So, Brown’s resigned his Labour Leader post; rumours abound about a Con-Lib deal and a PM has formally resigned; tempers are flared; fuses are short; everyone in the country (it seems) is blaming anyone they can; and I’m a good number of days late in writing anything about a British Election that – frankly – bored me silly until the closing weeks, but now has me pretty intrigued. All at the time of writing, of course.
I may as well be honest and state from the outset that party and statewide politics bore and irritate me. It’s not something I support and in my own little idealist way can’t until the time comes that we can cast off those shackles towards real freedom. But, whatever protestations I may have, it’s the system I find myself under, and as such find I need to be realistic about it. Which probably explains my interest.
Anyway, another thing I should get out of the way is which way I voted which, in honesty, is that I voted for this. A hung parliament. And, much to my own surprise, one that would result in a Con-Lib coalition. Why? Because I honestly believe that of all the myriad (ok, four) possibilities being mooted about the place, that is the only combination that could actually introduce any real (and in my view, necessary) changes to the country that most people I think would agree needs to happen, current economic climate or no.
On the topic of Manifestos, I can admit that the only one I read in full was the Liberal Democrat one, and I spent some time scanning the Tory manifesto for points I agreed / disagreed with, and similarly scanned the key Labour points (as I saw them).
So, whether its agreed with or not, I feel I’ve done my bit to make the decision I wanted to make, and made it based on choosing the party I disagreed with least at a Manifesto and personality level. And so its made. So it remains to be seen what the parties finally decide.
A bunch of things throughout the campaign, and after have annoyed me from all sides, so I thought I’d choose a few as I remember them:
ConLib / LabLib / Rainbow Squabblings
The whole episode of the last few days seems to have been dominated by the extremes on both sides (and may yet still be decided from them). Hardline Liberal Democrats appalled to be dealing with the Conservatives, and clinging desperately to their failed notion that New Labour are really as “Lefty” a party as they like to think they are; Tories disgusted to be seen to be “lowering” themselves to dealing with 3rd place when “they got more votes anyway” (irony, anybody?); and Labour supporters uncertain over what they want more – to see Gordon Brown away from the leadership or to keep themselves in power. All of which, frankly, are ridiculous and missing the point completely.
Lab-Lib would have been a mistake, whichever way you cut it. At a time when there’s a genuine opportunity for change, having two parties align that have ‘historic’ ties amongst back-benchers and party members would have inevitably been frail and wouldn’t have lasted (by my reckoning) more than 2 years. Similarly with a “Rainbow” coalition, although my money’s on that having lasted even less time. As it is, I’d be fairly confident that a ConLib agreement could be mutually beneficial, and potentially provide the right checks and balances between two quite different parties and policies. I jsut hope the Lib Dems can approve the deal by more than 75% to allow Clegg to pursue it, then let everyone see what the details are and what we think can happen. As many seats as they do have, I don’t think the Tories can last if they’re made to go it alone.
Clegg’s Pimping Himself Out and LibDems Not Doing as Well as People Thought
Two myths, right there, if you ask me. Firstly, to the actual election results, which near enough tied in with my expectations (alright, I didn’t expect the LibDems to actually lose seats, but I didn’t expect them to gain any). yet there was such a public sense of defeatism from those people who foolishly thought their LibDem votes were going to result in a landslide. It was never going to happen. And the reason it would never happen is for exactly the reasons the party had espoused beforehand – electoral reform. So why be surprised?
And secondly, the recent frustrated notion that Clegg has been pimping himself out to any party in an eager attempt to get power. Two issues with this: 1) What’s the problem? He’s a politician. He can’t, really, ever achieve anything noteworthy if he stays in opposition (which, realisitically, is what the LibDems risk facing if they don’t take the opportunity now while it presents itself) and (2) Why is it “pimping yourself out” to go and hear both possible deals that are on the table, and making your decision accordingly. I’ve said it already earlier today, but I’d be many times more disappointed in anyone who clung desperately to the first offer they received rather than taking their time and weighing up the choices. I even heard one person on the radio today saying they were disgusted with Clegg and that they only voted LibDem to get Labour out… well… that comes at a risk doesn’t it? And that risk is that you’ll, most likely, get Tory, in some incarnation. Deal with it. And stop being silly.
Unlock Democracy and Proportional Representation
A massive sticking pointing for the LibDems (and it remains to be seen if it will get passed them, and in what form), but the news all week has been obsessed with this question of PR, and what it means. Unlock Democracy, as much as I can applaud them for the speed with which they put together their protests. And, I agree, First Past the Post is a ridiculous system and one that does need to be changed. However, as with so many protesters, I can’t agree that their expected timescale is correct, let alone feasible. Expecting a referendum, and for that to then be enacted within a year – in a coalition government (a coalition, incidentally, that whichever way it was formed, would have resulted in disagreements in exactly how far to go with PR) – is optimistic, to say the least. Push for it once the coalition’s in place. And support the coalition with the most contrasting views – its the better way to ultimately get the more dramatic changes you want.
I remain quietly optimistic that PR will happen, but it won’t happen if we don’t have strong coalition government. I never thought I’d say it, but I think Con-Lib is the strongest coalition we can get at this time, and also the one most susceptible to enacting change.
Clegg’s “Two Horse Race” Moment…
… surprised me. Whilst I’m all in favour of being optimistic, this moment struck me as a public show of unmerited over-confidence that, frankly, wasn’t needed. I’m not saying I think they would have done better had he not come out and said this, but I’m sure it didn’t help sway those who were on the edge of deciding which way to go.
A big deal seemed to be made of the LibDems losing seats, both on the public’s part, and their own. I still can’t help feeling this is misplaced. They gained votes. They gained quite a few votes. Yet they lost seats. Is that not, in essence, what PR aims to resolve? If anything it adds fuel to the fire that electoral reform is needed and confirms one of their strongest policies and arguments right the way through.
Not a right lot to say on this except it goes back to arguments about first past the post. This was sadly inevitable, so deal with it. In honesty, I expected them to win outright by a very slim margin, which would have been a much worse situation than we now find ourselves in. Equally, even with the Coalition, its no surprise that Cameron took the PM spot (seems justified). Until late last night I remained optimistic that balance could be restored and Osborne would be replaced as Chancellor by Cable, but it seems that hasn’t happened, and won’t happen this time round. Those were really the only two posts that interests me significantly at this time. Clegg as Deputy could be interesting, guess we’ll see what happens.
Brown as “Unelected PM” Possibility
This kept coming up again and again, especially when the LibDems first said they were going back to talk to Labour. Unfounded fear-mongering at its best. We don’t elect Prime Ministers. Parties elect their leaders, and we elect Parties. Parties decide policies (naturally, a strong party leader can influence those policies). It really is that simple. Stop whining.
So there’s a few, I’m sure there are more, and I’ll probably add them later. But for now, I’m going to go back to waiting to see what the final results are, and what the LibDems side on.
EDIT 1: So, Cameron’s Prime Minister. And the LibDems – to my surprise – have accepted the terms offered in a Coalition. It will be interesting to see what the terms are. Can’t say I’m overwhelmingly pleased with Osborne as Chancellor, but I guess it was to be expected.