April 25th, 2010
|07:34 am - You don't always get what you want|
A couple of years ago Crooked Timber had a post called 'Wanting not to get what you want'.
For example, I always want my football team to win, but if they were to win all the time... I would lose interest in football. It is a condition for me to live the life of a happy football fan that they win, but not too much... In other words, then, it is a crucial component of the good life that my life be unpredictable and that I don’t get many of the things that I want.
Football is a trivial example, but I think it applies throughout life. I want H to agree with me on any particular day, about any particular issue, but if he never had any opinions which were different from mine, I wouldn't like it. I want to have a feeling of the world being other than me, being difficult to negotiate, in order to feel alive. I want push back, but each example of push back frustrates me from getting what I want.
And of course this paradox of wanting what I don't want applies very much in politics. I want left wing policies to prevail in my country, but I also want to live in a healthy democracy where many different political views compete. Throughout the last decade, in which the other two parties have not pushed back very successfully, I have always known that it must change, while simultaneously dreading the return of Thatcherism (of some kind).
So, in some ways, the current surge of the Lib Dems is a positive push-back. If the push-back comes from Tories plus Lib Dems it is much less likely to be catastrophic than if the Tories were to win solo. It might also have good consequences, for example if the voting system is reformed from first past the post, and the political system is opened up. I hope that is the lasting consequence of these events.
But it could have bad long term consequences, and this is what I think people may be underestimating. If Nick Clegg is right, that the future politics of this country will be to alternate between two right wing parties, then we will become more like America. Of course in America, there are real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, and I would vote Democrat. But I don't want to live in that system. I want there to be a significant intrusion of the working class into politics, which is the main difference at the moment between the UK and the US systems.
(ETA this morning Cameron leaves the door open to electoral reform which could be a good thing)
This soon before an election, though, there's not much chance that they're saying it because they believe it; they're saying it because someone thinks it's a strategically sensible thing to say. I think they're probably not right, and maybe don't even think they're right; though of course that might be wishful thinking.
(Interestingly in Australia there is proportional representation (in one house) and preferential voting (in both) and third parties do not really get more of the vote than they do here, which always surprises and slightly frustrates me.)
It's true that everything they say is tactical at present.
I would be more concerned with a future where the Lib Dems and Tories alternate in power (which is Clegg's vision) than one where they form a coalition for a year or so (which Cameron may be proposing). I must edit what I wrote because it just runs the two together, and they aren't the same.
|Date:||April 25th, 2010 12:29 pm (UTC)|| |
FWIW, Cameron's on record a few years back as saying that while he prefers FPTP, he can see the merits of STV (LD/ERS preferred system) and wouldn't be fundamentally opposed to it.
It used to be that there were large numbers of Conservatives that favoured reform, Thatcher got rid of most of them but...
Interesting times. I've long felt the say to get reform was to persuade the Conservative party of the need for it, I never thought Labour would bring in genuine reform (Brown's proposal is just to mimic Australian lower house, not PR at all)
Neither Labour nor the Tories will ever bring in PR unless they have no choice about it, ie in a hung parliament.
I think that's probably right, so this might be the only chance to make it happen. I think Lib Dem supporters might be surprised how quickly their party abandons the idea if they become one of a 'top two'.
|Date:||April 25th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)|| |
I think Lib Dem supporters might be surprised how quickly their party abandons *a lot* if they become one of a 'top two', and that a Liberal Democratic majority in Britain would be like the Democratic majority in America: better than the right wing alternative, but only by a hair. Which would make Clegg the new Obama, hopey-changey, promising a lot, but a bit of a disappointment in office.
Everything that's wrong with Labour comes from their having become a middle class liberal party, made up of, by, and for middle class liberals. But the Lib Dems are made of those Labour members that didn't think Labour was becoming New Labour fast enough, with the Liberals who never stopped being the party that made the old labour movement necessary in the first place.
I'm pleased they're advocating actual progressive taxation, I just don't believe they'd keep their promises after more than a year or two of real power (it took them five minutes to backpedal on a tax on million pound houses)
But I am afraid it will have to happen and be demonstrated before it will be believed. Which I suppose is fair enough because old Cassandras like me saying I feel it in my bones isn't going to convince anyone.
|Date:||April 25th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC)|| |
it took them five minutes to backpedal on a tax on million pound houses
No, it didn't. Vince proposed it in a speech at conference. The idea then went to the elected Policy Committee, who discussed it thoroughly and amended it to a similar proposal with a higher threshold and a higher tax rate.
Having gone from not involved at all to being fairly senior in the party policy process over the last 4 years, I think you underestimate the LD membership and policy process. A lot.
If there's a coalition, everyone knows that compromises happen, which is why Clegg deliberately set out 4 key pledges that he'd insist on.
But an LD majority Govt? Going to implement the manifesto, the MPs would know they're far too beholden to their local activists to do anything but.
I do wonder whether cleaning up the entire expenses issue (I still like the idea of special MP boarding houses for when they have to stay over in Westminster) and cutting MP's salaries (along with a whole bunch of moves to improve educational access for the less well-off) might be one way of getting more ordinary people into politics. Of course it might also be necessary to curb party donations, or you might find the better-funded parties finding a way around the rules to give their hacks additional money anyway.
I think MP dorms. Cheaper, less pretentious plus - plenty of opportunity for high jinks and midnight feasts. having a crush on matron etc.
I agree that opportunities for people from humble backgrounds are important - but I think there also needs to be representation in parliament for the mass of people who will never excel, but can contribute to a mass movement that represents their interests against capital.
I'm not sure I'm entirely thinking about traditional academic opportunities with regards to education: just giving people the means to express themselves and their views through better teaching of communications skills (whether as part of an academic course or as part of a vocational course) might give more people the confidence to get involved in local politics. And also, possibly, some sort of education in how politics works and how to find out stuff rather than believing what the media is feeding the general population.