First, we had the U-turn over cuts. Assured by Cable that rapid cuts were unnecessary, even dangerous, within days after the votes were safely in Cable and Clegg had changed their minds. Mysterious new evidence, in the shape of urgings from Mervyn King (since denied by King himself) and comparisons with the Greeks made it imperative to pay the markets’ ransom.
Tax the rich? Forget it. The Lib Dems have for a couple of years been wedded to the zombie economics that demands the poor and vulnerable will pay to clear up the mess the greed of the super-rich got us into. Then recall the ensuing impotent Lib Dem backbench ‘revolt’ over the cutters’ budget and cringe with embarrassment.
Now the cuts are ricocheting into the real world. No longer mere parliamentary sound-bites, they’re being translated from macho abstract posturing into actual cuts in school buildings, services, jobs and pensions. The crimes of the super-rich and the paralysis of the politicians will be paid for by the tears of the old, the sick and the powerless for years to come.
‘Shock’ is expressed by Lib Dem luminaries on Cornwall Council like Doris Ansari about the scale of the planned job losses. Businesses ‘brace themselves’ for the loss of contracts worth £millions. Receivership and redundancies no doubt feature down the line. Though it beats me why there’s so much ‘shock’. Where have these people been for the past 18 months? Hasn’t it been perfectly plain for a very long time that all three corporate parties were planning a slash and burn attack on public spending?
On the constitutional front the Lib Dems played a suspiciously prominent role in the disgracefully hasty decision to prolong the life of this parliament to five years. In the process they promptly ditched their previously implied commitment to four year fixed parliaments – in line with virtually every other representative assembly in the globe – merely to save their own scrawny necks. Lib Dem ‘activists’, to their eternal shame, remained dumbstruck.
And now we have the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, timed to go though the Commons when they’re back from their hols. This Frankenstein’s monstrosity of a bill splices together two issues that in any rational constitution would be kept decently separate – voting reform and the re-districting of an antiquated and creaking plurality or first past the post system.
A referendum on the alternative vote is shackled to the gerrymandering of constituencies by regular five yearly boundary reviews transparently designed to ensure the Tories remain in power with a minority of the votes until the end of time. This gerrymander would of course be entirely superfluous if we were getting a properly proportional voting system rather than this pathetic substitute of AV. Didn’t PR use to be a core Lib Dem demand? Those were the days.
This alone makes it impossible to vote for this bastard offspring of an expedient union. But, to add insult to injury, the Lib Dem leadership has colluded in ignoring Cornwall’s historic boundaries, in the process conveniently making the future task of Cornish nationalists in the east even more difficult.
Rumours of a ‘campaign’ by Tory and Lib Dem MPs to oppose this have surfaced this week. But details are scarce. What will they do? Just ‘make representations’ as Tory Cornwall Council supremo Alec Robertson fearlessly threatens? Or will they unite to table an amendment? And when it’s inevitably defeated what then? Will they vote against this bill?
If they’re stuck for an amendment here’s a suggestion. At present paragraph 9.3 (1) of Part 2 of the bill reads
Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the four parts of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)This sentence needs amending to read
Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the five parts of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall)Job done.
The political class in England is surely near its end time. The Tories are in hock to their friends in the City and ‘business’, the Lib Dems drift around clueless in a familiar sea of despondent hypocrisy, the Labour Party is leaderless and reluctant to give up on its unrequited love affair with the rich and powerful. All parties underestimate the deep but unchannelled disenchantment and rising righteous anger of the people and treat them with unconcealed contempt.
At present this growing alienation is unfocused, diverted by the rabid tabloids into racism and other dead ends or bought off by the apparently endless cornucopia of corporate capitalism. But the people could act to sweep away the political classes who take them for granted. It’s happened before, even within the constraints of crony capitalist societies.
Take Italy, where the party system collapsed after the tangentopoli crisis. OK, frying pans and fires come to mind in this instance but a whole generation of networking careerists and chancers were exposed and kicked out. And then there was the less traumatic example of New Zealand, where cynical manoeuvrings of ‘mainstream’ politicians trying to retain a first past the post electoral system eventually crumbled in the face of widespread voter disgust. The same could surely happen here. Couldn’t it?