A Liberal Democrat city councillor in Wolverhampton has just announced that she will be withdrawing her support for the city’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
The council was exactly balanced, with 30 Labour members, 25 Conservatives and 5 Lib Dems, meaning that Claire Darke’s abstention causes the coalition to collapse.
Darke has reportedly taken this action with the support of her local party, and has cited two main reasons for her departure — firstly, that a Labour victory in a July by-election demonstrated that the electorate were leaning away from the coalition, making it “morally wrong” for it to continue; and secondly, the “ideologically driven” Conservative spending cuts.
This passage from her full statement is particularly interesting:
In addition, in a controlling alliance – and then a formal coalition – with the Conservatives (controlling Wolverhampton since May 2008) I believe that the Conservatives have treated their Liberal Democrat partners with contempt: our partnerships agreements have been ignored or appropriated by the Conservatives with no due respect given to us as individuals or as a party.
Plus, the ideological driven policies of the Conservatives to ‘slash and burn’ our great city’s (nation’s) services must not be tolerated. The ideological driven philosophy of the Conservatives that ‘if we do not legally have to do it – don’t do it at all’ is the opposite of what any fair and equal (and just) society should be.
Of course, this is a city council with few ties to Westminster, and this move by one single councillor cannot and must not be blown out of proportion as regards the stability of the Westminster coalition. But the fact that Darke is citing broader problems of ideology and working relationship with the Tories rather than specific issues local to Wolverhampton prompts the inevitable question: could this be an indication of what is to come?