Just over 100 days into coalition, it’s becoming clearer how the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party (in the Commons) is shaping up and where dissent is likely to come from in future. As I’ve argued previously, overall the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party has been remarkably united over the last few years. (Even the ousting of Charles Kennedy was conducted with a remarkable degree of speed and agreement amongst MPs, especially when compared with the long-running leadership agonies in Labour and, pre-2005, the Conservatives.)
Coalition is putting that Lib Dem cohesion to the test in new ways and we’re starting to see who the key players will be. As ConHome reported, it was Andrew George and Mike Hancock in the morning’s papers criticising Philip Green’s appointment to advise on public expenditure savings.
Andrew George voted for the ‘establishment’ choice in both the 2006 leadership and 2010 deputy leadership contests (his vote in the 2007 leadership contest is not known) and was one of the rebels on the free schools (Academies Bill) vote in Parliament. Mike Hancock’s voting record for leader/deputy leader has been more mixed (two establishment votes, one non-establishment vote). He too has been a rebel since May, twice in his case – on both the Academies Bill and VAT.
Add in Simon Hughes himself, backed by the party’s leadership during the deputy leadership campaign to become the official voice of dissent (or, as The Independent puts it, Lib Dem with a licence to attack), and the names to watch as the new dynamics within the Commons Parliamentary Party develop are becoming clearer.