Tag Archives: nick clegg

Fond but Not in Love

I think that one of the prevailing problems with our political culture is that an awful lot of weight is put on ideology and tribalism, which is terribly detrimental to our political culture.

It’s one thing to disagree vociferously with your enemies when they’re wrong, but another to argue when they’re right. Too often is compromise seen as selling out, or attempting a dialogue seen as weakness.

I suppose that compromise especially is easier to spin, and easier to misconstrue. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why the Lib Dem participation in the coalition is seen by many as a betrayal.

I’d like to see myself as a pragmatist. I’m unhappy with cuts, and with tuition fees, and I’d rather see them not there at all. With that said, I also don’t see what is possible to avoid them; my best answer would be something along the lines of “Well, I wouldn’t start from here…”

As much as I hate the idea of the unelected, unaccountable, markets controlling our political destiny (and believe me, I really, really hate it), the plain ugly truth is that they do. Our government and our economy is kept turning by the money loaned to us by our creditors, and that gives them power over us. That’s what deficit means, after all; we could not pay our bills if that money wasn’t loaned to us. If we tried to break the chains as it stands now, in our hour of greatest weakness, we’d be plunged into an economic disaster that makes the cuts look like Christmas.

And the people who were the architects of this economic bondage are scoring points from the back of the cuts. It’s scandalous. I’m furious with Labour, frankly. I’m furious with their tribalism, their hypocrisy, their through selling out of the principles of liberty and socialism when they had untrammelled power for thirteen years. In boom times they brought in tuition fees, and in the years of plenty they spent more than we can afford. Living on money borrowed from capitalists is no socialism I recognise. They let, even encouraged, the markets to grow strong, and made us weak into the bargain. They have no right to carp on about betrayal!

The Lib Dems, by contrast, have had to compromise. Some elements of the manifesto were jettisoned, others watered down. That’s true. But many, many others were and are being enacted. It’s making the best of a bad job; being pragmatic, not just idealistic, and it’s being painted as a failure.

I bring this up partly because of the announcement of proposals for the reform of the House of Lords; I today received an email from Nick Clegg, which contains this paragraph:

It’s no secret that Liberal Democrats strongly favour a wholly-elected second chamber. That is the simplest, purest, and most democratic option. But we should not make the perfect the enemy of the very good. That approach has stymied Lords reform for too long. And 80% is very much better than 0%; and a lot more than Labour managed in 13 years of governing alone.

I agree with him. Ultimately, getting this to pass is going to need horse-trading with the Conservatives, elements of whom are going to be very against this proposal. A lot of people vote Conservative. A lot of people think like they do (and some of them are even friends of mine), and so they have a lot of representation (although more than they deserve). It’s right and proper that it has to be watered down from what the Lib Dems want, because the Lib Dems have less votes and less representation. It’s a great shame that many people can’t see things that way; true democracy requires that you compromise with the people you disagree with. Make no mistake on my disagreement with the Tories; but too long have we lived with the tyranny of absolutist majoritarianism.

It’s depressing that outcome of all this could be a return, a bolstering, of what got us into this mess. Rather than fostering a heterogeneous environment of differing opinion, debate, and compromise, we could find ourselves going back to brutal tribalism, one party on the left, one party on the right, and to the victor (even if by a small margin), the spoils, the system that let us down so very awfully.

So I guess that answer, when anybody asks if I’m ashamed for voting Lib Dem, or joining the party, the answer, honestly, is no.

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.

The Smearing of Nick Clegg

I can smell blood in the water, and it ain’t Nick Clegg’s.

The debate and the Lib Dem surge it provoked have thrown this election campaign wide open, and it’s scaring the Fourth Estate shitless. I can’t blame them; they’ve been witness to an event which aptly demonstrated their own irrelevancy.

A Liberal Democrat was allowed to speak – unmediated – on equal terms with his rivals directly to the public, and the public liked what they saw. They didn’t need pundits or commentators to view events and decide what to think on their behalf (although various papers did try to sell conclusions totally at odds with the evidence; despite what the Mirror thought, Brown was not the winner). The journalists are used to setting the narrative, creating the structure of events as much as reporting them, and the story they wanted, expected, to tell us was of Dave, the compassionate Conservative, brushing Brown aside on his inevitable ascent into power.

But that hasn’t happened, and the papers are crapping themselves.

The current smear stories are laughable; one is an out-of-context quote from 8 years ago, the other is a non-story: Clegg received money from donations into his personal account, the money was declared with the relevant authorities, and the donors are satisfied that their money was used for the intended purpose. The worst case scenario you could claim, I suppose, is that he pocketed it. That would be a pretty serious allegation, and one the Telegraph is studious to avoid; likely because such an allegation would probably attract a libel suit that they would almost certainly lose.

If anybody had any real dirt on Clegg, they would have used it by now. Toppling a Lib Dem leader makes a pretty good story even when there isn’t an election. No, this latest behaviour just reeks of desperation. If this is really the worst they could dig up, you have to wonder what weak stuff they didn’t print.

They’re throwing whatever they can at Clegg to try and recapture their narrative for this election; to try and spin the Lib Dem surge as a temporary blip, a blip that will be corrected back to story we’re supposed to be reading, the story of the triumphal coronation procession of David Cameron, finally taking his rightful place behind the famous black door of Number 10.

Fuck that.

I think this election can be different; we finally have a chance here to smash two-party politics that we haven’t had in decades. Power doesn’t have to shift from Labour to Conservative and Conservative to Labour as sure as the swing of a pendulum; we can vote for something different. We can have something different. Words can’t quite express how happy I am that in my first General Election the choice isn’t just between the lesser of two evils.