Saturday, May 08, 2010

It Didn't Have To Be Like This...

Marina Hyde has the funniest take on the election I have so far read:

You'll no doubt always remember where you were when the Skycopter hovered over London, tracking the crawl of a mid-priced Rover containing Cleggbama, whose party had won a whole 1% more of the public vote than it did in 2005. Didn't the smallness of it feel so giggle-inducingly right? It was as if Britain's post-imperial decline into a piddling Cowellocracy had been condensed into a single piece of rolling news footage.

By mid-afternoon, Nick Clegg had kowtowed to David Cameron, while Cameron had patronised him, and Gordon Brown had stood outside No 10 holding a metaphorical "will work for food" sign.

There is something ludicrous about the scrambling which is now taking place, as the leaders attempt to live up to the promises which they made on the campaign trail, promises which they were foolish to ever have made in the first place.

I can understand Clegg stating that the party which won the most votes should be the first people with whom he tried to form a government; but, even as he uttered those words, he knew who that party was likely to be, what their history was, and how nigh impossible it would be to sell such a partnership to the Lib Dem base.

"It's beginning to look a little undignified," ventured John Major. Beginning, Sir John? "I think the public would be flabbergasted," spluttered Conservative Ed Vaizey. Once it emerged that we'd forked out for some sod's moat to be cleaned, the public wouldn't bother gasting its flabber for anything less than the revelation that Gordon dined on sautéed kittens every night.

The public always knew the public was going to lose in this election: that has long been axiomatic. What no one had really dared to dream, though – even in light of the expenses scandal in which all three were implicated – was that every leader would lose as well.

There is simply no way out of this which has any dignity. Either Clegg teams up with Brown in a losers alliance, or he teams up with Cameron and pretends that he doesn't loathe every single policy which Cameron believes in.

It didn't have to come to this. Clegg could have teamed up with Brown earlier and spoken of a Lib-Lab pact to save the country from the nightmare of a return to the bad old days of "the nasty party". But he didn't.

And it's impossible to sell a Lib-Lab pact as a positive after the event. That argument had to made before the people went to the polls.

This has to be Clegg's worst nightmare.

And it is, sadly, one entirely of his own making. He should never have flirted with the Tories in the first place.

He can make the argument, and it is one which I would agree with, that the Liberal Democrats can hold back the very worst of Cameron's agenda; and that's perhaps an argument which his base might agree with. But Cameron then has to sell that notion to his base. And that's not going to be an easy sell.
Meanwhile, Cameron enticed Clegg with "a big, open and comprehensive offer". Even though the Tory leader thought the Lib Dems were cuckoo on everything from defence to Europe to immigration, and would rather staple his eyelids to the floor than give them PR (I paraphrase slightly), they totally had stuff like the pupil premium in common. What could possibly go wrong?
What, indeed?


Steve Richards in The Independent makes the argument that, even though Clegg dreads helping Brown remain in office, the alternative is far worse.
Clegg declared in advance of the election that the party that secured most votes and seats should have the first chance to attempt to form a government. He was obliged to repeat his declaration yesterday. Some Liberal Democrats seem convinced that they will get credit at the next election by allowing the Conservatives to rule. They are deluding themselves. They risk being swallowed alive.


The alternative for Clegg to a deal with Cameron is no political paradise. It would be almost impossibly difficult to work with an unpopular governing party. And yet it is very straightforward. They would get a referendum on electoral reform this year. There is a strong chance the referendum would be won. The next election would be contested under a system that is fairer and the political landscape would change.

No doubt Clegg and others would prefer to secure the reform in a noble context, but there never is change when altruism is called for. Every constitutional reform has been implemented out of self-interest. No Prime Minister changes the voting system to do their party harm. They act out of party interest. Tony Blair did not give the Liberal Democrats a change in 1997 because he had won a landslide. They are being offered one now because Labour has lost its majority.

Clegg has to choose between two equally horrendous choices. But, one of those choices has the possibility of giving him what he actually wants.
They have yearned for such a moment, but might turn away fearful of its political impurity. A pure moment is never going to arrive.
It's grubby. It's far too late to sell it to the public as a piece of political purity, but Brown is offering Clegg the best chance ever to get what he actually wants.

Proportional representation.

Clegg must now decide whether he's Arsene Wenger searching for the perfect goal, which rarely comes along, or whether he is going to grab the thistle which lies clearly in his reach.

It wouldn't look good, but he laid that trap for himself when he flirted with the Tories in the first place. But this is his moment. It'll be years before such a moment ever presents itself again.

I personally think Brown should not be propped up, and I say that simply because I think it would be better for the Labour Party to allow a minority Conservative government to accept the poisoned chalice which is currently on offer.

And I am not a supporter of PR, but Clegg - from a position of pure self interest - would be a fool if he squanders his moment in the sun. It will be decades before such a moment ever comes again.

Politics is a grubby business. And it's true that such a deal would cost him the sheen which has attached itself to him since the first leadership debate, but he would have the chance to bring about his party's deepest wish.

It's going to be messy no matter which way he turns, so this is no time for altruism. If they are going to pour shit on you no matter what you do, it stands to reason that you should at least get what you want before they pour it.

Click here for full article.

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