Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life Goes On

It has now been four days since the result of the general election and we still don’t know who is going to be sitting in the big chair. The fact is, given the problems we face and the unpleasant medicine prescribed by all three of them, I suspect that none of them actually want it without a clear majority and a full 5 year term. See the graph here, there’s not a fag paper between all 3 of them.

But life goes on. The country has not collapsed because of a lack of strong clear leadership. The buses and trains are still running, Hospitals are dealing with the sick and injured, there is food in the shops and beer in the pubs. It’s making we wonder whether we actually need any of them?

There’s an interesting comment over on the Third Estate written by Jacob. He argues that the main political parties have ceased to offer a clear ideological standpoint on which they try to convince the electorate or sell to the public. Instead they mould their policies to fit public opinion. Focus groups and the marketing department have taken over from belief in the product. All in the pursuit of power without principle. There are clear differences on the back benches of all three, but from my viewing point they are three of a kind. So much for the new religion of choice.
You might argue that this is a good thing – political parties responding to the electorate, where we the people tell them the politicians what we want them to do. But it just doesn’t work like that. All political parties are themselves coalitions. The image that the leadership of these parties promote is undermined by clear knowledge of the splinter groups within their own ranks. What we are witnessing now is just out in the open instead of behind closed doors.

It’s all very confusing for the electorate so it’s probably not surprising we have a hung parliament and there is no guarantee that the First Past The Post system can survive and produce clear majorities in the future while such a scenario persists. We may as well get used to it and bite the bullet of electoral reform, or at least address the biases within the present system.

Meanwhile, locally we also have a hung council. The Liberal Democrats have changed their leader, Hugh Cleaver stepping down in favour of Ian Bond. Councils though are fixed 4 year terms so there is an element of in-built stability, if you can call it that – barring by elections of course, we had five during the last term. Looking back we had a minority Labour administration from 1994 – 2002. There was a temporary Lab/Lib coalition in 2004 when the Tories got their knickers in a twist but they knew it would be short lived. The question is will Ian Bond allow the largest party to govern on a confidence and supply basis or will he opt for a piece of the pie and a Cabinet position, and with whom?

Interesting times.


  1. You are not wholly correct about 1994-2002. The LibDems pulled the plug on Labour's budget in March 2000 leading to a Conservative-led minority administration until May 2001 when the carpet was pulled from under the feet of the Conservatives.

  2. Thanks for that clarification, Morris. I am a bit sketchy prior to 2002.

  3. I am impressed by a comment from Lord Norton, derived from a previous investigation into alternative methods of voting:

    A hung Parliament does not give a People's Parliament, it gives a Politicians' Parliament.

    In my view, a coalition is necessary for the moment; in the longer term, I would be surprised if the LibDems survive as a viable Party. If Labour goes back to its genuine Socialist principles under Cruddas, it would attract the Left of the LibDems; now that the Greens have an MP, they would be attractive to the Environmentalist LibDems; and those LibDemmers who view themselves as 'nice' Tories, would go back to the Conservative Party.

    I think.

  4. The Liberal Democrats reflect a liberal, reforming strand within British politics and (as you can see from the graph in the item above) in some ways is more distinctive than either of the two larger parties. Let's hope therefore that the coalition agreement delivers better outcomes than would have arisen from the only likely alternative, at the election just gone, which was a Conservative win.

    Coalitions are commonplace in democracies across the world and, although being junior partner certainly brings with it some challenges, it doesn't follow that the party's survival is at stake (although our future success surely is!)

  5. I am rather impressed with the new word "ConDemNation".