Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conservatives take power through undemocratic coalition

Cameron strikes a deal with the Lib Dems, giving them 5 Cabinet positions and (I assume) a referendum on PR.

The moral of this, if you want one, is that there's nothing inherently evil about coalition governments. In this case, it made a lot of sense. Back when Dion tried it, it really didn't it.

Hopefully we can be mature enough about this issue should we ever find ourselves uttering the C word again.

30 Comments:

  • "The moral of this, if you want one, is that there's nothing inherently evil about coalition governments. In this case, it made a lot of sense. Back when Dion tried it, it really didn't it."

    Very true. No problem with a coalition in general. BIG problem with a rickety coalition that
    a) is headed by a leader who has announced his resignation from leadership.
    b) combined coalition numbers STILL don't yield a plurality in parliament.
    c) must rely on regional parties for support.

    Careful readers will note that all of a) b) c) apply both to NDP-Lib in Canada in 2008 and Lib-Lab in the UK in 2010.

    By Anonymous van.centre, at 7:08 PM  

  • Whoops--got b) wrong fort the UK. Lib+Lab>Con. But this wasn't true in Canada in 2008: NDP+Lib<CON

    By Anonymous van.centre, at 7:10 PM  

  • Not to mention the Liberals campaigned on NOT forming a coalition with the Dippers, that Dec 2008 union would have been a coalition of losers and liars and separatists.

    By Blogger wilson, at 7:12 PM  

  • Not liars, Harper was not part of the coalition

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:03 PM  

  • I don't think the lessons of this episode are really as pro-coalition as you seem to think.

    British political culture is clearly quite distinct from our own at this point, and growing European influences are only making it moreso. With the rise of Nick Clegg, who is now the highest-ranking Europhile of the British establishment, expect Britain to conform closer to EU political precedents, and less to the Victorian conventions which Canada obeys.

    The British press treated the result of this election as "unclear" simply on the basis that it was a minority, and Brown was able to waffle for quite a while as to whether or not he was going to attempt to stay prime minister. That in itself was very foreign to the Canadian experience. We're so used to minority governments that we simply accept the legitimacy of minority PMs without much second though. No one disputed Harper's right to begin transition planning immediately after the 2006 election, nor would we dispute Iggy's right to do the same should he win a plurality of seats in parliament tomorrow.

    The problem with politics in general, all over the world, is that politicians want to govern in a style they like, to suit their own interests. No one much cares about the other side of the democratic coin — what kind of government the voters want, expect, and would consider legitimate.

    By Blogger JJ, at 8:25 PM  

  • 'nor would we dispute Iggy's right to do the same should he win a plurality of seats in parliament tomorrow'

    exactly,
    it was the coalition of losers thing that even the Brits rejected.

    By Blogger wilson, at 8:55 PM  

  • I was having a conversation about this whole issue with a friend a few days ago.

    It strikes me as more than a little condescending when Liberals act like the opposition to the 2008 coalition was due to a general misunderstanding of our political system. Voters for the most part DO understand that coalitions are legitimate governments. What voters reject is the legitimacy of a coalition that is reliant on the support of a separatist party.

    When you state that, "Back when Dion tried it, it really didn't [make a lot of sense]", you really hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, the sarcasm displayed in the title of this post does not reflect the same nuance or understanding. Noone - not even a Harper conservative - could call cameron's an undemocratic power grab.

    It really is time that the Liberals get over the Dion experiment. He turned out to be a petty man, whose undignified response to an awful campaign was to put personal interest ahead of both his own party and his own nation. How such a man could lead a coalition or a country is beyond me. The nation and the Liberal party - through its endorsement of a quick transfer of power to Ignattieff - made the right chouce in rejecting the coalition. To pretend that voter ignorance played the major role in the failure of the coalition is one of the most intellectually dishonest things I have ever heard, and to be honest it only damages the Liberal brand further.

    By Blogger James McKenzie, at 9:55 PM  

  • Yeah. Nothing wrong with coalitions. Problems with the Dion one were listed above:

    1. He campaign explicitly against it
    2. He was on the way out
    3. The electorate completely rejected him as PM
    4. Needed Bloc for support
    5. Far behind in popular vote and seats

    The title was just a shot at the Tories who denigrated the coalition as being undemocratic.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:25 PM  

  • There is a bit of revisionism on all sides that goes on about the 2008 coalition:

    It happened as a result of a fiscal update that the opposition couldn't support so close after the last election. It wasn't like Gordon Brown's lastest attempt at all.

    What were they really supposed to do in such a case, vote for the update they couldn't support even though it contained things Harper didn't compaign on? Go back to the polls?

    Would Harper really have backed down if the coalition effort never happened? Would we have gotten the kind of budget we did in 2009?

    Oh well ancient history now.
    But what if the Liberals win only 10 less seats than the Tories in the next election, but with the NDP have far more seats?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:10 AM  

  • @VC: it isn't a plurality but a majority which is at issue on (b), and a coalition between Labour (258 seats) and the LibDems (57) does not yield one (315 together, 320 required). With the Conservatives, a clear majority is achieved (305 + 57 >> 320).

    You are, of course, correct that the Liberals + NDP still had fewer seats than the Conservatives alone in Canada (2008).

    @Anon 2:10, you seem to have either missed or conveniently ignored the fact that while publicly campaigning against a coalition, the NDP and the Liberals admitted afterwards that they were privately consulting on one. It was not as a result of the fiscal update, although again that was used as a public excuse.

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:44 AM  

  • The title was just a shot at the Tories who denigrated the coalition as being undemocratic.

    I followed your blog at the time I didn't hear anyone (Tory or otherwise) saying that coalitions were undemocratic.

    If the British coalition had involved the resigning Brown and every single party EXCEPT the largest, then you'd have a comparable parallel. (Especially if all those leaders were from Quebec :)

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:05 AM  

  • I didn't hear anyone (Tory or otherwise) saying that coalitions were undemocratic.

    Convenient and selective memory, Robert.

    I don't know who said what on *this* blog in particular, but "undemocratic" was a popular Tory meme.

    (I was against the Dion/Duceppe/Layton coalition, personally)

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 11:13 AM  

  • From December 2008 story:

    "Radio and TV ads have already rolled out and countrywide rallies are planned for the weekend. The Tories have characterized the agreement as an undemocratic coalition beholden to a separatist party."

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/12/03/jean-crisis.html#ixzz0njVte1bv

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:22 PM  

  • Anon - Using the coalition as a threat wasn't awful. It was their only weapon to get Harper to back down from his FU.

    But, they forged ahead with it, even after Harper agreed to take the campaign finance changes and some of the more egregious elements out of the update.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:23 PM  

  • Great quote and link, CG

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 12:36 PM  

  • Once again: Conservatives did not say that coalitions are undemocratic.

    Many, however, did say that the particular coalition in question was undemocratic, particularly for the reasons CalgaryGrit outlines above.

    By Blogger Paul, at 2:00 PM  

  • No, actually a lot of Conservatives did say that any coalition which was not announced during the election was undemocratic. They really did.

    I don't dispute that the Canadian coalition was ill-advised, but it is not automatically ill-advised just because the Bloc was a part of it.

    The fact that the Bloc is unthinkingly and automatically regarded as treasonous and a political pariah by many of us Anglos is one of the many reminders that the two solitudes are very much with us.

    The coalition was discredited for a combination of all the reasons calgarygrit listed, and one:
    6) The fact that the spur for all three opposition parties acting was the potential loss of public funding led to widespread public cynicism about the opposition's motives in launching their brinksmanship campaign.

    By Blogger saphorr, at 3:58 PM  

  • RE: Paul said...

    "@Anon 2:10, you seem to have either missed or conveniently ignored the fact that while publicly campaigning against a coalition, the NDP and the Liberals admitted afterwards that they were privately consulting on one. It was not as a result of the fiscal update, although again that was used as a public excuse."

    When did the Liberals admit to privately consulting about a coalition prior to the election?

    I've heard plenty of talk about the NDP and BQ having talked about it prior... don't remember reading that the Liberals were significantly involved until after the FU.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 5:45 PM  

  • What happens if after the next election, the Liberals and NDP have more seats than the Tories and they announce on election night that they will vote down any Conservative throne speech. Then Harper has to beg the BQ to support him and then he becomes the one who has to make a deal with the BQ. What then?

    By Blogger DL, at 8:28 PM  

  • JBV and CG:

    Come to think of it, maybe you have a point.

    Paul's right - all you've proven is that the Tories called the coalition in particular undemocratic, not all coalitions.

    On the other hand, they've often used the fact that one Liberal government was corrupt to claim that all Liberal governments are corrupt.

    So maybe you're right. Using Canadian political logic, if someone claims that one particular coalition is undemocratic they are in fact saying that all coalitions are undemocratic.

    Point taken.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 11:43 PM  

  • To add to the "bad coalition" list I will propose that the greater the number of parties involved, the worse the coalition.

    The problem is that each party in the coalition could potentially bring down the government, meaning that each member has de facto veto power. This vastly reduces the scope of possible actions for a government and results in inertia (bicameral legislatures have a similar effect, which is why an elected senate is a bad idea).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 12:28 AM  

  • Not liars, Harper was not part of the coalition

    He was part of an attempt of a coalition in 2004 with the NDP and the Bloc Party. Do a little research and you will find the letter to the AC the GG. I don't know why the lIberals have not or are not using that letter in their ads and hopefully in their campagin

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:05 AM  

  • Why isn't anyone mentioning the 'coup' word that was plastered all over the media? The Calgary anti-coalition rally at City Hall was organized from within.

    The new leaders in the British coalition are very young. I wonder who they'll take their advice from. Not the Dirty Digger I hope.

    Anon Deux

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 AM  

  • @Merboy: Find a print copy of this issue of Macleans: http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/10/16/wouldst-thou-read-riddles-and-their-explanation/

    I cannot find any online versions of it for reference, as Macleans apparently removes their magazine content from circulation after a few months.

    In it, you should find (according to my recollection) that Paul Wells relates meetings held during the election campaign between Liberal and NDP operatives, to discuss the possible formation of a coalition.

    Perhaps someone else can clarify further?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:57 PM  

  • RE: Anonymous

    "In it, you should find (according to my recollection) that Paul Wells relates meetings held during the election campaign between Liberal and NDP operatives, to discuss the possible formation of a coalition."

    That seems to contradict the rather extensive NDP series of articles that were made public in the Globe & Mail...

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/brian-topp/coalition-redux-the-prime-minister-makes-a-big-mistake/article1382092/

    According to NDP strategist Brian Topp... "We had floated the idea of replacing the Conservatives through a coalition during the 2008 election and then again earlier that fall, and had been rebuffed by the Liberals, who were now focused on a new leadership convention".

    It sounds like they were publicly AND privately against it during the 2008 campaign.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 10:53 PM  

  • RE: Anonymous...

    Here's an even better quote:

    "On the other hand, I just didn’t believe we had an interested partner. I had never heard any Liberal in any forum ever say that they supported “our earlier proposition.” I didn’t believe they were interested or would ever be interested."

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 10:55 PM  

  • Re: Merboy. Interesting quotes. Telling, isn't it that Topp completely misread the Liberals? "I didn't believe they ... would ever be interested."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM  

  • RE: Anonymous

    "Interesting quotes. Telling, isn't it that Topp completely misread the Liberals?"

    The whole series of articles he wrote were interesting to me.

    Hopefully the Liberals and NDP will talk about how they can run at the very min a campaign that isn't totally closed to the idea of a coalition.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 7:56 AM  

  • Robert, the Conservatives called a democratic coalition undemocratic. They did nothing to ensure Canadians knew that a coalition formed between the NDP and Liberals was indeed democratic. Instead the painted it as a coup.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 PM  

  • There is something inherently wrong and highly undemocratic about the Coalition Government we have now had imposed on us in the UK.

    Firstly we do always have minority supported Governments in the UK. So the poster who said we aren't used to minority Governments is wrong. Our Governments usually get 40 something per cent of the vote but the last two Governments have only had support of 2o odd per cent of the electorate. So either way by vote share or share of electorate the vast maj in this country always get a Government they didn't want in power.

    This present Government the Coalition appeared to have 60 % support and that was one of main ways it was sold to the public to try and stop any chance of rebellion after they moved into power. So the Cons had 37% of vote, Lib Dems 23% so collectively 60% of the vote, as it was sold to public. But to anyone with half a functioning brain that lie is easy to see through.

    Firstly 60% of the vote meant 36.6% of the electorate ie 63.4% of the electorate, at least, did not want this Government. And to say that it is the fault of many in the electorate who don't vote and that they don't vote because they are lazy is of course an obvious lie put out by the media to justify any election result. There are many reasons why people don't vote apart from laziness which I believe is one of the least likely reasons usually. The main reason is most don't feel there is anyone worth voting for and then of course most of us who do vote only vote tactically to keep certain parties out not because we are overly enamored with the party or the parties candidate we vote for.

    So this coalition only has at most 36.6% backing from the British electorate.

    Also it doesnt even have nearly that in reality. As most LibDem voters voted to either keep out a Conservative in their local area or to keep the Conservative party out nationally.Most Lib Dems are very anti Conservative party in their thinking. And in order to try and give this undemocratic and unrepresentative coalition any chance both the Cons and LibDems changed many of their policies after people had cast their vote for them so I'm sure if many Con or Libdem voters knew they'd form a coalition or would change their policies so much just after election away from what people were voting for them for then many wouldn't have voted for a Con or Libdem candidate.

    I'm amazed yet not surprised that so many including those in Canada cannot see that we always have minority Govts here and cannot see how unrepresentative and undemocratic this coalition is.

    I don't think the LibDems have any chance of making this govt much more euro friendly, the cons will get their way I'm sure and the main reason we put up with minority Govts here and in this case prob the biggest stitch up and undemocratic govt we've had so far is that although many here would rebel and kick this shower out and demand another quick election the truth is the Maj like everywhere are led and conned by the media and are sheep who daren't rebel.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:33 PM  

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