However, Labour also proved that too much power corrupts too. With a three party system, maybe we can see a third option take a turn at the helm. Just so long as madcap ideas like PR don’t get steamrollered through as a result (see previous posts for details).
I still think another general election is on the cards; if not this year then certainly next year. Coalitions don’t go the full five years. It is time for consolodation, a bit of housekeeping and getting Britain finally onto an economic recovery, then a push for a majority government. Sorry folks – coalitions aren’t the best form of longterm government despite what anyone might delude themselves into thinking at the moment.