Tag Archives: democracy

Post-Election

Since my crazy inflamed passion for politics is driving me crazy, I reckon if I just open a release valve, blog it out, I’ll be able to settle down and get some work done.

So here’s me, speculating on what might happen.

I think, barring a spectacular performance by Cameron over and above Clegg (and that’s not to discount Brown, who for all his faults has substantial economic nous) in the final leader’s debate on economics hosted by the BBC (who I confidently predict will have the least shit studio for the occasion) the poll numbers should hold steady going into the final approach to the election.

Unfortunately, because these waters are so uncharted, it’s hard to predict exactly how that’s going to translate into seats and votes on the night, but it seems like the most likely outcome will be a narrow margin between either the Tories or Labour as to who will be the overall largest party (probably the Tories) with a substantially increased Lib Dem contingent. I very much doubt any party will be able to form an overall majority.

That gives Brown first move, as he’s the incumbent. What he does with it will be interesting, and depends on the Lib Dem posture; there’s a reasonable chance that the Lib Dems would consider coalition, or at least a promise of support, at a price.

The Lib Dems are certain to want electoral reform. That is absolutely non-negotiable, and given the result is likely to be fairly absurd in terms of proportions of votes to seats, they’ll have a substantial popular mandate for moving to a more proportional, fairer, system.

A second condition is likely to be that Brown promptly fall onto his own sword. He’s a liability to his own party, let alone to the fortunes of a coalition. A  third condition might well be the installation of Vince Cable as the Chancellor, a move likely to be publically popular. I doubt the Lib Dems will win enough support to justify Clegg taking over as PM, but it’s an interesting possibility, especially in the power vacuum left by the Brown murder-suicide.

Note that those things get increasingly more unlikely as they go on; Clegg for PM is practically a fan-boy’s pipe-dream. But a Lib-Lab pact founded on electoral reform and the toppling of Brown is an attractive possibility.

What if conditions make it such that we end up with a Tory minority government? This is possible in the case of the Tories having a reasonable lead in seats over Labour, or Brown rebuffing the Lib Dems in attempt to claw onto power.

The Tories are going to be a lot warier of siding with the Lib Dems; electoral reform might well be a price too high for them to pay. It would mean the end of any hope of a Tory majority government ever again. Fundamentally this is a progressive, centre-left country; between them Labour and the Lib Dems have nearly 60% of the vote. If our votes were ever allowed to count equally, the Tories would never see power again.

In the absence of coalition, this would mean a weak and unstable government; Cameron would have to pull off some pretty damn good politicking to save his hide and win a proper majority in a hypothetical second election. Considering this the man who’s managed to turn what should have been a slam-dunk victory into a hung parliament, and almost brought his party to the point of being made irrelevant by proportional representation, it doesn’t look good for him.

That’s, of course, assuming his party doesn’t stab him in the back. The New Conservatives under Cameron (why that appellation isn’t more widely used I’m not sure) is much more of a surface veneer than the transformation of Labour under Blair, who truely fought for the heart and soul of the Labour party.

Cameron’s makeover of the Tories is mere lubrication designed to help him squeeze down the corridors of power. Which is possibly the most unpleasant metaphor I’ve ever written. There are lots of Tory backbenchers who are still the nasty Tories of old, untouched by Cameron’s campaign to change the party’s image; look at some of the homophobic statements that have leaked out in recent weeks. These people tolerate Dave because they believe that he can put them back into power, where they believe they belong. If he fails to deliver, they may well see Dave as expendable.

The more right-wing Tory who would replace him would, naturally be a lot less electable; this is the same party that tried tacking to the right three times before they realised it was a losing strategy.

Anyways, I guess the only really firm conclusion to be made is that this election is both incredibly interesting and unbelievably important; we could be on the threshold of real political change in this country.

America

American politics is a strange and funny thing. I like how their whole political spectrum is shifted pretty far right when compared to a British or European norm. Obama is being accused in the US of being a socialist, but in all honesty he’s probably further right than David Cameron. It’s very peculiar.

They also have some very funny ideas about liberty and what it means to be free; mostly when Americans (both politicians and the public) talk about freedom and liberty, what they really mean is naked self-interest, and the ability to fully persue such a naked self-interest without any interference, no matter the consequences to themselves, society, or the world at large.

This leads to some truely Orwellian constructions in which the concept of liberty is invoked in attempts to undermine liberty, for instance the USA PATRIOT Act; which in and of itself is fascinating because it’s an intricate piece of branding, it’s actually an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”, and the name serves to suggest that anybody who opposes it is not a patriot. Genius!

I think we can all by now agree that the American-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were not to promote liberty or freedom. I think that in some part the utter failure of these projects to create anything even approaching a liberal Western democracy can be placed at the door of the odd American mythology.

To put it bluntly, the Americans give a massive shit about their constitution, as if it and it alone were the instrument of liberty, the defining feature that seperates freedom, truth, justice and the American way from the barbarians of the outside world. They often believe that their constitution is perfect and inviolate, that the founding fathers were political geniuses unmatched in their own or any other era, with only they having the foresight to build a perfect political system.

This is a load of bollocks, naturally. The constitution is a document written and signed by a bunch of dead white men. It’s not a guarantor of freedom, it’s a piece of paper (or parchment, whatever) with words handwritten on it. I could write the best constitution the world has ever seen on some loo roll with a biro and it wouldn’t be an instrument of liberty (but it would be quite an achievement; biros tend to tear up loo roll). The constitution, and the writing and ratification of it, is not important and have never been important.

What was important was that a group of people decided that they’d had enough of autocratic rule and decided instead to govern themselves democratically; that the democratic spirit and dedication to the rule of law survive to this day. The same process happened organically in Britain, as the power of the monarch yielded to the power of the Lords, and the Lords yielded to the Commons. Our constitution is to a good degree unwritten, and the rest is a patchwork of Acts of Parliament strung together over the centuries. It wasn’t planned or constructed by geniuses or otherwise, and it’s certainly not perfect, but it is at least an evolving mechanism. The Queen legally still has enormous power, but that doesn’t need to be regulated by lines on a page; we all know that any attempt by her to exert her power would be extremely undemocratic and unwise. We don’t need a piece of a paper to tell us that!

The power shift from autocracy to democracy was a long and hard fought process by the people against arbitrary rule, everywhere that it’s happened, be it in England, or in the French Revolution or Classical Athens. That is the essence of liberty, the liberty the founding fathers meant, an idea of liberty that is essentially British; it’s a liberty from arbitrary rule, rule by whim rather than due process under the law. This is why the recent American “Tea Party” protests are retarded. The original tea parties were in protest at the arbitrary imposition of tax. The current US Government has a pretty strong democratic mandate, it’s an incorrect historical allusion.

This mythologising of the constituion and the men who wrote it is pathological for several reasons. It obfuscates the true source of power and the nature of liberty, it discourages modifications and questioning of the wisdom of the provisions of the constitution, and it makes people think that democracy follows from the constitution.

It’s this last point which has surfaced in Afghanistan especially. You can install a Western-style constitution by force, but you can’t install democracy by force. Democracy comes from the bottom up, it happens because essential socio-economic forces make it happen. Democracy as we know it in Europe and the West is the result of hundreds of years of evolution and struggle, and you can’t just jump in and short-circuit the process. The  political force of democracy will forge itself a constitution, but a constitution can’t forge a democracy.

I wish I had time to focus in on some other things, like how some Western behaviour e.g. Guantanamo, makes us look like hypocrites for not following our own avowed principles, but alas, I will have to leave it here.

Until next time, dear reader.