My initial reaction to the Liberal Democrats' decision to form a coalition with the Tories was a combination of disappointment and a sense of betrayal (with a side order of impending doom, of course).
I was, perhaps, naive. I said that I was voting LibDem, and that I actively wanted Labour to lose (while stressing that I wanted the Tories to lose even more). I was, I think, hoping for a hung parliament, which of course is what we got. But I was labouring (heh!) under the delusion that the LibDems were ideologically relatively close to Labour, and far enough away from the Tories that siding with them would be unthinkable.
Clearly I was wrong.
I had convinced myself that the only reaction of the LibDems to a hung parliament would be to join with Labour; and that seemed like the best possible solution.
On election day my friend Tony Facebooked to the effect that he had wasted his vote (and it’s really annoying that, as far as I know, there’s no way to link to an update or a comment in Facebook). I answered:
I don't agree. The only way you can waste a vote is to not use it. For example I voted LibDem in a safe Labour seat, but that isn't "wasted". In fact, it would have been more of a waste to vote Labour.
My son made the same point when I told him about that discussion. Diane Abbott got 54% of the vote in Hackney North and Stoke Newington. (That’s a proper majority.) My vote wouldn’t have made any difference, though, would it?
But in the days immediately after the election, as Clegg took his party into talks with the hated Tories, I began to regret my decision. It really felt like I had “wasted” my vote; or maybe misused is the better word.
Things Can Maybe Get Better?
However the coalition document that they published today is remarkable. If you’ve read any of my political posts over the years, you’ll know that the biggest thing going on for me for some time has been ID cards, and all the associated post-9/11 terror-panic fallout. So to read this, from the wordprocessor of the Tories (and LibDems) is remarkable:
- A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
Outlawing the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission.
The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
Further regulation of CCTV.
Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
I mean, that's pretty much everything we could want on civil liberties, right there.
And a few other points are good. As my friend Stuart said:
(Gotta keep embedding those tweets, you know.)
On the other hand, I’m no economist; but as I said before, I don’t trust right-wingers to run the economy. And right now, I have a gut feeling that cutting back on public spending during a recession is exactly the wrong thing to do (cutting back on most public spending is nearly always the wrong thing to do, of course).
Keep On Keeping On
In conclusion, I agree with Charlie, pretty much. I don’t trust the Tories, but let’s see whether Clegg & co can keep this thing on track. And let’s keep a close eye on them all, and keep that list above in mind.
You never know: maybe this really is “The New Politics”.