...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Day 3778: The People Have Spoken… the Bastards!


Well, THAT went well, didn't it.

{…tumbleweeds… …tumbleweeds… …tumbleweeds…}

Okay, how about this then:

I’ve never really GOT poetry, but today made me think of this:

“Between the idea
“And the reality
“Between the motion
“And the act
Falls the Shadow”

We KNEW this day was coming, was inevitable really, as a consequence of the position we were left in at the end of the last General Election.

But there’s a difference between “knowing” that and the reality of it actually happening, the difference, the “shadow” that we put between ourselves and the abyss staring us in the face.

Hence all the WAILING and GNASHING of TEETH today. Hence the RENDING of GARMENTS and SILLY calls for Captain Clegg’s head on a plate. And all the GENUINE pain and heartbreak.

Cold comfort for all our friends who've lost council seats, I know, but actually they all did BLOODY WELL to stand up AT ALL under UNPRECEDENTED fire. The No2AV campaign was, basically, a not-very-disguised MASSIVE ATTACK on the Liberal Democrats and on Captain Clegg in particular, with every voter getting at least two leaflets that can be summarised as: "Don't vote Lib Dem! Traitors! Scum! Broken Promises!"

We faced the full might of the anti-democratic vested interests, the “right” AND “left”. And they won. But some of us, at least, survive.

Remember, our choice, our ONLY choice, last May was whether to face electoral ruin here and now, or irrelevance and annihilation at Westminster in a snap general election last October.

And I know some people will think we chose the wrong forum to take our whipping.

But this is politics: it’s not a SPECTATOR SPORT; it’s about GETTING THINGS DONE, and that only comes from BEING IN POWER. We could not, at Westminster level, opt out of that without making ourselves POINTLESS. And although there are now councils across the country where we AREN’T in power; nationally WE STILL ARE.

But there's really no dressing up that these results are a BIT of a BLOW.

It's difficult not to see this as a victory for Labservatism.

The British People may SAY that they prefer their politicians to behave like grownups, but when it comes to it, they punish the junior coalition partner – nationwide, the Liberal Democrats; in Wales, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid Cymru. Depressingly, this suggests that, contrary to all my beliefs, the electorate is stupid. But then, the "No2AV" campaign appear to have prospered by assuming that the electorate are stupid. So what do I know.

The worst thing will be if Hard Labour decide that eleven months of screaming TRAITORS! SCUM! BROKEN PROMISES! in the faces of Liberal Democrats is a successful electoral strategy.

Worst for us, obviously, because they'll keep on doing it and believe me it is NO FUN AT ALL.

But worst for our already damaged democracy, since reducing your entire position to NEGATIVITY and PARTISAN NAME CALLING abdicates your responsibility as opposition to present alternative policies. You can't complain that "there is no alternative" when you can't be bothered to PROVIDE ONE!

And actually worst for them too. Because it's NOT a successful strategy. At BEST Labour have made themselves the repository for anti-government protest votes. And then, ONLY where they are seen as the only alternative; in Scotland, the voters preferred to switch to the Scottish Nasties.

(And whoever thought that we'd say "thank goodness for Mr Salmon"!)

But thanks to the hopeless Mr Potato Ed's BRILLIANT strategy of telling the Scots that their election was just for sending a message to Westminster – nice that he thinks Scotland is just a warm-up act for his own doomed election campaign – and he may have secured the break-up of the United Kingdom and the end of any hope of a British Labour government ever happening again.

And, it has to be said, whoever advised him to make the "Well, dur!" observation that the Coalition "split down the middle" over AV needs to get fired. (It was almost certainly an alien space-lizard thinking it was a week early for the Apprentice!)

Mr Potato Ed's MAIN contribution to the referendum seems to have been to LOSE CONTROL of TWO-THIRDS of his own Party. And his PETTY and IDEOLOGICAL decision to refuse to share a platform with Captain Clegg was a GODSEND to No2AV's "Hate Clegg" campaign. Genius lead there, Mr Ed, showing us that before we can have grownup politics we're going to need some GROWNUP POLITICIANS.

As far as I can see, nothing has changed my forecast for the outcome of the NEXT General Election: either a small Conservatory majority or another hung Parliament.

Hard Labour are just not doing that much better, and (worse-for-them, worse-for-us) they are only doing better against US, better enough perhaps to switch some Liberal Democrat marginals to the Tories; but that HELPS the Tories and NOT Hard Labour.

So in 2015, either Mr Balloon gets to keep his job, and then we'll be able to say: "look, you see, we DID make a difference. Look at them NOW!" Or else Mr Potato Ed is going to have to accept looking VERY SILLY INDEED when he has to ask Captain Clegg to be HIS Deputy PM. Oh yes. Because the answer to his PETTY and IDEOLOGICAL "the price of a Lib/Lab Coalition would be Nick Clegg's head" (haha, very "Rewenge of the Frown-ites") is "fine, bye then". Because under those circumstance, either Mr Millipede can be Prime Monster or he can be the ex-Labour Leader.

Captain Clegg's intervention in the referendum campaign – repeating the mantra "our electoral system is broken, we need a change" and "if you think our electoral system works, think again; we need a change" – clearly shows that he was the ONLY ONE WITH A FLUFFING CLUE!

So just look at him doing his job – doing it, as Captain Paddy puts it, superbly well with tremendous grace under pressure – and you must realise he's the best we've got. And we've got a LOT of good people!

There are JUST TWO messages in politics: "don't rock the boat" and "time for a change". Captain Clegg gets it. "Yes2AV", hmmm, not so much, it appeared.

Only an IDIOT would call for him to resign, now. (And we Liberal Democrats HAVE THAT IDIOT!)

As for a leadership challenge… look, I am a BIG FAN of Mr Huhney-Monster – and look, in Eastleigh we actually MADE GAINS; so clearly what we need is a charismatic, aggressive millionaire cabinet minister in every seat and we're sorted. Sigh. But I CAN'T believe he would mount a leadership challenge. And actually I DON'T believe it, because he's too smart and too loyal and this rumour smells too much of STIRRING. And if anyone ELSE want to challenge Captain Clegg then they'll have an angry baby elephant to go through first!

This ISN'T the end of the Coalition.

Ironically, Captain Clegg's position may actually be strengthened. Mr Balloon had to do BIG FAVOURS for the rightwing loony tunes of his own Party and he knows it. So he knows he OWES us BIG TIME. Absolutely, we need to trade that for PROPER REFORM in the House of Lords Club. And it's probably the end for Mr Andrew Landslide and his NHS plans too. And if we're getting three wishes, Mr Balloon can sack Lady Insider Warsi before she appeals for votes from the BNP again makes his government look any MORE two-faced and incompetent.

This ISN'T the end of Electoral Reform either. In fact, this is merely the beginning. The pressure to fix our broken politics is only going to get more and more urgent.

We've got lessons to learn. Starting with a big bang conversion of Westminster elections was NEVER the way to do it. Not because – as cynical Lady GoreGore has it – the very thing that gives us the power to ask the question simultaneously taints any question to which we want the answer "yes". No, it's because if we've learned ANYTHING from our Liberal traditions it's that it's no good just giving people a TOP-DOWN solution IMPOSED take-it-or-leave-it Hobson's Choice. We need to re-grow our democracy FROM THE ROOTS UP.

That means starting with the LEAST democratic part of the system: much needed reform of local government.

We DESPERATELY need more voices to be heard in our council chambers, and that makes them the perfect fertile ground for PR (and that tiresome and frankly half-untrue "constituency link" argument falls immediately because most wards already HAVE multi-members.)

And we need to do this PROPERLY, do it in a way that people can see what they are getting and decide if they like it, running local trials first, letting people find out what works for them, bringing in local PR, bringing in House of Lords PR, working UP towards the Liberal Democrat policy of a Constitutional Convention, where everyone in the country can contribute and have their say.

Because BADWORDS they may be, but the people HAVE spoken, and it's up to us to LISTEN and come back to them with what they WANT.


Richard Gadsden said...

People can petition for local referendums on having a Mayor, why not allow local referendums on STV?

Bernard said...

Can we hope to see the LibDems standing up to their Coalition partners now?

It's fun to take a swipe at Labour, but frankly the "blame Labour" rhetoric has never done LDs much good.

Call Me Dave can't hide his glee.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Richard,

Allow local referenda on STV? Why not, indeed.

Well, actually after last week’s debacle I’m rather wary of offering people a “let’s make elections fairer but more complicated” referendum without at least doing some trial runs first so that people can actually compare cost/difficulty/outcome/benefit. One of the biggest benefits to the “No” campaign was that they could just MAKE STUFF UP because there WERE no trials or examples.

So I should say that a first step would be to ask for some volunteer councils (ideally at least one shire, one suburban and one inner city) but in the absence of volunteers pick three or six or nine at random and do trial run PR (STV) elections to see how I goes.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Bernard

“Can we hope to see the LibDems standing up to their Coalition partners now?”

I don’t know, can we hope to see us getting any credit for the standing up to the Conservatories that we HAVE DONE?

Privatising the forests: got that one nixed. Inheritance Tax cut for dead millionaires? Shelved. Trident missile renewal. Postponed. NHS reform – from our conference to the PM’s desk in a week and Mr Landslide’s proposals get put on pause.

“Seeing” us stand up to the Conservatories does rather depend on you not denying the differences that we ARE making.

Bernard said...

"Privatising the forests: got that one nixed."


If I remember correctly, 39 LibDem MPs voted NOT to have it nixed.

Meanwhile 47 LibDem MPs voted in favour of the Health and Social Care Bill in the second reading in January.

I'm not saying this to be a pedant - I genuinely believe a bit more 'back and forth' would be healthy. Thus far it appears the party is happy to tow the line until there's a public outcry.