Blame, a zero-sum game

September 22, 2011

The casual reader of Simon Lee's article "'Progressive' austerity and the obvious death of Lib Dem England" (15 September) could be forgiven for supposing that the UK had a Liberal Democrat-dominated government rather than a coalition that is five-sixths Conservative.

What is the purpose of such "blame the Lib Dems" commentary, common though it is? If it is to encourage them to stand up for their values more assertively, a little reflection would show that it is having the opposite effect. To be assertive, the party needs to be able to demonstrate broad popular support: the collapse of such support is precisely why the Tories can walk all over the Lib Dems, because it means that the threat of ending the coalition can effectively be made only by Cameron et al.

As a left-leaning Lib Dem, I hate what this government is doing, but as a democrat I have to accept its legitimacy: it is what enough people voted for in the May 2010 general election and in the May 2011 referendum. The opponents of electoral reform argued that the main benefit of our current system is that it twists the representation of the largest party upwards and of third parties downwards, leading to more "decisive" government. That is what we have now: the referendum's overwhelming "No" majority killed the argument that gaining well under half the votes meant that the Tories had no mandate.

As for the "choice" that Lee claims the Lib Dems had: since the party balance in the Commons now is the same as it was just after the election, if a Labour-Lib Dem coalition were possible then it is possible now. If it is possible, Ed Miliband should be offering it or sharing the blame for not doing so. If he thinks he could do a better job in forcing concessions from the Tories, perhaps Labour should offer to replace the Lib Dems as junior coalition partner.

The reality is that Labour is happy to see the UK destroyed by this wretched government because it also means the Lib Dems will be destroyed. It is this attitude that keeps me a Lib Dem supporter.

Matthew Huntbach, Eltham

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