…same as the Old Politics.
So it’s happened. For almost a week, we have been living in a ConDem Nation, under a Libservative government, led by (coined by the Mirror in a surprising, if simplistic, show of wit) Dick Clameron. The government that loves a good contradiction started with that now-famous love-in in the garden of Number 10, and made half of the country feel supremely uncomfortable. And on the front page of Friday’s Guardian Clegg looked very much like he felt the same way.
The attempted sell of this new oxymoronic regime was the “New Politics”, a supposed new era and new way of running the country. And so far, so…meh. Nothing, to my mind, has really changed. I mean, the Department of Children, Schools and Families is now the Department of Education; everything the government can get its hands on will be cut in an attempt to bring back the recession, the only circumstances the Tories are comfortable in; and endless promises how things are going to be different.
The main proposed change is a worrying one, though. Clameron wants to change the constitution so that in order to dissolve Parliament 55% of MPs would need to vote in favour of it. We’re told that this won’t apply to votes of no confidence, and that it’s a necessary part of having fixed Parliament terms, but I still don’t buy it. We have a coalition government, of which the Conservatives command 47% of Parliament. Less than a majority. Under this new proposal, if the Libseravtive coalition fell apart, we could be in the bizarre situation where although the minority Conservative government couldn’t pass any legislation, it also couldn’t be removed.
This seems to me a lot like entrenchment, which is something that the British constitution is fundamentally against, and which looks like Cameron trying to cement himself into power so that he can stay in Number 10 even if public opinion turns against him. Yeah, the New Politics are looking great.
Also, the New Politics also seems to include a number of wholly inappropriate ministerial appointments. First off, in this new coalition, there are going to be only 4 women. Now, I’m not a raging feminist by any means, but I do feel that such a proportion is wholly unrepresentative, and something of a disgrace for the Lib Dems, and a Conservative Party we are constantly being told has changed. Not to mention that the new Equalities minister is Theresa May, a woman whose anti-equality credentials have already been well-documented across the internet (see the Facebook group aimed at removing her). To put her, of all people, in that position when the Coalition has a host of Liberal Democrats, and Alan Duncan of the Tories, is just illogical. Though I question the appropriateness of anyone who voted against the repeal of Section 28 being in a modern government, to be honest (but since Kemptown turned blue at the election, maybe the message is that homophobia is alright now, I don’t know).
The other frankly stupid ministerial appointment is George Osborne as Chancellor. I think that most of the electorate would agree that Vince Cable (the new Business Secretary) is a very intelligent, very sensible, and extremely qualified man. He was the ideal candidate for Chancellor (that is, if Cameron was viewing the Coalition Cabinet as a way of getting the best people into the best places, not just a boys club he had to throw a few minor roles to Lib Dems in order to satisfy the smaller party). And yet we end up with George Osborne, a man who has little to no understanding of money, and who thinks that a flat tax is the way forwards. Another kick in the nads for social justice, then.
So this Coalition has been, from the outset, every bit the disappointment I expected it to be. And I think Clegg might be beginning to see his error. The backlash against him has been clear online (thousands of people have joined or rejoined Labour in the last week, a sizable number of them disillusioned former Lib Dems), and even Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown have criticised it. He’s sold his soul for the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, and judging from the picture of him on the front page of Friday’s Guardian, he seems to know it. I don’t think the New Politics are what he expected them to be…