Sunday, 23 January 2011

Could the Irish Political Crisis Vindicate the Lib Dems?

Before I get the emails and tweets reminding me of the Lib Dems broken promises on tuition fees, EMA, and so on, I'm not talking about specific issues but about them joining a coalition in the first place and then staying in it despite some tough choices.

Today the Irish Green Party withdrew from the governing coalition meaning that the government no longer has a majority in the Dáil Éireann (the lower house in the Irish parliament). There is now doubt on whether the finance bill, which is required to get the loans from the EU and IMF that Ireland needs, will pass before a vote of confidence in the government on Tuesday.

If the bill doesn't go through then confidence in the Irish economy is likely to fall through the floor, having a major knock-on effect in the Eurozone and British economy, as the UK and Irish economies are so closely integrated.

All this coming at a time when Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), has resigned the leadership of Fianna Fáil so that someone else can fight the impending general election, due on 11 March.

The problem is that if the government lose the confidence vote on Tuesday then the general election will be brought forward. The Greens leaving the coalition means that winning the vote is anything but certain and the finance bill may not have time to be passed before parliament is dissolved. Does this make the Greens irresponsible?

Back to the Lib Dems though; their role in the UK governing coalition is equally as important. They could easily pull out and force a general election, but the difference is they are currently the unpopular parter in the government. Nevertheless, if the Lib Dems want to be seen as a genuine party of government then they can't be seen to be irresponsible with the UK economy.

Stability and "working in the national interest" were the cornerstones in the making of this coalition, so if the Lib Dems broke away, perhaps for their own political gain, then that would destroy any trust they have left with the electorate. Additionally, if the Irish political crisis is worsened by the actions of the Greens then the Lib Dems' position could actually be strengthened by their commitment to stable government. Such a situation could vindicate the Lib Dem decision to go into government with the Conservatives.

Just a theory.