Friday, 28 May 2010

Let's Set Fire to Tears

Following the #bbcqt hash tag on Twitter is one of the great entertainments of the week. Yesterday's programme didn't let me down as Alistair Campbell without any sense of irony repeated Malcom Tucker's scriptwriter's joke about David Laws being a Bond villain from last week's Have I Got News for You without any attribution. Life really has started to imitate art... or maybe The Thick of It has political reality more nailed on than we ever dared to hope?

One of the audience members on BBC Question Time put up a rather odd argument for Lab-Lib coalition and that was that the country had voted for a left of centre alliance. It is undoubtedly a position that many Labour supporters genuinely feel is the case but it is quite wrong. For it to be true, you have to believe that the current Labour party is left of centre in the first place. It is demonstrably not and the only evidence that they give to justify calling themselves that is the introduction of the minimum wage which could equally have come from a right wing think tank paper demanding Government should stop subsidising businesses with welfare.

Indeed as the Political Compass web site shows there is no left of centre position in mainstream British politics and previous Labour and Tory fights over white van man can be seen in terms of a straight forward authoritorian right of centre tussle.

Within that framework, Orange book liberalism did not see the Lib Dems move significantly towards the right because the social democratic core has had a damping effect on runaway liberalism. I am instinctively a liberal, but am indebted to the social democrats in the party for dragging me back to reality! It's why the idea of coalition is not a problem for Lib Dems, we have faced the idea of accomodation of other positions within a broad set of principles for far longer than any of the other main parties. It's what happens when each year our leaders have to democratically take the party with them instead of relying on behind the scenes stitch-ups.

On the other hand for both Tories and Labour their members have dealt with internal conflicts of opinion like Thatcherism or nuLabour with those not subscribing to the change closing their eyes and ears and believing loyalty to the tribe or brand as more important. It's why Dennis Skinner can see no contradiction in him staying in a party which left his core beliefs over a decade ago and sees unions pouring millions of pounds into a party that is at best neutral and often hostile to their own members' interests. Many Conservatives face the same scenario where politically they are more allied with UKIP than their own leadership, but instead hang on in there hoping the tide will turn for them.

The downside is that we have to accept that we won't get our way on everything within a coalition framework, but it is one reason why a democratic and strong party has the most to gain from new politics. If you can define your party by what you are for rather than what you are against, you have a far better chance of bossing the agenda. Which then begs the question: what does the Labour Party stand for? I genuinely no longer know the answer to that.

1 comment:

The Druid said...

My favourite bit of the evening actually came in This Week, when it was put to Blears that the Queen Speech detailed a legislative programme that Blair would dearly love to have given, were it not for Brown and some other obstacles in his party.

"He would certainly have liked some of it," Blears replied.

"Some of it? Which bits do you think he wouldnt have liked?" asked Neil.

"Er.... well.... er.... some of the bits....." came the reply.

Davis had to jump in to point out he probably wouldnt have liked the bits repealing some of his own legislation.

To be fair to Labour, I think they know what they stand for, they just have no idea how to deliver it.