Sunday, July 18, 2010

On being beastly to the Lib-Dems (continued)

Shuggy, in the comments, points approvingly to Blood & Treasure's take on how the Lib-Dems should be treated.

I'm not sure that they've accomplished their mission and should be treated as though they no longer exist - for a number of reasons, and rather than offering you a long post now, I'm going to let these observations out a bit at a time over the next few days.

My point for today is about how we understand what a political party is these days.

I don't buy the argument that the Lib-Dems (like their predecessors with the word 'Liberal' in their title) is simply a project "designed to get a share of power for their senior managers" - or rather, I do buy the argument to a certain extent (I'm sure it applies to Nick Clegg) but think that it applies to elements of all of the main parties.

It seems to me that a political party today is a coalition of different minority political interests that dislike the combined coaliton that makes up other parties more than they dislike the moderated coalition that makes up their own.

If the electoral system changes, I suspect that those coalitions will simply reconfigure slightly as different groupings become more prepared to hold their noses and get into bed with old adversaries in return for a crack at achieving a cherished goal / a sniff of power / getting their pictures in the paper.

The corollary of this is that each political party has been captured - however temporarily - by an unrepresentative social caste usually on the basis that it has persuaded the wider membership that their leadership will result in more electoral success.

This in turn effects our thinking on the question of being beastly to the Lib-Dems. If we keep shrieking at them, telling them that they're a bunch of Birkenstock Traitors, and so on, we run the risk of pushing the wider party into the ballast of Clegg's boat.

Surely, a more productive step would be to highlight the policy-areas where Labour has more in common with the Lib-Dem rank-and-file, while at the same time pointing out what a poor deal they've had from the Tories and how, if the electoral maths were to stack up in future, they would find that they'd have to make fewer compromises and achieve a good deal more by dealing with Labour?

All of that raises the question for next time: What do the Lib-Dems want?


MatGB said...

"I don't buy the argument that the Lib-Dems ... is simply a project "designed to get a share of power for their senior managers" - or rather, I do buy the argument to a certain extent (I'm sure it applies to Nick Clegg) "

I don't.

If all he Huhne and Laws wanted were power, why didn't they defect when asked? Repeatedly, I might add.

The voters voted for the Tories more than anyone else. The GE was completely unpredictable (my Labour wipeout posts were kite flying hyperbole, but they weren't outside the realms of possiblity), it could've gone any way.

Assuming post facto it was all about getting Clegg into power is, for want of a better description, fucking insulting.

And it's that sort of insult coming from some all the damn time that's making me more convinced I made the right choice to vote for the coalition, come what may.

With Burnham making speeches about how immigrants need to be stopped, with other contenders talking about how the LDs have "given up a claim to be progressive" on the same day stuff like the torture documents came out is further confirmation.

The New Labour cabal that took over the Labour movement had to be removed, and the Labour movement failed, utterly, to do it. The voters, clearly and expressively, voted Labour out of Govt, and gave the LDs no choice as to who to work for.

Govt policies are a lot less harsh than they would have been with the Tories on their own, and some of them have been remarkably liberal (friend of mine was heavily involved in the gay asylum seekers case, that was such a clear and obvious injustice).

But your final two paragraphs are something I agree with completely.

As it happens, I don't think we got a bad deal, given the numbers, on policy we got an exceptionally good deal. Far far better than a minority Tory govt, and we're getting all the constitutional reforms we want except proper STV.

What do we want? Don't know, yet, but reading the manifesto and copying it wholesale didn't do Blair any harm in 1997 (seriously, do a compare/contrast ont he major policy issues).

I want STV for the House of Commons. I want a clear commitment to a liberal immigration and asylum policy. I want an end to corporatist protectionism, especially when it comes to Digital Economy stuff.

I want a commitment to reform the EU to make it properly democratic, open and federal. If that means finding a word that means federal without using that word, so be it.

I want a commitment to the rule of law, to individual freedoms, to civil rights and liberties.

I want a tax and benefit system that isn't so arcane and cumbersome my fiancée would rather live in poverty than try and get tax credits again, one that doesn't send threatening letters for overpayments caused by a fault not our own, nor one that says "ok, you're right, we'll right that dept out the system", then start chasing for the same money again a year later.

I want an education system fit for purpose, that allows second chances (I got my degree as a mature student, attempts to rollback such courses and access routes really pissed me off), and that doesn't scare off the poorest (those scared of credit avoid loans, so avoid education, Labour called what is effectively a fairly well adminstered graduate tax a student loan system to avoid charges of a new tax, thus putting people off studying further).

I want a criminal justice system based on what works, that takes evidence into account, that doesn't criminalise large swathes of people to placate the tabloid headline writers. Hell, I want a liberal Justice secretary.

Oh, wait, we've got one. The most liberal Justice minister for 20 years is bloody Ken Clarke? That horrifies me.

(contd, character limit)

MatGB said...

Importantly, I want a Labour party my party could work with, could negotiate with. I don't want to become a permanent adjunct to the Tories, but if Labour doesn't grow up, that's what the party will become.

And Jamie's post is just tosh. The "always" jump to the Tories, except for the many many times they didn't, like the Lib Lad pact, like when Thorpe rejected Heath, like when the Scottish and Welsh LDs each, separately, formed coalitions with Labour.

Labour rejected us, despite a clear desire in the Parliamentary party to see if a coalition could be done, various Labour MPs refused, publicly, to even countenance the idea.

But then it immediately became the LDs fault the coalition happened. The LDs fault the tax threshold was raised, and will go up again, the LDs fault that tax credits for the poorest are going up, the LDs fault that pensions are linked back to earnings for the first time in 3 decades, the LDs fault that we've got rid of ID cards, the LDs fault that the House of Lords will finally be sorted out, fixed term parliaments will finally be introduced, the wealthiest get taxed more on their capital gains, etc.

The Tories have 307 seats. If Labour want to take them back, they'll need 2nd preferences from LD voters. And Green voters. Appealing to those voters is going to be important in 2015.

Attacking the LDs for ding exactly what they promised they would do during the election campaign is an interesting political tactic, but I really don't think "politicians keep promise" is a good long term attack strategy.

I agree re realignment though, it'll happen, the Greens'll grow, the LDs might eventuially split, hell, the Tories'll hopefully split as the Right realise they've been screwed over (see ToryHome threads ad nauseum).

But it isn't going to happen before 2015.

Shuggy said...

The "always" jump to the Tories, except for the many many times they didn't, like the Lib Lad pact, like when Thorpe rejected Heath, like when the Scottish and Welsh LDs each, separately, formed coalitions with Labour.

Jamie over-states his case. You could also mention that Thorpe knocked back Heath. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the Liberals historically have been more inclined to Conservatism than Labourism. Also, I really don't think you can factor in Scotland and Wales, given that the Conservatives would never be in the position to offer the Liberals a coalition deal in either of these situations.

Govt policies are a lot less harsh than they would have been with the Tories on their own...

The fiscal contraction we are seeing is unprecedented in postwar economic history. Before he resigned, everyone seemed to agree that you couldn't put a cigarette paper between Laws and Osbourne on this issue. Are you claiming that without the Liberals, the budget would have been even more severe - and if so, what evidence do you have to support this view?

matgb said...

Jamie uses examples of post-split Liberals a lot. When I bring up a similar subject with other Lib Dems, I'm always told "The National Liberals were Tories in all but name", etc.

In other words, the rump Liberal party was the party that had rejected alliance with the Tories multiple times, including in 1951 when it was offered despite the Tory/Nat Lib coalition having an overall majority, the continuity Libs refused to work with Churchill post war, the NatLibs didn't and were eventually absorbed.

I can't say the budget would or would not have been more sever in terms of cuts; note however that the level of cuts isn't that much higher than Darling said he was planning for in his last budget. It's higher, but not hugely.

However, the tax regime changes are better than they would have been. Capital Gains tax increases raise a lot in two ways, reducing avoidance and actual direct revenue, and you saw the resistance to that within Tory ranks.

Raising the threshold was also an LD policy; I know some Labourites think it's the wrong way to help the lowest paid, I disagree, but it is an LD policy, it's being phased in rather than brought in straight away (as Vince had costed), but it's still coming in.

Without LD influence, the measures to help the poorest (which, due to business collapse post moving to Yorkshire, currently includes me) simply wouldn't have been there.

And we know the VAT increase would've happened whoever won, Vince made that fairly clear pre election, and Darling was planning it as well.

So, regarding cuts, I don't know, but cuts were needed, remember Clegg said many time pre-election that cuts would need to be severe. From what I understand, The BoE governor basically said "cut heavily or I have to raise rates".

I'd rather not see interest rates go up right now, I think that'd really kill the country.

I'm not happy with aspects of the budget, I don't actually think anyone is, but it's a lot better overall for the poorest than it would have been otherwise, that really should be obvious.

matgb said...

Actually, I've remember an example. The coalition agreement and other things agreed on £6bn initial cuts, but the LDs insisted that £1bn of that 6 be reallocated to other spending areas. That happened.

I forget which and where, but there is some stuff happening that wouldn't have otherwise. Do you need me to go look up the specific details, they're on BBC site and a few other places.

Shuggy said...

And we know the VAT increase would've happened whoever won, Vince made that fairly clear pre election

Really? I wasn't aware of this. Neither, it seems, was Nick Clegg. If he had, perhaps this embarrassment could have been avoided.

remember Clegg said many time pre-election that cuts would need to be severe.

Again I have to say that I don't. Since the election I came across this video clip, which doesn't seem to fit with your recollection of events.

Neither do I recall Darling suggesting anything like this scale. This is, as I said, the deepest fiscal contraction in postwar economic history. I think it is pure revisionism on your part to pretend that something similar was indicated by either Labour or the Lib Dems. The question is, is it necessary and does the burden fall fairly? The answer to the first is probably not. The answer to the second we know for certain: it was not a progressive budget in the economic sense of the term.

NoetiCat said...

@matgb - it was "only" £0.5 billion, invested in Social Housing, Further Education and Apprenticeships.

But still, it's a fairly big whack of investment!

NoetiCat said...

This thorough report by Vince Cable from September 2009, accurately reflected in the Lib Dem manifesto, rather reinforces the view that there was no U-Turn by the Liberal Democrats - Merely a hefty dose of delusion on behalf of esp some Labour supporters who assumed the Lib Dems' main purpose was to prop them up no matter what: