The Liberal Democrats need to prepare to work with Labour

If Labour fall short of a majority at the next election, the Liberal Democrats could work with the party.

In 2010, the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition agreement with the Conservatives, providing Britain’s first peace-time coalition government. Five years later, the party was reduced to an orange rump of eight MPs. At that election, the party was prepared to form another coalition, with the BBC reporting that Nick Clegg laid out a series of red lines for such a deal.

In the end, that did not matter as the Conservatives returned a slim majority.

Two years after that, Tim Farron declared that his party would make no deals in the event of a hung parliament. The party made a net gain of four MPs (although their vote share dipped slightly) and they remained on the opposition benches.

Liberal Democrats and political commentators will continue to argue the pros and cons of the Liberal Democrats joining with the Tories in 2010. On one hand, they mitigated more savage cuts and other policies that the Conservatives would have implemented while the party delivered on a significant amount of its manifesto. On the other, they helped initiate austerity and damaged themselves for a generation.

The party made mistakes while with the Conservatives, but coalitions, compromises and actually implementing one’s policies are vital to politics. Governing is the goal.

That takes us to the next election. After last June's surprises, no outcome is impossible and that is why the Liberal Democrats will be thinking about their position.

By the next vote, Brexit will have happened, and the Liberal Democrats will need to make sure they are not the just anti-Brexit party, and therefore must come up with clear, memorable and radical policies to transform Britain.

One likely outcome of the next vote is a Labour plurality in which Jeremy Corbyn’s party falls short of winning a majority. Labour has significantly more allies in the House of Commons than the Conservatives. They could rely on the SNP, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. If the Liberal Democrats make reasonable gains (and win say 20 or so seats), they could be key players in a hung parliament.

The party could end up with two options: join a coalition with Labour or reach a confidence and supply deal.

Recent history suggests which one would be preferable. In coalition the Liberal Democrats achieved good things but lost out politically. In contrast, the DUP have managed to get a lot of what they set out to achieve while keeping a distance from the struggling government.

Much will depend on the politics of the time, but a confidence and supply deal would be the party's better option, which is why the Liberal Democrats need to have a number of central policies to get implemented with the help of Labour. In terms of values, the two parties are much closer than the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, meaning that much of the ground-work is already in place. When it comes to the environment, progressive economics and the NHS, the parties have significant cross-overs. There is also a significant body of Labour support for political and electoral reform, which the Liberal Democrats could tap into. On many of these issues, the SNP and the Greens could also help.

The main problem with this however, is England. Should England be regionalised, or should it remain one large entity within the framework of a federal Britain? That’s a question for a constitutional convention and a likely series of referendums.

Either way the people should have their say.

5. Improved Political Education

Education is the key to advancing individuals in society and advancing society itself.

Specifically, substantial, obligatory and non-biased political education is long overdue. If people are to be informed for elections, they need to understand how the system works, who the main political players are and the importance of voting in the first place.

The key to a healthy democracy is a knowledgeable population. Political education in schools is a much-needed solution to our ill democracy.

6. Automatic Voter Registration

One barrier to voting in the first place is the fact that individuals must register ahead of polling day. Generally, this is a simple procedure that takes a few minutes, however, that’s not the point. Individuals should have an automatic link with the political system via being able to vote from the get-go.

Automatic registration takes place in other countries, why not here?

Let’s make voting easy.

7. Compulsory Voting…For First-Time Voters

Many individuals, including myself, are very vary of making voting compulsory. The freedom not to vote is an important freedom and people should vote for the sake of it.

However, the proposal for first-time compulsory voting is a compromise that could set voters on a path to consistent engagement as there is strong evidence that voting is habitual, meaning that once individuals start they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it would be worth piloting this to see its impact.

The proposal