We live in interesting times. Here’s my take which reflects a post at the new Scottish politics site, Scotland Quo Vadis!
I rather despair of the sentiments being hurled across the floor of the Sccottish Parliament today. Many of use want a re-alignment of politics, want fair votes and thus want coalitions. That’s what we have in Holyrood. Why does the political class find it so amazing that it should happen at Westminster? I don’t buy the idea of betrayal of Lib Dem voters since this is the logic of their position on PR – you work with the coalition that gets you what you want. I think the situation now is interesting and different for a whole number of reasons and that stock responses may not be the most appropriate. Hereâ€™s why.
1. It is the first true coalition for over 70 years. The Lib Dems favour PR, as do many progressives, and there is huge pressure to make it work to demonstrate that coalition politics can work in Westminster as well as in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. Many of us have a stake in that success too (I am a member of the Scottish Green Party). Failure will mean the swing voters of middle England going back to the perceived certainties of tribal politics.
2. Coalition should provide better government. Just imagine a Tory government with a working majority after 13 years out of power and who it needs to appeal to.
3. The coalition is signed up to some very welcome political reforms – look at the civil liberties agenda for example – the Freedom Bill – fantastic – whatâ€™s not to like?! We will get our first Green member(s) of the House of Lords if it all goes to plan – just think of that…!!!
4. Some of us are Thatcher’s children and we perhaps should put aside our views on that era for a moment. There are some pretty unreconstructed dinosaurs from that era still in the Tory party BUT 2 things are important – first, many of them have left as a result of the expenses scandal and second, Cameron and his younger group of liberal conservatives know that the future lies well away from that brand of conservative politics. This is exactly the same calculus as Tony Blair made in 1990s
5. Above all, in comparison to the past, we now have a Scottish Parliament. That changes everything. The UK voted in a majority for Lib Dems and Tory and England also voted a majority Tory. So England gets the domestic policies it voted for and the UK gets a government with a majority of Uk votes.
6. I think that Cameron and Clegg are serious about forging a new politics because they see that the UK is a marginally centre right place and do honestly believe that politics needs to be fairer and more open.
So – I think we need to think carefully about how we engage with this new political landscape. I am not looking forward to the expected oppositionalist agenda of SNP and Labour deploring UK government cuts. Cuts there will be but at least we now have the opportunity to slice the smaller cake the way we want. As a self-employed writer and civic activist, I have seen how bloated and arrogant the public sector has become at all levels under the generous funding settlements of Gordon Browns cheap credit fuelled spending spree. We in Scotland never complained about that nor about rising house prices nor about cheap credit. Grown up politics means accepting that we all are in this mess together.
7. Above all, I think the coalition that has emerged offers more for Greens and other smaller parties than that which might have been forged with Labour who, as was apparent from their own unreconstructed dinosaurs, are implacably opposed to working with others and hostile to real political reform.
I make the above observations from the standpoint of one who is in terms of political philosophy about as far removed from the politics of the Lib Dem/Con coalition as it is possible to get.