Campaigns vs. coalition agreements

The Liberal Democrats are under fire for breaking various campaign commitments since joining the coalition with the Conservatives. This has put pressure on the party to begin putting greater emphasis on the “policy victories” it is achieving.

So, which is more relevant for judging a party’s record? The campaign or the coalition agreement? The latter, according to Business Secretary and LibDem Vince Cable, who argues that pre-election pledges are trumped by the coalition agreement which is “binding upon us.”

As a practical matter, that has to be correct. Besides, it is not as though the party would have a better record of fulfilling pledges had it remained in opposition.

2 thoughts on “Campaigns vs. coalition agreements

  1. The binding coalition agreement says “We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.”

    Here’s December, and the draft is leaked:

    “a slimmed down elected ‘senate’ containing just 300 members. The first elections would take place in 2015. . . David Cameron used to refer to overhauling the Lords as a ‘third term issue’ before the election, but has been persuaded the Government should press ahead as quickly as possible. Polls would be based on pure proportional representation, where votes cast precisely reflect the seats allocated.

    “It is favoured far more highly by Lib Dems than the alternative vote, the subject of a referendum on reform of the electoral system for the Commons, which is due to take place next year.

    “Attention has focused on what the Lib Dems will do if Commons reform is rejected. But sources say that focus is quietly shifting to Lords reform as the ‘glue’ that will keep the Coalition together.”

    It sounds like regional list (either open list or flexible list which the UK calls “semi-open”) in the same regions used for the European Parliament. With 100 elected every five years for 15 year terms, that’s 12 regions with something like 14, 12, 11, 9, 9, 9, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4 and 3 senators. The two highest numbers are in the Southeast and London, the same regions that elect Green MEPs, and will presumably elect Green senators. Likely calculated by highest average, it might exclude parties like the BNP (6.2% last year) unless they have regional strongholds.

  2. But the Lib Dems pre-election pledge to abolish tuition fees was not trumped by the Coalition Agreement, which said only “We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding . . .”

    So today, amid riots never before seen in modern Britain, the Lib Dems split wide open. According to Professor Philip Cowley, an expert on the arithmetic on rebellions, as a proportion of a political party a record number of backbenchers rebelled.

    Two aides left the government. Only a minority of Lib Dems followed their leader, as Nick Clegg received the support of 28 MPs, just 11 more than the 17 who are part of government and on the payroll vote. The deputy leader abstained, along with about 6 others, while the party president led 21 MPs to oppose the government.

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