Sunday, 16 May 2010

Coalition politics - some more thoughts on the election settlement

I became rather weary of political blogs after the election campaign. Earlier this week, as the parties were planning and conniving to see who should be in power, there seemed to be so much happening that I would have to continue giving hourly updates. I will here just give some thoughts on events since the election.

The Labour Party
Labour did suffer a defeat, but not a huge one. Gordon Brown looked tired, and hung onto power as the Liberal Democrats decided what they wanted to do. It was the sad end to a distinguished career. History will be much kinder to Brown than the media, who dislike his gruff style. The man was a gifted chancellor, and has served for a long time in his various offices. He, and I, and much of the nation, was rather choked when he gave his little speech after going to see the Queen and resign. It is a sad day when the substance of a man like this is rejected in favour of the style of younger upstarts.
Brown’s immediate resignation forces a leadership campaign, and, at this point, the only two declared candidates are Dave and Ed Milliband. I like and respect these two brothers enormously, and the prospect of a fraternal contest does lend a certain frisson to proceedings. I prefer the more radical policies of Ed, with his close links to the trade unions, but I think that Dave has more gravitas. Sadly, I feel both are too young, but their opponents, DaveandNick are as young. I would have liked someone with the stature of Jack Straw, but he has ruled himself out.
I feel a period in opposition, with a strong new leader, will be good for Labour, particularly against so weak a government. I hope they only have one term in opposition, and that the Con-dem coalition fails.

The Conservative Party
The Conservatives won the election, but failed to achieve a majority. This is quite amazing considering the unpopularity of the government, and demonstrates a major failure by former public schoolboy David Shameron. Surely, in such a mutinous party, he cannot last very long before he pays for this failure. Quite rightly, the Conservatives, as the largest party, felt they ought to form a government, and Shameron soon began to woo Nick Clegg, whom he had previously made fun of. Some laughable concessions were offered, but it was not until it was revealed that the Lib Dems had also been in conversation with Labour that the Tories offered anything of substance. Now, forced to ditch their major policy to protect the richest 3,000 in the country from inheritance tax, and conceding a referendum on electoral reform, Eton boy Shameron has formed a Lib-Con coalition and is now known as Prime Minister DaveandNick Shameron. His wife has had to give up her £400K career with only a six-figure pay-off and they have moved into the luxury flat above No 11. Inconceivably, DaveandNick has retained Bog-George Osborne, who is his chancellor. Shameron now heads a coalition government, and this might be a good thing. If there is restraint on the more reactionary and pocket-lining policies of the Tories, some good may arise. But this will surely not last long, despite the flirtatious giggles and back-pats of Shameron and Clegg.

The Liberal Democrats
After their shock loss of seats, the Lib Dems held the keys to number 10. Although it was the Tories who had the largest party, for a progressive and redistributive party to join with them was not a pleasant prospect. Many votes in southern England, where Labour generally does poorly, vote Lib Dem as a way to block the Tories. The Lib Dems have the most progressive taxation policy of any of the parties, and yet they have aligned with the most regressive.
It would have been difficult for the Lib Dems to join forces with Labour, simply because they were not the largest party, and because the two parties between them did not have a majority. This is a pity, as a progressive alliance against the xenophobic, homophobic financiers of the Tory ranks would have been a good thing for the nation. Nonetheless, a government has been formed, marked by the silence of the more left wing Lib Dems, such as Simon Hughes. I think the public who voted Lib Dem will be angry about this. “Vote Clegg, get Brown” screamed Tory posters. People voted Clegg and got Cameron. It is my hope that perhaps this will cause the Lib Dems to dissolve with members going both ways, thus strengthening Labour, the natural destination for most.

Mixed feelings. Despite my misgivings at this new government, I hope it succeeds for a short while. It could be promising, and it will be nice to see the Tories somewhat held at bay, perhaps giving a chance of progress to the poorest members of society. We shall see.

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