I do realise that this sort of thing has been posted more or less non-stop since the summer of 2010, but this time I sense there are some serious problems going on between the two UK Coalition partners. I heard from one Westminster source last week to the effect that the talks between the LibDems and Labour (in which he’d been involved before the last election) had been restarted – as he put it “with a degree of vigour”. But this is another one I’ve heard a hundred times, and so it went onto the Low Hits & Desperate list. But today’s Telegraph carried a piece fairly confidently asserting that ‘senior Liberal Democrats are holding secret talks with Labour in a bid for closer co-operation between the two parties in the future.’
I now understand from a quite different source today that these talks have been boosted by what the Indie on Sunday noted: a catastrophic drop in LibDem activist support by as much as 20%. The wages of Nick, it seems, are disillusion. It’s hardly surprising. Way back in the distant past, I posted a piece at The Slog’s now defunct mother-ship Notbornyesterday, pointing out that, while the idea of a Tory/LibDem Coalition was popular among the electorate, the idea had the LibDem grassroots spitting venom.
Actually, the rationale I gave then holds good today:
‘For the Liberal Democrats, this is a genuine opportunity for real power. For post-Thatcher Conservatives, it offers the chance to consign New Labour to an isolated (even unpatriotic) role in opposition….and neuter the Old Tory Right.’
Had Cameron not been such a wimp during the May 2010 election, of course, there would’ve been no need for a Coalition at all. But equally, had the ConDemned played their cards right and worked hard for the Country (as opposed to wasting power in the pursuit of childish machismo) then both Labour and the 1922ers would indeed have been left in possession of nothing but a high-pitched whine.
But that historic opportunity was pissed away with the same insouciance shown by Blair after 1997, when he blew the best opportunity for reform since 1945. The traditional political power base at Westminster is now addicted to content-free, directionless gesture politics; and while I would wish this to result in the entire crew being fired, what we may now be seeing is the emergence of a more radical libero-left alliance. Oh dear.
The growing enmity between the two Coalition squatters was further highlighted this weekend, when Chancellor George Osborne abandoned all pretence of a Green policy, and began a campaign to stop allowances for windfarms. “Hallelujah” would be my response (they’re noisy, unsightly, high-maintenance and hopelessly inefficient) but to be honest I don’t think the Draper would be that bothered about windfarms if all the other parts of the relationship were in good shape. The fact is, there is a mood of change in the air from all parts of the Commons.
As I posted during April, the UK is going the same way as many other Western countries…towards a clearer and clearer standoff between increasingly visceral (yet antiquated) views of Hard Left versus Dry Right. Furthermore, having for months laughed off the very idea of Hackgate leading back to Number Ten, there is a growing awareness right across the Conservative Party – within and without Camerlot – that the Prime Minister may well not survive the revelations still to come. There is no doubt that George Osborne harbours such thoughts, and occasionally airs them – a hugely ironic situation, in that he was the main catalyst for getting close to Newscorp in the first place. But the Chancellor sees some form of main chance to become Leader if he splits himself off from the LibDem taint, and starts cutting off Boris Johnson’s route to the more amenable types on the Tory Right.
What has held back any chance of a Coalition collapse until now is the hopeless poll position of the Liberal Democrats. But as George Osborne moves closer to the Graham Bradys of this world, so too Simon Hughes at last realises that, without the succour of Labour’s resources and franchise, his Party will be doomed whether there’s an election next week or in May 2015. This is what makes the current Lib/Lab talks highly significant.
The task for Hughes and those around him is to position themselves clearly as part of the Opposition – as soon as possible. That must involve dumping Clegg – who, if you look at the raw poll numbers, is actually an electoral liability now. The task for Miliband is to keep Ball’s fat, needling motor-mouth in check at the talks: for only by getting a mutual constituency ‘stand down’ agreement can a genuinely solid Labour Government be returned. And yet – as was the case in 2008 with LibDem wonks and the idea of a Tory/LibDem alliance – the growing influence of Left Labour in general and Unite in particular on that side of the House makes it that much harder for the talks to succeed.
Those relatively new readers of The Slog unable to see where I ‘stand’ politically as a result of reading this piece can be easily reassured: while as a trained political scientist I find the machinations, ignorance, self-delusion and tribal anthropology of politicians and their pimps endlessly fascinating, where I stand is as far away from all of them as possible.
This is far from being a Holier Than Thou kop-out. The real requirement in Britain is for cultural, economic, and constitutional change….and as long as we have the antediluvian sterility of this Left/Right knockabout bollocks getting in the way, our moral and commercial decline can only accelerate. We are nowhere near the point where the person on the Clapham Laptop wakes up to this certainty. Between then and now, we may well encounter a large number of false Gods, kiss a whole lot of frogs, and listen to many Elmer Gantrys. But my goal in the end is to help in the process of guiding the maximum number of people towards a genuinely different way of life. You can learn more about some of these quite obviously impractical dreams at About The Slog