October 14, 2010
(Originally posted here on 11/05/10)
Well, it’s gone and happened. Lord David deBleuchamp VonWellmonied of the House of Cameron is now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Naturally, the howls of derision by people terrified by the prospect of a return to Thatcherism are matched only by the cackles of those whose spirits are bouyed by…urm…the prospect of a return to Thatcherism. But like billions of commentators, politicians and public figures have put forward as of late, the results of the General Election (did it only happen onThursday??) have indicated that the British public now want something which is increasingly being referred to as a “new politics”. Gone are the old displays of political grandstanding, conflict between parties and hard-nosed stoicism in goverment, which were a given during the days of healthy Tory majorities followed by healthy Labour majorities. Now, we are told we will see a greater air of co-operation, and a more realistic approach towards compromise and governance. The inter-party talks between the Lib Dems and their paramours are, in my opinion, early evidence for the genesis of this “new politics”.
Of course, we will still have the animal noises of PMQs. And of course, we will still have the same old reliance on the tired, worn-out stereotypes; the Tory toff donning his top-hat and kicking poor people out of the way while off to take luncheon at his club; the Labour apparatchik who made his way up from running the Student Union, calling for more costly-but-ineffective NHS consultancy groups to be founded, while claiming for another patio heater; the wimpy, wet-as-a-bit-of-lettuce Lib Dem, who leans one way and then another. And we will still have the old divisions which were carved back in the 80s and 90s, when the members of the new goverment were rattling sabers and digging moats (some of which were cleaned out by taxpayers’ cash). These guys still have axes to grind and it’s not going to be plain sailing from here.
Don’t, for a moment, think that coalition goverment or any of its more watered-down variant will automatically create a MASSIVE amount of co-operation. Yes, while the PMs and ministers will now be more inclined to favour political realism rather than massive bags of social ideology in solving problems, and slightly more eager to take other people’s ideas on board, bumps in the road are inevitable. The Lib Dems and the Tories have been going at one another since year dot, particularly in the local councils, and few of them might be willing to lay down their arms. Some Lib-Dems will be pissed off that their party is now having to reach agreement with its ideological nemesis; one which sits at the other side of the political spectrum. And many Tories, hopeful for promotion and advancement in return for years of what they see as good work, will be pissed off when they are sacrificed for the sake of poltiical expediency and some namby-pamby Lib Dem pips them to the post.
And don’t think that the other potential mix, the so called “Traffic Light Coalition”, would have fared much better. In that instance, not only would deals had to have been done between Labour and the Lib Dems, but moves would had to have been made to bring in Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Greens and Socialist Labour – not least among them the demands of Plaid’s Ieuan Wyn Jones to increase public funding in Wales by £300 million. And yes, while certain elements do indeed display a kind of political closeness between such parties (the SNP, for example, usually votes in line with Labour in Scotland), and while the fact remains that all such parties consider themselves to be broadly on the left wing of the spectrum, as a friend of mine observed, if they all agreed with one another that much then they’d all be in the same party.
Even so, what would such a coalition have delivered us? What the Conservatives meanly, but nevertheless accurately, called “a goverment of the Losers”, in which all the other parties ganged up to fight the Conservatives. Worse still, it would have meant the country would have been run once more by an unelected Labour leader; while that might not have been too bad overall, I wouldn’t have put up with it myself. The only way it would hve worked for me is if the party leadership had ben taken by an old-Labour hard-left type, thereby scaring the shit out of the Conservatives and bringing a bit of oomph back in left wing politics in the UK. I would have had an orgasmhad it been Tony Benn, for instance.
Ultimately, I agree with David Cameron’s repeated assertion that British politics needs change; though I don’t agree, completely, with his vision of what that change ought to be. Yes, I think we need to bring back in an element of responsibility and actually reward people who work hard; but no, I don’t agree with him when he means to do this via the old Conservative notion of “family” (NB – having been raised by two consecutive sets of single parents, I will fight tooth and nail against the bizzare notion that a child who is not raised in a nucelar family is somehow doomed to social failure). There is an awful lot of sermonising in the Conservative flank, and some of it frankly terrifies me.
And yet, there’s now (what I deem to be) a lovely little counter to that; the fantastic solution of putting the Lib Dems in government. They will neutralise all the madnesses that might emanate from the wing of the Tory party which looms furthest to the right, while slowly being able to provide a bigger forum for issues which I feel are important; namely Parliamentary, electoral and economic reform. Get a slow burn towards proportional representation, finally make moves towards an elected second chamber, and bring in greener issues.
(Incidentally, while watching the BBC news-reports of the whole affair, just saw a chronology which saw Gordon Brown leaving Downing Street, David Cameron entering Downing Street, and Nick Clegg strolling coolly down a nondescript high street. Dude’s got style).
Normally, I wouldn’t be all that optomistic about a hung parliament and coalition government. And yet, with the current scenario, things seem surprisingly conducive. The pressure of a massive deficit and economic dangers at home and abroad will force the poltiicians to get on with it, as if they screw up with the issue of dosh, we are in aperfect position to demand a re-election and get the buggers out. As such, they’ll be figthing even harder to keep things in order. In the meantime, the more contentious issues between the two parties; namely Europe and immigration, will be forced to take a back seat. Further muggying the air for them is the razor-close history of the expenses scandal, providing further justification for the public to get angry if the politicans start slowing down again.
At the very least, I hope that this “new politics” will terrify and consequently put to rest the old group of what I termed “career-minded lizards”. They’ll be so scared of public anger hitting them in the arse, that politicians will be scared of doing anything as daft as fiddling their expenses, lobbying for certain groups while still in Parliament/govt, or quickly jumping ship to private groups and massive consultancy fees when things don’t go their way. Mind you, I acknowledge that there’s no guarantees that this will take place – I merely hope very strongly that it will happen.
And like I say, old scars will still be visible on the surface. The Tories will still be seen as the party of millionaires cruelly protecting their own money and influence, who cheered when George Osborne announced he would raise the inheritance tax threshold. They will still be the wistful Middle-Englanders, who enjoy costume drama, cricket on the village green and using public funds to clear plant-life from their massive homes. And the Lib Dems will still be viewed with pessimism and political suspicion – the party of not-quite-there-yet-lefties, who never managed to get into governance despite almost a century of effort and claims to strength. They will still be the local councillors and college professors, who speak French and keep their old protest banners next to their tweeds.
Aaaaand yes, despite the political enormity of what’s happened today, and footage of Downing Street becoming a sort of televisual screensaver when the real news got tired, overall the change isn’t actually that big. After this evening, some crimes will still be committed. Some people will still die of cancer. Some soldiers will still die in Afghanistan. Some pensioners will still have to make the choice between fuel and food in the winter. Some children will do below-par at their expected educational level. The environment and the economy will still be a mess. And I need not say that powerful special interest groups, with all the nefariousness that entails, will still be present, and operating at every level.
But, nevertheless, things have at the very least changed. And while it might not turn out to be the sort of change I would have asked for, I am nevertheless content that some sort of change has happened. Much big-ups to Gordon for going out with a good deal of dignity, and congratulations to Dave and Nick on moving in. Let’s just hope that the marriage goes beyond the honeymoon.
Iwan Berry, Facebook, His Room.