I have a confession. I like coalition and I think the government we have at the moment is the most representative we've had for a long, long while. Now, read carefully what I have said. I haven't said it is the most effective, I said it is the most representative (and you know my views on the lack of real representation in our politicians in general!) parliament we've had in a long time. Let me explain how so.
Below is a table of the three biggest parties, their share of seats by the percentage and number of voters. Look very closely and you'll notice only a difference of 6% of votes between the Lib Deals and Labour. This means that almost one quarter of voters went Lib Dem and yet they gained only 9% of seats. Labour with an additional 1.8 million voters gained 4.5 times as many seats. Err...does that sound right to you? Or fair? It doesn't to me.
So let us add the % of Conservative votes to the number of Lib Dems ones. 36.1 + 23 (yeah I know, simple maths but just go with me) and that results in 59.1% of voters. So now, instead of 38% of voters electing a majority of 325 MPs in Parliament (how less than half of votes can create a majority baffles me, but that's our system and it does!) as Labour or the Conservatives will try to do, you now have almost 60% of voters represented in parliament. Now that sounds much fairer.
The Lib Dems are (or should I say were, now they are quite happy on first past the post because it means they'll keep some seats following their drop in popularity) keen on the Single Transferable Vote for obvious reasons as it gives them more seats as a result of the proportion of votes they get. And they've been badly damaged by coalition government because they have been seen to have "sold out". And don't go thinking we can go to a proportional or alternative vote system; we had a referendum on it and we said no (well, with a turnout of only 41% I think we should say that the result was generally "we don't care").
But this is a real shame and I think a case for future coalitions should be made. To the point where, if I was leader of a majority Conservative government (as I plan to be one day!) I would ensure I had ministers from most parties within my government, Lib Dem, Labour, Greens and even UKIP. Why? Because politicians should be working hard to make our government more representative and it gives balance to government. It helps bring in new, fresh ideas, prevents groupthink and ensures alternative views are heard. And if less than 50% of people have voted for a particular government, is it really fair to exclude the desires of the majority of voters who wanted something else? No, it isn't.
Coalitions aren't perfect though. The Italian experience of Coalition for example, with a mish-mash of various parties has never really produced a stable government. The key to making it successful in Britain is to be more willing to compromise on major issues and to have a very clear strategic goal for the duration of the coalition government. This government's goal of reducing the deficit has been generally successful and another government aiming to achieve the end of the deficit would be a great success for the UK.
If we were more accepting of coalition, we would have a far better government with a lot less internal fighting and back-biting. The Lib Dems deserve more credit than they have been getting, because they made the difficult choice of supporting a Conservative government which has helped restore the British economy when it was teetering on the edge.
This parliament is not perfect. There are major issues remaining around defence and the NHS. However, surely another five years of this is better than years of unstable minority government based on only a minority of voters? Maybe even better than a government led by one party, but still with less than 50% of the vote.