Well, I am impressed. The Lib Dems have obtained everything and more that I predicted yesterday. I couldn’t be happier. I’m astounded that the Lib Dems have achieved so much or that the Conservatives were prepared to concede so much. Congratulations are due to both Cameron and Clegg. This is a sensible, grown-up result. Full details of the coalition agreement are yet to be released (they will at 2pm London time), but it looks like:
- Lib Dems to have five (!) seats in the cabinet, including deputy PM for Clegg.
- Fixed term (five year) parliament, with the next election to be held on the first Thursday of May, 2015 [Lib Dems].
- Adjustments to electoral boundaries to equalise the constituency sizes [Tories].
- A referendum on Alternative Vote — a.k.a. Preferential Voting — for the House of Commons [Lib Dems].
- Proportional Representation for the House of Lords! [Lib Dems]
- An emergency budget within 50 days [Tories].
- A reduction in spending of six billion pounds for the 2010/2011 year [Tories].
- A gradual raising of the tax-free threshold to £10,000 [Lib Dems].
- Capital Gains Tax increased to match income tax, [Lib Dems] with lower rates for entrepeneurial business investments [Tories].
- Inheritance tax to remain unchanged [Lib Dems].
- The rise in employers’ National Insurance will be scrapped [Tories].
- The rise in employees’ National Insurance will remain to partially fund the increase in the tax-free threshold [Lib Dems].
- Tax cut for married couples will go ahead [Tories].
- No adoption of the Euro [Tories].
- Referendum on any future treaties that would cede any power to Brussels [Tories].
- A limit on non-EU immigrants to the UK [Tories].
- Trident gets replaced [Tories].
- Macroprudential regulation to be at the Bank of England [Tories].
- Microprudential regulation to be decided later (i.e. the FSA may not be dismantled) [Lib Dems].
- An independent commission to consider breaking up the biggest banks [Lib Dems].
- No agreement on nuclear power, but a Lib Dem will be secretary of state for the environment [Lib Dems].
The Labour and Liberal Democrat negotiating teams finished a session around 13:30. The Conservative negotiation team then sat down with the Lib Dems at 14:00. Ever since then, there has been a steady stream of increasingly-senior Labour figures arguing against a Lab-Lib coalition, which suggests to me that they’re softening up the ground for a Tory-led government.
From the BBC Live stream:
14:26 Labour MP and former minister Michael Meacher says his party should go into opposition and “renew itself”.
14:30 The first Labour minister has openly expressed the feeling that a Lab-Lib coalition is not viable.
14:36 “We must NOT enter a deal with Labour,” writes Keith Nevols, former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, on his blog.
14:43 The London Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh claims that in last night’s cabinet meeting Health Secretary Andy Burnham “broke ranks to give an ominous warning of the dangers of trying to concoct such an unstable alliance” between Labour and the Lib Dems.
15:12 Labour MP for Batley and Spen Mike Wood says “David Cameron should be PM”.
A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, with major points along the lines of:
- Strong support for Tory spending (cut) plans;
- Freedom for the Lib Dems to oppose the Tory line on Europe and Trident, at the least;
- Some mechanism to equalise the size of constituencies (which would help the Tories);
- A referendum on Alternative Vote — a.k.a. Preferential Voting — for the House of Commons (which would help the Lib Dems);
- No agreement on reform of the House of Lords;
- The Lib Dems getting one mid-to-high level cabinet position (something like Home Secretary); and
- An intention to keep the new parliament for at least two years.
The Lib Dems will desperately want two things:
- to have electoral reform enacted (presuming that they succeed in the referendum) before the next election; and
- to have an opportunity to be seen to be actively influencing policy in their favour.
Of course, the Liberal Democrats have their Southport resolution. Any coalition must obtain 75% support amoung Lib Dem MPs, members of the House of Lords and executives of the party. Nevertheless, I think that they’ll pull it through. If nothing else, the prospect of the first Lib Dem cabinet position in a century will awaken the real politik in their MPs.
Previously on the UK electoral system:
The visual detail is incredible. It is a must-see in 3D. It was designed for 3D.
The broad plot ideas are nothing special, particularly if you’ve read much sci fi or fantasy, but that’s okay. The moral theme (humans in general and corporations in particular are evil, tree hugging Gaia worship is cool) is rammed down your throat too much — I would have liked to see something a little more Alien-and-The-Abyss-meet-your-classic-dragon-fantasy-novel and a little less Princess-Mononoke-and-Pocahontas-read-the-Green-Left-Weekly — but, as my brother points out, it’s not a film written for me, but for it’s target audience, who apparantly like broad brush strokes and simplistic themes.
Even so, I would have liked some proper character development and better acting. The bad guy is cartoonish. The corporate stooge is simpering and never displays any of the internal conflict the role clearly calls for. This standard of visual detail will soon enough be the new normal and once that happens, nobody will remember Avatar, which is a shame.
Mike Russell has written a review that I generally agree with, here (lots of spoilers).
It’s both spectacular and petty. The fraction of MPs that truly scammed the system is tiny and the scale of the claims for the most part only seems offensive in a recession. It was started by Cameron as a political stunt, but when Torys were implicated he had to take it nuclear or look terrible. The Speaker was culpable, yes, but he was thrown under the bus by Brown all the same. That The Telegraph got the complete list in a leak is more of a story, to my mind.
What style of Speaker will emerge is an interesting question. If it’s another Labour party member, it will be easy to imagine the role moving somewhat in the direction of the Speakers of the lower houses in Australia (where the role is quite partisan) and the USA (where it is extremely partisan). In a parliamentary democracy (Australia, UK) , that will serve to grant the executive more power over the legislature, which is a Bad Thing ™ in my books, as it reduces the ability of the opposition to contribute to the legislative process in any meaningful way.
I’ve occasionally thought that in the event of Australia becoming a republic, the president’s primary constitutional role might simply be to ensure the fair operation of the judicio-political system. So, for example, the president – or their appointee – might be the official Speaker of the House but would not have a vote (even in the event of a tie) and could not introduce legislation.
Of course, having the monarch appoint an independent Speaker of the Commons in the UK would get MPs’ knickers in a collective knot over the sovereignty of parliament. Another reason to be a republic.