Home > Anti-Cuts Movement, British Politics, Strike! > Coalition at the Crossroads

Coalition at the Crossroads


Nick Clegg arrives in Downing Street

Image by The Prime Minister's Office via Flickr

Following the local, devolved administration and the AV votes last week the coalition parties could go in a number of directions and whichever way they choose, this will have a huge impact on public services and public sector jobs.

Before I start I would like to point out that I write this article as a neutral observer of party politics.  As a trade unionist I stand up for jobs and services but in terms of party politics and the three main parties in particular I have no bias as I view them all with a broadly equal amount of disdain. 

British politics is currently going through a tremendously interesting period (well if you find politics boring please forgive me).  We have a Tory led coalition with the Lib Dems but this is far from the rosy-cosy image of Nick Clegg and David Cameron we saw a year ago when they formed their partnership.  The elections last week sent a clear message to the politicians of the UK.  That message is quite simply a resounding kick in the gut for the Lib Dems.  The Tory vote held up surprisingly well which means that the swing in support that Labour has achieved (at least in England) is down largely to them taking votes away from the Lib Dems.

This leads the coalition parties with a bit of quandary.  Nick Clegg’s party seems to be getting all of the blame for the unpopular cuts agenda or perhaps it’s for the fact that they went into coalition with the Tories in the first place.  Their response has been to come out all guns blazing, claiming they can now assert their own values within the coalition a bit more.  The risk with such a strategy is that this will entrench them further into helping the Tories make unpopular cuts and the electorate may not notice the Lib Dem policies shining through in the background.  You also have to ask why the Tories would grant a party that has just been trounced at the elections even more of a say in the affairs of the country.

And this is where the Tories’ problems start.  They have committed themselves to a five year coalition so would look pretty devious if they scrapped that one year in.  However, with the polls showing fairly well for them they are in a position of thinking about calling a snap election.  Right now, though the figures appear too close to call and the most likely result is another Hung Parliament but this time with Labour as the largest party.  So it’s unlikely that the PM will be able to face a general election immediately.

All of which seems to indicate that we’re heading towards a period in which the coalition parties will endeavour to work harder to keep the government together, in the hope that the economy picks up.  The Tories will hope that will move them towards having enough support for an overall majority and the Lib Dems will be hoping that they in turn have some kind of future.  In other words the two coalition parties need each other more than ever.  The Tories need a majority in Parliament and until that is possible they are unlikely to call a general election whilst the Lib Dems hope to prove their worth in that coalition until such time that their poll ratings improve.  As they get ever more entrenched and desperate the results could be disastrous for hard working people in the UK.

Public sector workers are heading towards strike action as a result of the flawed cuts agenda and I would urge all members to get involved with the fight for an alternative economics in support of services and jobs.  The economic agenda of the coalition is wrong and it needs to be fought before we see our pay, pensions and terms and conditions deteriorate drastically.  We have marched for the alternative in massive numbers and with the help of unions across the education sector and hopefully others, it is time that we put our hearts into striking for the alternative.  At conference next week delegates will be debating such a move and reps could well return to the workplace ready for a prolonged campaign of industrial action.  As the coalition parties deliberate the next phase of their government we cannot wait for them to decide where they are heading next.  We have to tell them where we are heading and what they can expect if they try to harm to us.

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