Coalition Government: playing dice with the devil?

AS Conservative leader David Cameron accepted the responsibility of forming a government last night, and a Britain faced it first full coalition government in almost 70 years, Catholic peer David Alton gave his first thoughts on the new dawn in British politics on Facebook.

“Although I have sat for the past 13 years as an Independent Crossbencher, I was once Liberal Chief Whip in the Commons and, in February 1974, as a 23-year-old, contested my first General Election. It was the last contest which led to a hung Parliament.

“I have several other reasons for following the unfolding events at Westminster with interest.

“As a teenage Liberal activist I became convinced of the merits of the single transferable vote; as a City Councillor, during my time as Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council, I had to make a minority administration function; during 18 years as an MP for a Liverpool constituency I came to value the constituency link between an MP and their constituents; and in the Lords opposed the decision of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to introduce the closed party list system for European elections.

“I have always seen merit in trying to find common ground where possible, and served as an MP during the period of the Liberal-SDP Alliance (which polled 25% in the 1983 general Election), but strongly opposed David Steel’s decision to take the Liberal Party into the Lib-Lab Pact of March 1977 – July 1978 – which seemed to be based on political calculation rather than principle. It is still difficult to recall anything that it actually achieved other than putting off the date of a General Election.

“What bearing does any of this have on the formation, today, of a coalition government in Britain?

“First, the unedifying procrastination of the past few days has risked discrediting the concept of power-sharing. The haggling vividly underlines the importance of going into an election with a clear idea of who will work with whom and on what basis.

“Much of the electorate who took part in last week’s election will have been left with a bad taste in their mouths – and whatever the merits of today’s agreement it will not have been what millions of people thought that they were voting for last week.

“In that election David Cameron’s Conservative Party won the largest share of the vote; he won the largest number of seats; and won many of the arguments. Throughout, he argued for a majoritarian outcome. So did Gordon Brown. By contrast, Nick Clegg argued for a hung parliament and inevitably led the electorate on a merry dance.”

To read his comments in full visit


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