The Future Refusing To Be Born

Oh woe. Oh misery. Oh what a mess.

The sight of the Lib Dems getting a real kicking in the UK devolved and local elections was depressing but not surprising.

Here is what really makes me puke.

Puke #1: How come the Tory vote held up so well?

The Tories actually gained in most areas. This is at the expense of the Lib Dems, minor parties and independents. There are two possibilities here:

  1. Voters blame the Lib Dems for everything that the colaition government does while giving the Tories a free pass.
  2. Core Tory voters are happy with the government while Lib Dem voters are not.

The second option is much more plausible. Lib Dem voters, almost by definition, have higher standards than Tory voters. They don’t relish spending cuts for the sake of them. They don’t regard things like the tuition fees debacle with the casual disregard that Tories do. They feel let down. Tories meanwhile are loving it.

A vomit stained speculation:Nick Clegg as Cassandra?

With AV off the agenda, a boundary commission coming up that is massively going to benefit the Tories, the Tory voters quite happy with the government, and everything being blamed on Clegg there is almost nothing that can stop the Tories winning a big majority at the next election or two. We will have plenty of time to compare and contrast the coalition with the same Tories running wild.

Will we moan “Oh God, it was so much better with Nick Clegg to limit the damage. Why didn’t we listen to him about AV”? With no hope of fixing the electoral system it will be a long, long time before we see anything but Tories in power so why not use that time to nurture an impotent, belated (and not entirely deserved) appreciation of Saint Nick of Clegg? Well, it is not like anything else will do any good.

Which brings me to my next big gripe…

Puke #2: Why was the referendum allowed to become a farce?

The referendum was lost the day the Electoral Commission admitted that it had no authority to regulate objectively false claims being made in the referendum campaigns. It was carte blanche for the sort of lies that would have lead to disqualification or prosecution in any normal election. This will not have done anything to enhance Britain’s reputation for democracy and openness. William Hague may well find that next time he berates an oppressive regime for not adhering to good democratic processes that they giggle and roll their eyes slightly more than usual. Nobody respects hypocrisy.

Clegg probably didn’t realise that it was going to be perverted into an unregulated travesty of a referendum. The No campaign didn’t so much defeat AV as a non-existent system of their own invention. This was probably the Tory plan from day one. Clegg was set up and he fell for it. He should have seen it all coming, after all, everybody knows that you can’t trust Tories. Tories lie. It is natural and instinctive. It is what they have always done. If you believe a Tory you deserve no more sympathy than if you stick your hand in an alligator’s mouth. The one thing Tories hate more than anything else is constitutional reform. They were never going to play fair on this. They had too much to lose.

Despite this, my real vitriol is reserved for stupid, stupid, stupid Labour…

Puke #3: WTF was the Labour No2AV campaign thinking?

Given that Labour had to know that the boundary changes would put them out of power pretty much forever under First Past the Post why were so many Labour bigwigs so keen help the Tories nail themselves onto the government benches by supporting it? AV was their only chance to play any role in government for the foreseeable future. Do they hate pluralism so much that they would rather the Tories win every election until doomsday than see a handful of Green or UKIP MPs? Could they not see the Greens as potentially useful coalition partners and even as an alternative to the Lib Dems come the next hung parliament?

This really is a “turkeys voting for Christmas” scenario.

I felt more sorry for Milliband than Clegg as he tried to talk sense into his own party. Now he emerges weakened within Labour and set up as a stooge to lose the next election. Come the next election I am sure Labour will see a nice big swing it its favour but it will still lose seats due to the boundary changes and lose the election whatever Milliband does. Only then will Labour see the wilderness it has walked into. It would be nice to think that the dinosaurs, who consistently hold Labour back from becoming the progressive party it deserves to be, will be punished for this but it seems unlikely. Instead they will probably choose its next leader from their own ranks.

Puke from the past: Why didn’t Labour do something useful while it was actually in a position to do so?

What upsets me more than anything is the squandered opportunity that Labour had to reform and reinvigorate democracy in the 1990s. If Blair had stuck to his own manifesto and accepted the outcome of the Jenkins Commission (which he never had the slightest intention of doing) we could have had a genuinely proportional system in place for the millennium. We could have avoided the hubris brought on by the later Labour landslides. We could have had a real political choice under a fair system that gives a voice to everybody. But then Blair always was an egomaniac Tory in disguise and he only ever cared about his majority, his mad projects, his hubris, not the future of Labour or of Britain. Sell the future for two landslides? Of course he would, and he would do it again if he could.

Where now?

Reform will be off the agenda for a while now. House of Lords reform will probably be the next casualty. The bad guys won again, just like in 1914, 1917 and 1930, but tories (from whatever party) should not get too smug.

Constitutional reform isn’t like ordinary politics, with its four-year timeframes and the memory of a goldfish. Reform is a process that works over decades and centuries. Reform has seen bigger setbacks than this. Reformers were imprisoned, hanged, beheaded, and worse, and yet we still got from no democracy to our current rather poor democracy. At least that doesn’t happen any more. We are winning, slowly.

Reform does not belong to any one political party and it can’t be destroyed by defeating the Lib Dems. Reform is never going away and one of these days meaningful democratic reform will come to the UK.

PS: And here is a final irony that might make you smile, if only weakly. The result of the referendum might be decisive enough to make the No campaign wonder it they really needed to cheat in the first place. A clean victory for the Nos, even by a small margin, would have done more long term damage to the cause of reform than this much larger one achieved by what would have been illegal practices had the referendum been properly regulated. Cheaters often prosper but they are very rarely respected.


May 6, 2011. Politics, Sensible.

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