To deal or not to deal

The essential issue is the budget.The outgoing Labour government refused to hold a full spending review, or to supply the detail of their spending plans for the post Election period. Any new incoming government has to get on with that task quickly.

Mr Cameron is right to say to the Lib Dems that any agreement to work together has to start from the proposition that we need a new budget which sorts out the public spending, within the next fifty days. The Lib Dems at the very least have to agree to abstain on the votes to get that through, so we can start to reassure the markets that the UK intends to control its deficit before the deficit swamps us.

The Lib Dems could agree to support a Conservative Queen’s Speech programme which centred on abolishing ID cards and other attacks on civil liberties, and legislated for school reform. Not seeking too much legislation could be an improvement, and avoids the need for so many cliff hanger votes.

A minority Conservative government could insist on no new powers transferring to Brussels and could negotiate for the UK on any new EU legislative proposals. The fact that it could not guarantee to get any measure through the Commons would be an added good argument against agreeing to anything that did require new law or extra spending in the UK.

In the end Mr Clegg’s busy day will revolve around the extent and the credibility of Mr Brown’s offer on changed voting systems, and the degree to which Mr Clegg understands his responsibilities now to help the country through the next worrying phase of the rolling debt crisis.

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67 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Mr Clegg has a record of being trained and moulded by Europe. Let me remind you that for a decade or more Europe has not had the books signed off by an accountant. Marta Andreasen's book describes what happens if you try and do it properly.
    So, as the fish rots from the head down, I am worried if Mr Clegg actually will do anything about the UK budget. He has been far too used to working in an atmosphere of dodgy dealings.
    But I am pleased that he is about to abandon his pledge to put all schools under the control of local government, no doubt, with a good dose of Regionalism thrown in. As someone who really wants to start up a small school here in Wisbech, that is good news.
    Power tends to corrupt, so maybe he will support your very sensible suggestions.
    (Yesterday I thought he would sell out to Mr Brown over PR).

    • Jock Coats
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      He cannot abandon a pledge he never made. On schools the policy was merely that LEAs should commission schools and not central government. "Sponsor Managed Schools" were merely academies, and other self managed schools but whose sponsors would be chosen not by Westminster politicians but by locally elected ones.

      I do not understand why people who want "small government" and radical devolution does not understand this.

      On Europe, whilst I am that rare breed as a Euro-skeptic (now semi-detached) Lib Dem, I seem to recall Clegg actually heading up some kind of campaign group to try to ensure budget sign-off and transparency.

      But then let's not let the truth get in the way of some consensus busting political headbanging shall we?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Well then. How about this? The Methodist and Anglican churches provided £1,000,000 and the (Labour) government promised another £5,000,000 for a faith school at Downham Market (June 2006). A farmer provided (free) a few acres of land in a suitable place. Guess what? The two LEAs involved torpedoed the school with a sudden announcement of a projected survey at the adjudication meeting. This, in spite of a hall full of parents all of whom were thoroughly in support.
        Guess what?
        No school.

        • Jock Coats
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          Well, Mike, I'm afraid it is not possible to have "devolution" to more locally accountable bodies, and an overhanging threat that central government can intervene whenever it wants to. For that is not devolution.

          The situation you outline sounds pretty horrid, but the answer is to sack the body(ies) concerned at the first opportunity – the local authority members – far easier, I would suggest that waiting for our twice a decade chance to sack the national government.

          I'd also suggest that the very practice of allowing central government to impose from Westminster would tend to put the backs up of the LEAs involved, seeing what they had regarded as their prerogative in respect of schools commissioning being usurped.

          Equally there are horror stories the other way around – here in Oxford it sounds as if a collusion between the Tory controlled LEA and the outgoing (hopefully) Labour government will foist upon parents and local communities who do not want an academy exactly that.

          The point about the Lib Dem policy is that is sets a clear system of responsibility and accountability. At the very least, knowing who is in control and whom people should hold accountable and that that body is a more locally devolved body than central government, should mean that people campaign for their wants in one place, with some certainty that that body is the responsible one and that nobody else can intervene over anyone's heads.

          If you believe in devolution, you have to accept its consequences. I do not believe the Lib Dem policy goes far enough in devolution – they should allow selective schools for example in my opinion. But it is a start in restricting the powers of Westminster and focussing accountability on more locally representative bodies.

    • Steve Tierney
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Mike,

      I'd be interested to talk to you about your plans to set up a school in Wisbech at some point.

      Steve Tierney

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Hope you got my e mail!

  2. Jock Coats
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Hah! In my little game of Telegraph Fantasy Cabinet I just added you to the newly formed "Commission for Budget Management" 🙂

    Very interesting talk yesterday by the way. Thank you. Much of what I have also been saying. I was sorry not to be able to stay and discuss one or two things but some had got in before me and I had to dash back to work. But perhaps next week…

  3. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    64% of the British have voted against a Conservative government. That is a large percentage!

    Mr Cameron cannot expect to work in the country's interest without some real concessions and a bit of humility.
    With less than a referendum on PR, LibDem should not agree.

    The problem may be that neither the British public nor the politicians are familiar with deal-making and compromise and view this as some kind of treachery

    • gac
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Actually 45%of the British entitled to vote have voted against a Conservative government.

      The c 30% who could not be bothered to vote offered no opinion at all.

      • Jock Coats
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        How does one express one's not giving consent to be ruled over, or not presuming to select someone to rule over others?

      • PaulT
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        I 'bothered' to vote this time as it is the first time I have lived in a marginal and I helped change the MP this time. Previously I have lived where voterpower.org.uk index is less that 0.2 and did not 'bother' – my opinion being that I deserve a system that works.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      If 64% voted against a Conservative government then 71% voted against a Labour government and 77% against a LibDem government!! How about a bit of humility and a few concessions from them?
      The country faces a major economic crisis and people like you persist in talking about a referendum on PR. Please stop "fiddling while Rome burns".

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      In 2005 78% voted against a Labour Government or abstained. In 2007 the electorate were denied the opportunity of endorsing or otherwise Brown as PM.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Thank you, I take your point.
        I see it though as a further underpinning of the need of electoral reform. The disproportional representation in your system is clearly unfair (see 2005: 100-78= only 32% popular support)

  4. Norman
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    A LibDem-Conservative coalition working long term must be a long shot but the alternative of a Lib-Lab-SNP-PC coalition with every vote being able to be held to ransom by a small handful of MP's is a complete nightmare.

    I'd be all for changing the voting system to a similar one we have at Euro elections – local MP and regional Party representative based on vote by party. Let's face it, if the Conservatives can't win this election then something has to change – either coalition politics or somehow sorting out the disaster for England that is Scotland and Wales – Scotland in particular is a basketcase and I am Scottish

    • Martin
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      How can you state Scotland is a basket case? The SNP made no headway despite Mr Salmond (not a candidate) never being off the TV for the last three weeks.

      All we get from the Scottish Conservatives is the usual stuff that appeals to elderly Sunday Post readers about law and order and police numbers. It appeals to the existing 15% who vote Conservative in Scotland and that is it.

      Very occasionally one hears of a right wing think tank say that Scotland should have lower company taxes or whatever to give the economy an additional stimulus. Do the Scottish Conservatives ever act on these ideas?

      • Norman
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        What I meant is that 85% of Scotland votes socialist (SNP, Labour, Lib Dem) and we are sheltered from the lunacy of that position because either there is a Conservative government in which runs a sensible economic policy and doesn't tread too much on our toes because they're the Party of the Union or there's a Labour government in which doesn't want to displease Scotland as it gives them a guaranteed 50 seat headstart come election day.

        • Eotvos
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          Norman, I agree. Scotland is a lost cause and there is no point wasting more time and money on them. Ditch them. Force them to go independent.

          I've just posted on this topic on one of Mr Redwood's other blogs.

      • David B
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 2:41 am | Permalink

        Do you not think the problem is Conservative and Unionist? I suspect I could be described as Conservative and Nationalist. Where is my cross supposed to go?

        • Eotvos
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          David, you must be in a minority of one. The Scottish Tories should change policy and advocate independence.

          An independent Scotland would have to make radical changes to public spending but the Scots are addicted to subsidy.

          The Barnett Formula must be the most successful and enduring Wilson/Labour policy of all time. A guaranteed 50 seats for Labour and it is paid for by the Tory voting English middle class.

  5. rb
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Mr Redwood.

    Mr Cameron lost it on his broken promise on Europe (and gave us back Ed Balls!!):

    Bolton West: Labour 18,329; Conservative 18,235; UKIP 1,901
    Derby North: Labour 14,896; Conservative 14,283; UKIP 829
    Derbyshire NE: Labour 17,948: Conservative 15,503; UKIP 2,636
    Dorset mid & Poole: Labour 21,100; Conservative 20,831; UKIP 2,109
    Dudley North: Labour 14,923; Conservative 14,274; UKIP 3,267
    Great Grimsby: Labour 10,777: Conservative 10,063: UKIP 2,043
    Hampstead & Kilburn: Labour 17,332; Conservative 17,290; UKIP 408
    Middlesbrough South: Labour 18,138; Conservative 16,461; UKIP 1,881
    Morley (Ed Balls): Labour 18,365; Conservatives 17,264; UKIP 1,506
    Newcastle-Under-Lyme: Labour 16,393; Conservatives 14,841; UKIP 3,491
    Plymouth Moor View: Labour 15,433; Conservatives 13,845; UKIP 3,188
    Solihull: Liberal 23,635; Conservatives 23,460; UKIP 1,200
    Somerton & Frome: Liberal 28,793; Conservatives 26,976; UKIP 1,932
    Southampton Itchen: Labour 16,326; Conservatives 16,134; UKIP 1,928
    St Austell & Newquay: Liberal 20,189; Conservatives 18,877; UKIP 1,757
    St Ives: Liberal 19,619; Conservatives 17,900; UKIP 2,560
    Telford: Labour 15,977; Conservatives 14,996; UKIP 2,428
    Walsall North: Labour 13,385; Conservatives 12,395; UKIP 1,737
    Walsall South: Labour 16,211; Conservatives 14,456; UKIP 3,449
    Wells: Liberal 24,560; Conservatives 23,760; UKIP 1,711
    Wirral South: Labour 16,276; Conservatives 15,745; UKIP 1,274

    • Acorn
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      306 + 21 = 327; an overall majority of one. UKIP has done more damage than anyone imagined. But we can't say we were not warned on this site at least. Oh, the madness of men!

      Please can I recommend to Redwoodians two good pieces on the sovereign debt crisis. Every new MP should read them. The only new legislation needed in the next year, is that which does away with old legislation that has little or no cost benefit, and a new budget.

      If there is a desire for PR, then buy the AV+ system, off the shelf from New Zealand, with a yes no referendum if needed. BUT; "it is the economy stupid". It will be very painful; it has to be done. Oh; I think it is actually time to leave the EU, there is no future for us there.
      http://www.investorsinsight.com/blogs/john_mauldi
      http://www.investorsinsight.com/blogs/thoughts_fr

      • Ian B
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        UKIP didn't do "damage". They gave a voice at the polls to those who wish to remain a sovereign nation, which none of the other parties would do, and they thus, it appears, denied the Tories absolute power. That is democracy in action. Mr Cameron would do well to contemplate the result of his reneging on his "cast iron" guarantee.

    • GJ Wyatt
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      UKippers cut off their noses to spite their faces.

      • Eotvos
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        They have come close to decapitating Mr Cameron. He should have spent some time talking to Lord Pearson instead of the Ulstermen who are only interested in more government subsidy.

        Now Mr Cameron is negotiating with the Liberals whose policies will destroy our economy and give away our independence.

    • Martin
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Supporters of all parties will point to seats that they just missed by a thousand votes and say if only we had ….

      The trouble with single issue voters is that they are just that. Some UKIP voters may be old hard left type who hated the EU as much as the some on the right do.

      • Ralph
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and some ( many?) of the Conservative voters, like Ken Clarke, also love the EU…

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        That is possible but all the UKIP'ers I know are former tories and I rather fancy this is the majority given their other positions

    • English Pensioner
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Whatever happens in the immediate future, at least this will show the Tories that there is substantial anti-European feeling and that he needs to take more notice of it.
      I would now prefer a Lab-Lib government rather than a Con-Lib government as the former is unlikely to last for long.

    • THE ESSEX GIRLS
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      # rb on 08 May 2010 at 8:25 am
      Congratulations, Mr Redwood.

      Mr Cameron lost it on his broken promise on Europe (and gave us back Ed Balls!!):

      DEAR RB

      If only Team Cameron had adopted the proposal that we and, to his credit, John Redwood strongly advocated months ago, and frequently since, the Tories would have picked up many lost marginals such as those you listed with the UKIP vote alongside.

      We advocated: “A referendum at the start of a 2nd Tory term after negotiation to regain sovereignty and control EU waste and corruption in the first.”

      We are not only concerned that strategy was in the hands of theorists and party wonks but that down-to-earth proposals on this site and elsewhere were not even acknowledged or, we bet, even considered.

      We are certain that this debate will continue – not for the purposes of recrimination but so the party injects realism and an understanding of what gets through to the ordinary man/woman-in-the-street as the Conservatives take government.

      For the moment though, let's get this coalition in place and get the activists to butt out and think of the interests of their country and not their own narrow party interests (and after seeing you on Channel 4 News tonight, Tim Montgomerie, that includes you!)

    • Robert George
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      Interesting numbers, they support my comment on Friday that all UKIP voters should be looking very carefully at what they had done, BUT so should David Cameron.

      If Cleggie wants PR offer him the Aussie style single optional transferrable preferance, the constituency retains their MP, the voter eventually gets his final preferance into the 1 or 2 slot and you don't get hung parliaments.

      Then you put it to a referendum. Again the Aussie experience is instructive. In 115 years they have had about 40, only 4 have passed. None has passed which did not have the unanimous support of all parties. Voters are always suspicious of any proposal which politicians make via referenda – which is why of course the pollies reneged on Lisbon

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      The Conservative loser at Wells was David Heathcoate-Amery, one of the most respected and intelligent Eurosceptics in the last parliament. His margin of defeat (LD gain) was half the UKIP vote.

      Have those leaders of UKIP got ANYTHING between their ears?

  6. Antisthenes
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The mess Labour has got the UK into is going to take a long painful process to put right. Now is not the time for the Conservatives to be involved in solving Britain's problems especially in cooperation with the sandals and straight jackets brigade, it will be doomed to failure and Labour will be marching triumphantly back into no. 10 within the year.

    A Labour Lib-Dem administration is by far the best outcome in the short term. Labour can only cobble together a coalition of a number of parties working together and then will barely have a working majority. The next government will have to start on making the changes that are needed whether they want to or not that will lead to a summer of discontent. A Labour and other parties coalition will fall apart then will be the time for the Conservatives to form a government and not before after another election when the Conservatives can expect to a large working majority in parliament.

  7. JimF
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Yes Cameron has handled this well and what you say is correct. Another dimension you haven't mentioned is the Scotland/Wales issue, whereby having by and large voted anti-Tory they could, in the absence of a LibCon deal, weigh disproportionate power against the budget (as could the Northern Irish). This angle needs to be taken into account by those Tory MP s anti a LibCon deal.

    In the case of Scotland, it did cross my mind that if the SNP were to given their long wished-for independence vote and chopped away, the whole hung Parliament problem would be solved at a stroke, and the English, at least, would get what they overwhelmingly voted for instead of the tail wagging the dog (again).

  8. JohnOfEnfield
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    John,

    For once I disagree with your analysis – and in an area where you have the advantage of me!

    The critical factors for Clegg are

    1. Neither he nor anyone else can be seen to force an early election. The electorate will punish any party that is seen to do that.

    2. There is no stable coalition available with Labour.

    3. There IS a stable coalition available with the Conservative Party.

    4. Gordon Brown cannot be trusted.

    So Clegg has a very limited choice – either join a coalition with the Conservatives on Cameron's terms – or opt for the unknown.

  9. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Funny old game politics – we are told vote Libdem get Labour, so we vote Conservative and get Libdem.

    What is Cameron thinking about? How can the Conservatives have any deal with the non nuclear,(defence and power), EU hugging, immigration amnesty, AGW fanatics?

    • Eotvos
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I absolutely agree with this. Why Cameron is talking to the Liberals is beyond comprehension.

      The policies in the Lib manifesto would devastate the economy which is why they have been rejected at the ballot box.

      Give them nothing.

  10. pauper
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    At the start of the Falklands War Enoch Powell addressed chilling words to Mrs Thatcher in the Commons: "They call her the Iron Lady. We are about to see what metal she is really made of."

    Now we shall see what metal Messrs Cameron and Clegg and their respective parties are made of. Politics is the art of gaining and holding power; statesmanship that of wielding it. The negotiations they are undertaking are high politics, calling for profound and exquisite judgement both in the short term and the long, with life or death stakes for at least one party – and all conducted against the crash and thunder of a European sovereign debt crisis, with the British economy collapsing even as they haggle.

    Will they let the politics emasculate the statesmanship, or the statesmanship vitiate the politics?

    Steady the Buffs!

  11. Javelin
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    A lack of majority would give even more backing to Camerons referendum inthe expansion of EU powers and an English Parliament. When you add in the House of Lords reform, boundry changes, public sector transparency, ID cards, immigration etc, etc it sounds like "The Great Referendum" Bill is needed to be passed by the people on these issues.

    Perhaps in this post cold war anti-dialetic world we need a referendum to set a new direction for the British Political system.

    • Martyn
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      English Parliament? What for? England, which so far as the EU is concerned no longer exists has already got nine regional governing bodies, the leader of one of which (London) was elected on PR, so what is the point of forming yet another tier of government?
      On the other hand, get rid of the undemocratic regional government organisations, restore England as a country to the map of the EU and then like Scotland, Wales and N Ireland there would be a case for an English parliament. But not until that happens…..

  12. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    To quote "it is the economy, stupid"

    If Clegg can refuse to allow Brown into power, a minority Tory government can pass the rules on parliamentary and party funding reform which could remove the Union money from the Labour equation

    As all commentators feel that Cameron would go for another election in the autumn to seek a proper mandate, it is important to ensure that some of this legislation is passed and you carry through your promise on the 10% reduction of MP's

    A Manifesto is an ambition for a full parliament, and it would appear that there won't be a full five years. It is therefore expediate to decide what will have the most impact immediately, and then stand on the ticket that shows you have pulled some levers

    Hopefully the Lib Dems will support the reforms to allow for election of police chiefs then the people can make them accountable

    On top of which you can probably enforce the "No increase in council Tax" as my local Lib Dem councillors seem to support that policy (a caveat – it could be usual lib dem flip flopping)

  13. Javelin
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I still think that a Celtic coalition with the DUP, SNP and PC would be a more legitimate political body.

    1) it would represent every country in the nation

    2) Once there was an English Parliament there would be no conflict on Education and Health etc

    3) It would shut out the left wing

    4) It would give a focus on constitutional change

    5) Every country is interested in improving their private sector to become self standing

    6) The focus would be on the economy

    7) We will all come out of this stronger

  14. simon
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Labour are completely discredited and Mr Clegg knows they need to be thrown out of the corridors of power . He is going to need to use a lot of political capital to convince his own party to go with him .

    I was absolutely revulsed by the statements of Peter Haine and Harriet Harman yesterday . They seem oblivious to the expressed will of the British people .

    Thankfully one (ex?) Labour MP was intent on correcting their statement that "neither labour nor conservatives won" by saying on the radio "labour lost and the conservatives won" .

    If Mother asks the family what they want for dinner on Sunday and 2 say lamb , 1 says beef , 1 says pork and 1 says chicken they would expect roast lamb and be pretty disappointed if they were served up a mixed meat casserole .

    If Nick Clegg (and Labour ha ha) want to make a case for P.R. then they need to show they can co-operate for the common good .

    J.R. what about the Sovereignty of Parliament act you were proposing and the Repeal Bill ? Do you think the IMF will be asked what cuts they would recommend ?

  15. MaxVanHorn
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    John, DC must position himself so that the coming financial storm is centered on Nuliebour.If he fails to do this, when the next election is called, in about 6 months, the Conservative party will be relegated to history.We may have voted in public, but we have been privately disinfranchised…total deafness on the EU, blindness to immigration and general refusal to discuss the true state of public finances.The 'tinfoil hat brigade' are starting to sound plausible with all the Bilderburger and new world order stuff.The public have all voted holding their noses.This hasn't been an election about a government for the people, this has been political theatre, stage managed, scenery painted by the MSM, scripted by focus groups, directed by the EU. We've got a Greek tragedy at the moment, but the Brits could burn the building down.

  16. DBC Reed
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    This election result seems more and more like an upper-class stitch-up.( The Lib Dems have shown their true colours as pale blue fellow travellers: only days ago the Mirror was publishing guides on where to vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out.)
    There is a community of interest between the Conservatives and the wolves in sheep's clothing: an absolute, unreasoning hatred of the public sector (which did not appear in any manifestos,natch).
    These people are literally enemies of the State ,which in the UK rests on a mixed economy.As they used to say to socialists: if you don't like our system go somewhere else .You can't foist unBritish
    ideas on us.

    • APL
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      DBC Reed: "These people are literally enemies of the State ,which in the UK rests on a mixed economy."

      Mr Reed, clearly your definition of 'the State' differs from mine.

      People who want small government, less interference by government organs in the day to day existence of the population are not 'enemies of the State' rather opposed to excessively large government. You seem unwilling or unable to distinguish the two concepts.

      DBC Reed: "You can’t foist unBritish ideas on us."

      Small state and a thriving market economy are British, perhaps Scottish ideas.

      • DBC Reed
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

        It is not really possible to take a cosy view that the right-wing accepts the British mixed economy and just wants a change in the mix.The attack on the post-war consensus ( I can remember Macmillan -straight left by modern standards) has been remorseless and totally ideological.All the nationalised industries have been destroyed,despite in some case like the railways ,where a majority of people support the older system,which was lets not forget ,much cheaper relatively to use. All the privatisations have led to more expensive replacements.Governments have been forced to more or less give up on providing housing. (And look how successfully the private sector has provided affordable homes.)This present crisis is being used by some Conservatives to try and finish off the public sector part of the post-war British mixed economy .
        Where these untried and where-tried-failed ideas have come from I cannot imagine:probably Ayn Randland ,the frenzied imaginings of a hysterical lady novelist.Or neoCom land.Almost certainly some sphere of American wishful thinking .(I can remember anti-American Tories: Enoch Powell most notably who believed the IRA was being backed by covert American funding). The present conversations between anti-public sector Tories and Lib Dems look like a coup d'etat.

        • APL
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          DBC REED: "The attack on the post-war consensus [snip] has been remorseless and totally ideological."

          Well Mr Reed, if you disagree with a thing, then you should oppose it. On your point ''consensus', a consensus of itself has no value. Galileo found himself arraigned by the prevailing political consensus of his time, we are better today because he was steadfast in his opposition to that consensus, we have a better understanding of the universe now because his opinion prevailed .

          DBC Reed: "( I can remember Macmillan -straight left by modern standards)"

          That simply confirms my opinion that the Tory party has largely been an instrument of the left during the last sixty five years. You want more collectivist initiatives by government, I want less. In the post war period, you opinion has prevailed, the result has been a tragedy for the UK.

          DBC REED: "All the nationalised industries have been destroyed,despite in some case like the railways …"

          The Nationalized industries were created from the ruins of the post war private owned industrial wreckage. The government had run the private industries on a war footing for seven years, with next to no investment and under sustained physical attack.

          In the first case Nationalization is the wrong solution when you take over a healthy industry. It is the worst possible solution when you have taken over a badly damaged industry starved of investment.

          DBC Reed: " ,where a majority of people support the older system,"

          Firstly, when were the 'people' consulted? They largely would have opposed the railways when they were being built by PRIVATE companies.

          You and I and a few others who frequent Mr Redwood's blog are an exception. We occasionally think about ideas. The average man or woman in the street doesn't do that, is not interested to do that. Consequently they will support *ANYTHING THAT WORKS*.

          On the evening before the election, a lady on face book wrote; "I'm sick of this, why can't they just agree and get on with looking after us?" That someone might come out with a statement like that, after the election expenses scandal left me gob-smacked. But,'it is what it is', people just want to be left to get on with their lives. They have more important things to attend to than 'what is the best way to organize the trains'. They see the chaos caused by privatization and they assign the cause to privatization. You and your ilk, milk the situation to your advantage, but people rarely factor in the fact that during the Nationalized years, rail capacity has been remorselessly removed and as we just went through a period of booming 'Gordon Brown bubble' economy demand exceeded the supply.

          DBC REED: "which was lets not forget ,much cheaper relatively to use."

          I dispute that the older system was cheaper. We had no idea how much the old Nationalized system cost, we did know that it never made a profit and required huge public subsidies. So, in fact you don't know and to assert that the old nationalized rail system was cheaper to use, is false and based on the fact that to the public the tickets might have been cheaper but the public were still paying through their taxes the full cost of a ticket plus a surcharge because we did not know where in the Nationalized rail system the inefficiencies lay.

          DBC Reed: "All the privatisations have led to more expensive replacements."

          No! All privatisations have led to us better knowing the true cost of the thing we purchase. In actual fact we still subsidse the rail system. So even after the privitisation we do not yet know how much it costs to travel from London to York by train.

          DBC Reed: "Governments have been forced to more or less give up on providing housing."

          The private sector works within the constraints laid on it by the government, if the government relaxed planning laws, if the government both Tory and Blair Brown hadn't encouraged inflation in the construction sector of the economy, if the government didn't have inflation as in instrument of policy, we would have affordable housing.

          If you could be bother to identify the true cause of the problems we face, you might stand a chance of arriving at the right cure.

          Government, specifically Large Government, it the root cause of our problems, get rid of LARGE Government and most of our problems would go too.

        • APL
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          DBC Reed: " look like a coup d’etat."

          That of course is rubbish.

      • Jonathan Tee
        Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

        An additional point to make – no wealth comes from a 'mixed economy'. There is just the private sector, and whatever the state and associated organs takes from those operating within the private sector. The state creates no wealth, all it can do is decide how much to take from elsewhere and where to spend it.

        Lately the state has been taking rather a lot, both from people today, and from people in the future through unrestrained borrowing.

        This is not a class issue – its reason against irrationality. It is not possible to spend more than we have indefinitely. It is not reasonable to ask the next two generations to pay for today's budget deficits. It is not reasonable to expect our creditors to lend without limit. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats understand that. I truly do not understand why Labour and the Unions do not – but then a lot of things have happened over the past thirteen years which seem perfectly irrational to me.

        • DBC Reed
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          It is nice to see that there is no pretence in the above of a defence the British mixed economy system.Rather we get the absurd proposition that there is only the private sector and that the public sector parasitically feeds off it, implied support for a no public sector state that exists no
          place on earth .BTW since the electorate did n't vote for a Lib Con pact and these people are right now plotting to seize power on this non-existent mandate (nb the constitional convention as in 1974 is that the present PM has first claims on forming a pact/coalition) "coup d'etat" is, I admit, an exaggeration but not much.

  17. gac
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    This election confirmed that yet again England overwhelmingly voted for a Conservative government but the voters have been prevented in getting the government of their choice by the voters of the other countries in the UK – who already have their own parliaments/assemblies which reflect their choices.

    The Libdems may argue the they do not get the MPs that their support deserves but hey? what about the residents of England who clearly have a much bigger and justified case?

    If we live in a democracy then this nonsense has to stop.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    What is the alternative to a Con/LibDem deal?

    Labour 258
    LibDem 57
    Scot Nats 6
    Plaid Cumry 3
    SDLP 3

    That takes them to 327 seats – enough for a "strong and stable government"? Sinn Fein can't vote if they don't turn up.

    If we can't do a formal coalition deal with the LibDems, either a Conservative or LibDem minority government is preferable. That would involve a guarantee not to support any 'no confidence' motion and would realistically have to be limited to 6 months. We simply must have control by the time of the 2011 budget.

  19. simon
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    IMHO the British electoral system and constitution is not so much broken as susceptible to abuse by unprincipled folk like Nulabour .

    My own concern is that it is an emotive issue and if a referendum was held today it would be carried as people would vote for a romantic notion of what they think P.R. is without making the effort to make themselves aware of what it actually is and implies .

    The amount of effort required to properly understand it is far beyond the attention span of the average Britains-Got-X-Factor viewer . This is the only valid ground I can see for denying the people a referendum on it .

    People have grown up with the idea that they can have their cake and eat it . The reality that some options are mutually exclusive and have to be taken as a whole or not at all is alien to them .

  20. Neil Craig
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    It will not just be Brown's offer on voting reform. Brown cannot survive as Labour leader under almost any conceivable circumstances. Offers of voting reform from a new Labour leadership, particularly if either Johnstone or Mandelson are involved will be entirely credible since both have long supported it. Except perhaps on the question of putting it to a referendum rather than immediately legislating a change PR is not a matter on which the LDs need to comptomise. Indeed even if the Tories vote against it all the small parties, who have long been heavily discriminated against by FPTP will vote for reform creating a majority.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    If Clegg is to act in the interests of the Nation, then I do not see how electoral reform can be a part of his current thinking.

    In the first place it is extremely dubious that a change to proportional representation will make any difference to the ills perceived with the current parliamentary system. For instance it will make no difference to PMQs, nor the the conduct of committees.

    Secondly, what ever impact the change of voting system does have will not start to apply until some time in the medium term. It is irrelevant to the short term financial issues.

  22. ManicBeancounter
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    You nicely focus on the strongest area of common ground – the need to deal with the deficit. This is also where a compromise may come unstuck. My Lib-Dem MP has pledged to oppose cuts in the local area. I am sure that some Conservatives have made similar pledges.
    The argument should therefore emphasise
    1) The reliance on growth to get most of the deficit reduction
    (http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2010/05/06/all-you-need-is-growth/). Hence the need to increase growth through removal of illiberal regulations.
    2) Planned and compassionate cuts now OR drastic and more savage cuts later. The Greek example is relevant, though extreme. The risk at present is something to cut off the recovery – such as more debt crises in southern Europe. Falling tax receipts would have to be met by a) more-rapid cuts in expenditure, plunging the UK into a depression. b) The deficit hitting 15%+ of GDP. Until we get the deficit down significantly, the government has nothing in reserve.
    3) The national interest should override particular interests in times of crisis.

  23. Ian B
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Then the Queen must tell Mr Brown that he is no longer her prime minister, and call Mr Cameron to the Palace, and Mr Clegg, and ask them to form a government. Constitutionally, the Queen can appoint whomsoever she likes as her ministers, and, constitutionally, there is nothing but unwritten precedent that Mr Brown has some "right" to cling on in his bunker ordering counter-attacks that will never happen.

    And then; the talk is of "electoral" reform, but that is not enough. We need, desperately, reform of the entire Constitution. We need to separate the executive from the legislature, as in America. They have done rather well with a system in which, for instance, a Republican president must work with a majority Democrat Congress. They are, I am told, indeed quite a successful nation.

    This mess only shows that our system is not fit for purpose. By what specific method representatives are elected to the Commons is far less important than the structure of power in government, and the current system, with an unrepresentative voting method sustained by the argument that it produces "strong government"- and that is a poor argument, because if you want "strong" government, nothing fits that demand better than a dictatorship- and with citizens trying to use one vote to decide two distinct questions- a local representative, and a national leader- has lost all credibility.

    Democracy was itself once a very radical idea, and Britain led the world in its creation. Now, Britain must be radical again, and reexamine our whole constitution from top to bottom.

    For now, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg must work together to form a government, and the Queen must, as a matter of urgency, rid the nation of Mr Brown, who is a despised failure and embarassment to us. But the next time that we the people vote, it must be under a radically new system that is truly democratically representative. And that means separating the governance and legislative powers, so that, as in the USA, we the people can decide, at last, whom we wish to govern and whom we wish to represent our local community in the legislature without the conflation of the two in one vote.

    We talk a lot about democracy. It is time for us to become a proper one. Never again must our "presidency" be the gift of a Blair to casually pass on to a Brown, and never again must we find ourselves in such a ludicrous position as we do now, with the most hated politician in the nation, having been humiliatingly hammered at the polls, left sitting in Number 10 until he chooses to leave.

  24. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    John,
    Are you Conservative MPs being consulted about this or are you just expected to accept whatever deal is cobbled together?

    Reply: I am talking to the leadership

  25. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    What's wrong with no clear overall majority, MP's are supposed to follow our wishes, not ensure the winning party can dominate Westminster.
    If the 'winning' party doesnt command a Mojority, that's good, it means their leader can#t just dictate what happens, effectively putting us in a dictatorship.

    A Coalition is better for us the little people.

  26. martin sewell
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Is there anything to stop Brown commissioning the long awaited Public Spending Review without delay?

    Someone is going to need it, whatever the outcome of the disussions.

  27. alan jutson
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Interesting times.

    The olive branch has been offered by Cameron.

    Clegg is in a very difficult position to refuse a Conservative offer.

    He said he wants Government in the National interest.

    Clearly he should have burnt his bridges with Brown by his recent statements, and if he now does a deal with Labour without Brown we will have yet another non elected Prime Minister (assuming it will be a Labour politician).

    If he does a deal with Brown, keeping Brown, the electorate will get their revenge in the future, and Cameron will be proven to be correct, Vote Liberal get Labour.

    Brown has only made an offer on PR to save his own skin and that of the Labour Party, which all of a sudden after 13 years think its a good idea.

    The Liberals expected a huge increase in Votes and seats, they got neither, and Labour got less. The only Party to gain significantly both votes and seats were the Conservatives.

    Clegg wanted consultation and disscusion on a solution with the Debt after a spending revue, he has been offered that by the Conservatives.

    He wanted a change in the Tax system, he has been offered a chance with input and discussion by the Conservatives.

    He wanted To dump Trident, the Conservatives wanted to keep it, No decision required for 5 years, so no problem.

    Cameron has agreed some form of modified voting system, (the publioc also want the same) but and said that PR would lead to deals behind closed doors, what we have now shows that to be true.

    Cleggs views on immigration leave most voters horrified, if he pushes this he will again reap voters revenge.

    If Clegg turns down the Conservatives what are his options.

    Give Labour power.

    Bring the Conservatives down if they try to govern on a minority.

    Think Mr Clegg needs to think long and hard his real position, before he rejects a chance to influence government policy in the National interest.

  28. Paul Hussey
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    With reference to the talks with the liberal democrats it seems to me that all talk about PR is a sideshow. Imagine for a moment the talks break down and Labour makes a pact with the Liberals.

    Does anyone believe that Labour MP's believe in PR. I think I heard a few months ago that nearly half of the Labour MP's are against PR. The simple answer will be Labour rebel MP's will back or abstain on a PR vote and with the Tories with 306 MP's its a non-done deal.

    Also, Have the Tories heard the latest from the BBC? Labour Ministers are ringing up Liberal Shadow Ministers and trying to turn them against the Coalition!!! Gordon Brown seems to be trying every method to stay on in power. I ask myself what has Gordon Brown got to hide. I can just imagine Brown and his team at no.10 burning the incriminating files of 13 years of power

  29. gac
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I have read today that if the LibDem favourite PR system had been in place then BNP would have over 20 MPs.

    Pause for thought Mr Clegg!

    • Mike Dubock
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Hi – I am not sure you where your read that, but it to be wrong.

      The Lib Dems support the Single Transferable Vote. This is not a completely proportional system. It basicially involves creating multi-member constituencies from the existing single member constituencies. Typically, these multi-member constitutencies have 3-7 members. In order to win a seat in a multi member constituency,a party has to win at least 12.5% (for a 7 member seat) or 25% (for a 3 member seat) of the vote.

      The Leader of the BNP, won 14.6% of the vote in Barking, but no other BNP candidate came anywhere near that. Therefore, in all probability the BNP would have won no seats under the LD's preferred method of PR, there may be a very outside chance they would have one.

      Hope this explains.

  30. Jonathan
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    It looks as though the EU could add another 8billion to our debt by Monday (thanks to majority voting) so our budget and the EU are even more tightly combined.

  31. Mike Dubock
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    On Political Reform – I think it is unreasonable of some senior Conservatives (Fox, Heseltine and Tebbitt etc) to say that the Conservatives should give no ground on a fairer voting system.

    If the Conservative Party is seriously interested in political reform – Let the People (in a referendum) decide whether we should retain the existing first past the post system or change to a new more proprtional system that better reflects the overall wishes of the People.

    Why is the Conservative Party frightened of a referundum?

    I live in Sevenoaks, we have had a Conservative MP for 87 years. The people in Sevenoaks do NOT choose their MP. Mr Fallon has been chosen by the members of the Sevenoaks Conservative Association. This is fundamentally undemocratic.

    It is the first past post electoral system that has led to many MPs abuse of expenses. In safe seats, MPs are not accountable to the electorate, they are accountable only to the party members. Example, Hazel Blears in Salford, re-elected despite her expenses.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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