Monday, May 10, 2010

Brave new world

Brave new world

Welcome to the new politics eh?  Do you think, if we’re really good, we can get PR so that we can have four days of secret meetings and stitch-ups every election?

Time for post-mortems on the campaigns later (quick prĂ©cis – it’s an inverse caucus race.  Everybody has lost, and none shall have prizes), lets have a quick recap of what the likely result of the election is.

Option 1: Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Upsides?  Well, this is the one that everyone seems to be pushing – and it seems from his public statements that it’s the one favoured by David Cameron.  And you can see why, if he pulls it off.  At a stroke it goes a long way towards completing the detoxification of the Tory party.  Reasonable, mature, grown-up – putting the good of the country before the party etc etc.  It also ensures, in the words of Ken Clarke, that the Liberal Democrat leadership have to ‘dip their hands in the blood’ of fiscal retrenchment.  On the other hand, those Lib Dems get a chance to get their sticky little hands on some red boxes.  Clegg for Home Secretary?  Cable for Work & Pensions?  Chance of a lifetime…

Downsides?  Well, coalition Government is a bit of a bugger for the Lib Dems really.  They make their stand in the south as an alternative to the Tories for those that can’t vote Labour, and in the north as an alternative to Labour for those that can’t vote Conservative.  Having to actually choose one or the other rather undermines that.  On a less existential point, the mechanics of being in Government when there are significant policy differences in certain areas look tricky.  Fortunately I suspect that the coalition will have expired before the next European elections in 2013…

Option 2: Lab-Lib-SNP-PC-SDLP-All-Green coalition

Upsides?  Well, technically it’s a majority.

Downsides?  Come on, you’re having a laugh – a coalition of the losers?  That just barely scrapes to a majority in any case.  About as good an example of stability as a see-saw with Sarah Teather on one end and Gordon Brown on the other.  Next!

Option 3: Tory minority Government

Upsides?  Well, you’d only get this on the basis of a condition and supply agreement with the Lib Dems – that would mean that you’d get fairly minimalist Government with a strong focus on co-operation.  For the Tories, the upside’s clear – they’re in Government!  For the Lib Dems, they avoid taking the rap for the forthcoming cuts, but still wield a partial veto over Government policy.  Power without responsibility…

Downsides?  It’s vulnerable to sudden collapse – though if the condition and supply agreement is published that should be less of a problem – and it severely constrains the Government’s freedom to act at a time of extreme economic crisis.  On the other hand, from a libertarian perspective, it severely curtails the Government’s freedom to act…

Option 4: None of the above

Upsides?  Aw hell, that election was fun – lets just have another!  Maybe we’ll get it right next time…

Downsides?  And another, and another?  Nothing’s that fun in politics.  Eventually we need to turn the page.

For what it’s worth, I suspect we’ll see option 3.  It’s the least positively harmful option for the Lib Dems, and they’re the ones being wooed.  But then, my predictive powers have proved demonstrably feeble, so don’t for God’s sake listen to me…

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