Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Unbelievable, amazing, unprecedented, fantastic, astonishing - we've all run out of adjectives to describe yesterday's events. In a letter to a friend from Chicago I tried to explain what had happened:

Politics doesn't have to be a never-ending tribal conflict. More can sometimes be achieved by dialogue and compromise between people coming from different philosophical backgrounds.

We said we would deliver strong and stable government to cope with the dire economic situation this country faces. That we have done.

We said we would usher in a new kind of politics. This is it.

We set out in our manifesto a detailed set of policies, many of which appear in the joint programme announced this afternoon. That's an amazing achievement for a party that, under our discredited electoral system, got only 57 seats.

We have got the Tories to agree to a referendum on AV, to which they had been implacably opposed in the past.

At 00.03 this morning, after hearing from Nick Clegg and our negotiating team, and debating the agreement between the Parties for 2 ½ hours, the Commons and Lords Parliamentary Parties voted unanimously in favour of the agreement, and gave the team a standing ovation.

Of course there will be some problems as Nick Clegg has acknowledged, not least in explaining the unexpected outcome to the rank and file of the Party. But I hope they will see, after analysing the facts that will be presented to them at the special Assembly in Birmingham on Sunday, that we have delivered as much as possible of what we told the people we would do at the elections. This was the only solution available that produces a Government with the combined forces needed to deal with the economic crisis, in the national interest, and at the same time putting into operation so many of our flagship LibDem policies. Our Ministers will be there in Cabinet to make sure it all happens, and nobody can say, in the light of this outcome, that a LibDem vote is a wasted vote!

We have a duty to explain this agrement in detail to LibDem members and the public. That's why Nick and the negotiating team have taken great pains to explain every step of the road to the Parliamentary Party in both Houses and the Federal Executive, culminating in the unanimous votes of approval at 00.03 this morning by the Commons and Lords in separate votes, and why there is a meeting to which all Party members are invited at Birmingham this Sunday. Nobody can deny that our processes of consultation are more democratic than those of any other Party.

The explanation must include an account of the negotiations with Labour, and why they were always destined to fail. Apart from the refusal of the Labour team to make any concessions, it became apparent from the comments of John Reid, David Blunkett et al, Gordon Brown would have found it impossible to sell any deal to his Party, and there would have been widespread public opposition to what was being described as a 'coalition of the losers'.

No comments: