Doesn’t this seem just a little bit familiar? September 7, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
I’m close to the end of the Steve Richards book on Gordon Brown and New Labour “Whatever it Takes”. It’s somewhat altered my perception of the last few years in UK politics, but of course UK politics continues and currently we see the Liberal Democrats in the news over their woes as the minor party in the Coalition.
And here’s a piece from the Guardian from a few weeks ago that dovetails neatly with that:
Clegg trades on the fact that he is the first peacetime Liberal in a century to preside over government. That is no mean feat and, by the nature of coalition, requires compromise. The public appears to appreciate, better than the Westminster village, that give and take is a sign of a mature political system.
Sounds like both our former and current Coalition minor partners – no? And what of this which has a particularly contemporary resonance.
His problem, however, has not been the fact of compromise, but its nature. Most of the cases that he can demonstrate are negative ones. The Lib Dems have played a vital role in making Tory legislation less extreme, less red meat. The health reforms could have been worse; Europe policy would have been more barking; welfare changes would have hurt the vulnerable even more.
Problem is how can one prove a negative. Saying that all has been ‘less bad’ is just about the worst possible position for a political party – or indeed anyone in any aspect of life. It’s also almost impossible to measure. Perhaps the LDs/GP/LP have/did make things slightly less worse, but worse they were (in the UK context almost bizarrely so because economic thinking is near enough united on the proposal that the swinging expenditure cuts and obeisance before the altar of ‘austerity’ was near enough superfluous in the context of the UK economy – and as we’ve seen it hasn’t made things better. Quite the opposite).
I think there’s a lot to question in relation to the following:
The same would have applied had a post-2010 Lib-Lab coalition been formed. Labour is showing every sign of tacking to the right on criminal justice and civil liberties, continuing a miserable tradition established under the Blair and Brown administrations. What galvanises the troops, however, is positive change. The Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent in May, was a small but important step forward in limiting the authorities’ use of individual data. This is in danger of being more than offset by the hideous “snoopers’ charter” and plans to introduce secret courts for intelligence-related criminal cases, such as the use of torture.
And again it is comparable with our own experience in both the present and previous Coalitions in this state. The Green Party – almost entirely unsuccessfully sought to deliver achievements based in their policy platform, but when push came to shove they were of a rather minor nature (one might argue that civil unions was one of the more useful ones because it pushed FF towards a more liberal position, or at least underwriting a more liberal position, than might have been otherwise). But in terms of core Green policies, perhaps planning reform was the most useful, though given the present incumbents both at Government buildings and Environment one would wonder how much remains. For the Labour Party it is a similar situation, and granted I’ve articulated this before, but it’s still important. They seem to be shifting onto social policy ground with a will (though note that it’s fairly patchy, not for them a full throated defence of pro-choice policies). And intriguingly the media seems to be egging them on as well as much one suspects to keep them away from economic policy.
The Protection of Freedoms Act in the UK mentioned above as an achievement is a drop in the ocean when, as always, economics is the key determinant within a polity. But where’s the surprise. It seems a minor party in a coalition can only make minor gains.