One of the big promises of the Lib Dems general election campaign was that there would be “no deals, no coalitions”. However, now that Tim Farron has resigned as leader, it does leave room for the new leader of the party, whomever they may be, to reverse this decision.
The outline of such a deal would be pretty straightforward: no formal coalition, simply supply and confidence in return for single market membership. There is no way the Tories would go for it at the moment, namely because they do not want to seem like they are explicitly responsible for making a soft Brexit happen simply in order to cling to power. This is why other parties are being invited into the whole Brexit process – the point is, if we end up with a soft Brexit, even as a temporary deal, the Conservatives will want to spread the “blame” around. So doing a deal on this basis is out, and it’s the only basis upon which the Liberal Democrats could realistically proceed with such a thing.
However, that only pertains to the here and now. Who knows where we’ll be in a year’s time (who knows who will be prime minister by then), and there could be an opening that presents itself in which the Lib Dems could actually hold the balance of power in such a way as a demand for soft Brexit could be in play. If this was the case, I think the party should go for it. I don’t think the party’s core vote would mind a deal with the Tories if it managed to save single market membership, and the Lib Dems need to get out of the mindset that if they are somehow sufficiently leftie enough, the Left will re-embrace them (see Sheffield Hallam and Leeds North West if you don’t believe me).
I understand why the “no deals” pledge was made – to assure everyone that the Lib Dems would not jump into bed with the Tories again, and to assure centre-right Remainers that the party wouldn’t make Corbyn prime minister (that, by the way, is the deal that I think really would have been fatal for the Lib Dems to have made). But I really think the Lib Dems would be rewarded for making a difference if it arose – and I want to be clear, I don’t see a set of circumstances in which this will be case at present, but we live in very dynamic times. If the Lib Dems refused to make that sort of a deal to save the country, what then is the point of the party?
With the tory prime minister currently being castigated for her handling of the Grenfell Tower fire why on earth would we want to be getting back into bed with a party which appears to have no interest in anyone other than the voters who support them – or in issues of common humanity?
Matt (Bristol) says
No, no, and a hundred times no.
Or rather, given the slow recovery from the last deal with the Tories, the Lib Dems should only go into coalition or agree confidence and supply with the Tories if they think:
– the last manifesto was largely wrong, utterly particularly on the second referendum
– they wish to reject those voters who voted tactically for them in many seats as the main alternative to a Conservative candidate
– they are prepared to see any achievements made in government trickle into sand or be attributed to their coalition partners as fast – or faster – than happened last time
– they feel that there is no future whatsoever in partnership with Labour at any level
I don’t think that, so I would support no such concept at any special conference. And the mere existence of talks to consider such a deal would probably – at the current time – kill the party dead in its current form, anyway.
No! No! No!
Paul W says
“the Conservatives will want to spread the “blame” around.” The clue is in the word ‘blame’.
With less than 7.5% of the national vote and 12 parliamentary seats with fragile majorities, the Liberal Democrats would be best advised to sit this one out, treat every issue on its merits, re-think and re-build and hope for the best.
Trying to exploit the balance of power – whatever that really means – with a dozen MPs when it is not even certain that there is a balance of power to exploit between the Conservative and Labour parties’ positions on European Union and single market issues would be seen as either a noble act of self-sacrifice (in the national interest, of course) at best or a self-serving political game at worst. And we all know politics is not a game. Theresa said so.
One thing to say on the “blame” game – this really refers to the Tories and Labour and not really Lib Dems. The LDs have taken an explicitly pro-European position already, so a softer deal can only be something that their electorate would expect the Lib Dems to fight for. Labour, in the meantime, has taken such a fuzzy position, that if it was seen to be enabling a soft Brexit it would have to explain that in their Leave leaning seats. So whatever the possible damage the Lib Dems could take from dealing with the Tories, they wouldn’t get any blowback on that point.
Matt (Bristol) says
Given that people still think Corbyn is pro-European, this logic does not hold up.
Paul W says
The popular press would ensure that any ‘blame’ to go round on Brexit issues would fall squarely on the Liberal Democrats, fairly or unfairly. It is what they do. With just 7.5% of the vote and 12 seats it would be a huge risk – and possibly a terminal one – to try and bargain with the balance of power (which, in any case is shared with other parties).
Sarah Taylor says
Would it be preferable to a Tory / DUP deal? Of course.
Do the Tories or the UK electorate deserve to be bailed out after the way they screwed the Lib Dems last time? Nope.
Only someone with no understanding of the last seven years could think the libdems could do a deal with the tories now…
Fool me once? Shame on you.
Fool me twice? Shame on me.
Nick Timothy reasonably said that one lesson of this election was that you can’t be straight with the electorate (apropos ‘dementia tax’). The lesson of the one before is that if you do the right and principled thing in politics you get shat on.
LORENZO CHERIN says
For someone who talks sense regularly , here you have taken leave of your senses !
Either we deal with Labour or nobody .
I am not left wing , but as someone who believes in social justice that is from here for long , the only game in town …
This has become the unfortunate split in politics: do you think we should all line up behind whomever runs Labour in order to keep the Tories out – or should we all line up behind whomever can keep Corbyn out of Number 10. It’s depressing, frankly.
You can dismiss this as paranoia if you wish, but the elephant in the room is the future of Northern Ireland – or maybe there are two elephants, the other one being the one that everyone is looking at, namely Brexit. I am sure that Theresa May has approached Tim Farron to see if she can do a deal with him rather than with the DUP. A deal with the DUP risks throwing Northern Ireland back into the days before the Good Friday Agreement, not because of anything that Sinn Fein might do, because the ballot has served them much better than the armalite ever did, but because there are still dissident republicans out there, and for the British government to be seen to be favouring the unionists would be cause for a new wave of support for militant republicanism. Those of us old enough to remember the Troubles also remember arms shipments from Libya, and PIRA members being trained by the PLO. The prospect of linkage between IS and violent Irish republicanism is something that must be giving British intelligence sleepless nights. Tim couldn’t do a deal with the Tories because whatever the consequences of not doing one the Party would not accept it. We saved the country once and they rewarded us with virtual extinction: if we do it again then that is the end for us. It’s a cruel dilemma.