That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Am I bovvered?

I’m beginning to wonder if Nick Clegg actually has a penchant for self-harm.

Nick Clegg: Coalition will go on even if electoral reform fails

Here is the man who co-pioneered Coalition Government in the UK, marching the Liberal Democrats into cabinet amidst great critical acclaim, and establishing, finally, that electoral reform would be put to the British people, and that a truly representative democratic system would emerge from the dreary status quo. Applause, excitement, huzzahs.

In a remarkable and unforgettable move back in May, in the midst of coalition negotiations, he even addressed a crowd of pro-electoral reform demonstrators, using a megaphone to promise he would not let them down.

How far we’ve come in three months. He seems unmoved in relinquishing every old Liberal Democrat devotion at the first opportunity – his approach offends his Parliamentary Party, it offends the Lib Dem local organisations, his own deputy leader, and most severely, his fragile base.

But to openly pontificate on whether or not electoral reform is really that big a deal after all…

“I wouldn’t have stood for the leadership of the Lib Dems if I thought the sole purpose in life was to change the electoral system.”

I don’t really think Clegg’s actually into self-harm. It’s more about a cackhanded strategy to appear, at all times, in control and happy as a pig in shit.

Are you happy with Tory cuts to public services and the VAT rise? Yes, yes, though I prefer to call these ideas “Liberal Democrat efficiencies.”
Are you happy with where you are in the polls? Couldn’t be happier. Polls are volatile, and that’s fine. Very happy. All part of the plan.
Would you be happy if you lost big-time at next years local elections? Oh, yes. Parties of government are prone to lose some support. I’d be upset if it didn’t happen, frankly. It will help us listen and learn.
Would you be happy if the most important policy ambition of your party, electoral reform, failed in the end? Pretty much, yes. No biggie. Lots of other ways to be useful, you know.

He knows, as we all know, that even should electoral reform make it to referendum and survive Tory rebel scuppers, that the public are more than likely to reject the reforms in their growing distaste for the Lib Dems themselves. It’s a tragedy unfolding in slow motion. But, rather than mitigate this disaster in advance, Clegg instead just wants to appear as though everything that happens is part of the Liberal Democrat masterplan.

He must be utterly deaf to the outrage in his party and across his broad (and shallow) support base – essentially, he appears to be giving up already. Perhaps Simon Hughes will lead the party putsch before May 2011 – I can’t see how it would hurt.

Filed under: Politics, UK, , , ,

The Liberal obsession

Imagine Obama dealing with the Gulf oil spill by saying “Dubya handled Katrina much worse than this.” Would Americans accept that as an answer? Is that the language of leadership, or of someone who actually wants the job? Because it seems to work for Stephen Harper.

Here we are in the year 2010 – the future is indeed upon us. Yet, you open the newspaper to find that the Conservatives are still trotting out the bogeyman of the “sponsorship scandal” in their vast arsenal of anti-Liberal talking points. It begs the question: how do we explain Conservative obsession with the Liberal Party?

Perhaps both wings of the modern Conservative movement have inherited their own unique reasons. The Progressive Conservative wing (such that it is) were effectively destroyed by the Liberals in the 1990s. The humiliation of going from the party of government to unofficial party status in one fell swoop is certainly enough to breed a lust for vengeance as powerful as any comic book villain.

The Reformers were always a party of opposition – not only regarding their status in the House of Commons, but at the core of their manifesto. Like the Bloc, they were a regionalist, anti-establishment party. So, you oppose, you moan, you criticise, and you do so without any of the cumbersome responsibilities of ever aspiring to represent more than your base, of ever being the establishment.

Now add those humiliated Red Tories from the PC days to the froth-mouthed anti-everything Reformers, and you have a party populated by people who’s primary unifying feature is their obsessive hatred for the Liberals. Not by a common vision for the country that they seem to share – but by a dark, angry desire to squeeze the pride out of their vanquished enemy for its own sake. It’s bloodsport, not simply as a political means, but as a political end as well.

After four years in government, though, it doesn’t really do for the Conservatives to continue behaving like an opposition party. When facing challenges over political interference in appointments of public officials, which is a charge Harper’s facing this week, the PMO can’t simply change the channel and talk about Liberal mistakes of a decade ago. When, in a time of fiscal restraint, they blow $10 billion on super-prisons to lock up fictional criminals, they can’t simply accuse the Liberals of softness on the crimeness. They talk as if Ottawa’s the problem – without admitting that they are Ottawa.

Attack ads work, and negativity works. Sad but true – paint your opponent as a monster and some of that shite will stick. But the point’s going to come when Harper loses out through this negative obsessive anti-Liberal strategy as he increasingly comes off as someone with nothing very positive to say about his own party, and someone whose reactive, contrarian language betrays a desire to just go back to being an opponent again. Well Steve, as ever, we’re happy to help.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,


August 2010

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