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What will 2015’s broken promises be?

9 January 2014

Ed Balls’ softer language about Nick Clegg might be an inevitable repositioning of the Labour party in the run-up to another hung parliament in 2015, or it might be the shadow chancellor trying to get ahead of the game after the end to his 2013 was rather bruising. But it is worth mulling the sorts of things that, aside from personalities, the two parties could struggle with.

One is the language that those at the top have used about Labour wrecking the recovery. At the 2013 Lib Dem autumn conference, Nick Clegg said:

‘Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery.’

Some Labour figures such as Lord Adonis felt this was unfair on Labour: wrecking the recovery is far worse than swerving off balance, surely? But this sort of language is easily forgiven when government looms: just remember the awkward jokes in the Rose Garden in 2010 about comments David Cameron had made about Nick Clegg.

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However, what might be more interesting is how Labour squares its own use in opposition of Lib Dem broken promises with the likelihood of pledges that it is making now actually making it into government policy. Ed Miliband set the autumn weather with his energy price freeze pledge, and spent the months after his conference speech standing next to large ice cubes that symbolised the promise. Cleverly, though, they didn’t have a specific commitment written on them, which, as we all know, is the only wise thing to do after the last time someone signed a bit of paper with a promise on it:

Nick Clegg Addresses The Liberal Democrat's Scottish Spring Conference

Whenever Harriet Harman faces Nick Clegg in the Chamber, she takes great pleasure in reminding him of his broken promises. Today at Business Questions, Angela Eagle used Boris Johnson’s condom joke to rib Clegg about his broken promises, saying:

‘I would like to disagree with the Mayor of London, who this week called the Deputy Prime Minister a “prophylactic protection device”. Now I know I am not the world’s greatest expert in this area, but I thought you were supposed to be able to trust contraception.’

But if Labour finds itself in Coalition with the Lib Dems, then it will face the task of trying to freeze energy prices when the Lib Dems have been as clear as crystal that they think this a dreadful policy that would damage investment in the energy sector. Though party sources aren’t keen to say they’d definitely block it, muttering about the danger of setting out red lines, presumably if they, like the Tories, are sincerely worried about the impact that forcing companies to freeze their prices would have, they would block it in government. And if that happened, Ed Miliband would find his ice cubes looking a little less sharp.

This is all hypothetical, of course, but one of the features of the next 17 months of general election campaigning will be these questions about what policies each party would make a red line. Would the price freeze be one for Labour?

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Show comments
  • Makroon

    A very silly blog-post.
    All politicians, (possible exception of Salmond), consider these exchanges as banter for the benefit of the voters. Any Lib-Lab alliance would be preceded by the resignation of Clegg (especially after a bad LibDem result). Balls would buy them the knives.
    Cable, Farron, Oakeshott, Hughes and the nodding donkey “old guard”, would never allow some trivial banter to prevent their grand design – kicking out the Tories and securing ‘sinecures for all’ (Ashdown to replace Blair as “special interlocutor for the middle-east ? Ming Campbell chairman of the BBC Trust ? Cable EU commissioner ? Huhne to come slithering back to some QUANGO ?)

    • Fergus Pickering

      I love it.But Cable surely wants to be Chancelllor.

      • Guest

        I wish he was Chancellor now. Anyone but this Gidiot.

        • Fergus Pickering

          You mean you want balls from Balls.

  • @PhilKean1

    Isabel has no idea the danger we face from a Labour-Liberal Coalition

    Because if it happens, and it is a grave possibility, the Liberals will do their utmost to make it impossible for Britain to leave the EU.

    (1) – Efforts to speed up the planned process of joining the Euro currency will go into overdrive.
    (2) – PR is another Liberal priority that they hope will make it impossible to ever again elect a majority – (anti-EU) – Government.
    (3) – They already know that unlimited EU immigration is designed to corrupt the British peoples’ ability to vote dispassionately, logically and in the national interest – if they ever do get their in-or-out referendum.

    The Liberals also know that, (a) – an imminent in-or-out referendum would see those families who are currently suffering the adverse consequences of EU membership vote to leave the EU.
    However, (b) the same family would vote to stay IN the EU if their daughter is planning to marry the Polish boy she’s been dating for 2 years, and her mum and dad have become very good friends with their prospective son-in-law’s parents.

    And (c), UK born children of EU immigrants will eventually have voting rights. They will be voting to KEEP Britain in the EU.

    To avoid a tragedy worse than ever can ever imagine, the three-party Liberal-left’s total dominance of British politics MUST be broken at the 2015 election.

    • HookesLaw

      Thats why we must vote Conservative.
      But on the other hand I do not see why the children of EU immigrants should vote to go out of their way to keep us in or out of the EU. They will vote for all kinds of reasons and there is no reason why theyt should not vote Conservative. The other point is that you are assuming a significant number of EU immigrants will stay in the UK and not return home.

      • @PhilKean1

        Are you not being rather naive?

        If UK born children of EU nationals eventually get to vote in an in-or-out EU referendum, and their parents are living in Britain, maybe on benefits – you seriously believe they would take the risk that the British people may vote in a way that could potentially lose their parents the right to stay in the UK – without adding their OWN votes to those UK nationals who may vote to stay in?

  • Lady Magdalene

    I think it will probably be easiest to assume that they will ALL be broken.

    That’s nearer the norm than assuming that most will be kept.

  • realfish

    ‘…But if Labour finds itself in Coalition with the Lib Dems…’

    So let’s get this right. A party with minority support, gets to punch above it’s weight, contaminating a Tory / Lib coalition. The Tories having to put right everything that Labour destroyed (which was literally everything that it touched).

    With even less support the Libs again end up in Government, this time with Labour.
    Strange thing, this democracy ‘carry on’. A piddling, miserable dishonest rump of a minority party, the yellows, finds itself in perpetual government.

    How did that happen?

    • HookesLaw

      Because of the way people vote. The point you make is a good one for avoiding coalitions and voting to make sure the party you dislike most is kept out of power.

      The reality which faces us all is that we have to compromise, no one party offers all that you want across all policies. All political parties are themselves compromises.

      • Alexsandr

        I’ll make sure the party I dislike most will stay out of power. by not voting for the useless tories.

        Probably write b0110cks on the voting paper…

    • telemachus

      Worry not

      UKIP are now in the equation

      They will split at least 43 Tory marginal votes to deliver the seats to Labour


      These the LibDems will lose to Labour

      Solihull [516]

      Dorset Mid & Poole North [197]

      Norwich South [431]

      Bradford East [85]

      Wells [609]

      St Austell & Newquay [491]

      Brent Central [90]

      Sutton & Cheam [556]

      St Ives [494]

      Somerton & Frome [519]

      Burnley [109]

      Manchester Withington [389]

      Dunbartonshire East [209]

      Chippenham [147]

      Berwick-upon-Tweed [50]

      Cornwall North [162]

      Birmingham Yardley [65]

      Cheadle [138]

      Argyll & Bute [17]

      Eastbourne [225]

      Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine [5]

      Brecon & Radnorshire [89]

      Edinburgh West [232]

      There is no contest left next May

      • Colonel Mustard

        What a terrible waste of your time typing that all out.

        Titter ye not, missus.

        • telemachus

          No time is wasted in the pursuit of victory

          • Colonel Mustard

            Even applying your Borg “logic” it is difficult to envisage how boasting prematurely about victory on a blog like this pursues victory. Your gigantic ego must make it difficult for that tiny puerile brain to function properly.

            Any sane person reading your comments and correlating them to the prospect of government by Labour must be thinking “God help us”. But no doubt you take people in as Umuna demonstrated on QT last night. I watched it and thought it was like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

            • telemachus

              I thought you might approve of Chuka’s thoughts
              “The founders of the European Union had in mind free movement of workers, not free movement of jobseekers. And undoubtedly we do have to work with our European partners to deal with that. I met with a number of them this week. They are very open to that if we constructively engage with them, instead of saying do what we want or we are going to walk off …

              What people intended when they built the European Union in the first instance was that people who either had a job, or had the skills to get a job, would move around the European Union. The problem that we have at the moment is that during our time in office, and this is where we did make a mistake, you had high-skilled people coming from other countries to do low-skilled jobs.”

              • Colonel Mustard

                Which as it happens has since been proven to be bunkum. The wording of the treaty is free movement of PERSONS.

                In other words, not only are you posting tripe (as usual) but tripe about other peoples tripe.

                Perhaps if you tried thinking for yourself instead of cherry picking quotes and excerpts to “support” your silly slogans the quality of discourse on this censored and lefty heckled blog might improve.

    • Fergus Pickering

      It happens because of Coalition Government, which they ave in, say, Germany, all the time.The British Public most particularly women, were always saying we should try it. There was a guy called Genscher who was in Government for a coon’s age leading a party with far less support than the Lib Dems. It means that manifesto promises are not worth the paper they are written on. I don’t care about that as much as some seem to. Bits of paper batted about before an election are in the realm of make-believe, anyway. Times change and promises have to be ditched. Best make fewer of them. A manifesto should be a couple of sheets of paper and no more than half a dozen promises, all conditional, should be written thereon. The Tories wil go into the next election with ONE important promise which they cannnot break, the promise to hold a rederendum of EU membership. The other parties will promise nothing. Rded lines? Pshaw! and Pfui!

  • monty61

    It’s not really the same thing. The Lib Dems made manifesto promises backed up with public pledges on giant posters signed in blood. Labour are indeed likely disappoint everyone especially their own client groups should (as predicted) they scrape home with an overall majority but I doubt any of the parties will pull stunts like Clegg’s every again.

    I have no truck with the idiot Milliband or the utterly useless Cameron, but the one thing I do hope to enjoy on election night 2010 is the near extinction of the Lib Dems. If ever a party and its leader deserved such a fate, now is the moment.

    • HookesLaw

      I see what you mean but a manifesto pledge is the same no matter how well or little you publicise it.
      The LDs were given an option in the coalition agreement not to vote on student fees but chose not to take it. I think if no party can get a majority then the electorate have to accept that no one is going to get what they voted for.
      The LDs have not handled government well in my book, which is why they do not deserve votes. They have gone around as if still in opposition, cherry picking policies to like and being public in complaining about ones they don’t.

      • monty61

        As you point out the Lib Dems had a pass on tuition fees and chose not to take it despite all their over the top pledges and promises often in student constituencies. This is as blatant and cynical as it’s possible to be has brought politics generally into disrepute even in a world of ‘scratch my back’ cronyism and chummocracy.

        Extinction awaits and I’ll be saving a very special malt for when the big scalps fall on the night.

        • HookesLaw

          I do think it was silly of the LDs. I think they thought they had to show they could take tough decisions in govt. If they lost support or credibility rather than gained it then thats their stupid fault.

          As I recall on the tuition fees issue the decision was based on the results of a report commissioned by Labour. Needless to say they voted against the recommendatioons of their own report. Again as I recall the coalition watered down some proposals so that in fact the poorest students were better off than before and than they would have been if Labour had adopted the principles of the report they commissioned.
          (Please correct me if I am wrong)

          Against this backgrouind the LDs do not come out as bad as they may have been painted.

      • Fergus Pickering

        What you say in your secon paragraph is obviously true. It won’t stop commentators from drivelling however. I shall vote Tory because I want a referendum and that is the only way Iwill get one. Of course the euro might go arsey-versey before nest year. And Salmond might win in Scotland..

    • Fergus Pickering

      Which is better, being an idiot or being utterly useless. Cameron is not bad at all. Could you do better? You could not. Clegg has to be a cotortionist to kep a party together with a left and a right wing and nothing in the middle. Milipede is indeed n idiot, nice chap and al. that. If he became PM he would be the first jew since Disraeli, who didn’t let election promises cramp his style. H was a lot cleverer than milibum though…

  • Denis_Cooper

    Why do you suppose that Miliband would be giving much thought to the possibility of another hung Parliament at this particular time, when as things stand now Labour is heading for an overall majority?

    A majority of 78, according to the present opinion poll ratings:

    Not having got the boundary changes they wanted the Tories still need to be about 6% AHEAD of Labour to have a chance of winning an overall majority, but instead for the past eighteen months or so they’ve been fairly consistently running about 6% BEHIND Labour, and so far they don’t seem to have found any way to close let alone reverse that gap:

    It’s unlikely that the Tories will be able to rely on the LibDems to pull large numbers of votes away from Labour as they did last time, they’re now tainted by their time in government and they’ve been flatlining at about 10% since the end of 2010.

    • dalai guevara

      Your figures would imply, as ever, that the Scottish vote was irrelevant for the outcome of a GE in an ununited UK.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Even on Salmond’s schedule the UK would still be united at the time of the next general election, and my hope and expectation is that it will still be united for long afterwards.

        • HookesLaw

          Surely if there were a vote YES for Scottish indepenence then there ought to be a case for delaying the GE untill the issues had been sorted out?

          • Fergus Pickering

            Thre is indeed such a case. And the coalition could win a vote on that..

          • Alexsandr

            no – they should have a fixed term parliament from 2015 till the scot leave. next day a new GE in eng/wal/NI or F UK or whatever you want to call it.

        • dalai guevara

          Personal preference matters not.
          The Scottish vote as a decider also appears to matter not here. In fact it never mattered, never under Blair, never thereafter.

          What matters however, in the event of a majority YES vote, is that Scottish MPs would find themselves under ‘increased scrutiny’ from 19 September 2014.

    • rtj1211

      I think the assumption that electoral figures will remain unaffected by the 2014 European Election result is fanciful. UKIP will almost certainly win that election and then the jury is out on how many Labour voters will vote UKIP in 2015. You may have the extraordinary scenario of no party getting over 33% of the votes cast.

      Time will tell…..

      • 2trueblue

        I hope that UKIP do well in the European Elections as they do actually have a profile there. If they do take the majority of the seats, (and I hope that they do) this will not necessarily translate into much gain in the number of MPs they will have in the UK elections. Farage does not have a wide enough engagement with the public over the issues apart from immigration and the EU.

        • Fergus Pickering

          He doesn’t NOW. Who would have thought the Lib Dems would have sixty seats in the middle of the last government?

        • Alexsandr

          but immigration and the EU and THE topics. everything else is subsidiary. even the economy.

    • Fergus Pickering

      What have present opinion poll rating got to do wit it. Lstyear Labour could have expected a majority in three figures. Next yyear….

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