Nevertheless the result here in Withington, and our local election results across the constituency, were a real vote of confidence in the hard work and commitment of our hardworking local team. As well as winning the Parliamentary seat we held all 5 Council seats that we were defending, and we won a second seat from Labour in Chorlton, where Victor Chamberlain was elected with an enormous 3349 votes, a majority of 368. We also came very close to winning in Old Moat ward, where Rob Mackle polled 2216 and missed out by 315 votes.
What was clear from the General Election is that no party “won” the election. The Labour vote dropped to 29%, but the Conservatives failed to get an overall majority and only polled 37% of the votes cast. The electorate decided that there should be no overall majority, and so it up to the political parties to come to an agreement to work together for the good of the country. I wanted the voters to choose a Liberal Democrat Government, but that was not to be. However the electorate also made it clear that they did not want a majority Labour or Tory Government either.
A number of people have contacted me raising concern that we have entered into a coalition with the Tories. Others have contacted me to argue that we should not have had any discussions with the Labour Party because they lost the election. Personally I think that it was absolutely right to have discussions with both parties to bring about the best for the country. What was clear, however, was that Labour were not interested in any kind of left of centre progressive coalition, which could also have included the Welsh and Scottish Nationalists, the Alliance Party MP from Northern Ireland, and the Green MP from Brighton. The people who were involved in their negotiating team seemed more interested in the outcome of the Labour leadership election, rather than what was best for the country. Labour have been very happy to go into opposition, rather than be part of any Government tackling the economic crisis. On Tuesday evening in the Members’ Dining Room, when David Cameron was standing outside number 10, the loudest cheer was from the Labour MPs, not the Tories.
By ruling out any coalition the Labour Party guaranteed that the Conservatives would be in Government. As such there were only 2 options – a Tory minority Government putting forward a Tory agenda, or a coalition Government where the Lib Dems could help to shape the direction of the Government and ensure a progressive agenda for Britain . So there was really no choice. Whatever misgivings I, and others, may have about a coalition with the Tories, we must ensure that it works for the benefit of the country. Already we have secured commitments for a number of progressive policies.
During the election Labour said that restoring the link between pensions and earnings was unaffordable. The Lib Dem Tory coalition has already committed to restoring this link. We have also secured a commitment to raise the threshold before people pay income tax up to £10,000 to take some of the lowest paid out of paying tax.
And we have secured a commitment to increase funding for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, which will mean extra money for all schools in the Constituency.
At the same time we are bringing forward plans to bring about political change – reform of the House of Lords, the chance to sack corrupt MPs, and a vote on electoral reform to introduce a more proportional voting system, and to put an end to the Prime Minister calling an election at the time of his or her choosing.
We are also reinstating civil liberties – scrapping ID cards, ending the detention of children, no more fingerprinting of children in schools without parental consent. And finally we will be tackling the banks and tackling the climate change – taxing bank bonuses and bringing about a greener economy, including cancelling the third runway at Heathrow.