Coalition was an invidious choice

It was no surprise to learn from Tony Rowell (letters last week) that he is not voting for me, given he is standing for a different party.

It was also, sadly, no surprise to see him misrepresent my position in an important way that I hope you will allow me to correct.

Contrary to the impression he tries to create, I have always been, and am, a left of centre politician, with a strong commitment to individual liberty and to the environment. I have spent my life fighting Tories, and indeed Labour when they have adopted policies with which I fundamentally disagree, such as the Iraq war and 90 days detention without trial.

At the last election, the arithmetic was such that the only two realistic outcomes were a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, or a Tory minority government.

Lib Dem and Labour fell well short of a majority. For people like me, this was an invidious choice, but we decided democratically as a party that it was better to have a coalition where we could deliver a good number of our policies and stop some Tory ones, rather than have a Tory minority government that based on precedent would have gone to the country some six months later and won a majority.

As it happens, we have delivered 75% of our manifesto and stopped a whole raft of deeply unpleasant Tory policies that will undoubtedly reappear if the Tories can get a majority, alone or with the DUP or UKIP, on May 7th.

The Coalition’s programme for government was a deal between the two parties. In order to get what we wanted through, such as raising the income tax threshold, ploughing money into help disadvantaged kids and (in my case as a minister) initiating the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century and creating a £1 billion new fund for local sustainable transport, we had to accept some of what they wanted and we did not. That is the nature of coalition. It is therefore a distortion for some people to highlight the Tory bits I had to vote for as part of this deal, without highlighting the good Lib Dem bits they had to vote for.

What happens after May 7th will depend on the arithmetic just as it did last time. It may be that the arithmetic this time produces a majority formed of Lib Dem and Labour MPs – who knows? In any case, I will simply have to play the cards I have been dealt. My approach will be the same as it ever has: to fight to implement my progressive values, and to do my best for the constituency and the individuals within it.

Lastly, I understand some people are unhappy with the coalition but the reality is that if I am defeated because people who have voted tactically for me in the past no longer do so, the only possible outcome is to end up with a Tory MP and a greater chance of a Tory-only government.

Norman Baker

Lib Dem Parliamentary

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