Friday, May 07, 2010

So what next?

The nation has spoken and sadly nobody quite understands exactly what has been said. So what should happen next? Below is my own personal view as to what should, or could happen in the next few days.

1. Gordon Brown invites the Lib Dems to form a coalition government of national unity and promises legislation on electoral reform to be included in the Queen's Speech on May 25th.

2. The new government holds a national referendum on electoral reform in the autumn of this year with a promise that, if the nation chooses to move to a more proportional system, an election will be held in May 2011.

3. Gordon Brown makes clear his intention to stand down this autumn following the Labour Party conference and the outcome of the referendum.

What do you think? Can this work? What are the alternatives?


Anonymous said...

The difficulty with this is that GB has never been elected as PM. At this election, when he had the possibility of obtaining a mandate at last, the majority of voters felt unable to give him their support.

Also, the only party that has campaigned to have a PR system, lost seats. The electorate had a historic chance to vote for PR by giving the LibDems at least some extra support. If the vote means anything, it shows that there is not strong support for PR at present over and above all the other important issues the country faces. The only people who think it's the most important thing are the LibDems. Neither Labour nor the Conservative actually think so, even if Labour currently think submitting to PR is less important than losing power. This election could easily have been a referendum on PR but the voters didn't consent to that.

How could we go on for a year with a PM who has lost so much popular support being propped up by another party which has singularly failed to capitalise on massive early success in the campaign? You a proposing that the two parties that have done worst should take precedence over the party that has done the best.

Bob said...

Mike's suggestion is a good one but I don't think that the Lib Dems will be satisfied by anything less than Gordon's resignation within the next couple of weeks. They need this to save face if they go with us rather than the party with the majority seats/votes. I don't think that they will be able to go with the Tories, but we need to offer them Gordon's head to make it easy for them to go against their stated position. Basically I think we should offer them anything in order to keep the Tories out.

Dominic Ion said...

I think that first of all we'll have to wait and see what comes out of the current discussions between Messrs Cameron and Clegg over a possible power-sharing deal betwen the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

However, as this election campaign has progressed I've become more and more convinced of the case for some form of electoral reform.
I understand that this may be a part of what Cameron is offering Clegg. However, even if this is the case, whether the rank and file of the Lib Dems could stomach going into a coalition with the Tories remains to be seen.

If they can't, and they reject Cameron's overtures as a result (as I rather hope they will) then I think that Brown should push ahead with his agenda of a coalition with Clegg on the lines that you suggest, Mike. I'm still not sure why the Lib Dems lost so much of their earlier support when it came to the actual vote. However I suspect that, while PR may not have been a key issue with many voters this time round, many people are cocnerned about the inherent unfairness of the current system in an era of three-party politics and increased localism.

While PR has its dangers (weak/unstable partnerships, more opportuity to the likes of the BNP, etc.) I'm inclined to think that at least it deserves a trial to see if it really does lead to fairer representation and stronger, more broadly-based government. First-past-the post has served our traditional two-party system reasonably well in the past, but I doubt if it is robust enough in an era of multi-party politics.

Finally - what about Gordon's offer to talk to ANY party leaders? Would a National Government be a good way of dealing with our current economic and fiscal problems? Do you know - I'd love to see the three of them try it out!


Paul Lusk said...

Attractive idea but sadly I don't think it works. After allowing for Speaker and SF absentees, you need 323 for a Commons majority. Lab+LD gives you 315; you could probably add in SNP, PC and SDLP to get 327. That works in theory but is very vulnerable to defections, illness, bye-elections etc. In practice it would probably survive but is not a recipe for stable government.

Then you have to think about the credibility of GB staggering on as an unelected PM and promising the country another election in a year. In the middle opf this you have a leadership election with an unpopular government and expecting three of four other parties to abide by the result of our leadership election with a third of the votes with trade unions half of whom by this stage are threatening strikes against cuts ... I think this all makes a pretty toxic cocktail.

We need to go into opposition with dignity, constructively support the new govt while we elect a new leader, all the time knowing we have the capacity to bring down the govt at anytime if the LD/Con deal breaks up, but the country won't forgive us if we are constantly threatening and puffing. We need a leader with a credible track record of supporting PR, and we need as a party to really sort out what sort of constitutional settlement we want. As an opposition party with serious capacity to force a general election, we are ideally placed to lead a national debate about our broken political system - but we have to play our cards intelligently.


Mike Ion said...

Anonymous - I think your point about Brown is a fair one but I do think the nation would accept him staying on in the short-term so long as he makes clear his intention to go in the autumn.

Bob and Dom - the Lib Dems are in something of a lose lose situation concerning any alliance with the Tories. If they do throw in their lot with Cameron then the immediate prospect of PR will disappear.

Paul - you may well be right and a period of principled opposition would be good for us but... this could easily end up in a fractious period of infighting and squabbling which would be ruthlessly exploited by the Tories.

Shibley Rahman said...

I think this is spot on.

Gordon Brown doesn't to go on forever. For heaven's sake, he needs to fit in somehow becoming a Professor of Modern History at Edinburgh and becoming the Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh, before becoming Lord Brown. Not joking in fact.

I think we do need some stability in the national interest especially if we are to avoid a bond/equity crisis. Merkel and Sarkosy I'm sure would appreciate the help not to trivialise the situation.

Getting a new leader now would be ludicrous as that new leader wold not have a direct mandate. If Gordon offers gracefully a leadership election this year, I would like him to use the opportunity to go out on a high and to allow someone to be annointed as the head of my parliamentary Labour Party.

Bob O'Brien said...

How about this for a radical idea. Why not just get the LibDems to form the coalition (Nick Clegg to head it) and they can invite all the other progressive left parties to join (including us). This gets rid of the stigma of the LibDems joining us and will allow GB to remain leader while we have a sensible debate on how to progress. We (the Labour Party) would of course get the majority of the offices of state and be bound to a policy collegiate (in which we would have the biggest say). We (the UK) would then have a progressive left government of national unity committed to tackling the financial crisis and a programme of electoral and constitutional change.

james said...

We have to take seriously the following:

Financial markets dipped as early results pointed to Lab-Lib coalition.

The capitalists require a further contraction of the economy to restore the rate of profit. That might mean a few get wiped out, but this is a warring band of brothers we're talking about...

A Labour-led rainbow coalition would have to work with allies across Europe and the world to tame finance capital and ensure there are fair markets. Do we have the guts to stand up to big business, though?

inkyminkyzizwoz said...

Good afternoon, comrades!

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!!

Reading the leading articles in the Sunday Times this morning (yes - I know it's a puppet of the Murdoch/Tory axis these days, and no longer the Thunderer of old, but it's important to know what the Establishment is thinking!) I get the impression that their headline-writers are quite desperate to talk a Tory Government into office at any cost. Significantly, as you delve into the paper, the articles become more thoughtful, reflective, and I think a touch more realistic.

For example, the paper starts off with headlines about Cameron "racing" to do a deal with Clegg, and implying that this is the only way in which the national (or more likely the City of London's!) interest could be served, while the later articles are more prepared to admit of the possibility of a Labour/LibDem coalition should the current discussions fail. PR is initially regarded as a political version of haemorrhoids (something rather unpleasant that has to be tolerated for a while until the emollient of a cross-party commission can make it shrink into the background) but in later articles is accepted as something that may well have to come. In fact, the paper says in one place that "the momentum towards political and electoral realignments and reform is gathering".

All I would say at this point is - let the Tory-Lib Dem courtship burn itself out, and then let the real negotiations begin! I don't think Cameron will give in on PR to the extent that the Lib Dems want (even if he were prepared to do so, his party grandees and their City backers wouldn't let him). I also think that the two parties are too far apart on Europe, immigration and defence to forge a workable alliance.

So - step forward, Gordon! Even if we have to cosy up to the Scots and Welsh Nationalists, the SDLP and Mrs. Green from Brighton, I still think that a workable progresive-left Government could emerge that could achieve great things for our country and our people. You never know - the minority parties may even have one or two good ideas of their own!

If the worst comes to the worst and we end up with a minority Tory administration, I really can't see it lasting much beyond the end of the year - which will give the Red Rose plenty of time to put down new roots and blossom again.

Keep the faith, folks, and all will be well . . .

Enjoy the rest of the week-end.


Dominic Ion said...

I'm not sure about Gordon reading Mike's blog - I'm more inclined to suspect that Mike has his own private phone tap into No. 10!!

I didn't want Gordon to go - in fact, I've been quite dismayed by all the vitriol that the media have poured over him for months now. Quite apart from his other achievements, he DID save our (and probably the world's) financial system from collapse - and even now (while others are jockeying for political power) he's doing his best to prevent the same thing happening in Europe.

However, his brave and statesmanlike decision to step down has removed what was probably the main obstacle to a Labour/Lib Dem coalition, and paved the way for a new era in British representative democracy. I'm taking nothing for granted right now, but something tells me we're on the verge of seeing history made over the next 24-48 hours or so.

Fingers crossed!