Progressive coalition

Posted: 18/05/10

Over the course of the last week I received several thousand messages urging me to do what I could to help build a progressive coalition and take forward reforms to the voting system.

Naturally, whilst delighted with my own result, I am disappointed that Labour lost the election and that the Lib-Dems have entered into coalition with the Conservatives. All political parties are, to some extent, coalitions in themselves, spanning a range of views, and it is always possible to find some areas of agreement. However, I do not believe that most of those voting for the Lib-Dems did so in order to propel David Cameron to power and I fear that the core values of the Lib-Dems will be severely compromised in the coming months.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, given that the Conservatives did not have sufficient seats to govern alone, I believe Gordon Brown acted exactly as required by the conventions of our constitution in giving the Conservative Party, as the Party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, the first opportunity to form a Government.

When this prospect did materialise I also thought he was within his rights to try to form a progressive coalition with the Liberal Democrats and other minority parties. But let's be clear, forging such a ‘progressive coalition' was always a tough prospect and given the electoral arithmetic would have relied for its functioning on a very diverse range of parties with political positions and regional characteristics. It is most unlikely that this would have been the basis for a stable government even in the very short term.

Nevertheless, I and others worked to try to forge this coalition. As with any broad-based political movement there were some in my Party who believed that attempts to do so were mistaken but I believe that many, possibly even most Labour MPs were open to such a possibility.

Ultimately, the Liberal Democrats appear to have concluded that their best interests lie in a coalition with the Conservative Party and the cabinet seats that come with this. The Labour Party negotiators were willing to compromise and make a series of offers including on voting reform, pupil premiums in schools, tax plans, an end to Heathrow expansion, and scrapping of the voluntary ID card scheme. None of this worked, it seems, because the Liberal Democrats seemed to feel that their party's strategic interests were best advanced with the Tories, not with Labour.

I am personally saddened by this outcome but am more determined than ever that Labour now renews itself and forges a radical and progressive agenda in opposition with which to combat the centre-right marriage of convenience that we must live with for the foreseeable future.

Best wishes,
Karen Buck MP
Member of Parliament for Westminster North