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June 1st, 2009


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11:46 am - Another political tract by me
I think it would be a positive development if Gordon Brown broke with tradition and formed - unforced - an emergency cabinet which included a range of Lib-Dems, such as Vince Cable. I support the introduction of PR, and I wouldn't be sorry if the next election results in a hung Parliament, resulting in a Lib-Lab pact.

But despite this I would not vote Lib Dem, under any circumstances. The reason is that I think Nick Clegg is prepared to enter into a coalition with the Tories. Perhaps in part for historical reasons, and whatever their other faults, the Labour Party would never do this. And that's my sticking place.

Why am I so allergic to the prospect of a Tory Government? I decided that if I was going to blog about this I would have to be as honest as possible. It's easy for me to criticise people for speaking in bad faith - but it's hard to cut my own bullshit.

To some extent it is visceral. To some extent it is because of the loathing I felt for the destruction and waste of the Thatcher years. I know that for many people this is very old stuff, which just doesn't figure in their calculations any more.

Further, I know many people think that, for good or ill, the major parties have settled into a new equilibrium, and that it matters only peripherally who implements the system. In fact, most people seem to think a Cameron government will support the type of society we have at the moment - just doing it rather better. A (perhaps true) belief that any ruling party becomes tired and inefficient and the system needs a hard reboot every now and then. A quite mistaken belief that this is what has caused the current crisis.

So, in the face of these strong arguments (that Thatcher is long gone, that there needs to be a periodic refresh) I don't feel it's enough for me to say 'I have a very bad feeling about this'.

So what else have I got except vague foreboding? I believe that Cameron and his cabinet have a very different view of the direction that Britain should go, which is further out of line with the current equilibrium than people realise.

Here are two indicators, which I think people should think about carefully. The first is that Cameron has broken with the centre-right European grouping that includes Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy, to throw in his lot with the Latvian Fatherland party and the Spanish Francoists.

The second is that Cameron has openly declared he will be implementing economic policies based on the Laffer Curve. Here is Johann Hari quoting Cameron verbatim.
"It's a very difficult calculation about where we are on the Laffer Curve... We have to put this [top rate of tax] in a queue of things we would want to get rid of... and I'm always interested in topping up my study of Laffer."
To take the Laffer curve seriously is much more peculiar and unworldly than anything the Greens (for instance) have proposed.

Here is right wing economist and Tory think-tanker Fraser Nelson in the Spectator talking favourably about Laffer. Many of his closest advisors want Cameron to implement libertarian policies. And libertarianism will change Britain in ways I think are extreme and bad.

I just need to say one thing, to be completely frank and honest. If the Lib Dems prop up a Tory Government then they may to some extent ameliorate its extremism, meaning that the worst doesn't happen. That is probably the second-best realistic outcome to hope for. But, it's a risky scary situation to be in, and I wouldn't like the future of the country to rest on it.

(20 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:sheenaghpugh
Date:June 1st, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
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"Why am I so allergic to the prospect of a Tory Government?"

Dunno, but I am just the same. I've given up trying to work out why, though of course I have the same visceral loathing of Thatcher as you do. And I wouldn't trust the oily Cameron as far as I could throw him. But I couldn't ever have brought myself to vote for Ted Heath either, despite quite liking him as a human being (he was also one of the very few PMs who ever treated the civil service fairly and with respect). He was still, when it come to the ballot-box, the enemy.
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From:communicator
Date:June 1st, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
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I make so many decisions by instinct and feeling, and it can be difficult to understand my own reasons until I try to pull them out.
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From:nineveh_uk
Date:June 1st, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)
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But despite this I would not vote Lib Dem, under any circumstances. The reason is that I think Nick Clegg is prepared to enter into a coalition with the Tories.

Likewise this is why I will never vote Lib Dem. They do it in local councils - including my parents', where they memorably forgot to renew a vital contract for emptying the bins...

I would welcome PR as it works in Scandinavia, where e.g. Denmark has had only minority governments since about 1910. I absolutely don't want PR that would give permanent LibDem government. Re. ameliorating the Tories, I can see them doing that on Europe and economics, but a lot less so on other important issues - 23 out of 55 LD MPs voted to reduce the time limit on abortion last year.
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From:communicator
Date:June 1st, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
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Yes, councils prove it can and may be done. I didn't know that about abortion, and I'm disappointed to hear it.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:June 1st, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Labour have also gone into coalition with the Conservatives in some local councils.
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From:communicator
Date:June 1st, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
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I looked it up. It seems in East Dumbartonshire? Somethign to do with restoring weekly bin collections? I don't think this has any implications for the next government.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:June 1st, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
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That's not the only example: I found some others a couple of years back when I last took the time to look into it. Local authority coalitions either have implications for potential Westminster coalitions, or they don't. I favour "they don't", personally: as your example shows, these things are strongly influenced by the unique circumstances of particular local authorities. But if you're going to draw conclusions about Westminster from local authority coalitions, you need to look at the full spectrum of outcomes.
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From:matgb
Date:June 1st, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
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Locally, my council is NOC, the Tory Cabinet is backed every year by the Labour group, who then conveniently get all the scrutiny committee chairs (and "responsibility" pay).

I left the Lib Dems when I moved back to Torbay as the Torbay council group were a disgrace to politicians everywhere. They then got voted out by a landslide, but the MP is still one of the best in the House.

23 out of 55 LD MPs voted to reduce the time limit on abortion last year

63 MPs, not 23. Unless you're talking about who voted—and none voted to reduce it below 20, I think mostly it was for 22, which was based on the (admittedly biased) medical evidence that was being touted around. And the activist base was up in arms about it as well, I doubt that many of them would repeat the vote now they've had the real medical science pushed at them strongly.

My perspective on coalitions: If there's more than one party in the Cabinet, it's not a Tory, LAbour or Lib Dem Govt, it's a coalition Govt. Thus Clegg would never prop up a Tory Govt, he might consider forming a coalition govt if the policy platform was right.

Given that he's specifically ruled out doing so with both Cameron and Brown (leadership election pledge and subsequent conference speeches), I don't think it's anything to worry about.

Specifically because there's no way in hell Cameron would offer it, he'd form a minority administration and wait for a good time to call a new election.

(andrewducker linked me here BTW)
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From:nineveh_uk
Date:June 1st, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I am talking about those who voted, I should have made that clear. In fact, 3 voted for 12 weeks (a similar percentage of Labour members in that vote also voted for 12 weeks, but the differences at 24 weeks, the area presently attacked by salami tactics, are very significant). My local MP is a Lib Dem and I'd gladly vote for him in a tactical vote to keep the Conservatives out, but as a _party_ I don't feel that I want to go there.

A minority government would certainly be interesting!
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From:matgb
Date:June 1st, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
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Thing is, abortion is, and has always been seen as, a free vote issue. Without a Liberal MP (Steel), we'd not have got the very liberal abortion laws we have in this country. Some (especially Harris) want to make the existing law even more liberal (dropping the two doctors requirement for up to 12 weeks for example).

Some, like, for example, Vince Cable, have a genuine religious belief that makes them want to limit access—Vince sometimes avoids votes on the issue if he thinks it's going to be close as he couldn't vote against his conscience, etc. The problem with a broad church party is there are always those you disagree with on issues. The problem with a party with initial roots in the non-conformist religious tradition is you attract non-conformists.

The good thing about the party (and the reason I joined) is the genuine commitment to a pluralist democracy and to a voting system that reduces the need for such broad churches.

But, TBH, if you're happy to vote for your local MP, that's all that really matters. I just find the idea of thinking Labour, with Ruth Kelly and the Scottish Catholics in the cabinet, to be any better on this specific issue to be problematic, I really do. No party is good or bad on that issue, which is a good reason to support changing the electoral system so you can vote on the issues that most matter to you specifically.
(Deleted comment)
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From:nineveh_uk
Date:June 1st, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
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I don't like that either, obviously, tho' at least it gives me one party nominally representing my interests.

because there IS no difference in behaviour between Labour and the Tories

Maybe not between their behaviour at times, I am afraid, and I am very critical of many aspects of the government, but this is a ludicrous statement. If the Conservatives are now more like Labour, it is because they've had to shift more to the centre after the disaster of 1997 and accept investment in public services etc. I don't imagine that if Major had been re-elected he'd have established Sure Start for one. Labour may not always be socialist enough for me, but I damn well that Cameron's Conservatives are very, very different.

(Deleted comment)
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From:andrewducker
Date:June 1st, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
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It is ludicrous when you consider the government's position on, say, gay adoption, minimum wage and civil partnerships.

In some other areas, obviously, they are very close.
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From:spacefall
Date:June 1st, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
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I also have a Tory allergy. Growing up under Thatcher, then Section 28 arriving while I was at school. Their policies are enough to put me off as it is, but there's a definite additional 'yuck' factor. They hurt me and mine, and sadly there are plenty of Tory MPs who'd like to do it again.
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From:communicator
Date:June 1st, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC)
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For me it was the demonisation of unmarried mothers. Actually, and working mothers, so I was two for two.
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From:spacefall
Date:June 1st, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Another thing that still goes on, agh. I was listening to a horrible radio interview the other day, where someone was accusing various groups of being 'a drain on society'. They/we are society, you silly arse!
(Deleted comment)
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From:communicator
Date:June 1st, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what to do either. I think it's good that we can all talk in this open way in places like livejournal.
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From:matgb
Date:June 1st, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
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I am deeply unhappy with the way Clegg seems to be taking the party to the right

I've asked this before I think (at Tez's possibly?) but I'll ask again. 'seems to be' is such a vague term. Given I identify as being an open liberal socialist, and am considered on the left of the party, why is it I see Clegg bringing the party closer to my position?

I asked him about this very thing when I interviewed him in Sheffield, he always finds it confusing when the media (and some in the party) do this "shift to the right" thing—he's staking out a very clearly liberal position, and it's in no way a shift rightwards in any sane sense I can understand.

So, please, explain why you think otherwise? I genuinely don't understand where it's coming from.

(I've answered the 'tory coalition' point above, it's never going to happen, because Cameron wouldn't offer it and Clegg's ruled it out).
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From:dfordoom
Date:June 1st, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
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We had a kind of equivalent to the Lib-Dems here in Australia for a while. When the chips were down they proved to be treacherous cowards. Those kinds of third parties are essentially political whores.
From:srk1
Date:June 1st, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
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I don't think the LDs would go into a coalition with the Tories at Westminster for the simple reason that their activist base is still quite left-leaning and would desert the party en masse if they did so. There is not the same reluctance to work with Labour.

The most that they may do is allow a Tory minority administration to govern if they are the largest party. I wouldn't necessarily be as viscerally opposed to that idea as I would to a formal coalition, because I think that the largest party should always be allowed to form the administration if they can do so.
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From:espresso_addict
Date:June 2nd, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
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I've voted pretty much everything except Tory in the past (sharing your anger over Thatcher &, more recently, refusing to vote for any party that endorsed the Iraq War), so it has been strange & rather unpleasant of late to find myself agreeing with some of the policies Cameron has been mooting, particularly on reforming & decentralising government.

If there's anything to be hoped for at the next election, I'm going for a hung parliament with a substantial LibDem/Green component that pushes for parliamentary reform & prevents whichever proves to be the largest party from doing anything too outrageous.

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