Wednesday, 12 May 2010
'New politics'? Tory pragmatism in pursuit of power, more like...
-Nick Clegg, May 1 2010
Time will tell, but this train of events seems to show a Thatcherite consensus emerging between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. So, no real difference from the last 13 years. For Labour, the chickens come to roost: their failure to change the voting system and cultivate a collegiate centre-left alliance has allowed this rather smug spectacle..
The crucial issues will be: the media (will the Conservatives be able to further the Murdochian agenda?), civil liberties (will the supposed 'Liberal Conservative' government prove at all liberal ), foreign policy (Hague and Fox at the helm; shudder, those of us who want a more European, less Neo-Conservative country), cuts (can the LDs square any of their old social democratic beliefs with the attack on Beveridge Britain that the Tories plan?).
The LibDems wouldn't have done this under more left-leaning leaders like Kennedy and Campbell. They will now open themselves up to the unpopularity of government, perhaps even allowing the Tories to deflect the blame on certain issues.
In purely rational terms, this is better than a Tory government elected with a swaggering majority; some of the more extreme Tory policies have been dropped - the absurdly iniquitous inheritance tax cut, married couples allowance (though this has not been ruled out fully, I gather). No new Heathrow runway. No ID cards. It looks like there will be no repeal of the Human Rights Act. Better a slightly saner, more moderate Tory government than a Tory government fully implementing its manifesto. It is unquestionable that the planned coalition will be more redistributive than a purely Tory government would have been. It seems much unclearer whether the nature of the public spending cuts will change. Markets and the privileged are likely to be put ahead of ordinary people. If Labour does not move away from the neo-liberal economic consensus, it will be missing a real opportunity to build support.
The key will be whether this can genuinely be a One Nation government; it won't if it panders to Murdoch and the Mail - and not if it uses the cuts agenda to attack ordinary people and public sector workers.
LibDems need to ask themselves: are they not being swallowed up by a Conservative Party which has rediscovered the benefits it can obtain from pragmatism? Cameron is more concerned about power than about ideology, yet all of his assumptions remain wedded to the Thatcher-Blair consensus of our time. The LibDems have now definitely aligned themselves explicitly with this, with little definite assurance of gaining STV.