Friday, 8 May 2015

Reasons to be cheerful

As a paid-up Liberal Democrat, I am a little in need of these after the massacre in the UK general election last night. But as a paid-up Panglossian, I can find some.

1.       Nigel Farage failed to win his seat, and UKIP only won one.

2.       George Galloway lost his seat.

3.       The British National Party secured less than two thousand votes across the whole country.

4.       On all three of those counts: the far right remains as marginal in British politics as it ever has been. This is very, very good news and could easily have been different. It shows that the Tories are still fulfilling their historical purpose of squeezing out right-wing populism.

5.       Apparently the British political system isn’t broken after all. We seem to be back to something like two-party politics (in England and Wales, anyway), not the multi-party melange of recent commentary, and we are evidently still capable of translating a decent lead in votes into a workable governing majority.

6.       Therefore: the political prize remains the centre ground. With only a little luck, a post-Miliband and post-Balls Labour will now elect a leadership which is willing to make a serious bid for that centre ground, and no more 35% strategies.

7.       In which case, the new government will need to keep fighting for that same centre, and will not feel the need to pander to the right-wing threat. So, for example, we can reasonably hope that, like last time, the Chancellor will not cut at the rate he feels the need to claim that he will.

8.       The SNP result … ok, as a unionist I need to work this one a little harder for a good news angle, but here goes. First, this is undoubtedly the SNP’s high-water mark: only one way to go from here. Second, the scale of the result is such that the Tories do seem so far to be taking seriously the crisis of legitimacy that this gives them north of the Border. Conceivably they will do something courageous about it.

9.       The EU referendum which is now coming: again this is a bit scary. But: (a) It would probably have to happen sooner or later anyway. (b) With UKIP a busted flush, it looks a bit more winnable than yesterday. Maybe this is the time to do it.

10.   And whatever the result of the referendum, it will finish UKIP, who would be as undone by a ‘out’ vote as by an ‘in’ one.

11.   And liberalism? Well, I suppose the likeliest path is that in a post-UKIP world the Lib Dems rebuild as a party of protest once again, which is a little depressing – especially as it turns out so many ex-Lib Dem voters have gone to UKIP. Alternatively, the Tories are tugged in a Borisite-modernising direction and become the old Liberal party in all but name, and Labour embrace the centre and become the SDP in all but name. But perhaps now my sleep-deprivation is catching up with me.

PS. One more ... Now we have a government which, unlike its predecessor, doesn't have a built-in House of Lords majority. It will, therefore, be harder for them to get away with doing stupid stuff.

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