Every MP in each of the main parties must now be wishing the result had been slightly different. The Tories must be kicking themselves; if they had only a slightly greater shift in their direction, they would never have had to do a deal with the Lib Dems.
For the Liberals, just a few more seats to them or Labour would have meant a progressive alliance, something that would have sat much better with their grass-roots.
Labour was left in the uncomfortable position of losing the election, but not by enough. In the party’s interest, this was an election to lose. Lose and regroup is the aim of all tribalist members of Labour. Sadly for them, they had just enough seats to make a “rainbow alliance” possible, so had to go through the false dance of entertaining the notion. When the talks fell apart they revealed themselves as the tribal and selfish clan they are.
So the bizarre situation of a Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition has arisen, sending shock waves through both parties, and Labour rubbing its hands with glee. Fuck the country, Labour’s thinking, this will shoo us in next time for sure!
But will it? And will it be the disaster the Liberal Democrats grass roots think it will be?
Throughout this campaign I’ve been supporting the Lib Dems with the main opposition in my mind being the Tories. In a coalition I always assumed the Liberals would side with Labour. If the seats had fallen slightly differently, that is no doubt how it would have gone down. As it was, Labour made it impossible. The Liberal Democrats did not have that choice. A rainbow coalition needed support from all the nationalist parties, and Labour announced very quickly it would not work with the SNP, putting a nail in the coffin of that idea.
So it was either allow the Conservatives to form a minority government, or join them in coalition. Many Liberals would vomit down their shirts at the idea (as I’m sure many Tories are doing right now too), but if they think calmly for a moment, they will see this is the best choice out of a barrel of shits.
David Cameron is under fire from his party. He didn’t do as well as he’d hoped, and they are claiming it was because he pursued the centre ground too much. They wanted him to retreat to the right more on immigration, tax, deficit reduction, crime etc. In a minority government he would have been at their mercy, and so the party would have been dragged to the right, giving us a ghastly conservative government reminiscent of the 80s.
With a coalition with the Lib Dems Cameron has instead been dragged to the left, firmly straddling the centre ground. Indeed, he is now forced to maintain a social liberal stance to hold the coalition together. By sacrificing the country’s goodwill, Clegg has saved us all from Conservative back-benchers.
Not only that, but he’s got Liberal policies being enacted and conservative policies scrapped. By forcing the two parties to work together, the Liberals can now try and shape conservative thinking in their direction. We could be on the cusp of a new era of socially liberal politics. Before he became party leader, Cameron was on the extreme social-liberal progressive wing of his party. Sadly, in all his time at the helm he sank further and further away from that. Now that he’s in bed with the Lib Dems, he might just have the courage to return to his roots.
Of course, in all likelihood it will end in tears. These are two parties that loathe each other and pull in very different directions. What we may see is a split that’ll dwarf anything that ever existed between Brown and Blair. But perhaps the obvious gulf between Cameron and Clegg will help ease the divisions? Disagreements might be seen, less as a betrayal, but as a genuine and expected tussle of ideas.
Only time will tell, and already the Liberals are feeling the pain. I sympathise,but congratulate them. This isn’t what any of us wanted, but they’ve done the best with the hand they were dealt. This is grown up politics, crossing the line and doing deals with those you disagree with. I can’t stand Cameron, but I’m glad he’s got Clegg in there with him, keeping an eye out for all of us.