Thursday, 20 May 2010

We have a government.

There was a hint of "if only" about this election. If only the seats for Labour (258) and the Conservatives (306) were the other way round - then it would've been a straightforward alliance between the Liberal Democrats (57) and Labour, with Gordon Brown resigning within 6 months and a progressive, liberal alliance moving forward. Unfortunately it didn't go that way, and politicians spent nearly a week faffing around looking at options.

In the end, we have a what I like to call a marriage of inconvenience - the liberal, lefty, LibDems supporting the right-wing, traditional, are-we-liberal-or-authoritarian Conservatives, led by David Cameron who has been trying to convince the country and his party that the Tories are actually all about civil liberties and political reform.  The only thing that has brought them together is the often-repeated need for strong and stable government, particularly with the British economy looking very dodgy and in need of solid political reform.

It could be the best result of the election.  It's been over a week since the agreement and lots of people have given lots of opinions, so I'm just going to go over the positive aspects of this unusual result.
  • Liberal Democrats are in power. People talk about "selling out" (both on the left of the LibDems and the right of the Tories), but whatever the costs were/are, the LibDems are finally in government with cabinet posts and policies. I think this is awesome.
  • Conservative policies that would normally be toxic and repugnant are molified by the need for LibDem support. And I think it's a decent trade. Those of us on the liberal and left side of things predicted a shift to the right with this election, and could never have assumed any Liberal Democrat policies would be enacted; meanwhile, those on the right happily assumed their wet dreams about bringing back fox-hunting and repealing the Human Rights Act would of course be implemented. Not so now! The result is a cautious, consensual approach because neither side can afford doing without the other, which is probably exactly what Britain could do with. (Who knows how long it will last, but still.)
  • The Income Tax threshold is apparently going up to 10,000 pounds, which is a MAJOR concession from the Conservatives, a party that in recent years seriously discussed (and many of whose members seriously believe in) a flat tax. (In contrast, New Zealand's governing National Party is raising GST (VAT) which will hit the poorest hardest, while Prime Minister John Key makes excuses for the super-rich. Who on earth thinks trickle-down economics has any credibility?)
  • ID cards being scrapped - Labour, what were you thinking?
  • Brown is gone, Labour are in opposition, and they have a chance to get a new leader and get their proverbials together. Personally I like David Miliband, although he has a horrible habit of showing the calculations going on in his head while he's talking.
  • A referendum on changing the voting system will happen. That's far from actually changing the voting system. First the LibDems need Parliament to pass a referendum (easy), they need that referendum to be clearly-worded (less likely), then they need the public to say "yes" (difficult), and THEN they need Parliament to pass it (very difficult - the Tories have only agreed to a referendum, not to say "yes"). BUT it is the first step in the right direction and a welcome sight after 13 years of Labour blocking the issue when they had a big majority and ample chance to make it happen.
I'm sure there are a few more as well, and likewise many criticisms of the coalition, but I'm out of time at the moment.

One criticism I will mention, and counter, is that the LibDems are "propping up" a Conservative government. Firstly, there simply weren't the numbers needed for a Lab-Lib-Plaid-SNP coalition (which would have been just as unstable), and from all accounts Labour simply weren't consistent or ready to play ball in their negotiations. Secondly, I think being in government moderating the Tories and getting important neutral stuff done (when Britain's economy really is in the shit) is a far better route than opposing an untempered minority Tory government which can't get anything done, then folds causing a new election - which nobody wants.

My apologies for the lack of links in these hastily-written and fired-off posts! Normal service will hopefully resume shortly :)


  1. Thanks for breaking it down! How come you're not writing for The Economist?!

  2. Haha because the Economist is a conservative (small c) publication that would never publish my kind of views. But thanks for the compliment! :)