Better off together? Our election team evaluates the coalition government
- Credit: PA
The recent Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government was the first the UK had seen since 1945, marking a dramatic shift in the political landscape which has become even more pronounced over its five years in power.
With this in mind, we asked the members of our election team whether they thought UK politics has been better or worse for having a coalition? And if the prospect of a second coalition was worrying?
Student Spencer Caminsky, 17, said: “I think UK politics has been significantly worse off for having a coalition, as majoritarian governments get a lot more reform done than any coalition could.
“Take the Blair government in 1997: their confident and enthusiastic leader, huge promises for reform and incredible backing from the mass media gave them a huge majority come the General Election. In the end, they won with a 179 majority in the Commons.
“This was incredible for Labour, allowing them to not only pass virtually any law they wanted due to their power in Parliament, but the absolute majority also allowed them to keep virtually every promise they made to the electorate. From Education Action Zones and the Education Maintenance Allowance to benefit lower-class students in the education system, to massive constitutional reform in the Constitutional Reform Act, in devolution and the compliance with the Human Rights Act, the electorate was kept happy and political enthusiasm was on a tremendous high.
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“Contrast this with the empty promises made by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition most recently, backing down on tuition fees and boundary change promises because David Cameron and Nick Clegg couldn’t play nice with each other, and you’ve got a political shambles, where laws aren’t passed, tensions are high among politicians, and the electorate have fallen asleep at their TV screens. In short, majority governments all the way.”
Mother and blogger Penny Carr, 36, said: “Overall I think it has been worse. There were so many issues where the two parties didn’t agree and so the public didn’t really end up with what anyone voted for. Both parties also seem keen to criticise the other regularly and I can’t see how that can help any working relationship that they have. It’s so long since we had any experience here of a coalition government that I think people just didn’t know how to make it work – unlike how they do in other countries that regularly have coalitions.
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“However, I do think some good has come out of it. For example, the free school meals for infant school pupils policy came out of the Lib Dem manifesto and has in my mind been a big success that probably wouldn’t have happened if we’d had a Conservative Government.
“A second coalition doesn’t worry me too much now as I think all the parties actually accept that it is possible and so more work is already going into understanding how they might work together in future. I think the question of who our Prime Minister would be is a more interesting one.”
Labour voter Stephen Poxon, 49, who works for The Salvation Army, said: “A second coalition wouldn’t worry me so much as disappoint me, because it would reflect uncomfortable trends in tactical voting, as opposed to conviction voting.
“In my opinion, a vote should be cast with conviction, as the consequences of tactical voting are nearly always counter-productive. A second coalition would worry me if I were a Liberal Democrat, because their term in office has made them look like little more than puppets at the hands of the Conservatives. In that specific sense, the coalition has been a shambles.
“Nick Clegg has proved himself ineffective as Deputy Prime Minister, allowing David Cameron to ride roughshod over much Liberal Democrat influence. I really do hope Ed Milliband has the common sense to resist any idea of a coalition so far as it rests within his power to do so, should Labour win the election.”
Conservative voter Brian Moores, 64, who works in the street lighting industry said he thought the coalition worked initially but the situation was now much worse.
“There has been a lack of decisiveness as matters have to be negotiated through. This is not necessarily always bad but on some big issues it has been a problem particularly as the election have come nearer.
“It has given unproportional advantage to a small minority party, and long term, unfairness in constituency boundaries has screwed democracy and the coalition has failed to address this unfairness.”
He is concerned about the possibility of a further coalition government.
“The worry is Alex Salmond and the SNP having a say in English matters. Another Conservative-led coalition will still be limited in its ability to deliver radical change, and could put the promise to hold a referendum on Europe in doubt.
“A Conservative coalition with UKIP would worry me because Conservatives would be continually be trying to shake off the tag of being associated with a bunch of fruitcakes - even though it may be entertaining for a short while. This would distract from the serious business to be done.
“A Lab/Lib pact would see the pernicious mansion tax become a reality. Forget tax changes meaning £200-300 per year per house, this tax on the south east involves thousands every year.”
Philip Webster, 87, a retired floating voter, said: ”A second coalition does worry me as it means to a a very minor party holding the balance of power as we have seen in this parliament. The Tories have been hamstrung on many issues due to Lib Dem intransigence and so we have had a mish mash of compromises which have failed to meet the country’s needs.”
Also retired and a floating voter, Alan Morton, 67, added: “The coalition has been a success especially in the light of the failures of both Conservative and Labour governments since 1979. A minority government in 2010 would not have worked as they struggled to sort out the mess left by Gordon Brown and his cohorts with the economic crash.
“The coalition has prevented either party from blindly following their principles and has brought moderation when difficult choices need to be made. I think a coalition government deserves a second chance.”
The Herts Ad is supporting the Churches Together hustings at St Albans Cathedral on Wednesday April 15 from 7.30pm. If you have any questions for candidates, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Cathedral hustings’. We are also hosting individual Q&As with candidates in our offices this week and next. On Friday we have Anne Main between 10-11am and Kerry Pollard from 2-3pm. If you would like to take part in these Q&A sessions, please email questions to email@example.com, Tweet to @hertsad, or leave a question on our Facebook page. Please use #VoteStAlbans or #VoteHarpenden on all correspondence, and say whether your question is addressed to a particular candidate or all of them.