Best Of A Bad Situation

Every MP in each of the main parties must now be wishing the result had been slightly different. The Tories must be kicking themselves; if they had only a slightly greater shift in their direction, they would never have had to do a deal with the Lib Dems.

For the Liberals, just a few more seats to them or Labour would have meant a progressive alliance, something that would have sat much better with their grass-roots.

Labour was left in the uncomfortable position of losing the election, but not by enough. In the party’s interest, this was an election to lose. Lose and regroup is the aim of all tribalist members of Labour. Sadly for them, they had just enough seats to make a “rainbow alliance” possible, so had to go through the false dance of entertaining the notion. When the talks fell apart they revealed themselves as the tribal and selfish clan they are.

So the bizarre situation of a Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition has arisen, sending shock waves through both parties, and Labour rubbing its hands with glee. Fuck the country, Labour’s thinking, this will shoo us in next time for sure!

But will it? And will it be the disaster the Liberal Democrats grass roots think it will be?

Throughout this campaign I’ve been supporting the Lib Dems with the main opposition in my mind being the Tories. In a coalition I always assumed the Liberals would side with Labour. If the seats had fallen slightly differently, that is no doubt how it would have gone down. As it was, Labour made it impossible. The Liberal Democrats did not have that choice. A rainbow coalition needed support from all the nationalist parties, and Labour announced very quickly it would not work with the SNP, putting a nail in the coffin of that idea.

So it was either allow the Conservatives to form a minority government, or join them in coalition. Many Liberals would vomit down their shirts at the idea (as I’m sure many Tories are doing right now too), but if they think calmly for a moment, they will see this is the best choice out of a barrel of shits.

David Cameron is under fire from his party. He didn’t do as well as he’d hoped, and they are claiming it was because he pursued the centre ground too much. They wanted him to retreat to the right more on immigration, tax, deficit reduction, crime etc. In a minority government he would have been at their mercy, and so the party would have been dragged to the right, giving us a ghastly conservative government reminiscent of the 80s.

With a coalition with the Lib Dems Cameron has instead been dragged to the left, firmly straddling the centre ground. Indeed, he is now forced to maintain a social liberal stance to hold the coalition together. By sacrificing the country’s goodwill, Clegg has saved us all from Conservative back-benchers.

Not only that, but he’s got Liberal policies being enacted and conservative policies scrapped. By forcing the two parties to work together, the Liberals can now try and shape conservative thinking in their direction. We could be on the cusp of a new era of socially liberal politics. Before he became party leader, Cameron was on the extreme social-liberal progressive wing of his party. Sadly, in all his time at the helm he sank further and further away from that. Now that he’s in bed with the Lib Dems, he might just have the courage to return to his roots.

Of course, in all likelihood it will end in tears. These are two parties that loathe each other and pull in very different directions. What we may see is a split that’ll dwarf anything that ever existed between Brown and Blair. But perhaps the obvious gulf between Cameron and Clegg will help ease the divisions? Disagreements might be seen, less as a betrayal, but as a genuine and expected tussle of ideas.

Only time will tell, and already the Liberals are feeling the pain. I sympathise,but congratulate them. This isn’t what any of us wanted, but they’ve done the best with the hand they were dealt. This is grown up politics, crossing the line and doing deals with those you disagree with. I can’t stand Cameron, but I’m glad he’s got Clegg in there with him, keeping an eye out for all of us.

The Death Of Nick Clegg

Image supplies by Liberal Democrats on Flickr

Image supplied by Liberal Democrats on Flickr

If opinion polls are to be believed, and there are those who are starting to doubt them, Nick Clegg has the highest rating of trust of all the leaders. In fact, when it came to him as an individual he consistently polled highly. It seems we, the public, like him a lot. So what’s his reward for winning our affections? We’ve given him a death sentence.

There is nothing Nick Clegg can do over the next couple of days that will not destroy him. Our political system, as shown by last week’s general election, has descended into the politics of hate. People no longer vote with their hopes, they vote with their fears. Nick Clegg has to now either prop up a Tory government, or a Labour one. Both sides command an awful lot of hate in the minds of the electorate, who will not forgive Clegg for what he has to do.

Not propping up another party (but allowing the Tories to run as a weak minority government) is unlikely and would set the Lib Dems back years in their campaign for electoral reform. Proponents of first-past-the-post would claim this proves that Britain is not ready for coalition governments and we need our current system to (more times than not) deliver decisive victories. Such a view would destroy the Lib Dems.

So Clegg must prove that coalitions can work. However, an alliance with the Tories would mean no PR and hatred from the anti-tory sections of their own party. Support in Lib-Lab marginals would disappear and they would be set back decades. The Conservatives, eager to shake the Lib Dems loose, would wait until the opportune moment and declare an election, increasing their majority and ending any concessions they might have given the Liberals.

The final option is to form a coalition with Labour and various other smaller parties. Whilst this would be legitimate in British constitutional sense, the right wing media would explode in outrage. The Lib Dems would be accused of acting in their own interest and would never get any good press again. Labour hating supporters in Lib-Con marginals would dwindle, setting the Liberals back decades. Finally, once Labour have a different leader without the baggage, Labour would call another election to rid themselves of their liberal obligations.

Each option ends up with everyone hating Clegg. There is nothing he can do that won’t damage the Liberals in some way. In 2010, with the choice of Clegg, the public were given their first real chance of putting honesty and hope back into British politics. Their repayment is to destroy him.

A Final Plea

Tomorrow is polling day in the UK. Setting aside all my usual bile and ranting, here are a few reasons why you should vote Liberal Democrat.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for a sensible tax system. With an economy failing and too many unemployed, it makes sense to reduce the amount of tax low-income earners have to pay. This encourages people to seek employment instead of claiming benefits. With the extra money in their pockets they can stimulate the economy by increasing spending on the high street. It also puts them in a better position to handle the higher energy bills that are inevitable as we try to shift to greener energy sources.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for a rational foreign policy. The Liberal Democrats were the only major party to oppose the Iraq War. With that conflict becoming so unpopular later, it is easy to forget just how brave this was at the time. Many saw this as an act that would destroy the Liberal Democrats, making them appear weak and gutless. Quite the opposite. Against mainstream fleet-street and political opinion, the Liberal Democrats made the right call and proved that they think rationally about issues, despite what might appear politically convenient at the time.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for a stronger Britain. We do not need Trident, the idea that we should spend a hundred billion pounds on a weapon we will never use is ridiculous. Some claim that without a nuclear deterrent we will be under threat, but in the modern globalised world, with so many close allies with nuclear weapons, the idea that we would be invaded is preposterous. America will not allow another nation to attack a close ally. We should lead the way in disarmament, using it as an example for Iran, and syphon the money into better equipment for our troops or into cutting the deficit.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for reducing our debt. Above all other parties the Liberal Democrats, under the stewardship of Vince Cable, have managed to set out the most cuts and savings. It is widely accepted that Cable is the politician most qualified to lead us out of this mess. Lets make him the Chancellor.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for cleaning up politics. Every party had politicians who claimed something silly in the expenses scandal. But only the Lib Dems didn’t have politicians who “flipped” their houses to get us to pay their mortgages, an act widely accepted as the most outrageous. The liberal democrats have consistently campaigned to make politics more transparent and accountable.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for voting. Only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to reform our electoral system, as the other parties benefit from the ridiculous FPTP. If you support the Green Party, you should vote Lib Dem. If you support the Scottish National Party, you should vote Lib Dem. Even if you support UKIP, you should vote for the Liberal Democrats, because once we have proportional representation, your votes will finally count. If you live in a safe seat, vote Lib Dem to register your distaste at having your vote wasted every election.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for honest campaigning. Only one party didn’t resort to scare tactics and instead stuck to a positive message. Both Labour and the Conservatives regularly resort to fear to sure up support, and unfortunately it usually works. A victory for the Lib Dems would tell these cynical opportunists that we’re better than that, and we can see through their lies about hung parliaments and runs on the pound.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for free politicians. Both the Labour party and the Conservatives rely on huge donations from single persons or organisations (The Unions for Labour and Ashcroft for Conservatives). The Lib Dems actually have the largest number of people donating, but a tiny fraction of the money the other parties have. That’s why you’ve seen so many adverts and broadcasts by the Conservatives and so few by the Lib Dems. We cannot allow an election to be won by one party outspending another. We cannot allow Ashcroft to buy Britain.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for freedom from the press. We live in a country were every newspaper is partisan in some way. Most notably is the Murdoch press who take pride in their ability to dictate who our next government will be. A long time ago they decided that Cameron would be the next Prime-Minister and have smeared the Lib Dems at every opportunity to sway the vote their way. This year, with the power of the internet, we have the ability to finally throw off the shackles put around us by Fleet Street and reject their partisan ways.

And finally a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for hope. There is only one result that will heal this country, and that is Nick Clegg walking into Number 10 on Friday. Any other result will feel like more of the same; we’ll continue resenting politicians, distrusting every word they say and bitterly regarding the whole process as corrupt. David Cameron and Gordon Brown are divisive figures. Nick Clegg, for all his strengths and weaknesses, is not. David Cameron might “look more Prime Ministerial” according to polls, but those same polls show barely anyone trusts him. On the issue of trust Nick Clegg’s approve rating is through the roof. Perhaps it is a sad sign of how low British Politics has become, that honesty is a quality we don’t associate with the post of Prime Minister.

In America, the people recognised a chance for a new beginning in Obama. Sometimes you need more than a promise of a tax-break here or cutting waste there. Sometimes you need a line under the past and a breathe of fresh air. Sometimes you need to believe in a world that can be made better, and that change can happen against all the odds. Too long we’ve allowed hate, big money and biased press dictate our future. It’s time we took it for ourselves.

Good luck tomorrow, I’ll keep believing.

Ade Grant

Lost The Plot

This election doesn’t seem to based in reality any-more. At first I could keep track of it, I looked at the polls and they seemed to indicate my own feelings on how the campaign was going. Yup, the Lib Dems were getting a surge in week one. Yup, the Tories fought back in week two. And yup, the Labour party imploded. All makes sense.

But watching the debate on Thursday night, and viewing the subsequent polls, I have to say I have lost my grip on reality. The debate was an outright win for Clegg, who came under fire for all sorts of things, but managed to keep his head and fend them off. Brown bombed as normal, showing he has no mastery over his appearance; he gave a apocalyptic speech about the dangers of a Tory government, but then decided to smile at the end like a tinpot dictator sentencing his nemesis to death. Cameron was utterly despicable, false and as generally grimy as we’ve come to recognise.

The polls however, disagreed. They found Cameron won the debate. I couldn’t believe it, was the rest of the country watching a different debate? Had my own prejudice made me completely miss a good Cameron performance? Or is it like John Carpenter’s “They Live”, in which only the hero can see beneath the appearance of his fellow citizens, to the sinister alien creatures masquerading as man?

Today in The Times I finally got some light shed upon these polls. It seems Cameron had come out on top: as appearing as a prime minister. Clegg came out on top as most impressive and most honest, which are the sorts of things I was looking for. In fact when it comes to honesty, Clegg is far ahead of the others, much more so than their lead in any other respect.

Yet is this given prominence in the press? Seemingly not. We are clearly still under the heel of fleet street, and they are gunning for a Tory government. They have, after all, sucked up to them for the past few years, and on May 7th they’ll want what’s due.

The debate has also been shifted into issues that don’t really exist. Just how did immigration become an issue? It’s totally pointless, there’s nothing any of the parties can do about immigration. 80% comes from the EU, something no party is willing to restrict. Illegal immigrants are far to expensive to deport so no party is willing to do that. Asylum seekers can’t be restricted because of an international agreement (plus the fact we’re not monsters). The actual immigration that seems to be being debated is such a tiny proportion we could counter it simply by increasing the number of free condoms in schools.

The dangers of a hung parliament seems to dominate the news too. Where did that come from? There’s no evidence a hung parliament is dangerous, quite the opposite, nations with permanent hung parliaments in Europe seem to do very well. How is this even up for debate? It’s nonsense.

Also, the Euro. No party is proposing we join it, but for some reason there’s a lot of posturing and attacking going on about whether people like the idea or not. I might like the idea of naked Thursday, but unless I put it forward as a political pledge, then it’s entirely irrelevant!

What’s wrong with people? I mean this quite genuinely. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU ALL???

Oh yes, the scores:

LABOUR: 2.5
CONSERVATIVES: 3
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: 6.5

(Brown 0, Cameron 1, Clegg 2)

Mines Bigot Than Yours by Christopher Hayes

GordonThe media say this is the event that will lose Gordon Brown the election.
It’s certainly cementing the end of labour’s current reign, a final nail in a political coffin currently being hammered home by media sites around the world.

I don’t think Gordon Brown is a bad man. He’s not coming across as a particularly nice one either. He has ambition to lead a party to govern a country and hold power by satisfying the voting public. He wants to do it well and can’t. None do, but the lucky ones might just get a crack at it if we like them enough.

I just saw video footage of a radio interview where he has his gaff played back to him. Mr Brown visibly recoils when they tell him they are about to play it. He also says “IF” he said anything to offend her. Frankly his presence looked to have been enough. Whether Gillian Duffy is a bigot or not, what it shows is that Mr Brown is not a people person. He came across as partronising and I could see he didn’t want to be there.

For her part Mrs Duffy came across as bitter and hostile. It was a disastrous meeting and we all knew it. He voiced it. We heard it and what? Did we learn anything we didn’t already know? Do we really expect our leaders to be better than us? Do we want to feel loved by them? Believe that they care, have faith and want to protect the people they lead? Have we earnt the right for that expectation? Gillian Duffy certainly did and felt put out by the contrary. Is she a bigot? Well who isn’t? We are all guilty of being what we are and so is he.

Sadly at the end on the day we saw a PR stunt go horribly wrong and a nation hear the personal views of an unpopular incumbent.
It’s a shit job, but someone wants to do it.
Look out Sue. He’s coming for you!

Recommendation

Many Thanks to Chris Hayes for the above article.

You’re A Bigot, Now Vote Labour

This election seems to be about the leaders debates and nothing else. So it seems strange that I should double post on a Wednesday, but today something finally happened.

Bowing to pressure, the Labour party today allowed Gordon Brown to meet a member of the public. After being ranted and raved at by the woman, Gillian Duffy from Rochdale, Brown got into his car. Unknown to him, his mic was still on and he was heard to remark on his displeasure about the exchange and called Duffy a “bigoted woman”.

Whilst the rest of the world was recoiling in horror, I was suddenly hopeful. Was this the beginning of a new era of politics? Would politicians finally turn on the public and tell it as it is? Perhaps they all would put on a united front and turn on the ungrateful unwashed? It’s about time, the British public have had it coming with all their moaning and cynicism. Up till now they have been doted on by the media like a toddler, praise being heaped for every inane email sent in and every reactionary letter printed. Well not anymore! You’re all idiots, and it’s about time you were told!

Sadly my hopes were dashed when Gordon Brown apologised and went back to chat to the woman once more to make amends (this time beyond the cameras). I strongly suspect he threatened to have her shot.

NOTE: Perhaps this is further evidence that Labour don’t want to win this election. Tomorrow Brown’s going to strangle a puppy and sit on a baby.

On The Subject Of Green

Like many in the centre-left of British politics, I have a certain sympathy for the Green party. Like them, I feel that environmentalism should be given a much higher priority along with animal welfare and the preservation of the natural world. I would like to see the Green party have more influence in parliament.

Unfortunately the Green Party disagrees.

The shocking lack of foresight in the Greens suggests that they are ether dangerously naïve about our political system, or more concerned with their ego than getting actual influence. There is no way the greens can make strong gains in first-past-the-post. Maybe in thirty years or so, after many gruelling elections, slowly raising their profile, but not in any way soon enough to start tackling the big issues like climate change.

The Green Party, like their right wing equivalent UKIP, need Proportional Representation to have their voice heard. There is only one main party that has promised to deliver this: the Liberal Democrats.

At this the Greens always scoff, “oh, but the Lib Dems aren’t as green as we are, they don’t go far enough!”, but they miss the point. It does not matter if the Liberals want to burn all our forests and force cows to drink pop to increase their burps tenfold, what matters is getting PR for the next election so the Greens stand a chance in the future.

“What about Tony Blair,” they cry. “He promised electoral reform back in 1997, and never delivered!” True, but Blair only said that when he thought he needed the Liberals to prop him up. When he found himself with a massive majority those promises were meaningless, after all, his own party didn’t want PR.

The Liberal Democrats do want it. It’s not a ploy by their leadership but a genuine heart-felt commitment by every member of the party. If they get in, they’ll do it.

But still the Greens refuse to throw their weight behind the Liberal Democrats, instead they let their naivety and their egos get the better of them, splitting the liberal-left vote and allowing the Tories to make gains. UKIP, whilst normally deranged, at least have the sense to recognise the type of political system we’re stuck with. They often step aside if they approve of the Tory candidate. No point splitting the right wing vote if it lets in a europhile.

Incidentally, in the European elections which are based upon a system of PR, I voted Green. In that system they stand a chance. Sadly they don’t in ours, and they’re destroying their chances of influence by standing in it. Grow up Greens, get your eyes on the real prize.

– Not a clever move.

Nightmare Scenario

It is May 7th. The results for the UK General Election are in, and there is no party with an overall majority. What political pundits had been predicting for weeks has finally happened: a hung parliament.

Nick Clegg, jubilant at the Liberal Democrat victory, goes to Labour ready to strike a deal, but there is one problem – Labour aren’t interested in making one. With the economy in disarray, a strong Tory opposition and public resentment, they feel it’s in their interest to let the Tories make the cuts and take the heat for what is destined to be a short parliament. In three years, they hope, Labour will be revitalised and ready to make gains through the first-past-the-post system.

So with no deal in hand Clegg goes to Cameron, hoping to tempt him into a coalition. One problem – Cameron is just as reluctant to work with the Lib Dems. Electoral reform would destroy the conservative grasp on British politics, and with the rank and file of both parties detesting each other, a coalition is nigh impossible.

So there is no electoral reform and no deal. The Conservative party forms a minority government and starts putting forward legislation. The Lib Dems feel at least they now hold the balance of power, but wait! Suddenly they are being accused of holding parliament to ransom and stopping measures needed to take Britain forward. An angry right wing press hounds them until they are forced to abstain from voting, allowing the Tories to push through legislation ineffectively opposed by Labour.

And so, with record numbers of seats, it’s as if the Liberal Democrats don’t exist at all.

This is my nightmarish prediction of what will happen on and after May 7th. I hope I’m wrong, but I think the Lib Dems are being overly optimistic about the other parties capacity for doing what’s best for the national interest. These are, after all, parties who’re addicted to a political system biased in their favour and will see any change as detrimental to their future.

Cameron will never agree to PR, so in a hung parliament the Lib Dems have two viable options. First, to support Labour with a PR deal, but Labour are playing this election as if they want to lose. Are they really willing to sacrifice a system to heavily biased in their favour, just to secure a short and unpopular parliament? Secondly they could request that they instead form the government backed by Labour. After thirteen years in power, are Labour going to really let the Lib Dems, who they’ve mocked at every turn, become their new masters? The likes of Ed Balls are too proud for that.

So it looks grim for the liberals. Their only hope is to win this election, but they would need a swing of at least 15 points to do that. It’s fantasy, surely? But lets not underplay the public’s thirst for a clean up of politics and a new start for Britain, something neither of the old parties can offer.

Clegg should go for broke on Thursday. I suspect he’d going to play on the defence out of fear of losing his current status in the polls, but he needs to realise that it’s not enough. Only a victory will bring the changes this country needs, the other two parties are not built for coalitions. They don’t know what democracy is.

Good enough to aired again today.

The Taste Of Flesh

The wolves are gathering, and it’s flesh they want. Not just anyone’s, but Nick Clegg’s. I mean this metaphorically.. or maybe not, there is a certain deranged glint in Cameron’s eye, and Ed Balls always looks hungry.

Proportional Representation is the subject of the day. Nobody saw this as being a major topic for the election, Labour and Conservatives hate the idea as it would strip them of a system biased in their favour. The Liberal Democrats, whilst being passionate about electoral reform, have always found it a deeply unsexy topic, something for political junkies to get excited about, but not the average voter.

So it was assumed that proportional representation, as a topic, wouldn’t get a look-in in this election. It would exist only in the back pages of the Lib Dem manifesto. Ignored and unloved.

Not so now. Now its out in full view without its pants on. The Liberal Democrats want a frank talk about its natural splendour, whilst the Conservatives want to draw everyone’s attention to the dangly bits. Labour, now trailing in third place without hope of government unless propped up by the Liberals, are courting PR, without any promises. They’re willing to touch the dangles, but they’re not going to like it.

Never before has the dark world of politics been so left bare to the naked eye. There is no talk of policies, or the will of the people. It’s all about tactics and polls, theorising about how the system can be manipulated to suit each end. Nick Clegg knows he’s in an impossible spot, he can only get votes if he presents himself as a viable alternative to the two others, but all the media want to do is talk about a hung parliament and how he would fit in one(a conversation that plays right into Cameron and Brown’s hands). In his closing speech on Thursday Clegg should distance himself from this argument. He should tell voters not to vote for him to keep another party out, but to put him in. Difficult, but only then can he pull himself out of the current rut.

Cameron is now breaking into his stride. He has found a theme, and its one of complete evil. Anti-electoral reform, anti-coalition, scaremongering and misleading, his campaign has been the embodiment of the right wing tabloids who swarm around him like nazgul. Almost all pretence of the compassionate-conservative liberal greenie has been dropped, revealing the nasty beady-eyed Tory we all knew was lurking inside.

Brown, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly superfluous to the campaign. It appears he is irrelevant, doomed to disappear from politics; even in the case of a liberal supported labour government he would be shot and dumped in the Thames at the liberals request.

So Brown has nothing to lose, Cameron has sensed power slipping from his grasp and so reacted like a rabid wolverine, and Clegg is besieged on all sides.

And they say we don’t have a presidential political system.