Wednesday 12 May 2010

The Refreshment Moment

The whole day had political developments under view, including via the computer when not directly via television. The other Nick (or 'Bilko' as I call him) was popping up all over the place and he was right earlier on as he read the wind direction towards the coalition. As he also wrote, John Prescott arguing for Labour and the Liberal Democrats together was a sure sign that such a possibility was over.

I was going out to my weekly pub visit as Brown was resigning, to pick up my Hessle friend and drive over to Sutton-Ings. There I got a doorstep half-jokey arm-gestured "**** off you!" because the Liberal Democrats had gone into coalition with the Conservatives and allowed Cameron to be Prime Minister. It seems Gordon Brown went slightly earlier than he might, a sort of final and fairly ineffective gesture of not giving the transition its own timing. I'm surprised to be told by friends that he is resigning as an MP [not so]: Blair went completely as he handed over power to his friend, but perhaps Brown should have told his constituency that his election was conditional on being Prime Minister.

What some had said in the Labour Party had reached the top and changed the outlook of its negotiators. Even under collective cabinet responsibility Andy Burnham had said that David Blunkett had made very valuable points (to go into opposition), and it was clear that people were thinking about the next leader. The Labour Party had simply decided to fold its hand and itself.

I am pleased, actually, that the Liberal Democrats are in government, and that they have done it properly. A supply and confidence basis was not enough. Friends said I am a Tory, but, no, I'm to the left, the libertarian left: and what do they want - a Cameron government off on its own or one moderated by Liberal Democrats?

The fact is that democratic politics cleverly rotates its elites, and that is what has happened today. There is thus a refreshment to the political system, including through the unusual features of this occupancy. Although the intention is for a fixed five year parliament, nothing can prevent a breakdown in a government, and then the Prime Minister retains the constitutional right to dissolve parliament (the Monarch's powers in him). So if backbenchers of either party start to misbehave as the going gets tough, the government could fail. My friends give it a short time only. I think it may last longer. An important point is the coalition politics is more fluid, and it has to give and take, and it surely acknowledges that it is more difficult to have party discipline over two parties not one. Those strains may also be ways to a proportional voting system in the future, where the tendencies can become more visible but compromise within government.

Political novices are about to learn fast. Cameron and Osborne won't have the detailed knowledge and power of a Gordon Brown, who knew where the bodies were buried and how the machines worked in detail. But they have to tackle a deficit that won't be easy or pleasant, and let's be under no illusions: the public sector is productive because it produces wanted utility, and it orders goods and services from the private sector. My Hessle friend works in the public sector dependent privatised services. The cuts will reduce the economic output of this country, and there'll be little fun or benefit from this government.

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