Social Liberal Forum calls for a Government of National Unity

Statement from the Social Liberal Forum Executive:

These are exceptional times. The nation faces two great crises: a financial crisis and a political crisis. The next government needs to be strong enough and honest enough to deal with the economic mess and our discredited democratic system.

The most credible way to tackle this would be the formation of a Government of National Unity.

The cornerstones of such a Government must be as follows

  • First, we must demand an immediate referendum on a genuinely proportional voting system, for which there is clearly very widespread support among voters.
  • Second, we need robust but fair action to deal with the financial crisis. The deficit needs to be tackled. However, rushing to make cuts would be counter-productive and in many cases, socially unjust. Where cuts are made, they should be to unnecessary programmes such as ID cards. If such cuts do not close the deficit on their own, then burden should then fall on those with the broadest shoulders.

Within such a Government the Liberal Democrats should also pursue the excellent four key pledges that were the focus of our manifesto. We should also make clear some lines that we do not wish to cross, given the proud liberal and social democratic traditions of our party.

  • We will not collaborate in any measures that would increase the gap between rich and poor, such as tax cuts for the wealthy. As outlined in our manifesto, we should not rule out further tax rises on those who can most afford it. Any tax cuts must be targeted at those on the lowest incomes.
  • We will not collaborate in any real terms cuts to front-line public services or social spending in the current financial year.
  • We will not collaborate in worsening the treatment of asylum seekers, which is already unconscionably inhumane.
  • We will not collaborate in any watering down of the Human Rights Act, which is essential to protect law-abiding British citizens.

Things are moving very quickly.  Please email us on admin@socialliberal.net to let us know if you agree with the sentiment of this statement, including what position, if any, you hold within the party.

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14 comments on “Social Liberal Forum calls for a Government of National Unity
  1. Nicola Farnworth says:

    I am a Lib Dem voter. I agree with the cornerstones and pledges of the Lib Dem manifesto – that’s why I voted Lib Dem on Thursday.
    Now, rather than crossing over towards the conservative tradition, I would support a progessive alliance of SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Alliance Party, Green Party, Labour, Lib Dem, and any other progressive MPs who are willing to take their seats and form a majority in Westminster. Let that group choose their PM.

  2. Al McIntosh says:

    To clarify – by “Government of national unity” do you mean something on the lines of the National Government of the 1930s?

  3. Agreed on all those points.

  4. james says:

    A government of national unity – including the Tories?

    And unity for which nation? The nation of ordinary people – or the nation of the super-rich elite?

  5. Graham Smith says:

    I think a rainbow coalition of Lab/Lib Dem/PC/Alliance/Green/SDLP would be ideal. Make it clear it is for a short fixed period and will deal only with specific problems, namely the economy and political reform. Fix a date for the next election now (May 2013?).

  6. Trevor says:

    So where’s the red line on civil liberties?

  7. Niklas Smith says:

    On the post, I think the red lines are good, except possibly for the one against any real-terms cuts this year; if we can find something like ID cards that is not really in any sense useful to cut immediately that should be on the table. (And amen to electoral reform!)

    On Nicola Farnworth’s comment: the long list you’ve just made shows how difficult that would be. The maths of the election result mean that forming a stable government excluding the Conservatives is frankly impossible. So either we go along the road of a national unity government (which I am personally not convinced by, but wouldn’t mind if it happened) or a Lib Dem-Conservative deal of some kind.

    Also, what exactly do all these parties you mention have in common (even philosophically) apart from not being Tory? Just to take one example, Alliance want to slash Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland to attract businesses but the Greens want to increase the tax take from 36% of GDP now to 45% of GDP by the end of this Parliament.

    It frustrates me that the word “progressive” is bandied about so much but is never defined. It seems to be the political hurrah-word of the twenty-first century.

  8. Vincent Smith says:

    A “National Unity Government” – what on a earth does this mean? And if it means an all party coalition why are earth – short of world war – would it really be necessary? How liberal is closing down political competition. Seems to me that this a rather desperate and, if you will forgive me for saying so, rather typical Lib Dem response ducking the real choice of allying either with Tories or Labour (+ minor parties). At least Nick Clegg seems to have bitten the bullet in clearly opting for the Tories. If he does, however, I think social liberal such as yourselves will have to start thinking about the long term future of the Lib Dems or rather your place in it.

    Anyway, no more fantasy politics please…

  9. james says:

    Gee, what did the national government do in the 30s? Ah, yes – that’s right, it let ordinary people pay for the crisis caused by the greedy rich…

    Come on guys – Tories and fairness?

  10. Why the need for a “referendum” on Proportional Representation? Surely legislation setting up a PR electoral system can be passed in Parliament without the need for a referendum. My personal preference is MMP-style but would ordinary Britons understand the differences between MMP, STV and others enough to make an informed vote?

  11. If the forum believes that a) Britain’s public finances need to be strengthened in order to reduce the deficit and pay off debt, but b) do not support draconian spending cuts, then it follows that the forum supports tax increases.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it needs to be clear.

  12. Simon Thomson says:

    I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a deal with the Conservatives, but the reality is they are the largest party and got the most seats and the most votes under our discredited FPTP system, therefore, logic dictates we should try and seek a deal with them. Hopefully this would provide the country with a strong stable government thereby reducing the need for an early general election.

    Personally I would prefer a deal with Labour, but due to parliamentary arithmatic this is not tenable. It would also mean dealing with a rag tag of nationlists who would hold the country and any ‘progressive’ government to ransom.

  13. Felix says:

    I am a Lib Dem voter and new member. I completely agree with the sentiment and substance of this statement.

  14. Simon,

    The “rag tag” nationlists (sic) includes 1 Green (politically progressive), 3 Irish SDLP (ie Social Democratic and Labour party, politically progressive), 3x Plaid Cymru (who espouse Democratic Socialism), 1x Irish Alliance party (Liberal Centrist) and 6x Scottish National Party (who espouse Social Democracy). If you add those 14 seats to the 57 Liberal Democrats and the 258 Labour, you get a majority.

    And to remind you again – those 14 seats are inhabited by MPs who, while Nationalist, are also progressive.

    You can forget the 8 members of the DUP – they’re probably conservative. You can also forget the 5 seats won by Sinn Fein since they never turn up to Parliament.

    In short there can be a coalition of left/centre left MPs to counter the Tories.

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  1. [...] Social Liberal Forum calls for a government of national unity – “First, we must demand an immediate referendum on a genuinely proportional voting system, for which there is clearly very widespread support among voters. Second, we need robust but fair action to deal with the financial crisis.” [...]

  2. [...] people a say in how they elect their parliament. Needless to say, we also feel that the ‘red lines‘ spelt out by the Social Liberal Forum Executive this weekend still [...]

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