My thoughts on the coalition

This blog post is intended for the 6,827,938 people who voted Liberal Democrat on 6th May. I know some are angry and upset over the coalition deal and for those I will try and explain why you should give us - and the coalition - time to prove it can work.

I can't deny I am a mixed bag of emotions right now. When I joined the party in 2000 it was with the hope of seeing Liberal Democrat values and policies put into practice. And ten years later, that's exactly what we've got. The knowledge of that, with the sight of Liberal Democrat politicians that I know and trust taking seats at the cabinet table, is a source of massive pride for me.

But, like many of you, I instinctively don't like and don't trust the Conservatives at a national level. But if Clegg, Cable and the negotiating team are willing to, then I will place my trust in them. For the time being.

Let us remember, the situation we were given was not of our making. We were given this situation by the electorate. Whilst the idea of a "rainbow coalition" was appealing, we all know the maths simply couldn't work. Even if we could have cobbled together a partnership, it would have been brought down in an instant by just a few rebels. The markets would have reacted, and the country would have suffered.

When you also bear in mind Labour were not seriously interested in anything other than going into opposition, we had just two realistic options. To let the Tories govern on their own or to try and put Liberal Democrat influence into Government.

The Liberal Democrat election campaign was centred around delivering real change around four clear priorities: fairer taxes, a fairer education system, prioritising the economy and building a sustainable future, and changing our political and electoral system. Nick Clegg was entirely open and honest every step of the way that any potential deal would have to prioritise those four policy areas.

That's exactly what we've got out of this coalition deal.

In fact it goes further than I had expected. We have the promise of a directly elected House of Lords using Proportional Representation, with a referendum on AV for the Commons. Far from perfect, but an immense step forward and far more than I would have expected from the Conservatives. We have our £10k income tax plans adopted in part. We have our "pupil premium" policy adopted. And it looks as if we have Vince Cable in position to sort out our failed banking system.

The alternative would have been a minority Tory government that did not deliver any of those things. I for one appreciate that. I suspect that in time the majority of Liberal Democrat voters, and indeed the British public, will also.

For those Lib Dem members and supporters frustrated that every piece of our policy hasn't been included, or quibbling about detail, I say this - GET REAL. When you consider the number of votes and seats we got compared to the Conservatives, Nick Clegg and the negotiating team have done an amazing job to get so much of our policy into this deal. Some long-standing policy hasn't made it and for that I am genuinely sad, but also realistic about the situation we find ourselves in.

We are now a party in government and tough choices will have to be made every single day. Today I have made the tough choice to back this deal that gives Liberal Democrats what we have always wanted - the chance to significantly influence government policy - whilst at the same time limiting the extremes that a Tory government would have delivered.

We fight for Proportional Representation, which would produce this kind of Government time after time. This is our one chance to prove coalition government can work. We must not be frightened, we must not bicker. We must take this incredible opportunity to show the country what Liberal Democrat policy can do.

Let's do this!