May 11, 2010 Leave a comment
After six days of haggling we finally have a new Prime Minister. To no one’s great surprise it’s David Cameron, though at the head of a Conservative-Liberal coalition rather than a minority government. The Lib Dems evidently found the lure of high office irresistible, though they will no doubt talk nobly about “The National Interest” as they try to explain their sorry sell-out. I guess they must be confident that the concession they have extracted from the Tories on reforming the voting system – the promise of a referendum on AV – can be converted into some sort of concrete change before we all go to the polls again. In my view this is very optimistic – the Tory party (and a large part of the Labour party) are implacably opposed to PR in any form, and will surely work hard, along with their allies in the media, to ensure there is a “No” vote in any plebiscite on the issue.
In exchange for this vague nod towards reform, and perhaps other compromises on some details of economic policy that will emerge in time, the Lib Dems are identifying themselves with an administration that seems likely to embark on the most savage attack on working-class living standards in at least 30 years. The Tories may have made promises about protecting vital services, but now they are in power they will be able to claim that the public finances are in much worse state than they had thought, and push though cuts on a scale that no one has imagined. The Lib Dems may hope that their presence in government may put a brake on the worst of the Tory excesses, but in reality they will have no leverage other than threatening to quit the coalition and bring the government down, probably precipitating fresh elections in which they would risk being wiped out as disillusioned voters punished them for their perfidy.
Labour, in my opinion, has taken the sensible option of a spell in opposition, gathering strength for the next election, which may well be sooner rather than later. This of course does leave the population exposed to the depredations of the Tories, but the alternative – trying to hang on to power as part of an unstable “rainbow coalition” – would probably have ended with an early election and a Tory majority. The risk is of course that some external event will help the Tories get re-elected, in the way the Falklands war saved Thatcher from probable defeat in 1983, and condemn us to decades of misery.
There’s nothing else to be done now though, except to agitate and organise, and try to make the new government’s life as short and difficult as possible.