Shit on toast

Like I suppose most of you reading this, I’m feeling a bit depressed tonight. Awful as New Labour has been in many ways, the return of Tory government will do that to you. I’ll reflect on the Tories when I’m feeling a bit less dyspeptic. What I will say tonight is, I hope all those lefties who fell for Cleggmania and have spent the last three or four weeks boosting the Fib Dims are feeling a bit silly now. Because anyone who was paying attention could have seen this coming.

Yes, you know who you are. You let your enthusiasm run away with you. You wanted to believe we were still in 2005, with that nice antiwar Charlie Kennedy taking a stance to the left of Labour. You didn’t think the Orange Book was of any importance. You assumed they were a left-liberal party, even as they said they were a liberal party. You dismissed out of hand the suggestion that Nick Clegg was basically a dispositional Tory who couldn’t exist in the Tory Party purely because of its stance on Europe. You found that nice Vince Cable so reassuring, at least if you just listened to his soothing voice and didn’t pay too much attention to what he was saying. You were impressed by Evan Harris, with his groovy ideas about euthanasia and libel reform. And didn’t they look fresh and shiny and new?

It was so easy, wasn’t it, to see the Lib Dems as you wanted them. All you needed to know was that they weren’t the other two. If you were of a left-liberal disposition, it was so tempting to envision the Lib Dems as being like Labour only better – without the war and authoritarianism, without the dreadful Gordon Brown and all his grey placemen, without those boring trade unions – but new and hip and young, like Labour only without the disadvantages. And even as Cleggy signalled for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that he was going to go with the Tories, you could allow yourself – just for a few days – to dream of the progressive majority. Well, we all make errors of judgement. When you’re finished shouting at the TV, you should take a deep breath, put the kettle on and think things over.

Meanwhile, let’s just ponder something. What we can look forward to, and (though God knows I don’t credit the Labour leadership with any initiative) what might make things interesting, is the inevitable Lib Dem civil war. David Alton may be yesterday’s man, but he has been a sharp observer of Liberal politics for a very long time and his thoughts are worth pondering. On a more prosaic level, even if Clegg can keep his fractious MPs in line, he’s got his party activists to think about – and beyond them, the voters.

There’s a basic psephological point here. The Lib Dems benefit a lot from tactical voting, as we know. Since they failed to make the much-anticipated breakthrough against Labour in the northern cities, their MPs tend to sit for rural and suburban constituencies in the south. Their main rivals in those seats are the Tories; twice as many Lib Dem MPs have a Tory as their nearest challenger as a Labourite. They benefit rather a lot from squeezing Labour votes on the basis that they are the best-placed anti-Tory candidates. So, how easy will fighting elections on an anti-Tory basis be now? And that’s without considering Simon Hughes or Sarah Teather, who have held off Labour challenges on the basis of positioning themselves to Labour’s left. Hughes’ seat is safe, but I fear wee Sarah may be toast.

One thing about the maths. The Lib Dems hold 57 seats in the Commons. If we take majorities of less than 10% – which is to say seats that would be vulnerable on a 5% swing – as being marginal, that encompasses a full 27 of those 57, and some of those majorities are very small indeed. If pissed-off Lib Dem voters decamp to Labour or the Greens in any numbers – or if some choose to vote real Tory rather than ersatz Tory – then Cleggy had better hope that he gets PR as part of the deal. With PR, he could lose half his votes and come out ahead in terms of seats. Without PR, the Lib Dems could be Donald Ducked in a very serious way.

And oh yes, he’d better hope that law on fixed-term parliaments is rushed through quickly, for if I was Nick Clegg I wouldn’t want to be facing my voters any time soon.

46 Comments

  1. Madam Miaow said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Excellent post, Splinty.

    And you make an interesting point about the Lib Dems’ vulnerable seats.

  2. Doloras LaPicho said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

    But how do you read the fact that it was the ultra-Blairites (Mandelson, Blunkett, Reid etc) who scuppered the “progressive coalition”?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      May 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

      Reid really really hates the SNP, and I’ve long since given up trying to understand Mr Brightside. Anyway, I think Clegg had made his decision.

      • Doloras LaPicho said,

        May 12, 2010 at 12:37 am

        Watching the tactical voters ragequitting the LibDems all over Twitter/Facebook is freakin’ hilarious. Still, the voters who voted for the actual LibDem manifesto (aka the Orange Book) will have nothing to complain about, and that will probably be the party’s natural base of support under PR.

  3. Jim said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Spot on Splinty. In the south west, the Lib Dems are now toast. The clock is now ticking down til all these traitors (of essentially left leaning tactical voters) are ex-MPs.

    • neilcaff said,

      May 12, 2010 at 1:23 am

      If the Labour Party plays it’s cards right in the next two years it might find itself with a number of expanded CLP’s in the south west or even defecting MP’s as the activists who bought into the ‘left of Labour’ look around for a new home.

      • Jim said,

        May 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm

        I think that may well be the case, although in some places it would actually create a local Labour Party where previously there wasn’t really one. Labour are now going to pose left, even if they would have done much of what the ConDems are now going to do, unfortunately that may work very well for them, and create a difficulty for the genuine Left. Not an insurmountable one though, as in parts of the country other than the south west, it will be Labour councils administering cuts at a local level.

  4. robert said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Presumably they hope they’ve got five years and by then the economy will be recovering and enough people will have forgotten the savage cuts of 2011 and the betrayal of left tactical voters. But I won’t have forgotten. These Orange Book free market creeps need to be terminated. My guess is the Libs will become far more hated than the Tories. We don’t expect anything else from Tories.

  5. May 12, 2010 at 1:29 am

    […] is great from Splintered Sunrise. I am going to be cheeky and quote the whole thing, because it has exactly the right mix of anger […]

  6. andy newman said,

    May 12, 2010 at 1:58 am

    we don’t have to wait for five years, the Liberals will be severely punished in local government elections next year, which will make their MPs very jumpy.

  7. Jon said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Not to mention the Scottish Parliamentary election… I reckon both the SNP and Labour will benefit from a collapse in the Liberal vote.

  8. prianikoff said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I’m not feeling depressed at all.
    I’m kind of … gloating.

    My guess is that the Liberals have just destroyed themselves as a party.
    The Labour left have emerged stronger and the Tories have shown that they’re no longer capable of ruling on their own.

    I think I might have been more depressed if the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ had come about, because it would have been an utter bodge-up inheriting an economic disaster.

    Whereas now, there’s an utter bodge-up inheriting an economic disaster.

    .

    • Harry Monro said,

      May 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

      I’m with you on the first two, every turn of the last few days has had me laughing. I think the Libs will face particular problems in Scotland.
      However I’m not convinced about a left revival in Labour yet. Balls v Miliband – can anyone tell them apart (I’m presuming Harriot hasn’t a chance)? However even a bit of rhetoric about resisting the cuts will help the battle on the ground, even if it comes from people who were doing the dirty a few months ago. But this is still the Labour Party of Baron Mandy.

    • Madam Miaow said,

      May 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      I hope you’re right about the Labour Left being empowered. Trouble is, the media are shoving warmonger Cruddas at us as the left champion, just in case this does have legs, and ignoring McDonnell.

      • May 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

        That Crudd-ass motherfucker is likely to be as left as it gets, sadly. I don’t think the media will even get the chance to do a number on McDonnell.

        D-Mil has declared with the following clarion call: Key for me is to build Labour as a movement for change.

        Hold on, I thought the other two were for change? And how does he know what he wants to change when the Torycrats haven’t been in long enough to have changed anything?

  9. DC said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Its obvious why Reid and Blunkett were opposed to the coalition-in Scotland and the North of England Labour get a massive seat bonus from FPTP, particularly at local level. Its why they still have over 200 seats. On a purely partisan level, since neither Reid nor Blunkett are anything but arch-“modernisers”, its clear why the one thing the Lib Dems absolutely had to have-PR-would be unacceptable to them.

    It wasnt a victory for the left. It was a victory for Labour machine politics, which has plenty of life in it. Of course Clegg wanted a coalition with the Tories, since they threw the kitchen sink at the talks, and they have a herd of new MPs who havent developed a personal following or an institutional interest, so a PR referendum would be easier to force through. Labours local barons, on the other hand, would have every reason to buck the whip.

  10. prianikoff said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Blimey, I’ve just been checking Nick Clegg’s biography on wikipedia.
    It’s even worse than I thought;

    “Clegg was born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, in 1967.. His father, Nicholas Clegg CBE, is chairman of United Trust Bank, and is a trustee of The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, where Ken Clarke was an adviser. Clegg’s paternal grandmother, Kira von Engelhardt, was a Russian Baroness whose German-Russian aristocratic family fled the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Clegg’s paternal grandfather, Hugh Anthony Clegg was the editor of the British Medical Journal for 35 years. Clegg’s great-great-grandfather, the Russian nobleman Ignaty Zakrevsky, was attorney general of the imperial Russian senate.
    His background has informed his politics. He says, “There is simply not a shred of racism in me, as a person whose whole family is formed by flight from persecution, from different people in different generations. It’s what I am. It’s one of the reasons I am a liberal.”[15] His Dutch mother instilled in him “a degree of scepticism about the entrenched class configurations in British society”.[16]
    Clegg was educated at the private Caldicott School at Farnham Royal in South Buckinghamshire, and later at the private Westminster School in London. As a 16-year-old exchange student in Munich, Germany, he was punished with community service, after he and a friend burned a collection of cacti belonging to a professor. ”
    (Well, O.K. the last bit was quite funny in a nasty sort of way.)

    I’m thinking that the Cameron-Clegg relationship will be a bit like a Senior Prefect and Fag in a Boys’ Public School.
    “Toast me a Muffin Clegg, there’s a good fellow”

  11. CharlieMcmenamin said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    @prianikoff #8

    It’s Harrow’s Headteacher I feel for.

    With Eton and Westminster represented in the top jobs how is s/he going to look prospective parents in the eye and argue its worth investing so much money in a Harrow education rather than going with the brand leaders?

    • prianikoff said,

      May 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Westminster’s the cheap seats in terms of fees; £28,344 per annum
      Harrow £28,500, compared to Eton’s £30,000.
      I’ve noticed that Harrow has an increasing percentage of Asian pupils these days, compared to the almost none when we used to do cross country over the hill and try to push the boatered toffs into the gutter.

  12. johng said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I feel oddly chipper. The Labour leadership (whoever they may turn out to be) will continue to tack right, continue to act the ‘responsible party of government’ (ie back cuts) but I strongly suspect that many who allowed themselves to be pressured to keep quiet to defend an unloved Labour government against a hated prospective Tory one, will be much less minded to shut up. I think this bodes well for anti-cuts campaigns and interesting times in the Trade Union movement. The opposition to the bosses plans (and how overjoyed they are about having their old pals back to stick the boot in) potentially just got bigger. Thats the only progressive alliance the left should be interested in. The Lib dems have revealed their true colours and I think they’ll rue the day. I’m also finding amusing endless establishment guff about the wonders of the British unwritten constitution and ‘smooth transitions’. They don’t have a lot else to shout about…oh and, when it comes to the possibility of breaks to the left of labourism politically: I suspect the likely tensions inside the labour movement in the coming period are likely to provide a new terrain of argument..

    • harry monro said,

      May 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

      Obviously agree about the Liberals but I think they can cover themselves with some of their base, firstly the civil rights line (ID cards etc) and even on the cuts they’ll argue Labour would have done the same, most cynical punters will not find that too hard to swallow. So until the big cuts start to bite they’ll hold together. More importantly for the Liberal leadership their new immigration policies might piss off some activists but may well please many English liberals.
      However on the TU leaders! Thatcher gave us the labourist version of TINA and Blairism. Shrinking membership doesn’t bother them they just creat bigger merged unions to preserve their jobs, even international mergers are the thing of the future. When Thatcher went for the unions she left the miners alone an mopped up the steelworkers and others. I wonder if Davenik has a similar cuts strategy; and all the time Labour leaders will paying homage to the non-existant constitution, and the finacial market. Its a long and winding road.

  13. Bill said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Judging by the last post to this blog, in the phrase “You could allow yourself – just for a few days – to dream of the progressive majority” the word “you” should be replaced by the word “I”.

  14. Cian said,

    May 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I think Scottish independence looks more likely.

  15. David Ellis said,

    May 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Perhaps Clegg is banking on the long term decline of the Tories. Might end up with a non-aggression pact when it comes to elections and the two parties will eventually become one pro-Monarchy `Republican’ Party. So much for PR but certainly such a secenario would cement the rule of the Lib Con party for some time under STV, a much reduced number of constituencies and state funding of political parties. The key for them now is to make sure that the bulk of the cuts fall on the poor, the sick, the young, unionised workers, non-unionised workers, the unemployed, the unemployed to come, the public sector etc. Welcome to the dictatorship of the middle classes and we all thought it would come with jackboots and concentrations camps. Not yet. That may come when not the cutting but the liberalism becomes tiresome.

  16. johng said,

    May 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    what liberalism will that be then?

  17. David Ellis said,

    May 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Precisely, in the age of monopoly there can be no real liberalism. It will be the liberalism of the tongue, of the glossy paint, of the blurred hand and it will eventaully piss everybody off. It just depends who can harness that when it comes.

  18. weserei said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    It’s hard to see any of this ending well for the Liberal Democrats, even if AV goes through. Looking to the rest of Europe, junior partners in a coalition rarely gain votes at the next election. If the government does well in public opinion, they bleed supporters to the head of government’s own party. If the government does poorly, they bleed supporters to the opposition.

    In Ireland since the formation of Fine Gael, junior coalition partners have gained vote are 2 times, lost vote share 9 times, and stayed flat 2 times. In Germany since World War II, junior partners are a less lopsided but still negative 7-12. In the Netherlands since WWII, it’s 11-25-2.

    I’m eager to see a voting intention poll for the next election.

  19. magistra said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I’m one of the people who Splinty thinks ought now to be howling with rage at Nick Clegg, someone left-leaning who voted Liberal Democrat this time. But there’s one thing he’s forgotten. The majority of the seats in this country are safe seats and I live in one of them: my Tory MP has been there since 1983, before I was able to vote. The only hope I have of my vote ever counting is if the electoral system is changed. Given that there was no realistic chance of the Labour party being willing and able to change the system now, the choice was between a Conservative minority government and the Lib-Con pact. I think a Conservative minority party brought down rapidly by the opposition would just turn people even more off Labour and the Liberals (most people don’t like elections, it’s just us political nerds who do), and we’d have ended up with a Conservative majority at the next election. With those alternatives, a Lib-Con pact which may help mitigate the worst aspects of the Tories and which has at least some chance of bringing electoral reform seems the best choice of a bad bunch.

    • David Ellis said,

      May 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm

      `The majority of the seats in this country are safe seats and I live in one of them: my Tory MP has been there since 1983, before I was able to vote.’

      It’s about to get safer.

  20. harry monro said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    From the BBC, news of the Viceroy
    -Mr Paterson has been a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland since then and has built up a network of contacts with political parties, business organisations and community groups.
    He was a prime mover in his party’s electoral link up with the Ulster Unionist Party and personally campaigned in a number of constituencies including Strangford and East Belfast.
    Speaking after his appointment, he denied his relationship with the Ulster Unionists could lead to difficulties with other parties.
    “I don’t see a problem at all,” he said.-

  21. May 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    […] to inscribe slave morality into the situation. Take, for instance, the rhetoric on display in a recent post on this topic at the Splintered Sunrise blog: I hope all those lefties who fell for Cleggmania and […]

  22. robert said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    So the people vote UCUNF down and still get a UCUNF Viceroy

  23. May 13, 2010 at 12:30 am

    […] Huhne”?). For, more or less, all the reasons that Splintered Sunrise lists in paragraph 2 of this post. But I drifted away from them before I was old enough to […]

  24. Mordaunt said,

    May 13, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Broadly speaking I agree with Magistra. With the caveat that after the last thirteen years I find myself unable to regret that the Labour Party are on the opposition benches.

    One other point. For most ordinary working people a government which raises the income tax threshold to £10k is going to be more likeable than the government which abolished the 10p tax band. I think that might even sell on the streets of Brent.

  25. David Ellis said,

    May 13, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Yes Mordaunt but it ain’t happening. Tax threshold will go up 1K next year which it undoubtedly would have anyway and the 10k threshold is a five year ambition of our wonderful new government. Oh and we won’t be getting PR either thank god.

    • Cian said,

      May 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      I think that without PR you can probably kiss a serious leftwing party goodbye.

      • robert said,

        May 13, 2010 at 7:52 pm

        neither Tory nor Labour will support PR because it isn’t in their interest. Maybe if Scotland went independent the English Labour party would be forced to do a deal with the liberals on PR if it was ever to gain power again.

  26. David Ellis said,

    May 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

    With wages pegged and inflation taking off a 10k tax threshold by the end of this parliament (and we could have expected it to be greater than that under normal circumstances) will actually represent a substantial tax hike but one that has been dressed up as a tax cut.

    VAT on food anybody?

    Oh, and though we won’t get PR (awwwwh) we will get some truely magnificent additions to our marvellous democracy thanks to Clegg including 55% of MPs needed to bring down the government and fixed 5 year terms so that we can’t get rid of them.

    • weserei said,

      May 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm

      “Oh, and though we won’t get PR (awwwwh) we will get some truely magnificent additions to our marvellous democracy thanks to Clegg including 55% of MPs needed to bring down the government and fixed 5 year terms so that we can’t get rid of them.”

      Can’t these laws, even if passed, just be repealed later on if a majority of Parliament turns against the Government? Under parliamentary sovereignty doctrine, I don’t see any way to make changes like these stick.

  27. May 13, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Surely there will be no way to defeat this Government without Labour shifting significantly to the Left? Why would anyone vote for – for example – David Milliband when they’ve already got Nick Clegg? I can’t imagine the Mandelson tendency being in any position to lead an actual fight against the inevitable public sector cuts. (And, unfortunately, you’d better hope Labour does lead this fight, because the left-of-Labour simply doesn’t have the troops on the ground to do so, or the political skills to actually lead a real mass upsurge.)

    • neilcaff said,

      May 14, 2010 at 1:26 am

      I hope I don’t sound patronising but I think a lot of the problem with the ‘reclaim the Labour Party’ idea is that people honestly don’t understand what the Labour Party machine is like and how it will react to even a hint of the Left (and by that I mean an actuall left prepared to put up a real fight in deeds as well as words) gaining even a fraction of influence in the party. In a single word, expulsion.

      To understand what will happen I really do recommend (not just for partisan reasons) reading the chapters on the witch hunt of Militant member in the ‘The Rise of Militant’, it’s online somewhere. Things have only gotten worse in the intervening period. And if you think things have changed then just look at what has happened to the left in Unison. This witch hunt is being carried out by card carrying members of the Labour Party machine using methods first learned against the Militant in the 80’s. In Greenwich, one of the branches that are now under under control of the national office, all meetings of Greenwich Unison are banned under pain disciplinary procedures. This means no branch meetings, no officers meeting, no stewards meetings, no meetings with the membership to discuss case work. One meeting has taken place since it was put into administration, the Labour Link meeting (two ordinary members showed up, one to say he was leaving the Labour Party!) And all of this when Unison members are staring down the barell of the biggest public sector cuts since the 1930’s.

      Now bad and all as that is Unison is actually more democratic that the Labour Party.
      This will be the fate of CLP’s or DLP’s that actually manages to get a real fighting left leadership (and the scale of the cuts calls for nothing less) it will be taken over by the national office and the leading members will be expelled.

      For sure the left of Labour isn’t in great shape and it’s hard to see things pulling together. Maybe there will be a movement of workers into the LP to try and change it but tbh it’s when you know what the LP machine is capable of and the lenghts it will go to to stop a revival of the left then it puts the prospect of the LP leading the fightback into it’s proper context.

  28. May 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    And we may also find that the Tory-Liberal coalition has a long honeymoon and that it is New labour which is left not knowing what to do.

    Clegg of course may be double-crossed by the Tories but we will have to see.

    The point is what the left intends to do, apart from conduct its usual wars (with itself).

  29. robert said,

    May 14, 2010 at 1:36 am

    The fact is that New Labour were, in The Times words, a continuation of Thatcherism by other means. They trumpeted a minimum wage that was all too often the maximum, but there was little improvement in employment law. New Labour’s privatisations were no different in principle from the Tories and they managed to get themselves into the position whereby Boris Johnson wants to take control of the tube and New Labour wants PPP.

    But in many ways the most shocking aspect of New Labour, apart from its wars, were its attitude to civil liberties. The list is too long to ennumerate but it will not be forgotten that they removed asylum seekers entirely from social security benefits once their applications had been refused. And to ensure that they wouldn’t get asylum their legal aid was also removed, bar a few paltry hours. Just small things like seeking to deport women in fear of genital mutilation, until the House of Lords stepped in.

    Or what do we say about the Tories and Liberals ending the imprisonment of children of asylum seekers? Or ID cards?

    Until New Labour is eliminated there should be no tears at the demise of the Labour government.

  30. johng said,

    May 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    “Or what do we say about the Tories and Liberals ending the imprisonment of children of asylum seekers? Or ID cards?”

    I would say that to have illusions in new labour is tragic. But to have illusions in the Liberal Democrats or the Tories (or the Liberal Democrats and the Tories) is frankly surreal.

  31. andy newman said,

    May 14, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Does anyone really think that the con-dem government is going to be less harsh on immigrants than labour?

  32. harry monro said,

    May 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    agreed John but it is likely that on various “soft” issues the Tories/Libs will seek to appease the Liberal supporters. Having lost out on Nuclear power giving the Liberals crumbs on civil liberties will not be impossible. But they will be crumbs and no more, as the phone call from Obama indicates the US empire will expect the Tories/Liberals to be as craven as Labour (I don’t think its possible to be more craven). So all the war on terror/war on drugs will continue. Personally, given what a crawler Brown was, I was amused to see how much he was disliked by the Emperor; according to the US press.


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