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

Tories vs Republicans

An interesting sketch of the widening abyss between American Republicans and British Tories – two strands of conservatism that barely recognise each other anymore. The UK currently has a Conservative PM that, for all his fiscal draconianism, expresses only the barest of social-conservative principles as compared with the Tea Party, or the Reform Party up north.

Where would Harperites fit on this spectrum? Or is that just too depressing to contemplate?

Unlike Margaret Thatcher, British Conservatives no longer echo Ronald Reagan’s view that government is the problem not the solution.

But the important point is this: Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan shared a governing philosophy: ideology and pragmatism. Ideology was great for speech-making and letting people know what you thought, pragmatism was necessary for governing. As American and British Conservatives drift apart, like Gondwana and Pangaea, it seems that American Republicans have let go of their pragmatic inheritance.

Without pragmatic respect for what previous governments have done, can they really be considered “conservative” in the true meaning of the term?

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

An earthquake in Esquimalt

The political ground is set to quiver in my old stomping grounds, as Liberal MP Keith Martin won’t be seeking re-election in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. Some will call this a blow to Michael Ignatieff, as Martin has been an enduring figure in the riding for 17 years. To lose a stalwart is, perhaps, exactly as bad as it seems. It’s not as though he’s announcing other plans except to say that there’s a need for “fresh blood.”

Esquimalt’s affection for Martin has carried him through his career, much more than any clear local partisan bias has. He was elected as a Reform MP, elected as an Alliance MP, and elected as a Liberal MP. In some recent contests, he snuck past a close Conservative second-place challenger, in others he snuck past a close second-place NDP challenger. The nature of the riding is typically British Columbian – a genuinely fickle three-party race in which personality and timing can matter as much as ideology.

Every party has swung wildly there (in more ways than one AHEM), and though 2008’s contest was extraordinarily close, with the Tories closing to within a percentage point and the NDP appearing to have hemmoraged a 6% swing to the Greens, Martin himself remained the X Factor embodied.

Without him contesting, there is absolutely no calling the next race. The Liberals lose out on his local staying power, but have the Cons squandered too much in recent months/years to make a strong showing again? Will the Greens usurp the NDP as the next biggest challenger, to third or even second, what with neighbouring Saanich-Gulf Islands to be such a high profile contest for the Greens with Elizabeth May? (who bets that she’s spending her evening swearing at herself, wishing she’d held off from declaring Saanich and swooping into Esquimalt instead?)

Yes to all of it. Esquimalt is quite a constituency. It’s home to Canada’s Pacific fleet and houses a high proportion of navy families (the first Tim Horton’s I ever knew of in the Victoria area was in Esquimalt, precisely to feed the Nova Scotian “ex-pats”). It has poorer quarters occupied by some of Victoria’s working-class “values conservatives” as well working families under NDP economic tutelage. There are plenty of students and young Victorians with a distinctly granola edge to them, but they have a predictably unpredictable turnout rate. The mixture hardly makes it a bellwether – but it does make it interesting.

Look for each party to put up the best names they can in 2011-12… the hunt, I imagine, begins now (Michaelle? Calling Michaelle?).

UPDATE: Have just read Red Tory Liberal’s take on Martin’s resignation – interestinger and interestinger. BC Liberals will doubtlessly be looking for an “outsider” without the nasty HST taint to fill Campbell’s boots, and that means a federal politician with the Blue Liberal credentials. Hum!

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

Scientalific evidamence

Panicked into embarrassment over Arctic inaction, I suppose? Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon today announces he has something he calls “scientific evidence” that supports Canada’s claim over the Lomonosov Ridge.

Scientific evidence! Wow. That sounds quite fancy. Real scientists, getting real evidence. Wearing lab coats, adjusting spectacles, nodding at maps… acting all sciency.

I wonder if Cannon could give us a teaser as to what new evidence he’s excited about? Or is he possibly just trying to appear to be doing something, anything constructive in the Arctic the day after Russia and Norway resolve a border dispute?

I remember John McCain during the Presidential debates:

“I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him. I’ll get him no matter what, and I know how to do it.”

Like Lawrence Cannon, if he had a real clue, you think he’d have shared it.

With the Russia-Norway deal demonstrating what progress looks like, Ottawa needed to ratchet up the tone and appear to be “progressing” on its own Arctic file. As so often, getting this tone right trumps getting the actual scientific evidence. Just ask Munir Sheikh.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , ,

A page from Maxime’s book?

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – Maxime Bernier’s come out swinging against the Colisée funding proposal – I can’t help but wish the Liberals had taken the same position.

If they had, they’d have come off as 1) the sensible economists with a masterplan, versus the spendthrift, giddy, erratic Conservatives, and 2) ballsy enough to be able to say no to Québec projects once in a while. And I don’t think that would have cost them dramatically in la Belle Province… like anyone, the Québécois can appreciate that Ottawa isn’t really there to build NHL rinks.

Ignatieff came out of the summer bus tour full of piss and vinegar, sleeves rolled up, and with a mean glint in his eye. It was good. The Liberals need now to follow through with tough, united, defensible opposition to dumb Harper moves like this – not seem cowed into agreement, for fear of what retribution opposition might bring.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

The Conservatives’ latest own goal

Curiouser and curiouser. We know the extent to which Stephen Harper drives for total message control – so the sight of a group of Québec Conservative MPs in Nordique jerseys and thumbs up could mean (at least) one of two things:

1) Harper’s sanctioned funding for a new Colisée already – out of panicked desperation for something “feel-good” he can do, but we all see it’s another sign he’s lost his supposed “shrewdness” and is blowing any remaining reputation as someone committed to fiscal restraint during a time of deficit, or

2) J.-P. Blackburn and his Québec colleagues are going a bit rogue here – trying to force the PMO’s hand by whipping up Québec excitement in advance of a decision. A new sign of party rifts.

Either way, Harper now seems damned whatever he does. He’ll infuriate most of Canada if federal funding goes ahead for it, and he’ll humiliate his Québec caucus (along with any tentative voter support in Quebec) if he doesn’t. He’ll violently confuse his Reformer base if he’s seen freewheeling on a bread-and-circuses agenda and kissing boots in Québec while taking the west for granted, but equally he’ll come off as indecisive and not in control if he backs away from this now.

Perhaps there will be a national programme for arena development, so that the Québec pandering charge loses its stick. But does he really want to come off as a Johnny-Manley-come-lately?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

Stirring the hot pot

Labour has several reasons to be furious these days. But, it has to be said, they’re being clever with that fury, and they’re doing it through dividing the Coalition Government anytime they can – now, by appearing to ally with Thatcherite Tory backbenchers.

Part of Labour’s fury comes from the proposition, to be put to the Commons in the Autumn, to combine the Commons vote on adopting a referendum on AV with the proposition to realign the electoral district boundaries. Such realignment will largely dissolve what is (let’s face it) a northern urban Labour bias, and create districts with greater population equity – but at the expense of lots of Labour safe seats. So, it’s understandable from Labour’s perspective that boundary realignment is a bad thing. But, in arguing that they want to disentangle the Commons vote on boundary reform from a Commons vote on the date of the electoral reform referendum, what exactly do they want to accomplish?

Separating the motion into two, and introducing a separate motion on electoral boundary reform, wouldn’t itself make a positive difference to Labour. An electoral boundary reform bill, alone, would (we think) pass in the Commons, no? The Lib Dems and Tories both express commitment to it. So is Labour’s motive to create obstacles for the 5 May referendum on voting reform?

I think yes – but their motives seem indirect here. There are Tories who don’t want the public to vote on AV at all, let alone on the 5th of May when turnout is likely to be high, due to the coincidence of local elections that day. Labour’s motives here are more murky. They are half-ambivalent and half-supportive of voting reform, and Labour no longer maintains any predetermined opposition to AV. David Miliband would apparently welcome it, if he were leader, which he is supposed to be soon.

So if it isn’t AV itself that Labour wants to scupper (though they might not mind if it is scuppered), what they really want to scupper is the Coalition itself. It’s just a brutal, wedge-driving, pot-stirring strategy: to generate early rifts in the Coalition, and to disenfranchise and disenlighten the Lib Dems over their solitary Big Win in this Coalition deal, which is the referendum itself.

If the referendum date were to be changed away from the local elections date, and referendum turnout was thus rather low, provoking people like Bernard Jenkin to then advocate that the result isn’t conclusive enough, then Clegg might be provoked to abandon the Coalition.

That would delight Labour, really. They must feel confident that they could precipitate an early election in 2011ish, if they pot-stir successfully enough between now and then. By next Spring, Labour will have a new leader, they’ll have the polling bounce that inevitably comes with that, and if the Lib Dems look disorientated and failed in not getting the AV vote on a day of their choosing, their wider support will be highly vulnerable. Labour is already hoovering up LD support, and it’s only July 2010.

So while Labour have direct political reasons to oppose boundary reform, perhaps they have only indirect political reasons to oppose the timing of an AV referendum. Their tactics of late appear to be designed only to frustrate the Lib Dems, to kick them while their base is trembling and weak, to drive wedges in the Happy Marriage, and to set up a future election scenario that’s a highly comfortable and traditional bipartisan race.

I’m hoping Clegg can pull this out of the fire… he’s already argued that a referendum on 5 May, coupled with local elections, would save the country £17 million. Which is more than will be saved by abolishing the UK Film Council, so it’s (in this new Age of Austerity) no mean sum. He may want to impress that upon Cameron, and get him (with some urgency) to ensure his backbenchers don’t indulge in Labour’s proposition to wreck the Coalition through wrecking the referendum.

Filed under: Politics, UK, , , , , ,

Need to know? Ask an octopus

Accidental Deliberations sums up perfectly the distended logic with which the Tories try to explain their decision to axe the census long form – hitherto the principal resource we have to really come to any factual grip about the nuanced state of the nation’s ever-changing demography.

Tony Clement trots out a well-worn pseudo-populist argument that “less government inquiry” into the lives of The People equates to greater liberty. Simple! It’s a privacy issue, after all. And greater privacy is good for liberty (unless that privacy is misused for things like being gay or smoking dope. But I digress).

This ultimate faith in the prenatural malevolence of public bodies is, of course, oh-so-Tory. But when positioned against its logical opposite, you get blind faith in the benevolence of private bodies. As it is with personal data. Never-you-mind that your credit rating, your shopping habits, and your seemingly private photographs of pub nights out are all happily entrusted to private companies over which people have zero democratic control. The real danger, apparently, is when public arms of government are entrusted with the information that helps design the public programmes we actually do depend on.

Conspiratorial paranoiacs seem to warm to the idea that axeing the census long form equates to chopping off another tentacled arm of the state. Well, o.k. But prepare, then, to depend upon another tentacled creature to magically divine where we ought to build our schools, highways, hospitals, and all those other socialist nuisances that oppress us so.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , ,

Senate reform or Reform Senate?

If by reform he meant “Reform,” then Stephen Harper has delivered. But I get the feeling that most people expected that Harper was serious about creating an elected upper house, not on simply stuffing it with his friends – in a manner that exceeds the worst cronyist excesses of Prime Ministers past.

By appointing his 34th partisan friend to the Senate, Harper’s generated a Senate majority for the Conservatives. It’s a majority that he’s conspicuously failed to achieve in the House of Commons, after three elections as party leader. Clearly he’s frustrated that he can’t be officially the boss of the room, so the irony is a bit biting – this erstwhile would-be “populist democrat” is only able to secure his deep-seated dream of political power through the patronage route – not through the route of electoral democracy.

The irony is perfectly reflected in the appointment itself. Our new Tory senator, Salma Ataullahjan, is a failed Tory candidate for MP. The view seems to be: what you can’t win through elections, you secure through patronage.

With that in mind, how open do you think Harper can really be to the concept of elected Senators? More democracy does not seem to generate more Conservatives.

Ah, but these were the days!

“Despite the fine work of many individual senators, the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister.” — Harper leadership website, Jan. 15, 2004.

“Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House.” — Harper leadership website, Jan. 15, 2004.

“Canadians . . . are ashamed the prime minister continues the disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation.” — Stephen Harper, House of Commons, March 7, 1996.

Ah, youth! Ah, idealism! Ah, duplicity and a corrupting lust for absolute power!

Harper’s newly-friendly Senate met, obviously and by no coincidence, just in time to pass horrific legislation. The passage of last weekend’s omnibus “budget bill,” stuffed with unrelated poison pills that hadn’t passed in the democratic chamber but were added to this confidence motion, was obscene – not only a violation of any straight-faced concept of democratic accountability, but more galling, a violation of quite precise promises made by Team Harper thoughout his political life. Promises that got him elected in the first place (if barely).

A big question to me is why conservative voters aren’t putting more heat on the government that they elected to deliver these promises. Aren’t they disappointed? Didn’t they feel such reforms were really important, and they thought Harper would bring them into being?

There appears to be a real preference among too many conservatives to continue indulging in pitifully obsessive, collective attack-doggism against the Liberal Party – as though the Liberals continue to maintain a dark, shadowy control over the real levers of government. They do it through the civil service, and they do it through the CBC. They do it through sorcery and they do it through hypnosis. It’s a comic paranoia that’s not a million miles off from My Uncle Napoleon.

As if Harper hasn’t been in power for a full four years, with more than enough time to be in a position to now take responsibility for what government has failed to do. What relevance “adscam” in 2010? None – but it’s an easier subject for the Right to grapple with, I suppose, than trying to digest the complex fact that their Reform-a-Tory leadership are effectively “out-Liberalling the Liberals” when it comes to crude arrogance, cronyism, and an aloof disregard for promises broken.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

Of Liberals and Labour

Canada and the UK share quite a bit – a Queen, a language, and an unhealthy love of chips. But they also share a common soap opera – that of their long-ruling, defeated, and now struggling, centre-left big-tent political parties.

Since its all-defining double-helix leadership was vanquished in May this year, the UK’s Labour Party appears to be at real risk of tearing itself apart with self-doubt, identity crises, and factional malice. Kiss-and-tell autobiographies by party elders betray an utter lack of concern for the party’s respectability, and add fuel to the disorienting fire of a come-one-come-all leadership contest. What’s the party about? A hard question.

The parallel saga of Canada’s Liberal Party can be instructive to Britain’s Labourites. Indeed, the two sagas appear to be differentiated mainly by a time delay of about four years. So, for any Labourites looking for an oracle as to what the mid-term future may bring them, and what post-defeat missteps to avoid, it may be helpful to take a gander across the big salty pond.

A quick review of the two stories: Tony Blair’s Labour did in 1997 what Jean Chrétien’s Liberals did four years earlier, in 1993 – unseat a dreadfully unpopular Conservative government and render it practically unelectable. The Liberals did rather a better job of it – smashing Canada’s Tories to a laughable two seats in Parliament (helped, of course, by the fact that the Tories also splintered apart into factional and regional parties: the populist, right-wing, western Reform Party, and the anti-federalist, socially liberal Bloc Québécois).

After these landslide successes, Liberal and Labour fortunes would come to resemble each other in character – both ended up more fiscally conservative than supporters had idealised, and both enjoyed success through a powerful political fusion of internal party factions. Canada had Chrétien and his finance minister Paul Martin, and the UK had Blair and his finance minister Gordon Brown. In each case, the budget men brought their wing of the party into a unified fold, both men were (rightly or wrongly) regarded as economic geniuses, but both men also coveted the job of Prime Minister – a ruinous, volcanic desire that would ultimately destroy the factional unity that was so necessary in a big-tent centrist party such as each of these.

The Liberals, with their four-year headstart on Labour, suffered from this earlier as well. By 2000, the Chrétien/Martin rivalry had become a soap operatic nightmare, and the defining feature of the party itself. That, coupled with the perceived unelectability of the hated Tories, contributed to Liberal policy drift. If you barely need to try anymore, where are the ideas coming from? Competition, that fount of political creativity, was not directed against other, apparently moribund parties – it was directed within.

This of course also described the Blair/Brown rivalry in its own time. When Chrétien won his third term, he promised to serve it in full, but was soon ousted by a frothing and impatient Martin wing. Blair equally promised to fulfil the whole of his third term, but was just as unceremoniously rent from his position by a frothing and impatient Brown. Neither Martin nor Brown acceded to the job of PM through a scrutinising leadership contest, but, in essence, by coronation.

Financial scandal had beset both parties (though the Liberals more so) – the sponsorship scandal for the Liberals, and cash-for-peerages which affected Labour. But the electoral challenges were bigger than these scandals. Neither Martin nor Brown had a watt of the ruthless charisma of their vanquished heroes, and though both lusted for the absolute power of the top job, neither seemed able to know what to do with it once they got it. Such tour-de-forces in cabinet, Martin ended up nicknamed “Mr. Dithers,” and Brown went from “Stalin to Mr. Bean.” Mean epithets both, but ones that stuck.

One big difference between the sagas emerges in the third term: Martin did call an election relatively early in his tenure, whereas Brown famously bottled it after the party convention. Had Brown gone ahead with a general election in November 2008, many analysts foresaw a slim victory or hung parliament as the result. That’s indeed the result that Martin got, and he led a minority government for scarcely two years before its collapse. In the end, though, both Martin and Brown had brief Prime Ministerial careers, distinguished by policy drift and nervous surprise at their own communication and decision-making incompetencies – both the Liberals and Labour fell from office leaderless, directionless, shocked and discouraged.

That is the Labour Party of 2010, and it was the Liberal Party of 2006. So what happened afterwards in Canada?

The Chrétien/Martin duopoly had totally defined what power and party identity were. Everyone was either a Chrétienite or a Martinite. They may have hated each other in the end, but neither side genuinely foresaw any scenario in which neither force would hold sway. And then suddenly – they were both gone.

The leadership contest which followed was filled with recrimination against the party’s own recent past. Every candidate (all twelve of them!) promised big change. No one took the party’s record as a trophy and championed it. All were determined to define themselves as something wholly other.

Uncertainty in Liberal ranks was inevitable. The leadership contest featured lots of philosophy surrounding the merits of rewarding old guards vs. the merits of rewarding new blood. It also featured, as is natural in any big-tent party, big questions about whether to carve a distinct identity on the left/centre-left, or to fight the resurgent Tories in the centre/centre-right. In this, there were leadership favourites: would it be the left’s Bob Rae, the right’s Michael Ignatieff, or the uncertain charms of Gerard Kennedy?

Labour, watch out: neither left, nor right, nor charming won out in the intricate latticework of compromise that emerged from the convention. Unheralded, well-meaning, but unelectable Stéphane Dion took the cake. Dion, who might be said to have had Andy Burnham’s chances, but coupled with Alastair Darling’s personality. And now he was leader.

The party was still angry with losing power, and still directionless without its goliaths at the helm. For all Dion’s clever ideas, he had no capacity to forge new unity in this vast, wounded party – indeed, disunity became worse than ever. Compromise, shame, and uncertainty in the party was, unfortunately, perfectly reflected in its leader.

Though Dion is now gone and Ignatieff has led the Liberals for a year and a half, their fortunes are barely any better. Canadian pundits have blamed Martin, Dion, and now Ignatieff in succession, for poor leadership and diffidence. Not unfair claims, entirely – but they’re symptoms, not causes, of identity anguish that plagues the party from root to tip. That is one of the sad legacies of the old power duopoly – it consumed the identity of the party, and then evaporated, leaving too much disorientation and angst. It’s still unclear what it means to be a Liberal in Canada today.

While Labour’s Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, and soon Tony Blair himself, all offer their post-mortems in best-selling hardcovers, this old guard disrespects contemporary Labour as much as contemporary Labour disrespects them. This struggle to disassociate denies an opportunity to trumpet some of the real progressive successes the party achieved over the years. It creates a political vacuum – where once the centre-left was the self-assured and natural occupant of the electoral mainstream, now cunning and well-financed Conservative forces can stake their claim as the safe option – the one where voters know what they’re getting, the one that quickly comes to appear more mature and prepared for all the trials and tribulations of government.

Make no mistake – Canada’s Tories are anything but “mature.” They are an anti-democratic, anti-parliamentarian force, swathed in deceit, secrecy, and thoroughly right-wing ideas masked in Bush-Junior style “common sense.” The fact that the Canadian centre-left still can’t mount an effective challenge against such easy targets gives testament to the severity of gangland rivalries and relative anarchy within the partisan centre-left itself.

The cases are obviously not really perfectly parallel. Labour’s leadership vote is a month-long ballot involving union, lay members, and the Parliamentary party, unlike the long, single night of horse-trading and automatic run-off balloteering that the Liberals’ used. Canada’s Tories are a genuine neanderthal party, whereas the UK’s Tories have a small, relatively liberal wing in the very person of David Cameron. The standard of debate is different, the media culture is different, and the way in which the public engages with politics is different. The agenda is just not set in the same way.

But Labour faces similar dangers to Canada’s Liberals, and must avoid them – while there’s time!
– Take solace in (and advantage of) a public that is still uncomfortable calling itself broadly “conservative,” and don’t present a shamed and apologetic face about the past. There have been triumphs that are as important today and tomorrow as they were during the campaign.
– Trumpet the economic and social advances made in the previous era, as the public has faith in these advances – what they’ve lost faith in is your ability to manage. Tribal infighting and self-destructive gossip don’t inspire new confidence.
– Pick a real potential winner as your leader right off the bat. And once you pick that winner, give them the party unity and the durable support that’s required to help shape a badly-needed identity before the next election – appearing unconvinced in your leader, shaky on their ideas, always ready for yet another putsch, will reinforce the public’s perception that “these guys couldn’t run a hot dog stand, let alone a country.”
– And don’t spend the next four years navel-gazing – be bold and committed, and fast, as it’s only going to get tougher.

CORRECTION: Apologies for the repeated paragraph earlier – this has been amended

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

Cloaks, daggers, vested interests

Tests are coming fastly and furiously for the Ruling Coalition.

When the Lib Dems joined government, not two months ago, much unease and anxiety followed in yellow ranks. Are we getting the right deal, or are we being used in some strange way we’ve never been used before?

Many think the latter. A former leader has gone public, and all manner of signals indicate that party puritans don’t care for the compromises that Clegg has had to make in order to secure the one holy grail, the one policy meant to ensure greater Liberal influence in parliament from here on in – the referendum on electoral reform.

Without that promise of a referendum, there would be no Lib-Con coalition. This was the deal-breaker. In exchange, Clegg could swallow anything. He could swallow a VAT rise: like a snake (not that I see him as such, mind), he could extend his jaws to swallow just about every Conservative policy going in exchange for a deal on proportional representation, or something vaguely resembling it.

But no sooner was the announcement of a referendum date for the automatic run-off system announced (5 May 2011, if you’re wondering), and signs emerge that both of the established parties (Labour and the Tories, if you’re wondering) are in to quash it from the get-go.

Remember the negotiations that led to this government? Spooked by Clegg’s apparent partisan flirtatiousness, William Hague announced that, contrary to expectation, the Tories would concede to a referendum on the Alternative Vote – after all, why not let the people settle this argument?

Which people are these? The people in the 1922 Committee?

It is very clichéd to campaign on a “change” ticket, as the Tories did this year, and the hollowness of such a campaign is exposed by the power of vested interests, in both the Labour and Conservative parties. But, with both the Tories and Labour trying to appear as change-makers, it’s going to be difficult for them to go whole-hog anti-referendum. They have to appear willing to tolerate the possibility of real electoral reform. Skullduggery and obfuscation of the reforms will be subtle, backbench-led, and indirect.

This opposition is all bigger than Cameron – I don’t think he’s especially principled one way or the other on electoral reform. His speciality is speaking out of various sides of his mouth – he’ll do the minimum necessary to appease Liberals at one moment, but will be constantly prompted by the Thatcherite hawks in his coterie to change course whenever it’s politically feasible.

Here’s how I fear Clegg’s been screwed.

Cameron says to himself: “electoral reform” sounds zeitgeisty at election time, and Clegg was insistent upon it, ok, alright, let’s cope with that for now. But by mid-term or so, the public will have lost interest in things like ‘how elections work’ – the people will just be glad there isn’t another one soon.

By mid-term, we’ll have implicated them in loads of our horrifically unpopular policies – policies that especially outrage their base, and less so ours. They’ll be bleeding support to Labour, and into the ether, and the last thing they’ll want to do is walk out of the coalition and force an election. Great stuff. We can run the AV referendum aground with unreasonably high turnout thresholds, implementation red tape, and other thorny obstacles. What precisely will they be able to do about, chum?

If that is indeed Cameron’s thinking, then the Liberal Democrats will want to create space between themselves and the Tories soon. We haven’t seen them publicly disagree with the Bullingdon Boys on much of substance yet. This marriage will need to mature into allowing public disagreement on non-confidence issues, otherwise Clegg could well end up with a disillusioned base, tanking support, and an empowered 1922 Group who’ll get the wink from Cameron to kick electoral reform into the long grasses.

Filed under: Politics, UK, , , , , , , ,


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