Monday, 19 April 2010

Lib-Dem renaissance and the new era.

OK - judging by Nick Clegg's climb up the polls I may have underestimated the impact of the election-special version of the X-Factor on Thursday night.  Being the unknown new kid on the block - or at least not being Brown or Cameron - and not actually fucking up the televised debate seems to be enough to have spawned a Liberal renaissance.

Amidst the Clegg love-in I choked on one of his sound-bites referring to the upset that the Lib-Dems has caused to the 'old parties'. With antecedents going back to the Whigs of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, surely the Liberals are the oldest of all the parties? 

In fact in the three hundred years since  then, British electoral  politics has been predominately a ding-dong affair between them and their old sparing parties the Tories. Admittedly both parties  had make-overs in the the nineteenth century to re-brand themselves as the modern Conservatives and Liberals, but these exercises in spin actually represented less of a break in continuity than that of Labour's morphing into New Labour. Then as now, the Whigs/Liberals represented the more enlightened and considered position of the ruling class whilst the Tories/Conservatives stood firmly on the headbanging reactionary side of history. 

This has more significance than mere historical smart-arsery:

In the  three hundred year  period of party politics the Labour Party has been a force for barely a third of this time. We can debate the dates, but personally I would conveniently  estimate  its life span from 1895 and the election of Keir Hardie, to 1995 and the dropping of Clause 4 and the (token) commitment to socialism. Coincidentally (?) this is also approximately the same  period that saw the active engagement and participation of the majority of ordinary people in electoral politics. Before that time the working class's participation was constitutionally prevented by a restricted franchise -  and  now it is effectively disenfranchised by a lack of political representation.

The Liberal renaissance does nothing to address this, in fact it may be a reversion back to a more honest system; two pro-capitalist parties of the the ruling class, unencumbered with the confusing and embarrassing spectre of a 'socialist' past. 

The rest of us still won't actually participate in this new political process - but every few years we may get a chance to phone in our preferences from a panel of carefully selected and stage-managed contestants (all calls charged at a premium rate)...

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