18 May 2010

2010 British General Election (after)

I thought I would just make a couple of remarks about the 2010 election.

On the eve of the election I outlined three possible outcomes: Conservative majority rule, Tory minority government (leading to a second election later in the year) and a Lib/Lab pact. I was right about one thing and wrong about another.

I was right in thinking that the authoritarians in New Labour (Straw, Blunket, Reid, Burnham, etc) would reject any alliance with liberalism preferring instead a Tory government. Labour would not offer the one thing that would ensure Liberal Democrat support and something that progressive should support anyway, namely proportional representation.

Much is made after the event of the fact that a Lib/Lab coalition would have been a minority government requiring 7 votes for a majority from the 13 nationalists, Green and SDLP to pass legislation. While that is true, accepting the challenge would have been better than the only other option, letting the Conservatives into office.

I was wrong in thinking that the Conservatives would prefer minority government to a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Yet Cameron had clearly read the writing on the wall: the start of every period of Tory or Tory-dominated government since 1931 has enjoyed a lower share of the vote than the previous period. Cameron was not sure that a second election would give him the majority he needed.

Britain now has a fully bourgeois government. New Labour certainly abandoned social democracy and threw in its lot with capitalist power; yet always it was impeded by the fact that its core vote (and now its only vote) came from less well-off ordinary working people. No such impediment restrains the current government. Britain’s economic problems can be solved at the expense of its ordinary working people.

And something else. Since the 1980s the Liberal Democrats positioned themselves as part of the progressive majority in Britain and as an anti-Tory party. All those Liberal Democrat voters and activists who see themselves in that light have no future in the Tory-led coalition and will tend to drift away. The Liberal Democrats will become what they in fact are: the Tories junior partner.

It seems that the revolution against the forward march of labour that began in 1979 will have at least three parts: High Thatcherism (1979-97), New Labour (1997-2010) and now the Tory-Liberal coalition. Not optimistic stuff, I’m afraid.

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