Monday, April 26, 2010

The British Mess

In the event of a hung Parliament, where no party has a clear majority following the next set of British elections, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg has promised that he will not form a coalition government with Brown and his Labour Party. He has said this in an apparent attempt to counter charges by Cameron's Conservatives that a vote for the LibDems is tantamount to a vote for five more years of Brown and Labour. As has been pointed out however, this would likely cause disaffection amongst those left of center voters who are now supporting Clegg (due to his performance in the series of "Leaders Debates" in which he performed far above expectations and according to most analysts won the debates). They might hate Brown, but they certainly would not wish to see the Tories gain power.

However, it seems pretty obvious that, the way the British electoral system is set up, either Brown or Cameron will have to form a coalition government with the LibDems, which means that one of the two leaders of said parties would become Prime Minister.

Even if the Liberal Democrats perform at the highest possible levels, they will only pick up a relative handful of seats, just enough to keep the Conservatives, poised to end up with the most seats in any event, from gaining a clear majority. The clear losers, under the most likely at this point scenario, will be Labour, who might well, and in fact likely, nevertheless maintain the reins of government with Brown still at the helm-assuming Clegg relents and forms his coalition government with Labour. It does seem highly unlikely that either Labour or Conservatives will agree to Clegg being Prime Minister.

So what do you have? Very likely, chaos. At the very least, the British public are going to be outraged in large part at themselves if their votes for Clegg amounts to a return to power of Brown, or for that matter Cameron.

This problem could be easily solved were Britain to merely hold run-off elections between the two top contenders. Under that scenario, the election would more than likely be between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. The Conservatives would likely win that one running away, because frankly if you love Labour, you would have to be absolutely enthralled with the Liberal Democrats. Their policies would be tantamount to national suicide.

They are in favor of a multinational foreign policy and are full speed ahead in favor of full integration into the European Union, including but not limited to adopting the Euro and dropping the Pound. They are also for unilaterally dismantling the Trident nuclear deterrent. They favor what can only be described as an open borders immigration policy, and would like to see a system of home incarceration for convicted offenders of "minor" crimes.

Bear in mind that the Liberal Democrats, the heirs to Gladstone, have been out of power now for closely approaching one hundred years, when to all intents and purposes they slid into practical irrelevancy as the third party of British politics. They contributed to a hung Parliament once in the early to mid seventies, but that matter was quickly resolved. Then again, there was not so much at stake then.

This is not your great-great-great grandfather's Liberal Party, which used to favor a laissez-faire economic policy. They actually bonded with another minor party, the Social Democrats, in the eighties, and swung greatly to the left. At the time it was a matter of survival more than relevancy that they do so.

Now they are on the verge of establishing themselves as power brokers and netting a handful of Ministry posts in the bargain, in addition to asserting some of their policies into government as a matter of compromise politics. Clegg's latest promises to the contrary, the Labour Party seems to be the most obvious route to go. Labour is certainly unlikely-to say the very least-to form a coalition with the Conservatives, so how could Clegg?

Ironically, the overall result of this might well turn out to be the fiasco that, far from bringing the Liberal Democrats to power and establishing them as a permanent major player in British politics might well in the long run turn them into a footnote of British history and seal their permanent doom.

If there is one thing the British can't abide, it's chaos, which is seemingly what they are headed towards. The result could be a collapse of government if Clegg fails or refuses to form a coalition government with Labour, or the Conservatives. At that point, would Brown even have the authority to call another election? If he does not, does anybody aside from the Queen have that authority-or does she even have that authority? I rather suspect not. Nor would there be any sitting chamber that would have the authority to do pretty much anything in the way of forming a government or reforming this batty electoral system in which the runaway winner of the election might well end up, and probably will end up, with no more than 64 seats, about ten more than they now have, while the loser could and probably will end up with more than two hundred, and be positioned to yet run the government. It's stark madness, and if it instigates the fall of the British government, would that be any great mystery?

The whole problem has arisen due to the perception, probably an accurate one, that Cameron and the Conservatives are themselves to all intents and purposes a center-left party, and by American standards, on the average an out-and-out liberal party. It is no longer the party of Margaret Thatcher, or Winston Churchill. It has regressed back to where it is once again the party of Neville Chamberlain, minus the optimistic outlook.

There is no truly conservative party by any stretch of the imagination. Even the much and with good reason maligned British National Party is not so much a conservative party as a hyper-nationalist one with fascist overtones. No one is buying their snake oil. At least, not yet.

But like I said, the British cannot abide chaos, and it won't take long before demands are made for electoral reform. But in the meantime, what is going to be the result on Britain's relations with the EU and with America? Unfortunately, the US is a big part of their problem. Most Brits want their country to cut themselves loose from the alliance, which they feel has brought them nothing but turmoil. As it stands, the western city with the largest percentage of pro-Islamic radical sympathizers is not Paris, not Amsterdam-but London. The government has brought a lot of this headache on themselves, as much with their liberal social and immigration policies as by their connection to Iraq and Afghanistan, but by now America makes the most convenient scapegoat.

Then there's the EU. They had a conniption over the economic turmoil of relatively tiny Greece. What will happen if the British economy collapses due to political instability? It could easily happen. In America, not too very long ago, such a scenario would probably have been temporarily good for the economy, because not so much of it was bound up in government subsidies, and in fact, there would have been some who would have and could have easily and happily profited from the situation inherent in the inability to oversee the regulatory schemes that tend to put a brake on economic growth. No such potential exists in Britain. To utilize a current phrase, Britain is "too big to fail". So what happens if it does just that?