Sunday, May 09, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Emerging from an interesting contest with the Tory Party's "pinup" (?) Nadine Dorries I am only just getting my thoughts together on what happened. In Mid Beds even Nadine was worried we would halve her majority (I heard this from two independent sources) and we really thought it was possible. I was even invited to meetings with ex Tory activists who were so disgusted with her they wanted to help me. Everyone was impressed with Nick's performance, everyone seemed up for something different, the polls, even at the last minute seemed to be in our favour. I fully expected to see Bridget Fox, Ed Fordham, Sal Brinton et al, easily elected on Friday morning. I certainly did not expect the shock of Evan Harris, Susan Kramer, Lembit Opik, losing their seats.

So, at some point there will be a post mortem, but not yet. Locally we did at least increase our share of the vote and open up the gap between us and Labour. Right now we have what we wished for, a hung parliament. Interestingly Cameron's dire warnings didn't work, we have what the public wished for, a hung parliament. But now, having had a very idealistic perspective until the early hours of Friday morning, I find myself feeling rather queasy. As others have commented, if we believe in PR we have to believe in coalition governments - so we have to be prepared to work with others.

In principle there are issues I think we could work with the Tories on, in practice I wonder how possible that would be. Cameron has exhibited his characteristic arrogance on the issue of a referendum on PR. He has a place for us all in government, so long as we do as we are told! He will listen to us, so long as we are saying what he wants to hear, as soon as we say we want to make the electoral system fairer - he puts his fingers in his ears and turns his back. He is the Daddy (sorry Richard and Alex!) and we will do as we are told - however much we whine, don't we know that STV cookie is not good for us and we can't have it! Cameron also displayed his approach to partnership working by pulling the eminently reasonable Andrew Lansley out of the cross party talks Norman Lamb instigated on tackling the huge problem of how we pay for care for the elderly. And there is the little matter of the commitment to clean up politics, interestingly he was quick to call for the whip to be taken away from Labour MPs accused of false accounting, but not a murmur about Nadine Dorries?

So do I think we can really do any kind of deal with the Tories? I absolutely accept that Nick has had to talk to them as they do have the biggest share of the vote, but lets not forget, more people voted against them than for them. I accept that there has to be compromise on both sides, but if we are genuinely putting the country first can we really sign up to an approach to tackling the deficit that flies in the face of our policy, that we believe will threaten the future security of the country, not secure it. And the problem, even if we get support on everything except electoral reform (which 62% of us want), we run the risk of being part of what can only be a decidedly insecure government.

So what of the alternative, the "Rainbow" alliance? Clearly with Brown in the loop this is likely to be strangled at birth, and even if he wasn't there it would still be a risky strategy, to be seen to be propping up a Labour government. And would Labour be prepared to curtail and row back their attack on civil liberties? Could we ever sign up to their unenlightened approach to tackling crime and dealing fairly with asylum seekers? What would it look like if we ignored the verdict of the country on this moribund and clapped out government?

Yes, indeed, be careful what you wish for!

So what would I do? You shouldn't have to ask :-)