After decades of two party politics, with Labour and the Conservatives swapping and in and out of No. 10 Downing Street the British public had the surprise of their lives in the run up to the 2010 election. Faced with the prospect of not two, but three viable candidates, a coalition government was voted in. Nick Clegg and David Cameron may have been uneasy bedfellows and even unlikelier political colleagues these last five years but amongst the compromises and arguments of splitting power between the Tories and the Lib Dems, out of the ashes has emerged a new way of seeing politics and a set of brand new expectations for Prime Ministers, general elections and everything in between.
Heated debates between party leaders are nothing new, but the involvement of such a wide range of political parties and groups in so many different formats demonstrates that something has fundamentally shifted in British politics. We are no longer content with two opposing viewpoints, two economic plans and two colours of tie to choose between. The 2015 election campaign has been more fractured and contested than ever before with votes and seats split between far greater ranges of candidates. From the idealism of the Greens, the threat to Scottish Labour of the SNP and the controversies of Ukip, it all began with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats back in 2010.
Coalition government throws up a whole range of issues, the consequences of which will play out in this general election and the choices of voters. Loyal Lib Dem supporters may feel the party has lost appeal and capitulated to the Conservative economic ideology of austerity far too many times and students were rudely awakened to the brutal reality of broken political promises over tuition fees. However, while “Cleggmania” doesn’t look set to be sweeping the nation this time around, the Deputy Prime Minister could be in a far worse off position this close to the 7th May. He remains the leader of the only party either Labour or the Conservatives would willingly, if not happily, enter into a coalition with and the Lib Dem’s clever positioning of themselves as moderates, centrists, “the heart of a Tory government” and “the brain of a Labour one,” is sure to win them votes from those who see the value of balance and compromise in Westminster.
The Lib Dem’s have always focused on community politics, social justice, equality and fairness for all. It would be good to give them the chance to continue sharing those values in the toxic and competitive atmosphere of Westminster, and hopefully within the government itself. The media will try to convince us that the party will be decimated by 7th May. A dramatic headline that will sell more newspapers but not reflect the truth of the change that has been brought into politics. Truthfully, the Liberal Democrat’s record in government could have been far worse and many examples of where Nick Clegg and his party have had a noticeable impact in this government, such as scrapping the plans for an ID cards system, saying no to a replacement of Trident and investing over £1bn to crack down on tax avoidance all suggest the Lib Dem’s brand of reasonable policies combined with social justice and welfare would be an ideal ingredient in the makeup of our next government.
Politics does not have to always be about ideologies, winning and losing arguments and the endless cycle of opposition. Shouting at each other across the chamber floor should not be our overriding image of the people we elect to lead us. I, for one, would like to see a process of consensus, coalition and compromise becoming the norm both in Parliament and government and I believe that despite the failings and mistakes that rightly anger people about Clegg and Cameron, we have made the first step into improving the way we run our democracy in the long term future. Changing the system will always be difficult but a vote for the Liberal Democrat party is in no way a vote wasted.