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Finkelstein: LDs should be happy just to be in power

By Julian Harris
August 4th, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Comments Off on Finkelstein: LDs should be happy just to be in power | Posted in coalition, UK Politics

The headline (above) is, admittedly, slightly paraphrased–but this is essentially Danny Finkelstein’s message in The Times today:

The LDs may be dropping in the polls, but they’re IN POWER and should be happy with that.

For those who don’t have access beyond the pay-wall, the Fink argues that the whole point of being high in the polls is to get into government. Thus it’s better to be in government and on 14% in the polls, than out of government and on 20% in the polls. Popularity is simply a means to an end, so if you have achieved the end, this is what matters.

He also claims that a drop in popularity is inevitable when in government, especially for the “junior partner” of a Coalition.

With the rise in LD fortunes in recent times, the Party, he argues, had to make a choice–to remain a Left-ist protest vote (with the option of siding with Labour) or to position itself in the Centre, allowing the option of holding power with either “main” party.

I slightly disagree on the Left-Right model: it’s up to the LDs, surely, to promote the liberal elements of the “Left”–greater civil liberties, a fairer voting system, constitutional reform, tax reform, penal reform, liberal policies on migration (well said, Vince!), less reactionary views on the EU and so on. This is our raison d’etre.

Finkelstein does, in fairness, understand this. He proposes that liberalism can be seen as Centre ground, and that this can appeal to the electorate:

“There is an audience — and an agenda — for a centre party that offers voters a chance to liberalise the others” he says.

The issue of what happens in subsequent elections is extremely pertinent. The LDs should not simply be grateful for 4/5 years in power, and then crawl back to irrelevance. The Cons can’t have their gluten-free soya cake and eat it. Our presence in the Coalition changes everything, and the question of what we do at future elections won’t go away.

On this question, and the dilemma of the polls, I am (for once) on the fence. Affecting government policy is great–but the question is how to make this a more permanent affair. Thoughts below, if you will.

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