Lots in the Canadian press following the historic British coalition government formed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats speculating whether we on this side of the pond can draw any lessons from our British cousins.
It's been amusing to watch conservative pundits in the media insisting no, it doesn't apply at all. Their culture is completely different (they find Benny Hill funny) and their system is too different (our Westminster model being named after Westminster, Romania or something). And on the other side, liberal pundits saying the UK example is proof it's acceptable and can work here.
And, of course, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives and are trying to revive their coalition bogeyman strategy, seeing Liberal/NDP cooperation as a threat that could hurt his hold on power. The UK example could hurt his efforts to demonize a coalition as some kind of anti-democratic coup by showing no, actually it's perfectly benign and in the best democratic traditions. He can't have that.
I think there are some notable and significant differences between the UK coalition and the one attempted in Canada. For one, the UK one involves the largest seat-holding party. Secondly, the Canadian one involved a party that the voters had just punished at the polls, a leader who (as much as respect him) Canadians had clearly rejected, and also relied on a separatist party for support. All those factors cost it public support, making Michael Ignatieff's decision to back away from it after forcing economic concessions from the Harper government the right move.
That doesn't mean, though, that we should rule out a coalition in the future. Should the circumstances be right, we need to absolutely be open to going down the coalition road. Just because it didn't make sense yesterday doesn't mean it won't make sense tomorrow.
It's a dicey political strategy question for the Liberals, though.
Obviously the Cons want to paint the Liberals into a corner, trying to both demonize coalitions and them force us into disavowing them. It's a transparent strategy: they see a coalition as a threat they want to quash.
For the NDP, it's in their interests to play-up the possibility of a coalition. It gives them added relevance and the potential for clout. And it firms up their vote. Which is also why it's dicey for Liberals. They compete with the NDP for those centre-left swing votes.
The Liberals want to solidify the anti-Harper vote under their banner; that's their key to returning to government. Only the Liberals can stop Harper, so unite with us will (once again) be the line. But if a coalition is firmly on the table, it makes it harder for Liberals to make that argument, and easier for those swing voters to feel safe parking their votes with the NDP, knowing there can be a coalition and wanting to give the NDP a stronger hand in it.
So, it's a tough line for the Liberals to take on both sides. My advice for Team Liberal? Don't rule-out a coalition, but don't get drawn into deep discussions on the issue either. The line is simple: we're not ruling anything out, but we're committed to electing a strong Liberal government that will once again give Canadians the strong, responsible government they need and deserve.
Plain and simple. Rule nothing out, but focus on electing Liberals. And when the dust settles, we'll see what's what.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers