While in 2010 the coalition agreement focused on the grim work of cutting the deficit, it may just be that in May compromise will be motivated by reducing inequalityby Emran Mian / February 5, 2015 / Leave a comment
Could Labour and the Liberal Democrats realistically come up with a coalition agreement? The hardware for a coalition—the tallies of votes and seats—won’t be in place until after election day (though many opinion polls suggest that a Lab-Lib bloc may be large enough to govern.) But most of the software for a coalition can be assembled now. Centre Forum—a liberal think tank—and the Fabian Society—often close to Labour party policy—have tried to do that in a report this week. They find “significant common ground” between the policy promises of the two parties, enough to provide a starting point for negotiation.
Some of the common ground is featureless. Both parties, for example, support “an active industrial strategy with government led sectoral partnerships,” whatever that means. They also support investment into green technologies. While these might be issues for the back half of a coalition agreement, inserted to add gravitas, they’re not the stuff of the Rose Garden Redux. More significantly, the two parties describe a similar outline for future public spending—cuts, yes, but mitigated by maintaining investment and some tax rises. They would devolve more power and funding to local decision makers, as well as reform the House of Lords. They would agree not to have a referendum on British membership of the EU. While some of Labour’s criticism of big business may create tension across the coalition divide, both parties promise to be tougher on tax avoidance and they have a similar position on getting more employers to pay the Living Wage, through persuasion rather than compulsion.