No coalition has yet been formed, but politicians on various sides are already talking of “stability” as if it over-rode all other considerations of democracy and policy.
During the frenzied negotiations of the last few days, the Tories have been keen to tell the media that a coalition between themselves and the Liberal Democrats would be “stable”, whereas a Lib-Lab deal would “lack stability”. Some LibDems, and even the odd Labour MP, appear to have bought into this idea.
Stability is important in several ways, but it is not more important than policy. The various coalition options will produce different polices as well as different degrees of stability. The Lib Dems would be quite entitled to choose to go with Labour on policy grounds, if they decided that Tory stability was inadequate compensation for the nature of their plans in government.
Conservative blogger Iain Dale argued on the Today programme this morning that the Lib Dems should choose the Tories because a Lib-Lab coalition would be dependent on the votes of small parties and that the dire economic situation requires stable government.
But the economic situation requires good government. One of the causes of our economic problems is the desire of both New Labour and the Tories – and to a lesser extent the Lib Dems – always to prioritise the wishes of big business and generally to promote the interests of the wealthy. The political and economic systems we live under do not make it easy to hold the powerful to account. A government that perpetuates this situation is of little benefit to us, however stable it may be.