Saturday, 26 February 2011
Social and Liberal Democracy and other enigmas
This first PPB is well constructed and argued, with Cleese acting as a liberal pedagogue. He personally represents the sort of well-schooled and open-minded professional middle-class person of his generation who was disquieted by Thatcherism's effects on society overall but personally did well out of it. The kind of social-liberal who could never vote Tory, particularly Thatcher-era, but did not rely upon the public services himself.
It could of course be sharper in identifying how Thatcherism was destroying the sort of 'decency' and 'moderation' presumably cherished by liberals, certainly of the David Steel and Jo Grimond ilk.
This second PPB of course carries a rather grotesque irony in that the Con/LD coalition is now about to carry out more extensive public-services cuts than were ever carried out by Thatcher - one has to recall that Thatcher decimated heavy industry and presided over manufacturing decline but not especially significant cuts to education funding per se.
One wonders whether Brian Eno is as staunch an advocate of the party now as he was during the election campaign - wherein he sanctioned the use of his gloriously evocative Apollo theme in the above broadcast. Eno is perhaps one of the few figures to aesthetically provide a bridge between Europe and America, where Blair so epically failed on a political level. The Apollo album is a merging of European minimalism - think Gavin Bryars and Ligeti - with the wide open spaces of the US: 'Deep Blue Day' and its cavernous, submerged country twang:
It evokes the awe so many young people felt in the Space Age, but also an academic distance and intellectual thoughtfulness that is particularly European. Of course, he had previously evoked an Englishness redolent of Britten, Ballard, MR James and Paul Nash, amongst many others. A Britain that is not Tory or Labour, that we might associate with the venerably irreverant Jonathan Meades or the liberal paternalism of Sir Hugh Greene. A cultural lineage that greens and socialists should be seeking to claim now that it has been abandoned by Clegg, with his attachment to the Carlton Man/Murdoch racket.
The Owen and Steel-led Alliance in 1987 received a marginally smaller percentage of the vote than Clegg's Liberal Democrats in 2010. One doesn't suspect that Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins or David Steel would have countenanced serving alongside Thatcher in the event of a hung parliament; David Owen might have, as he was the proto-Blair/Clegg, with a modicum more social democracy about him but with careerism put before principle. There may have been an arrangement of case-by-case, policy-by-policy support 'in the national interest', but no Coalition. Orange Book free-market ideology has clearly overwhelmed Social Democracy or Beveridge Liberalism within the Liberal Democrat party. Clegg is the willing advocate of a rightwards-shift in political and economic policy.