Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Who's The Third Happiest Man in Britain ?

Contra quite a lot of the instant reaction I suspect novelty value alone will give this coalition government something of a honeymoon. Even the instant cuts programme we're promised in the emergency budget will, in all probability, be weathered as it will take a little while for the implications to work through to operational budgets.

Yes, it is entirely possible that there will be rebellions on either the Tory or Lib-Dem side which threaten the coalition. But, actually, I thought I saw the cold logic of political professionalism on show from both sets of negotiating teams over the last 4 days and I reckon those clever folk in both Central Offices will have game played their way through such troubles. Or at least the troubles that are predicable at this point anyway. Finkelstein was interesting on Newsnight - he clearly said both sides were playing for bigger stakes here: they want a permanent re-alignment of British politics to freeze out Labour. More prosaically, it may be in both sides interest to actually respect the agreement to have a fixed term 5 year parliament as it would allow the initial opprobrium coming towards both sets of party leaders to die down before another test at the polls.

In any event, let's face it, Labour is really not going to be in a position to exploit any such difficulties in the coalition for a while is it? At 29% in the polls, broke, defeated and hemorrhaging C1/C2 votes it is in a terrible position. There was even a suggestion yesterday that it might have to delay its Leadership contest whilst it raised the necessary money to conduct it. So rhetorical calls for 'left' Lib-Dems to join Labour may fall on pretty deaf ears.

Most of all, despite what the Labour Left are now going to claim, New Labour isn't dead. It may be running on empty in ideological terms, its' leading lights may be exhausted by 13 years of government but the Labour Party is about to conduct a Leadership election in which all the serious candidates will be, in one form or another, representatives of New Labour. Sure, McDonnell and Cruddas will briefly fly the flags of 'hard' and 'soft' Left respectively. But McDonnell will lose badly and Cruddas will fold back into the traditional posture of (internal) loyal opposition. No: the Labour Party will continue to be led by the New Labour clique.

So if/when industrial unrest or social disorder develops as the cuts bite Labour is unlikely to be able to channel the anger. It will be striving for a position of 'responsibility' : it is, after all, now essential the party of public sector managers - a technocratic entity whose prime function is to tweak the system through endless box ticking regulatory exercises.

But one thing missing from this morning's coverage is any sustained focus on the third happiest man in Britain. Step forward Alex Salmond, the man who promised a referendum on independence. The odds on him winning it must have just shortened considerably.


  1. Hmm. I think Salmond would've preferred a minority Tory government - the fact that the LDs are a party with a real presence in Scotland means that the government will have some perceived legitimacy there.

    Also, a minority Tory government would have been reliant on SNP and PC - "A referendum in exchange for your support on UK matters, you say, Alex? Hell, we could do with losing 41 Labour MPs from the next parliament - bring it on. We can't really get away with backing the 'yes' side, being the C&UP and all, but we won't spend too much on the 'no' campaign *nudge nudge*..."

  2. Maybe John, Maybe - but I still think Salmond will be very happy with this result. It was always going to be easy for him to paint the Tories as alien overlords and now he can point to some canary yellow Tartan quislings as well.