On Friday 7 May, without pausing for sleep, the Social Liberal Forum started lobbying for a Progressive Alliance - or, failing that, for a Grand Alliance of all parties. It was soon clear that that was what the vast majority of Liberal Democrat members and supporters would have liked. And what the majority of Lib Dem MPs would have preferred. So, naturally, many of us were disconcerted and disappointed by the outcome. How could we end up sleeping with the enemy? Should we blame Nick Clegg? Should we blame our negotiating team? I say, Balls! Ed Balls, that is, the new Old Labour dinosaur who, in particular, refused to offer a single meaningful thing during our talks with Labour. Not even AV, which was in their manifesto. Do they understand what negotiation is? Heaven help the country if he is their next leader. Perhaps if we had called for an all party coalition, Labour's cowardice would have been more public. Not just unfit to govern, but unwilling to try to govern when the going got tough. We need to work overtime to make it clear to voters and the media that they gave us no choice. While Labour ran away, the real progressive party in British politics was willing to go into the lions' den and fight for justice where it matters: in government. Where Liberal Democrat ministers can argue for fairness and social justice directly against those who seek to curtail them. Where Liberal Democrat ministers can deliver progressive outcomes. Not everything that we'd like to. But real, significant change. The Social Liberal Forum called in particular for Lib Dems in coalition to insist on four things:
- Policies to narrow, not widen, the gap between rich and poor - especially in relation to tax policy.
- No cuts to frontline public services or social spending this year.
- Better treatment of asylum seekers.
- And no dilution of the Human Rights Act.
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