Posted Under: Elections,GreenFeed,Labour,Liberal Democrats,Tories
Well, it happened. Not quite as anyone had been expecting, but it happened. The moment we’ve dreaded for the last three years.
David Cameron is the new Prime Minister.
I can’t say I will be sorry to see Brown go. I can’t say New Labour didn’t deserve to lose this election. I can say I will be sorry to see the country run by Cameron.
I wonder now how all those Lib Dem voters – genuinely, and quite rightly, believing that they were voting for a party to the left of Labour – will be feeling now that Clegg has placed the crown on Cameron’s head. The Lib Dems have always been famous for flip-flops, shifting to the left when trying to attract disaffected Labour voters, swinging to the right with the next manifesto when hoping to scalp the Tories. But I never thought I would see them enter into a coalition with the Conservatives.
It goes without saying that the Tories won the election. Like it or not, they have the moral right to govern. A Lib-Lab pact would have had little legitimacy without the nationalists on board and Caroline Lucas was correctly keeping her hands clean.
In actively choosing to prop up a Conservative government and give them the majority they need to survive in power, the Lib Dems have betrayed their supporters and they may well suffer for it. Whilst a Prime Minister’s first duty is to statecraft, a leader’s first duty should be to his or her party, to their manifesto and to their ideological compass. If Nick Clegg does not achieve full PR through this deal, then he could very well be seen to have turned his back on them.
New Labour betrayed its working class supporters even before they got into power, but at least the country knew it. People backed Labour for the last 13 years without any illusions. There was never any question of socialism, it was dead from the moment Tony Blair took charge and had been dying even before then. But Lib Dem voters across the country who put their cross in a box they thought meant progressive change should be feeling rightly incensed that the people they elected are now in government with the Tories.
But then, as the country should quickly be realising, Saint Clegg is just a politician and far from finding himself above hypocrisy.
“The Conservatives’ commitment to this kind of reform [civil liberties] is just paper thin,” Nick Clegg told me in an interview with The Third Estate last year. “I don’t think anyone should take them seriously on the rights of the citizen while they retain their commitment to abolish the Human Rights Act.”
Of course, for the rest of us, we should be breathing a slight sigh of relief. A Conservative government was almost preordained three years ago. We should be thankful that they failed to achieve a majority and that they will have the constraints of coalition placed on them. The Lib Dems may prove a moderating influence. It looks likely that the Tory inheritance tax reform will be scrapped and Clegg’s party will get its way on the £10,000 starting tax rate – both of which are very welcome developments. The Alternative Vote system is nothing to cheer, but at least the issue of electoral reform will remain in conversation as long as the Liberal Democrats are in government. Meanwhile, we should be thankful that both the Tories and the Lib Dems are committed to scrapping ID cards and that neither party will be as abysmal as New Labour on civil liberties.
A spell in opposition may be just what Labour needs right now. If it uses this time to reconnect with its roots, to bring ideology and class back into politics and to elect – not crown – a genuine left wing reformer who will turn his (unfortunately it’s unlikely to be her) back on the Blairites and the Brownites and their vain squabbles over nothing of any significance, then it has a chance to re-emerge as a strong and necessary party again that has learnt the lessons of its past. On the other hand, it will probably elect David Milliband as its leader. In which case, it deserves to lose the next election as well.
Either way, the lefty blogosphere will have two battles in the coming months. The battle against the Tory cuts and the battle to rid ourselves of the last ugly vestiges of the New Labour regime, a poison that has done far more to entrench the values of Thatcherism than the Conservatives ever could.
The fight-back starts here!