Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A New Government

I haven't blogged in a very long time, most things these days I can fit into a tweet or facebook update, but I think a change of government should provide a large enough topic to warrant a good old fashioned blog post. (Side note: I can't believe blog posts are old fashioned. When did that happen?)

My problem is now that I've found a topic big enough... Maybe it's a little too big! I don't know where to start. I guess with the era that is ending, poor old Gordon! Everyone seems to hate him and I'm not entirely sure why.

During his time in office a lot of very bad things have happened, but I struggle to believe that he is to blame for many, if any of them. The floods we had in his first month weren't his fault and the entire cock up of the global economy wasn't his fault, in fact on that front I wonder how much worse things could have been without him. It's funny while he was getting slated at home by newspapers and people who like to be angry, he was winning international awards for the work he was doing on the economy.

I'm not saying his time as PM was flawless, but we're none of us perfect, and I think he got a lot of big calls right.

But the people must have someone to blame and the buck stops with the Prime Minister. I think he was right to step down, even though I don't think it's what he deserved.

I felt for him when he was leaving with Sarah and the kids! (Who, by the way, I had never seen until today. Very impressed with that parenting.) But it's hardly the worst job too lose... Talk about a weight off! For proof of what that job can do to you take a look at Tony Blair moving into Downing Street in 1997. Yeah, now look at him leaving 10 years later... He aged about 30 years!

Anyway, for the Labour Party I think this could be a good thing. I've heard (and correct me if I'm wrong*) that no party has won four elections in a row for hundreds of years. The public grow tired and demand change no matter what that means. They now have some time to pick a new leader, re-assess their angle and hopefully be in power again in four years time after the public have had time to hate someone else for things they have no choice but to do.

Lib Dems next I think. Again, horrible situation. Loads of people hate them for doing a deal with the Tories, loads of people would have hated them for doing a deal with Labour. Personally I would have preferred a Lib-Lab coalition, and I don't agree with the idea that the legitimacy of such a deal would have been in question - that it would be a coalition of the losers - because Labour and the Lib Dems ideologies are much closer than either is to the Conservatives, so you could argue that more than 50% of people wanted a left of centre government.

However even between them, Lib-Lab fell short of a majority in terms of seats, which means they'd also have needed smaller parties to form a so called rainbow coalition. This is far from ideal, and I don't think you can overlook the importance of stability and the confidence of the markets at this time (though I do think many people will).

I understand why Clegg went with The Conservatives, and as a Lib Dem voter (even from before Nick's sterling first debate performance I should add!) I do not feel as though he has sold me out. Not yet anyway.

If the Lib Dems can secure serious electoral reform off the back of this election, it will be the biggest accomplishment the party has known for generations, and will secure them as the permanent political force that I believe they deserve to be. I was also pleased to hear that their plan to increase the threshold at which you begin to pay income tax to £10,000 was one of those that the Tories were looking at. I think that is bang on - I can't believe someone on £7,000 a year is expected to pay income tax right now.

On to the Conservatives then. Now you may have noticed if you've ever talked to me that I'm not a huge fan of the Tories. But I think there is an opportunity here to put the country before politics. (It's a lot easier to use that line when your party is set to benefit from it!)

I see nothing positive that can come out of complaining or scaremongering. In the hours since Cameron walked into number 10, I've seen that many tweets or facebook groups joined under names such as 'The Country is Doomed', 'Fuck David Cameron', 'Let's all Move to France' (Ok I made that last one up, it's not that bad!**)

Well Cameron is the Prime Minister and will be for the foreseeable future, so you're going to have to deal with that. I think the best way is to give him a chance. I have said throughout the campaign that I don't trust him or his party. I still don't, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. However I think more than ever it's important that people pay attention. Just because the election is over, doesn't mean politics shuts down for four years. The Tories need to know we are watching every move and judging every decision they make. If they don't deliver, especially on the concessions made to get Nick Clegg on board, then they have to know that we won't stand for it.

And on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems who will end up in the cabinet, I urge other 'progressives' not to think of them as traitors. They are our men on the inside! They are our voice in government and they need both our support and our scrutiny to perform as such. This is how hung parliaments work, and if you want PR you'd better get used to it.

All in all, this election has not gone as I would have hoped, but it's gone better than I expected. Before the campaigns began it was almost certain to be a strong Conservative majority. We've ended up with Cameron as PM, sure, but at least there is some balance to the cabinet.

I hope people remember that whoever won this election was going to have to make very unpopular cuts (and possibly in my opinion, though none of them would admit it, raise VAT). I've seen recently images from rioting in Greece in response to government cuts, and I want to ask the rioters if they have an alternative... They have a right to be angry for sure, but if they want their country to survive at all they NEED to seriously cut budgets, and so do we. I'm not saying I expect riots... I mean Greece is in another league of debt, but I hope people can see the big picture. (LOL, yeah right!)

The most important thing to remember is that political battles are not confined to election campaigns. If you want proportional representation, or if you want to sort out the digital economy bill then get involved. Sign the petitions, go to the demonstrations, promote the cause, email your (probably new) MP. Whatever you do, please don't absolve yourself of guilt with the line 'I voted for the other lot' and permit yourself political apathy until the next election; you're more important in opposition than you were in power.

Right, it's late and I can't be bothered reading through this (a thought which I'm sure you sympathise with right now!). Feel free to leave your thoughts, I'm sure they make more sense than mine.

* Unsurprisingly I have been corrected! Kris in the comments tells me the Tories won four in a row under Thatcher/Major. I don't know where I'd heard that statistic. Probably remembered it wrong... I'm sure SOMETHING hadn't been done for hundreds of years!
** Jokes France, you're lovely and make good wine.