Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Grand Coalition of Folly

On the one hand it seems unthinkable that the two parties often seen as the opposing poles of British politics could form a coalition government. On the other hand it seems to make perfect sense. There is precious little difference in terms of policy, ideology or integrity. Both parties seem to govern with the notion that everything would be fine if not for the public. Both have hemorrhaged membership in recent decades as they have ceased to be organs of democratic governance and become essentially vote brokers offering a veneer of legitimacy to a sort of disorganised corporatism.

The very idea of it seems the stuff of nightmares - the two parties who have presided over a century of often farcical decline teaming up to accelerate their programme of ruin. From the Tories' misadventure in Suez to Labour's humiliating panhandling to the IMF, by way of botched nationlisations, botched privatisations, a mountain of debt and and an ill judged foray into continental politics which has been an expensive disaster, to the near break up of the United Kingdom. The two main parties have little to recommend them besides keeping the other lot out. And indeed when you speak to people intending to vote for either of the two main parties, that's the reason that seems to come up most often.

And you can see their point - a Labour government, spending and borrowing it's way to bankruptcy, would be a disaster. Even as a more natural conservative voter I have no interest in seeing Cameron win an outright majority either, which he would use to fudge and fiddle a referendum, setting the cause back decades.

Why then, would I be quietly hoping that these two parties, unable to form a government alone, form a grand coalition and share government for the next parliament?

Firstly they wouldn't be able to get anything done. Unless they were going to engage in a radical programme of spending cuts and rolling back of the state, and neither is even talking about it, then this is a very good thing. The constant infighting, squabbling and maneuvering would ensure that they couldn't do anything at all, allowing the rest of us to get on with things without further tax rises, stupid new laws or damaging vanity projects.

Secondly, it would dispel the popular myth that there is any worthwhile difference between the Conservative and Labour parties. In fact there are probably starker differences of opinion within the parties than there are between their respective leaderships, and actual important differences. The Labour party might be a bit more inclined to spend public money, and the Tories a bit more inclined towards privatisation, but both are thoroughly committed to the European Union, both have bought fully into the faith of climate change and are determined to keep pandering to the demands of this new deity. Both parties continue to stir up an irrational fear of Russia, Islamic terrorism and any other convenient bogey man to undermine civil liberties and the justice system and over play their own diminishing importance in international relations.

Thirdly though, and most importantly, they would both ruin their credibility at the same time. The bigger picture of British politics in the modern era is one where the two main parties take turns at mucking things up, while the other party capitalises on this to court the disaffected and convince the public that things would be so much better under them. After a few years this works and the other party gets it's turn at mucking stuff up while the party that was in government takes it's go at courting the disgruntled and making wild promises.

The net result has been a huge expansion of the state, economic stagnation and general national decline as the parties have sought to out bid each other during elections campaigns, by borrowing from the future. Now the future has arrived and it turns out that neither party can concoct an attractive enough package of benefits, tax breaks and spending boosts to make voting for them worthwhile to significant numbers of people. Meanwhile, in Scotland and Wales, nationalist parties have been able to offer this by blaming everything on England, and in England itself UKIP have started to call them out on this fraud. The Liberal Democrats, in their sorry desperation to get their hands on power have thoroughly shot themselves in the foot and are facing a meltdown in the forthcoming election.

So it seems to me that the best possible outcome is for a 'grand coalition' to take power, to prove once and for all that they are both as incompetent as each other, and that ultimately their supposed differences are not worth the paper they are written on. 5 years of doubly bad government, bickering and impotence might seem like a high price to pay, but if it opens the door to an election in 2020 with actual alternatives, and disabuses the public of the ridiculous notion that the fact that they have previously governed means they are fit to govern now, then it is a price that is certainly worth paying.