By Campaign Agent Eric Kostadinov
The Lib Dems get a very bad reputation for their role in the coalition government, and the public made their feelings clear in 2015, reducing their share of the vote to a tiny 8%. But did the Lib Dem performance in government really warrant such a poor electoral outcome?
The Lib Dems made no major influence in government
Although Nick Clegg and co. were unable to do everything they would’ve liked in government, including abolishing tuition fees, they did manage to implement a sizeable chunk of their manifesto, without getting the accolades. The coalition policy to increase the threshold at which people start to pay income tax was a Lib Dem commitment and a cornerstone of their 2010 manifesto. The policy has been a major help for many low income earners. This, along with introducing the Pupil Premium, a policy aimed at granting extra funding for the most disadvantaged children, whilst also reforming pensions to align with earnings, were just a few of the main policies the party implemented. However, arguably the Lib Dems biggest influence was something that they managed to prevent the Conservatives from doing. David Cameron was unable to offer an EU referendum during the coalition due to the Lib Dem support for remaining within in the EU. Had the coalition continued for a second parliament, we would almost certainly not be leaving the European Union.
The Lib Dems should never have entered the coalition in the first place
The alternatives to a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition would almost certainly not have produced stable government or had any democratic legitimacy. A Labour led government would not have produced stable government due to their lack of seats in parliament, and it would not have gone done well with the British public, who had overwhelmingly rejected New Labour, and favoured the Conservatives. Albeit a Conservative minority government would have been possible, stable government would have been much less likely and a second election within the same year would have been a strong possibility. Thus, it can easily be argued that the Lib Dems did the sensible and responsible thing by entering coalition in the national interest.
The Lib Dems lied on Tuition Fees
Okay, the Lib Dems could’ve done more on Tuition Fees. However, it’s important to remember that the party did not win the 2010 general election, and therefore had no right to implement the entirety of its election manifesto. If tuition fees had been abolished during the coalition, the policy would not have represented the feelings of the wider electorate, who had voted for the Conservatives in larger numbers. It is true that the Lib Dems did have power to try and force through this major election manifesto commitment, however this was not one of the parties own major personal goals, and they did manage to implement all the pledges on the first page of their 2010 manifesto.
The Lib Dems are not a serious or credible political party
Considering the aftermath of the 2015 election, it would be easy to think that the Lib Dems are not a serious political party, and what they did in government wasn’t credible enough to be rewarded a second term in office. Although many do believe this, it is important to consider different factors. The coalition was the Lib Dems first taste of government, and considering many political pundits did not expect the coalition to last more than 6 months, the party must have shown a vast amount of maturity and expertise to govern in partnership with an ideologically opposed party for a whole 5 years. Furthermore, the Lib Dems challenged the two party system that had prevailed in the U.K ever since the post-war period, and have set a precedent in British Politics that parties other than the Conservatives and Labour can have a role in government and can be trusted to provide stable government.
So, was the rejection of the Lib Dems in 2015 justified or not?
Many will continue to argue it was, however having the context behind the decisions the party had to make during the period is vital in coming to conclusions over their period in government.
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