We were away for the election, and I count us lucky. I don’t think I would have survived the slow, suffocating crush of the aftermath as the coalition of the damned came together with terrible inevitability. Driving back down the M5 a couple of hours after the new occupant of 10 Downing Street had kicked off his shoes (presumably delivered for him by prime-ministerial Jag), the news and phone-ins were bad enough.
What to make of it.
I’m no lover of Brown’s Labour party. They lead a sustained assault on civil liberties that would have made Thatcher proud, sleepwalked us into a financial ambush sufficiently catastrophic as to give the Tories all the excuses they need to decimate our public services and they began an illegal war in our name. Brown, long thought to be the brains behind the organisation, proved dithering and ineffective when he finally got the chance at the top job he had supposedly always craved.
But the hysterical monstering he suffered at the hands of the British press has been biased, pernicious, dishonest and ultimately corrosive for politics and public life. No more, it seems, are we allowed a leader who is ill-tempered, unpolished, difficult, ugly.
Now we are being told that his departure from power is a “profoundly human” moment, as if that meant anything other than an acknowledgement that he has not been treated humanely by commentators since he took power.
This country feels safer, more prosperous, more vibrant and more equal than when the last Tory government was rousted. Labour got some things wrong, and some things right. Shock horror. To the idiotic callers to phone-in shows screaming good riddance and asserting that the country is broken, two questions: How blinkered or hate-blinded can you possibly be, and just what do you think is going to happen now?
Let’s think about that.
As The Bugle rightly put it on Friday, everyone lost this election. Labour certainly did. The Tories meanwhile ran the most expensive campaign in history, against a hugely unpopular government, upon a background of economic collapse and political sleaze, and they couldn’t persuade the British public to vote them in. I met two people during the campaign who thought they’d like to see Cameron as PM and dozens who seemed likely to scratch their own faces off at the very prospect.
The Lib Dems won the campaign and lost seats. Thanks but no thanks Nick.
I’m a hopeless analyst: naive, trusting and shortsighted. Nonetheless, the logic of the coalition and where it’s going seems inescapable and destructive.
The Lib Dems lost seats on the back of an apparently triumphant campaign. They must have realised early on Friday that they will never get anything from our current electoral system. Their one hope for improved future fortunes must lie in the electoral reform which has always been a sine qua non for them, and which would deliver real seats and influence to their party. They had to get it to have any sort of a future, and they failed. The Tory party won’t support it, no matter how much they are holding hands and skipping through daisies together today, and Labour voters will surely feel ‘disinclined’ to vote for the LIberal leg-up, to put it mildly. They may get their referendum, but they won’t get their reform and their one chance to become a permanent part of the political landscape has gone, traded in for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit in government with a Tory party prepared to do anything to grab that power for themselves after 13 years separated from what they surely feel is their rightful inheritance.
They may have half a buttock on various ministerial seats, but the Liberal Democrats have committed a long, slow suicide that will surely see them annihilated at the next election, if not before by the horrible, repulsive, abusive marriage they have just entered into. And as you see them holding hands over the next days and weeks, cooing to each about “the new politics” they have created, remember how much they hate each other, how little they actually want this, and how much they are now lying to you.
A pact with Labour would, arguably, have delivered proportional representation, and created the progressive alliance that many in the country wanted. But the numbers wouldn’t have held and, ultimately the government would have been hounded as illegitimate. The chance has gone. Ultimately, perhaps the most heartbreaking element of this whole slow motion disaster is that it seems to have ground towards the only realistic outcome, even though no-one wanted it.
There have to be upsides, don’t there?
The screeching harpies who railed blindly against the last lot are in for a dose of cold, slick reality. Governing is tough.
At last we can all hate the government without feeling conflicted, and those who abandoned Labour after the Iraq betrayal may feel they can begin to come back. Who knows, we may even get a decent left-wing opposition that’s also fit to be elected.
Foxhunting might stay banned.
And those idiots, who have been able to belch bollocks on my radio for years will have to shut up and start to take responsibility for what they’ve done. Perhaps this is the lesson we all need. Sense, perspective, balance, nuance and restraint may come back to our public debate. Perhaps we, the people, can form a true coalition of the willing.