Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The dust settles

Ok, so we were in with a shot of helping form a government. And then it turned out that Nick Clegg was just squeezing for a better deal with the Tories.

Well, perhaps it's for the best. Labour needs some time to reflect, and perhaps John Reid was right, it was too much clutching at straws.

However, if there is some comfort we can get from this situation, it's that Cameron has taken a massive gamble on his party's future, something which in their rush to fawn on the new government the British media seems to have forgotten. Why?

If the vote for AV (which, don't tell me otherwise, IS a form of PR or, at least, a system which more closely follows share of the vote) is won, the Tories could be out of power permanently. It ultimately boils down to what Tony Blair tried to negotiate with Paddy Ashdown (and then thought better of), but the principle remains: in all elections as long as anyone can remember, the Tories have had a minority of the vote compared to the sum of Labour and Liberal. So, if the vote is won, they could be out of power for a generation, if not forever. The smarter members of his own party are aware of this, which is why they have always been solidly against PR.

And, finally, if the vote is won by the Liberals, does anyone really think the coalition will hold till the end of the Parliament? Of course it can't, because if the people have decided they want PR, and the incumbent government probably wouldn't have been formed if PR was in place, then it pulls the rug from under its legitimacy. The Libs press for an immediate election and, hey presto, the Tories lose.

This scenario isn't certain, of course - it depends on a lot of things - but if it were to happen, Cameron would go down in history as the man who destroyed his party, like Lloyd George and McDonald before him, and in the case of Lloyd George it never recovered - until now.

Not a great result for the "new politics", eh? Watch this space.

5 comments:

  1. What worries me is that the Tory-Liberal coalition becomes an electoral merger - even with AV, the preference will be for the Liberals to ally themselves with the Tories and we have Labour locked out of power.

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  3. It could be dangerous if it happened, but I reckon probably the opposite - Clegg has already alienated a swathe of voters who voted anti-Tory and got Tory.

    Plus Cameron is, lest we forget, in an even more precarious position with his own party than John Major was. At the moment he is secure because MPs are conscious of the power of patronage (will I get a ministry?), but it won't be long before he gets his own "b***stards" stabbing him in the back for moving to the centre.

    The only way I think it could happen is if we, Labour, get in a big mess ourselves and alienate the electorate (i.e. back to the early 80s). But, however bad things might seem now, I think that's pretty unlikely.

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  4. In the early 80s the party seemingly had no grasp of how to get its message across - nor much agreement on the message - so I think it's unlikely the party will alienate the electorate. (Unlike then, we're now the only serious opposition - and there's no prospect of a split. Perhaps more likely that the LDs will split, already many are coming our way.)

    But the flipside was that the much of the media was incredibly hostile to Labour during the 80s - this is no longer so important as power is somewhat dispersed by the internet and the new social media & traditional anti-Labour outlets are less influential as readership has declined with younger people migrating from newsprint to websites for news.

    The party could get in a big mess if it fails to understand what the Tories/Liberals are aiming for with savage cuts. I suspect their logic is that a return to recession can be kept brief, that it will wipe out less-profitable firms and reduce labour costs by holding down wages, increasing the overall expected return on capital across the economy, thus leading to a return to sustained economic growth within a few years as private investors regain confidence.

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  5. Indeed we could get in a mess, it's a delicate balance. There are two possibilities: 1. the cuts will be too big because of macho posturing to please the Tory right, and send the UK into a slump. 2. the cuts will be about right and the Liberals will put a modest brake on Tory intentions.

    Have to say, I don't trust Osborne a bit, he is not a steady hand on the tiller and I think that Cameron is feeling a lot of pressure right now to "be a real Tory" from people who think he has drifted to the left. That'd mean nasty cuts: but in fairness I reckon the jury's still out as to whether it's 1. or 2.

    For the country, of course, 2. is better but it could screw us electorally if the cuts are seen to work - it would cement the impression the Tories are trying hard to create, that we are fiscally incontinent.

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