Monday, May 10, 2010

A Turd Upon the Sceptred Isle

On the news of a hung parliament and Gordon Brown's resignation as leader of the Labour Party, Alex Massie comments on the Liberal-Democrats' negotiations to form a coalition government:
And so, playing Salome, Clegg [leader of the Lib Dems] has got Gordon's head on a platter and we now have the extraordinary sight of the Lib Dems negotiating with both parties at the same time. This is madness and invites the public to view the Lib Dems as a party of political hoors prepared to sell their services to the highest-bidder for nothing more than self-evidently narrow, selfish interests.

That's their choice but it reduces their seriousness and seems likely to leave Clegg open to the notion that he's no better, and perhaps worse, than any other politician. This invites all kinds of trouble for the Lib Dems at the next election. [emphasis mine]
Surely the maxim you can't polish a turd has made its way to Britain, if indeed it wasn't invented there; but should it strike any Britons as novel, or worse, expressing a novel insight, then let it sink in: you can't polish a turd, and in the terms Massie apparently has in mind here -- a nice, neat electoral outcome with a definite winner and a definite loser -- this election result is a turd.

And yet polishing must be done, because it is the only option available. What is the "serious" alternative Massie has in mind? That the Lib-Dems should refuse to join any coalition and declare their 23% share of the popular vote a mandate to govern uncompromisingly? Or perhaps that they should proceed as though their 23% of the vote does not count at all?

Clegg's current approach seems perfectly serious. The Lib-Dems are indeed "hooring" themselves to the other two major parties, no doubt playing the one against the other, with the apparent aim of winning the best possible set of outcomes on behalf of the 23% of voters who supported them. If that's playing the unserious and selfish "hoor," then English brothels must be sober, respectable, high-minded places indeed, contrary to the reputation.

The Lib-Dem emphasis on electoral reform seems especially sound -- and forms, I hope, a starting point of their negotiations with the other parties -- given that, under the current system, their 23% won 57 seats in parliament, whereas Labour's 29% won them nearly four times as many. That's cracked.

While I'm blundering so deeply into the weeds of British politics, I will go ahead and add I like the idea of a Lib-Lab-Greens-[miscellaneous left-of-center] coalition government. The Tories are good at whining from the minority -- which they are, with their 36% share of the vote -- so they should keep at it for several more years, if not longer.

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