Greens attack 'fickle' Liberal Democrats

By staff writers
12 May 2010

The Liberal Democrats have been criticised by Green Party politicians and activists for the terms on which they have agreed a coalition deal with the Conservative Party.

The Green Party leader Caroline Lucas described the Liberal Democrats as “not the party of change, but the party of changing their mind”. Lucas, who last week became the first Green MP in Britain, made the comments shortly before the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition government yesterday evening (11 May).

She insisted that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg should hold out for a referendum on proportional representation. But it has now been confirmed that the deal between the Tories and LibDems will limit electoral reform to a referendum on Alternative Vote, a variation on the current non-proportional system.

Lucas' warning of "the Liberal Democrats' tendency to backtrack on promises” was echoed by Green and other left-wing activists following the news of the coalition last night. Darren Johnson, one of the Green members of the London Assembly, used Twitter to encourage disgruntled Liberal Democrat members to join the Green Party.

Before the deal was announced, Lucas said, “Nick Clegg has a unique opportunity to make history. Most people in politics are familiar with the Lib Dems' fickleness, but this is the one time when the Lib Dems must hold their nerve”.

The Tory-Liberal Democrat deal was confirmed after talks broke down between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. The Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, has heavily criticised the Labour Party for failing to commit themselves to a “progressive coalition” that could have included his own party as well as the Liberal Democrats.

Details of the coalition are still emerging. The Tory leader, David Cameron, has taken over as Prime Minister while the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, is Deputy Prime Minister.

It is understood that there will be a referendum on Alternative Vote, but Tory MPs will be free to campaign against it. Five-year fixed-term parliaments will also be introduced.

Clegg is likely to face criticism for abandoning his opposition to renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. This may lead to rebellion on the Liberal Democrat backbenches when votes on Trident take place in the Commons.

The Liberal Democrats have also agreed to the Tory policies of a cap on immigration, an emergency budget and £6bn worth of spending cuts. But the Tories will abandon their plans for cuts in inheritance tax for the wealthy.

The government will go ahead with the Conservative plan of introducing tax breaks for married couples, although Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain when the measure is put to Parliament. This part of the agreement raises the prospect of other arrangements of this type.

There will be five Liberal Democrats in the cabinet, including Danny Alexander as Scottish Secretary. Meanwhile, William Hague takes over as Foreign Secretary and the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer goes to Cameron's old ally, George Osborne.

There is likely to be alarm at the news that Liam Fox is the new Defence Secretary. Fox is widely recognised as one of the Tories' most ardently pro-war, pro-nuclear and pro-arms trade politicians.

Further details of policies and appointments are expected to emerge throughout the day.

[Ekk/1]

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