Skip to main content

Democracy is being poisoned and we may have to wait for the antidote

The latest polling shows that Nick Clegg and David Cameron are enjoying a honeymoon period. There’s been a lot of commentary about their excruciating ‘civil partnership’ ceremony which took place earlier in the week. In reality, the analogy is grossly insulting to any couple in a genuine, long-term relationship, as it’s clear that Nick and Dave picked each other up casually on the rebound. It’s not so much a marriage. More a status change on Facebook from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’. I have no doubt whatsoever that the coalition will end with an extremely messy divorce. The question is not if it will fall apart, but when.

Dave and Nick (described lovingly as Dick in one of the Sunday papers) are conducting their love affair in the centre ground of British politics and have much in common with one another – not least their elitist background, which includes leading public schools and Oxbridge. It’s actually not surprising that they are able to deal with one another, as they are both in their social comfort zone and neither has any clear ideological standpoint. Each is a pragmatic opportunist. The problem is that their respective parties are filled with people for whom pragmatism is anathema. These are the tree-hugging, pavement-pounding, anti-nuclear lefties of the Liberal Democrat Party and the authoritarian right-wingers in the Conservative Party who are bemused by their leader’s conversion to gay rights, ecology and hoodie-hugging. If you put these factions in a room together, there would be a blood bath, but their parties are now joined at the hip as they parade around the Westminster tearooms.

Some commentators have suggested that Blair dragged Labour into the centre and faced down opposition from his unreconstructed left wing. Surely, they argue, Cameron and Clegg are merely doing the same kind of thing? This superficially plausible argument ignores two points. The first is that the left of the Labour Party had already been fatally weakened by Kinnock and Blair in opposition before the party took power. The left-wing of the Lib Dems and the right-wing of the Tories are very much alive and capable of giving their leaders a kicking. The second point is that we are no longer dealing with one power axis, but two. We have twice the opportunity for division and revolt.

Vince Cable – the Con-Dem Business Secretary – is a decent enough guy. He’s my constituency MP and has helped me out on a couple of occasions. I was very struck by his ability to grasp the detail of some messy and complex problems I talked through with him. You could see how he became the chief economist at oil giant, Shell. There’s a big brain in there.

According to news reports, Vince was desperate to do a deal with Labour rather than the Tories and was on the phone to Gordon Brown in the days before the shameful agreement with Cameron. How far do Vince’s ‘progressive’ principles extend, however? Not far enough that he is prepared to draw a line in the sand. Not far enough to stand up to the vacuous nonsense spouted by his leader about ‘stable government’. No, the prospect of ministerial office was on offer and Cable took it, recognising no doubt that at 67, he was drinking in the last-chance parliamentary saloon. The price he pays is having to swallow hook, line and sinker any rubbish spouted by Chancellor George Osborne, to whom the cerebral Cable must now defer. With the trappings of power comes the humiliation of having to agreeing to the younger man’s claptrap. It can only last so long.

By bringing in the left-leaning intellectual Will Hutton to look at public sector pay and the maverick Labour MP Frank Field to tackle ‘poverty’ (ie slash welfare), Cameron’s big tent is starting to bulge with the biggest bunch of misfits, has-beens, losers and no-hopers that the British political establishment has ever managed to cram onto a campsite.

The huge lie at the heart of the Con-Dem government is that it represents some new kind of politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the ultimate example of a ruling elite coming together to appoint friends and close political neighbours in a stitch-up that ignores the will of the voters entirely. Liberal Democrats around the country stole the support of Labour electors by promising that they were an anti-Tory party. Vince Cable has exploited this tactic endlessly in his south-west London constituency which he’s held since 1997. In the neighbouring seat of Kingston & Surbiton, Ed Davey squeezed my vote relentlessly in 2001 with the same argument. Today, the tactical voting bandwagon is exposed as a fraud. Far from being the anti-Tory party, the Lib Dems are revealed as being pro-Tory. If this information had been known prior to the 2010 election, how do you think it might have affected the way that people would vote?

The Liberal Democrats are shown to be shameless hypocrites and opportunists and they, in my opinion, will be the biggest long-term losers from this election. They claim to represent a new politics, but now believe in forming coalitions with opponents they denounced in the election. They rightly criticise our current voting system, which renders many people’s votes meaningless. But they have used it to do a deal which renders everyone’s votes meaningless.

The end result is completely poisonous for British politics and will almost certainly lead to greater disaffection – particularly among younger people who hope for change. The new way of doing things turns out to be the same old way of doing things. And I, for one, haven’t felt this politically motivated in 20 years.


  1. Rather than changing his Facebook status to 'In a relationship' I suspect he would opt for the 'it's complicated' status.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

I was sad when I quit Labour a year ago. Now, I feel a sense of relief.

What motivates decent people to stay as members of the Labour Party?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering intensely over the past year, which I’ve spent in self-imposed exile. I resigned the moment Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as leader after the contest with Owen Smith.
When I quit, it was with a very heavy heart.
As far back as the late 1980s, I’d served as Labour General Secretary of the London NUS. By the early 90s, I was chairing Frank Dobson’s constituency party in inner London. On two occasions, I stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate.
If you make that kind of commitment, you assume it’s a relationship that will last for life. And even though I hadn’t been an activist in recent years, it never occurred to me that I’d be forced to rip up my party card. 
Today, as Labour’s 2017 conference looms, I wonder how anyone with a moderate viewpoint can kid themselves the party is even worth rescuing.
One group of centre-ground survivors falls into the category of the bloody minded. Like …

Cult of personality? The writing's on the wall.

Nothing makes Corbynistas more angry than the suggestion there are cult-like qualities to their movement and their veneration of the man they affectionately label ‘JC’. This accusation is viewed as such a slur, in fact, that on some social media channels moderated by the far left, anyone using the term ‘cult’ is deemed to be abusive and is in danger of finding themselves banned.
The evidence – specifically a cult of personality - is, however, now so strong as to be incontrovertible.
The madness reached some kind of apogee this week with the unveiling of a mural of Corbyn on his home turf of Islington.  
Let’s be clear. Murals celebrating political figures are not a part of British culture, unless of course you count the streets of West Belfast, where the Labour Leader has built up a strong network of contacts over the years. I’m sure they are de rigueur in parts of Gaza City, where the veteran socialist MP counts yet more friends.
It’s difficult to establish who is the more idiotic.…

Why I was right about Jeremy Corbyn

It’s always embarrassing when you warn a friend about someone, only to discover they don’t share your concerns.
That Manager in HR who’s an absolute nightmare. You tell your colleague not to get involved in that project with her, but they can’t see the harm. She appears to be very nice!
The bloke who groped the girl in accounts three years ago at the Christmas Party. You warn that he’s really not great boyf material. But all that’s just a rumour and it was before your friend joined the company. You really ought to stop badmouthing people and give them a chance.
Although it hurts to be told you’re wrong in the short term, the chances are you suck it up. Because you know that in due course, the truth will come out and that it will be you who’ll be having the last laugh.
At the moment, all the warnings about Corbyn and McDonnell from the moderate wing of the Labour Party seem to have been ignored by the general public. Traditional Labour voters turned out at the election last month and so d…