Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Lucky Escape?

Talks to form a 'rainbow coalition' government in the Welsh assembly, consisting of Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem AMs appear to have run into the sand. As someone who is no longer a member of the Conservative party but is hoping with some degree of enthusiasm that they displace the current shower as soon as possible, I can't believe this is anything but good news.

I should say firstly that I think Wales is a fantastic place and I've no real desire to see anyone suffer more years of NuLab misery than they need to. On the other hand, with the relatively limited (though growing) powers of the Assembly and the difficulties NuLab will face in getting anything even vaguely damaging through, my thoughts turn unavoidably to the bigger picture.

It might be political naivety, but I really cannot see any benefit to the Conservatives in getting involved in a setup like this. Even if you accept the dubious proposition that such a rickety construction could have survived the mildest of political storms without collapsing in acrimony, it could only ultimately be bad news for the Conservative cause. There is no need to speculate, you just need to look at the last term of the Scottish Parliament. Every success was down to the Lib Dems, every failure was Labour's, at least in the general public consciousness. I'm not even sure you can say that it was the Lib Dems position as the junior partner in the coalition, their particular policy initiatives or clever marketing by them that led to this perception. For a long time the Conservative and Labour parties have been the big beasts of government and I think it's almost inevitable that, in any government in which they are a partner, the tendency will be to lay the blame for failures at their door. Smaller parties, like the Lib Dems, not having held solo power at anything other than local government level, are somehow awarded some form of political virginity that seems to render them above reproach for the same failures in the minds of many.

The even better news from the end of the 'rainbow coalition' talks is that it was the Lib Dems who ultimately blocked it, so there can be no suggestion of the Conservatives (or Plaid Cymru by the same token) ducking the responsibility of real government. Moreover, while it isn't explicitly stated on any of the on-line coverage, there was enough coverage of 'No deals with the Tories, ever' attitudes of many Lib Dem activists in recent months to make it clear what the sticking point was likely to have been. At the next general election it is essential that this rarely voiced shibboleth of Lib Dem though is brought to the fore, that a Lib Dem/Conservative coalition is unlikely to be the way that the reins of power are seized from NuLab's hands.

There is a part of what the Lib Dems stand for that I personally endorse wholeheartedly, but once you move beyond the libertarian part of their philosophy they are as bad as, if not worse, than NuLab and even their libertarian instincts are often compromised. The point I am trying to make is not in the least new or original, but moments like today need to be seized to underline what the consequences of voting for the Liberal Democrats really are.

It's true that there are issues like grammar schools and PFI where there is a disconnect, in the Conservative and Labour parties respectively, between the leadership and some of their activists, and more importantly their natural voters. It always seems to me though, that these disconnects are vastly more numerous and wider when it comes to the Liberal Democrats, especially between their activists and their casual supporters.

I am sure that there are areas where this is less true, but not where I live in the south-western yellow/orange splodge on the political map of London. Here Labour simply does not exist; they have been wiped off the face of my borough council, and don't even bother standing in my ward at most elections. Elections are basically fought over a group of voters who drift from the right of the Lib Dem standpoint to the left of the Conservative one but would never dream of voting for the Labour party. The result for me locally was a very able Liberal Democrat MP, who I, and many others here of a Conservative inclination, would actually hate to see lose his seat should he stand at the next general election. What is at stake though is too important for sentiment. The message has to rammed home, that in areas such as this, and every other Conservative / Lib Dem battleground, a vote for the Lib Dems, as nice as they may be, is functionally a vote to keep NuLab in power. Their activists would not allow it to be any other way, even if the party leadership was to move away from its, now rather explicit, 'No deal with Tories' stance.

Update 6:47PM
It looks like the Lib Dems have cottoned on to the fact that they are coming out badly from the way things have worked out according to the BBC. They are going to have another look on Saturday at whether they really can pass up on the chance to f*** up in government at the Conservatives expense. They'd be out of their tiny warped minds if they didn't. It would be like the multi-cultural, vegan turkey collective not voting for the abolition of Christmas.

Update 7:04PM
18DS had another take on the whole affair on Up Front, from a slightly different angle, pointing out the intrinsic limitations and internal contradictions of the Lib Dems which was pretty amusing. The only worry I have is that the Conservatives would even contemplate coalition with these muppets.

Update 1:30AM, 25th May
It seems, if you believe the BBC, which I don't usually, but they are grinding a new axe so I'll give them some leeway, it's pretty much all over bar the next few years of shouting. I hope they are right for once. The BBC only mentions the Conservative involvement once in its summary of the f***ed up situation.

We have the Dhimmies being largely blamed from left and right for the lack of a meaningful government for Wales. This is due mainly to their actions in recent days, but let's be honest the situation only arose because of the ironically named system of 'proportional representation' (and their inability to organise a piss-up in their own family brewery), just about the only policy you can get two of their party activists to agree on once you get their nose out of their tofu biriani. It's stunning...their preferred voting system produces a mess, so they go and have a meeting to resolve the mess and not only end up with a tied result but did't even have the foresight to plan for a way of breaking the ties that will inevitably result when you get a couple of dozen people voting on contentious issues. Some of our recent Home Secretaries have had more foresight.

Labour has raised a solitary finger to the electorate by trying to cling desperately to power when any sensible party would have called it a day and let some other grouping take the flak. Anything bad that happens in Wales will be their fault, and their fault alone in the mind of the electorate at least. Fine by me.

I only really have sympathy for Ieuan Wyn Jones and Plaid, unfortunately I've got a feeling they will be unfairly tarred with the Dhimmie brush. Like the nats from the land of my mother they generally seem like decent, driven people even if I don't like a lot of the specifics.

By a country mile though, the best comment on the whole thing though is from Glyn Davies (via the talented Mr Dale). It's one of those off-beat commentaries that will stick in your mind long after the specifics of the situation that inspired it have gone forever.

Once again, I'm sorry that this creates a mess for Wales. The Lib Dems had to be exposed somewhere and sometime. I'm glad it's now, and yes I'm glad it wasn't where I live, but it really needed to happen.

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