UK Election: Yellow Tories

If there is a coalition in the UK after 6 May it might be between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
26 April 2010

While British democrats are looking forward to a hung  parliament and a progressive realignment with a referendum on PR, ground is being prepared for a Yellow Tory coalition.

The idea was originally floated with brio and verve by Guido Fawkes last Sunday. In yesterday’s update he notes that Nick has said (rightly) it would be inconceivable to allow Brown to “squat” in No 10 if he came third while Cameron has refused to rule out permitting PR if the Lib Dems want to work with him. Matt d’Ancona gave the whole idea a walking in his Sunday Telegraph column.

Fawks argues that Cleggite Lib Dems are not on the left in the way many of his party’s rank and file are supposed to be. Their leadership and the Tories “share key liberal ideological tenets – localism, decentralisation, transparency and a preference for market based solutions”.

Arguably the two most influential big party blogs, Conservative Home and Left Foot Forward both dumped on Fawkes.  But Tim Montgomerie on the right and Will Straw on the left share an antipathy to those of us who want modern liberty and an end to the database state. [CORRECTION only Conservative Home has, Straw OPPOSES ID cards, see comment below, and the word "dumped" is unfair to Montgomerie's elegant prose].
In his dream scenario Fawkes imagined the new double-C, Clegg-Cameron government as follows:

The average age of the cabinet is now 44, the centre-piece of the Queen’s speech is to be a Great Repeal Bill, undoing 13 years of authoritarian legislation and strengthening civil liberties, restricting the growth of the surveillance and database society. The Big Society reform programme promises to fundamentally re-balance state and society in favour of a smaller more open government.  Cable promises an emergency budget within 30 days signalling tough action on the deficit.

PR appears to have slipped out of the priorities, which I hope the Lib Dems would find unacceptable. But a Great Repeal Bill would provide a compelling and attractive centerpiece, not least for Lib Dem foot soldiers. Cameron has been tepid on this agenda, against ID cards because of their cost not on principle. Henry Porter and I have both banged on about the danger this represents were Cameron to lead the ‘strong government’ he wishes for. But he has never opposed it.

Mandelson and Brown on the other hand are the architects of the database state. It is one of the reasons why they could not participate in a coalition with the Lib Dems without any sense of integrity unless Clegg were to abandon his strong commitment to roll back the new despotism.

In the Guardian blog I had a go at the five terms for a coalition if the electoral insurgency were to push Labour and the Lib Dems into forming a joint government. This issue has pride of place.

The new government should immediately pass the Liberal Democrat's freedom bill in the form of a great repeal act that protects liberty and dismantles the incipient database state, including a repeal of the digital economy bill.

But equally important, Brown and Mandelson would have to go. Certainly I don’t see how they could embrace in good-faith the roll-back of their own legislation to which they are so strongly committed.

It follows that Nick Clegg could make this demand of the existing Tory leader but would have to wait for Labour to appoint a new one before insisting on it with whosoever that might be.

Which means that it could turn out that the issue the BBC has refused to cover because it is “not important” may be central to the formation of the next British government.

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