Monday, 26 May 2014

Clegg's nemesis

To describe the Liberal Democrat performance in the European elections as a disaster would be generous. To lose all bar one MEP while a party harbouring borderline racists, homophobes and fascists - not to mention an ultra-right and repressive economic and social agenda - tops the poll demonstrates a major failure of the political system. 

Nick Clegg cannot evade responsibility. He is, after all, the leader of his party - although you would be forgiven for taking the view that he shows loyalty to the Coalition first and then his own members - laudable from a pluralistic perspective but moronic when it is not merely unreciprocated but ridiculed by the Tories. There is a question as to whether this catastrophic misjudgement has contributed to the contempt for the party reported by canvassers but it is an epic political idiocy. 

Quite naturally there are calls for Clegg to go early, seeing how much can be recovered from the wreckage. This is a difficult balance to strike, as four years of what, rightly or wrongly, is perceived as becoming subsumed by the Tories will be difficult to expiate. The rational defence that things would have been far worse with a majority or minority Tory government may not play well given the seeming inability of both commentators and the electorate to engage with the reality of pluralism. 

I suspect that Clegg may have lost his party - and that the judgement call will be whether to allow the 2015 disaster to be on his watch or someone else's if there is anyone foolhardy enough to be volunteered. There is only so much obloquy that activists can take when the leader gives the impression that their losses are collateral damage in the greater good. The concept that the leadership cadres can survive without a local base was the hubris that brought down the SDP and a lesson that the Orange Book brigade appears to have forgotten. 

The Liberal Democrats fought the European campaign on the right issues - and are damaged by the pan-European upsurge in distrust and scepticism around EU institutions and structures. Sadly the discourse will revert to withdrawal rather than reform, until the debate moves on to the next ignorant rightist canard. Too late, too little and too disconnected - while Miliband's position has been either to ignore the issues or to engage in a bidding war with kipper Cro-Magnons. 

If Clegg were honourable and a genuine leader, he would consider his position carefully. For all the critics of the Liberal Democrats there are probably more people out there who are vaguely positive about coalition government. Ensuring that this option remains is part of the project going forward. Much more important than the career of an arrogant and increasingly irrelevant politician, and indeed than any current party. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Done up by 'Kippers - and the missing Miliband

Despite the BBC's seeming embrace of everything Farage, the "breakthrough" by UKIP is only one of the key results of the English local elections.  Before the European results are counted, it may be pertinent to observe that the main show in town has been the seeming desire to get easy headlines from Nigel and his nasty bunch of proto-nationalists, who object to being called out on racism and fascism and neatly wish to deny freedom of speech to those who do.  Therefore the European election will have artificially inflated support for UKIP without having any real transferability into the nasty campaign we are about to embark upon.

UKIP's rise is linked closely to the rather more measured disconnection with London politics that is gaining momentum for the regionalist parties in Scotland and Wales.  Indeed, the funniest moment of the entire process to date was on the radio this morning where one of the kipper family explained away her party's dismal showing in the capital on the basis that the population there was more diverse and better-educated.  A party based around the support of thick white racists is an alarming prospect, but this is a much more deep-rooted malaise which has yet to be addressed through the democratic process.

England, as an entity, is incoherent and not culturally or socially aligned.  The increasing bubble economy of the South-East and the continued emphasis on austerity in areas where the pips have squeaked their last is one of the reasons why the Coalition parties have been hammered - and the dominance of London in the media and in the minds of politicians is now being punished.  Scotland and Wales have developed their own political constructs and therefore are immune to the bogus charms of Farage.  The fact that there have been well-educated, and presumably therefore well-informed, people in London who have endorsed Johnson does somewhat undermine this argument, but he is a London celebrity in a culture of vacuum and ideological flux.

What has been much more interesting is the silence of Miliband during both the local and European campaigns.  Whereas Clegg at least gambled on the pro-EU position, Miliband's lack of engagement has been stunning.  Labour's tactics appear to have been to let the Coalition parties take the strain while not making any clear riposte to the lies and humbug being peddled by the Kippers.  This has severely dented Labour claims to be a party that stands up for principle - or indeed for a positive engagement.  The only reason to vote Labour, in many places, would be to stitch up the Tories, but Miliband should be in a position by now to define some form of programme for government that might enthuse the electorate.

Instead, he has retreated into the New Labour fastness of policy advisers, interns and the chattering classes.  Rather than making it clear that there are alternatives to the crony capitalism and unfettered greed that the Tories and their fellow-travellers promote at all costs, he has tried a kinder, gentler tyranny on the same basis that Blair removed Major.  Yet if anything can be drawn from UKIP it is that people are genuinely fed up with the inadequacies of the current system - and in the absence of a party like the SNP this is expressed through a truculent, incoherent snarl.  Farage's success would not stand up to close scrutiny of his politics or programme, which is why the party resorted to threats and intimidation against blogger and anti-fascist campaigners.  Yet Miliband is silent, even on occasion pandering to the fear and the myths that have suddenly achieved the impossible, and degraded politics to the extent where all we have to look forward to is both Labour and the Tories slavishly pandering to a perceived lowest common denominator of ignorance, fear, lies and greed.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Why Eurosceptics should vote Liberal Democrat

The misappropriation of the English language for propaganda purposes has a long and vigorous history.  To describe either UKIP or the Tories as Eurosceptic is a trope that fails to address their vile nationalism, xenophobia bounding on racism or indeed to question what the term really implies.  The sceptic should be the feted philosopher, always probing, never prepared to admit that the status quo itself is either desirable or defensible.

Cameron is now clearly spooked by UKIP.  Farage's dangerous demagoguery and the failure of the British political system - undemocratic, unaccountable and unrepresentative - is causing the Tories to revert to a crass populism.  He appears to believe that the only way to achieve change in Europe is through a megaphone, unilateral demands considered to be the leverage over other nations that will unlock some kind of balmy future where the UK enjoys all of the benefits of European participation while welshing on its obligations and forgetting that with benefits comes at least some element of compromise.

In the forthcoming elections, therefore, there are two isolationist parties differentiated only by the camouflage of their repulsiveness.  Mr Miliband has decided, probably wisely from the perspective of next year's General Election, to maintain a low profile on Europe and to leave the field clear for the idiots of the right.  This leaves the Liberal Democrats and Greens as UK-wide political parties who are at least engaging with Europe - the policy prescriptions for each party are widely divergent, but at least there is some attempt to engage at a continental, and by extension, global level.

Being enthusiastic about Europe implies being sceptical at the same time.  Democratic accountability is central, as is subsidiarity - an abused term that requires decision-making to be taken at the lowest level possible.  The EU is bureaucratic, and at times remote - motivations of politicians and officials may be lofty but their implementation in practical terms often seems to be pushing things too far.  The debate needs to be framed in terms of whether the EU has the right powers and obligations, in many cases this may mean member states reclaiming power, and in others, such as foreign policy and defence, as well as corporate taxation, this may result in impetus towards a central European position.

Farage and his bunch of sociopathic soap-box lunatics peddle the myth that there would be a simple exit strategy that would keep all the good things that the EU has delivered.  This is the kind of delusional propaganda music to the ears of the right, but so far removed from reality as to border on criminal lunacy.  The arguments being deployed against Scottish independence on the basis of complexity can be strengthened thousandfold in this argument.  Instead of negotiating and building pressure for change - which is also being pushed by Germany and many of the accession states - this is a one-way process where remaining EU members would not scruple to not merely extract their obligations but to disadvantage the UK materially.

Staying in and engaging positively is the only genuinely patriotic policy - and also served by self-interest.  Therefore voting for an equivocally pro-EU position is logical, but I am not anticipating many others will adopt this.  Neither Farage nor his frightened cohort Cameron will defend the interests of citizens, and by extension the state.  This is the first election for some time where the electoral choice is clear, and may well be the last.