There are few parties who have the ability to be in a coalition with the Conservatives or with Labour. The ability to talk to govern with either party without pulling their hair out would be a major achievement – the Liberal Democrats are that party. The party was built on compromise, after the Social Democratic Party had relative growth the Liberal party was fading away into the distant night of electoral politics. Instead of dying an undignified death they teamed up to form the Liberal Democrats, which somehow appeals to both the middle class and the student, or at least that’s how it used to be. The party offers a genuinely idiosyncratic voice in a new monotone movement of politics, so why are they so unpopular?
If labour win but fail to gain a majority could they turn to the Lib Dems to become new bedfellows in another coalition? As Fraser Nelson has already pointed out the Liberal Democrats have gotten things they wanted from the coalition, although this is not as clear as Nelson points out. They had a referendum on the potential to change our voting system. However, the vote was poorly timed, coming too close to the mother of all PR fiascos, the tuition fee rise. This meant that defeat was almost certainly inevitable and certainly heavy. As we all know, no-one gives credit for almost changing the system. As Fraser points out, the Liberal Democrats haven’t gone the right way about coalition. Their lack of credible departments means they don’t receive the credit for many good ideas, some even which the Tories champion. Ideas, such as non-taxable income for the poorest in society was in the Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto, not from of a conservative think tank. However, they have allowed the Conservatives take the credit for them, and the Lib Dems have been forced to vote for such regressive measures as the Bedroom Tax. All this amounts to a negative image for the Lib Dems, painting them as something which they aren’t.
The Liberal Democrats are down but not out, as to torture a cliché. The system they wanted to demolish will save many of their precious parliamentary seats. This means redemption is in site for the party. The party which can work with a Labour party, whose election hopes are in a quagmire. So what would the Lib Dems be working with? Today, Ed Miliband announced some of his main pledges, resurrecting an old labour pledge card which harks back to their electoral tricks of 1997. The mansion tax, progressive taxation, increased funding for the NHS, and the cost of living all being key themes. Also as always, criticism of the Conservatives attempts to strip down the state. Surely Liberal Democrats would be more at ease with a Labour government than a Conservative one?
The Liberal Democrat 2015 Spring Conference is underway, and as usual it is packed full of progressive measures. Already they have announced a commitment to over £1.25 billion in child mental health services. They have retained their commitment to a mansion tax, but are calling it the ‘high value property levy’ instead. These measures all chime in with Ed’s speech, which concentrated on how Labour would reverse Conservative cuts, while balancing the budget. Measures such as a minimum wage rise, introduction of a mansion tax, increased spending on the NHS, and a specific focus on the cost of living, all are things which the Liberal Democrats would endorse.
This could be the redemption of the Liberal Democrats. Their flexibility in ideology which led to near enough electoral suicide, gives them a way to work with Labour if the opportunity presents itself. They could form a progressive coalition which could rescue mental health care plans and give working people a vital increase in wage power. A Labour-Lib Dem coalition would combine progressiveness with fiscal responsibility. This is what the country needs and deserves, it would be the best result from this messy election.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.