Dear Mr Clegg, can I trust you? (The case for a hung parliament)
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADER OF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
Dear Mr Clegg,
Can I trust you?
The Prime Minister announced today that the General Election will take place on 6 May 2010. I now have four weeks to choose who to vote for – and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.
Labour might be an option if they were offering a change in leadership. But I cannot in all good conscience vote back into power a man who has never received an electoral mandate for his position, and spent ten years putting the economy at immense risk before seeing it all collapse around him. The Conservatives would be my only logical choice then, but they really do just feel like more of the same. They sound as if they’re led by the results of a focus group rather than a clear plan to fix the country’s problems. Like millions of other middle class voters, I know this country is in a deep hole and that little changes here or there are not going to solve anything.
So, here is my problem. I want my vote to mean something and to make a difference to the future of this great nation. The Lib Dems seem to be my only hope. But I need to know that I can trust you.
Let’s be honest. You won’t win the election outright, and you’ll never be Prime Minister. I know you have to campaign as if you could win, but we all know you won’t. In this election, though, you could prevent the Conservatives from obtaining an ouright majority. A vote for you is probably a vote for a hung Parliament.
Now, before you protest, I happen to think that could be a really good thing. But I need to know I can trust you.
If we do get a hung Parliament after 6 May, I need to know that you will not think of yourself as a “king maker”. One of the problems right now is that MPs seem to have forgotten that they are in public service – in the “service of the public”. If you focus on your role as “king maker” to either Labour or the Tories, you will be in danger of acting as if Parliament itself were the end goal. You’ll never be Prime Minister, but you do have the opportunity to go down in history as one of the most extraordinary political leaders of all time. To do that, you need to do what other great leaders have all done in times of national crisis – put the country’s interests before your own; put the people’s interests before your party’s.
A hung Parliament in which the Lib Dems hold the balance of power will be able to do a number of things that a Conservative or Labour government could not. Assuming you form a coalition with the Conservatives, a hung Parliament would allow the Tories to break their election promises on government spending without losing face. We cannot solve the economic woes of Britain while ring fencing NHS (or any other public entity’s) spending. We are in a huge debt crisis, and it would be good to be treated as adults on this issue, especially during the next few weeks of campaigning. I will see how much I can trust you on this issue by what you say about debt and public spending whilst on the campaign trail. You will win my vote if you tell me the truth, and tell me that it must be fixed. Can I trust you to force whichever party you align with to do the right thing, and not just the expedient thing? Can I trust you to use your mandate to reduce public debt, slash public spending (including unecessary benefits), get rid of bureaucracy and set our country on a growth path again?
I know there are no magic wands and easy solutions. Believe me, the last few years have been tough on me and my family, and we know what it takes to cut back and aim to merely survive for a time. We also know the good feeling that comes from making it through those tough times – and knowing it is not mere illusion and that we haven’t mortgaged our children’s future to do so.
There is no doubt that Vince Cable is the most credible of all options for the role of Chancellor – I hope you would hold out for him to be appointed as such. His recent performance on the televised “Chancellor’s debate” showed he is head and shoulders above either of the other two candidates. He seems to have always been saying the right thing about the economy and would be a superb corrective to two decades of Mr Brown’s policies. I’d trust him with the economy. Can I trust you to make sure he gets the job, even at the expense of your role in the Cabinet?
I’d also like to trust you to get fully behind Mr Cameron if you do form a coalition. You could be tempted to continue petty politics and undermine him at every opportunity. But a much more important contribution to Britain, including restoring Britain’s lost international credibility, would be to support his policies (after taking a few weeks to hammer out some of the details that you would rightly be able to insist upon given your position in a hung Parliament). Can I trust you to support them as if we were a nation at war and needed a government of national unity?
I grew up in South Africa, and my first vote in a National Election was the historic vote in 1994 that saw Mr Mandela swept into power. Although he had an overwhelming majority at the polls, he nevertheless insisted on a government of national unity, focused on the task of nation building. The United Kingdom feels a lot more divided than it has ever been, and it is bruised too – in many ways. Can I trust you, Mr Clegg, to be part of the solution? Can I trust you to rise above politicking and put your country first? Can I trust you to make the best use of a hung Parliament?
I look forward to hearing from you in the next four weeks, and especially to see you in the televised debates. I have a feeling you’ll do very well in them, as the other two leaders try to say nothing much more than “we’re not them” as they jeer at each other. Please stand above this pettiness, and give us a vision of what it’s going to take to really fix this nation.
I want my vote to count on 6 May. I think you might be just what our country needs right now. As crazy as it sounds, a hung Parliament might be the best case scenario. But it’s a risky strategy, and I am nervous. Forgive me asking, Mr Clegg, but can I trust you?
Dr Graeme Codrington
NOTE: This open letter may be freely re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line – “Written by Graeme Codrington, founder of TomorrowToday Ltd, http://www.graemecodrington.com”.