...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 4147: From Rose Garden to Glorious Make Tractor Factory – How the Coalition Failed


When the Coalition was formed, in the sunshine of Mr Balloon and Cap'n Clegg's Downing St bromance, hopes of genuine renewal were high.

In spite of the economic calamity, we would disassemble Hard Labour's authoritarian apparatus of big government. I.D.iot cards, databases, targets and Whitehall micro-management would go, freeing up funds for frontline services. More freedom, more delivery.

But this week, Mrs the Queen's speech, while not quite as bad as COLD SICK, has gone down like TEPID TEA.

Where did it all go wrong?

I point the fluffy foot of BLAME straight at the Prime Monster and Chancellor.

Of course it's EASY to see how Master Gideon has fluffed this up, with his playing political tactics instead of having a strategic vision.

It started with the AV referendum, when – for entirely selfish, stupid, short-term reasons – the Conservatories decided to put the full weight of all their money into giving the Lib Dems a bloody nose. Selfish because they believe that they can only win an outright majority without a Coalition under the First Pass the Port voting system. But actually STUPID because they are actually TRAPPED in a "coalition" with their right wing NUTTERS. In the long term this makes it HARDER for them to be re-elected, as all the studies show a consistent DECLINE in "two-party" voting making coalitions MORE likely in future. And they will have FEWER options in the Coalition dance if they are chained to the Frothy-Phobics.

A more proportional system would, obviously, see a SMALLER centre-right Conservatory Party and a more substantial showing for a far right UKPnuts. Which looks BAD for the Conservatories in the SHORT TERM. But Hard Labour would probably break up too and we'd see more Greens and proper socialists. (Not to mention a FAIR share of Liberals – 16% of 600 is 96 seats, whereas with 23% we got, er, 57 seats.) In the LONGER TERM, though, this could allow the MODERATE Conservatories to evolve towards the sort of position that Ms Angular Meercat enjoys in Germany, able to form governments through coalitions with a choice of Liberals, UKPnutters or the more Blairite Social Democrats from the former Labour. We've even seen Blue-Green alliances on the Continent.

By averting this possibility, and by mightily fluffing off the Liberal progressive vote, Master Gideon has actually made it more likely that the Conservatories will be FROZEN OUT of power for the Twenty-First Century, by a succession of Labour and Liberal-Labour Coalition governments.

So, good strategy there.

Furthermore, the Conservatories turning their fire on US, and in particular the vicious campaign against Cap'n Clegg personally, meant that the Liberal Democrats had pretty much NO CHOICE but to move to DIFFERENTIATION.

It's unclear how successful this has been for us, but it's obviously undone half a decade of trying to DETOXIFY the Conservatory Brand because now the only policies solely associated with the Conservatories are the NASTY PARTY POLICIES.

This came to a head in the so-called "omnishambles Budget".

For TACTICAL reasons, Master Gideon HAD to cut the 50p rate in this budget if he was going to do it at all. He couldn't possibly do it in the emergency budget when the Coalition came to power; it would have flatly contradicted the whole fiscal consolidation message. Nor could he do it last year, too soon after the Strategic Spending Review. But leaving it until any closer to the election in 2015 would mean that it would still be a live political issue for the election campaign. No, this was the ONLY year he could do it and hope that the fuss would die away before the electorate could punish him for it at a General Election.

That was, obviously, why the Conservatories were GAGGING for this ONE policy in all of their Budget negotiations, and how the Liberal Democrats were able to leverage such a HUGE tax cut for the lower and middle-income earners PLUS the "tycoon tax" tightening of loopholes (which has been so traduced by self-interested millionaires saying how they just can't afford to give to charity without receiving a massive tax bung for the privilege).

For the TACTIC of getting started on cutting taxes for the super-rich, Master Gideon SACRIFICED the STRATEGY of tax fairness.

And wheels came flying off in all directions.

This sort of "government in crisis" narrative has a momentum of its own, as we have seen in the past when Mr Major Minor's government was self-destructing or when Mr Frown's administration was tearing itself apart. Even Mr Miliband's big humiliation in Bradford was not enough to deflect the press from their FEEDING FRENZY for long. Hence we see headlines about hundred-million pound U-Turns and an air of panting anticipation around the latest Leveson revelations in the hope of more red meat to feed the Fleet Street spin machine.

Even potentially good news stories ("New Jobs Created by Deputy Prime Monster's Job Creation Scheme" – actual story) manage to come out painted bad ("Employment scheme may cost up to £200,000 per job" – actual headline). Yes, they MAY cost up to £200,000 a job. OR as LITTLE as £4000 a job. Actually, average costs of the scheme, about the same as Hard Labour schemes cost, with room for some improvement. But who is being "shocked" by these costs? Why it's Hard Labour's Margret Hedgehog. Cynical politics by the Queen Mother of Barking, there, (plus ça bleedin' change) but who left the goal open for Hard Labour opportunism? We did!

Under the circumstances, "relaunches" only FUEL the notion that the Government is falling to bits.

What is called for is a profound period of CALM and COMPETENCE, something that the Westminster bubble is ILL-DESIGNED to provide.

(And bringing forward all the "who's in and who's out" hysteria of a reshuffle not only smacks of PANIC but increases the chances of COCK-UP by dropping someone inexperienced into a new job AND giving Sir Humphrey another chance to shovel some dirt past them as they learn the ropes.)

So much for Master Gideon's fluffy foot in this; the REAL culprit is of course the Prime Monster Mr Balloon himself.

I once said that the Coalition had the chance to be the making of Mr Balloon. It's a chance he's tossed away with both hands.

If you don't want to look WEAK, you shouldn't go crawling to your backbenchers begging to kiss fluffy bottom! If you don't want to look OUT OF TOUCH then you can't waste your time caring more about what some CRAZY WOMAN thinks of you than the whole of rest of the country. And if you don't want to look like you're NOT UP TO THE JOB then you don't go whinging to the Daily Hate Mail that you can't get the policies you want!

A STRONG Prime Monster would have used the Liberal Democrats as a BULWARK against the ever-more petulant demands of his right wing. A STRONG Prime Monster could have PUT THEM IN THEIR PLACE.

By BLENDING the policies of Liberals and Conservatories, as we did in the Coalition and the Rose Garden, you can achieve a SYNTHESIS that is greater than the sum of its parts and demonstrates a government VISION that give confidence that we know what we're doing and WHY we're doing it. And better still, the Prime Monster gets to claim credit for EVERYTHING.

INSTEAD, the GAME PLAYING by his Chancer cum Political Grand Vizier, Master Gideon, and Mr Balloon's own COWARDICE has left Government policy looking like it's DIVIDED between wins for the Liberal Democrats and wins for the Tory Right, leaving NO WINS AT ALL for the Prime Monster in the middle.

A CLASSIC example is the "Daft Draft Communications Bill". An opportunity to unite Liberal and Conservatory values by rolling back intrusive RIPA powers, end spy-on-the-citizen local government intrusion and bring back some traditional British justice was SQUANDERED in a rushed attempt to win some Daily-Hate-Mail-friendly headlines by letting the security-fetishists in the Home Office have their head over blocking internet rudery and cracking down on communications between those "potential terrorists and paedos" as the Home Office calls them or, you know, ordinary innocent citizens to you and me.

The Prime Monster needed to be a BRIDGE between Liberal Democrats and Conservatories. Instead we're now seeing "I could be a proper Evil Tory if it we're for those Pesky Lib Dems" type headlines.

Burning your bridges is FOOLISH at the best of times. It's DOUBLE FOOLISH with NOBS ON when you're STANDING ON THE BRIDGE at the time!

You can't say that the Liberal Democrats didn't TRY to make this work. Cap'n Clegg in particular has worked tirelessly to present a common front on most Coalition policies, and taken endless flack for it.

(Because obviously it's TEH FUNNY to call the man a "stooge" for holding to his principles of working together for the best of the country, and "spineless" for sticking to his belief that maybe we all ought to try getting along. At least no one's suggested nailing him to a tree, yet! Why Mr Milipede what are you doing, washing your hands?)

The BEST of this Coalition – a tax cut for millions, the pupil premium, the green investment bank – has all come from the Liberal Democrats. But it's a FAILURE of this Coalition that I can say that. The BEST of the Coalition OUGHT to have come from BOTH Parties together.

So, unless the economy comes good, that's going to make things AWKWARD for the next three years.

Meanwhile, here is Mr Danny Alexander with a musical message for Europe Day (hat tip, Mr Whyte.)


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