Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead?

by Stephen Tall on December 9, 2012

A couple of days ago, I suggested Lib Dems needed to think about how we rescue the idea of coalition as an effective form of government. Right on cue, former Labour cabinet minister Lord (Andrew) Adonis has slated the concept, arguing in The Guardian that:

Giving huge power to a very small party that is very unclear about what it wants to achieve in politics – I’m trying to be diplomatic about the Lib Dems – isn’t, to my mind, the best way forward. The best way forward would be to have a majority Labour government.

There are at least four interesting things about this statement:

1. Andrew Adonis was a member of the SDP, a founding member of the Lib Dems, an Oxford city councillor for a while and a prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate. However, despite or perhaps because of this background he’s not the least tribal of politicians, as I’ve noted before here and here.

2. It’s interesting to see that, according to Lord Adonis’s statement, the Lib Dems wield “huge power”. That’s not the most common accusation levelled at the party by Labour folk, but it’s interesting what sometimes slips out.

3. Lord Adonis suggests the Lib Dems are “very unclear” about our policies. This seems odd, to say the least (I’m trying to be diplomatic). It is, after all, the Lib Dems which have been the coherent party in this Coalition Government while the Tories have proved themselves to be little more than an inchoate shower, with David Cameron unable to unite his backbench MPs and his party tirn apart by internal civil war on issues such as wind farms, equal marriage and Europe.

4. Whatever happened to Labour pluralism? If even ostensibly reasonable liberal/left politicians like Andrew Adonis now decry the very idea of coalition, what are the prospects for future relations with the Lib Dems? It’s true that coalitions are driven more by the realities of election results — “we take our marching orders from the public,” as Nick Clegg would say — but initially this Coalition had also a uniting, driving purpose, not just on the economy but also on civil liberties. Yes, the hand we are dealt by the voters will decide what we are able (or unable) to do post-2015. But there needs to be a dab of uniting vision, too.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

16 comments

New from me > Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/EAMRqq1Q

by Stephen Tall on December 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm. Reply #

Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/OAKoDdpV

by BexhillBattleLibDems on December 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm. Reply #

New from me > Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/AvxXdZOt

by Stephen Tall on December 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm. Reply #

Cracking rebuttable of some very silly stuff from Andrew Adonis by @stephentall http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Nick Thornsby on December 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm. Reply #

Adonis calls the Lib Dems a "very small party" – Labour got less than 2 million more votes than us in 2010 http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Nick Thornsby on December 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm. Reply #

Adonis calls the Lib Dems a "very small party" – Labour got less than 2 million more votes than us in 2010 http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Stephen Glenn on December 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

Adonis calls the Lib Dems a "very small party" – Labour got less than 2 million more votes than us in 2010 http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by www tinie.st on December 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

Adonis calls the Lib Dems a "very small party" – Labour got less than 2 million more votes than us in 2010 http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Lancelot on December 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm. Reply #

Cracking rebuttable of some very silly stuff from Andrew Adonis by @stephentall http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Stephen Tall on December 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm. Reply #

Adonis calls the Lib Dems a "very small party" – Labour got less than 2 million more votes than us in 2010 http://t.co/IDNSpdMU

by Paul Westlake on December 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm. Reply #

RT @stephentall: Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/ojObyMnf

by Lisa Marie on December 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm. Reply #

Another really odd aspect of the article is that, after letting it slip that LibDems have had a good deal of power (in fact, as he suggests, disproportionately so) he says exactly the opposite later:

“What we have essentially had, let’s be clear, is the Tories’ economic policy and a seriously failed attempt by the Lib Dems to inject some constitutional reform into a Tory government. There has been very little that is identifiably liberal that has been brought into the mix. If they were going to be in coalition with us, I hope it would be our programme that would be dominant. But it’s not at all clear to me what the Lib Dems would bring to the party.”

Erm…. votes and a majority, perhaps? But what’s even more strange about it is that a member of the potentially larger party seems to be complaining that the smaller party might not sufficiently mess with his own manifesto. Given the likely quality of the Labour manifesto I an understand his concern, but as he admits himself earlier on, there is little danger of that, I’d have thought.

Mystifyingly muddled. I think this is a case of reality clashing with the hallowed Labour talking points and ending up making no sense whatsoever….

by Maria Pretzler on December 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm. Reply #

1. In neither of the posts you linked is it made clear that Lord Adonis is ‘not the least tribal’ of politicians.

2. That the Lib Dems wield “huge power” is not an accusation, but an observation. The power to veto any form of government legislation is, I believe, quite a substantial power. There was research showing that 75% of the Lib Dem manifesto became government policy. Suffice to say that the Lib Dems have a sixth of the Conservative parliamentary representation, do they seem to wield a sixth of the power the Tories do?

3. When Adonis says the Lib Dems are unclear about policies he refers to when the Lib Dems simultaneously vote and approve policies while criticising them at the same time. What he’s saying is that a coalition with the Lib Dems, the natural party of opposition, would be just as unworkable as the governing coalition is.

4. I too find it curious that the Labour party has become so anti-Lib Dem in recent times.

by PeeJay on December 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm. Reply #

New from me > Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/ytvYfEQP

by Stephen Tall on December 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm. Reply #

New from me > Andrew Adonis: “I am much more negative about the idea of coalition now”. Is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/ytvYfEQP

by Chris Bowden-Smith on December 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

Me at the weekend > As Andrew Adonis gives up on coalitions: is Labour pluralism dead? http://t.co/AvxXdZOt

by Stephen Tall on December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am. Reply #

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