Archive for the ‘2010 UK General Election’ Category

Cracks emerge


David Cameron’s plans to reform the House of Lords have been halted. It has been reported that “in a decision likely to cause a major Coalition rift. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader, had viewed the introduction of elected peers as a key policy and senior Conservatives now fear he will scupper planned reforms to electoral boundaries. The redrawing of electoral boundaries – to ensure that constituencies have similar populations – would boost Mr Cameron’s re-election chances. It is the latest climbdown for the Government after a series of proposals in the Budget, including a pasty tax, were also abandoned”.

It gives context noting, “Earlier this year, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg outlined plans to replace appointed peers in the House of Lords with elected senators. The first elections were to be held in 2015 with the elected members of the house serving for 15-year terms”.

The Lib Dems had threatened“consequences” after House of Lords refom was blocked It is now clear what these consequences are, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vetoing any legislation that would chage reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 with smaller overall constituncies. The report notes that “Clegg has declared the Coalition “contract is broken” after the Conservatives refused to support House of Lords reform and the Liberal Democrats blocked changes to parliamentary boundaries in retaliation”.

It was mentioned that Clegg “said the Conservatives have defied the Coalition agreement by trying to ‘pick and choose’ which items of Government policy they support. The row marks one of the most serious crises for the Coalition since the 2010 general election with Conservative sources saying at the weekend that they were determined to push ahead with boundary reform. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, said he was ‘very disappointed’, describing the decision as a ‘great shame'”. The report goes on to add that “The Liberal Democrats have historically supported boundary changes. Mr Clegg has previously said it was important to fix the ‘broken scales of our democracy’ by making the size of constituencies more equal”.

The article goes on to say that “Clegg stressed that he was still committed to Coalition government, insisting his relationship with the Prime Minister is ‘fine’. He said the Government would now “draw a line under” their disagreements over constitutional reform. Scrapping two major new reforms will leave MPs with a huge gap in the Parliamentary timetable for debating new legislation. Mr Clegg suggested the Government may now turn its attention to more financial reforms, as well as dealing with the struggling economy”. The piece concludes importantly “Equalising the size of boundaries could have meant that the Conservatives would win between six and 20 more seats at the next election”.

Indeed, if Clegg and the Lib Dems are to have any survival prospects beyond the expected 2015 general election, then they should not be wasting their precious time on projects where there is little interest or support. Instead the smaller party should concentrate standing up for its own ideology and combatting neoliberalism. Both of which, to varying degrees are popular. This would enable them to have a substantive list of achievements when Parliament is dissolved.


Yet another medium sized power


In a recent report on the UK armed forces, Dr Liam Fox faces the unenviable task of chosing what to cut in round of budget cuts demanded to bring the country’s debt under control. Not suprisingly the UK “will lose up to 16,000 personnel, hundreds of tanks, scores of fighter jets and half a dozen ships”.

Worst hit is the RAF who under the plans will “lose 7,000 airmen – almost one sixth of its total staff – and 295 aircraft. The cuts will leave the Force with fewer than 200 fighter planes for the first time since 1914”. With major hardware, most notably, “The entire force of 120 GR4 Tornado fighter-bombers looks destined for the scrap heap to save £7.5 billion over the next five years” while similarly “the number of Eurofighter Typhoons is likely to be reduced further from 160 to 107 planes based at a single RAF airfield to save £1  billion”.

Cuts in the Army and Navy are also planned, but the broader question comes quickly into view. Any illusion that the UK is a major power and can act unilaterally is now finished. It musts decide what role it wishes to play and with who it wishes to play it with. Either with the EU, whose foreign policy Dr Kagan accurately described as “probably the most anemic of all the products of European integration”, or with the sole superpower/hyperpower left in the world, the US, probably in the form of further NATO co-operation.

Too much of a good thing


There has been much talk in the UK of the Labour party leadership election where all party members have a vote. And this is, in some ways, a good thing. However people chosing party leaders or candidates can be taken to extremes.

 Alvin Greene is now the official candidate for the US Senate of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Greene who “lives at home with his parents, raised no money and had no campaign website, staff, leaflets or signs”, yet he  is still the official nominee beating his other rivals for the nomination “with more than 100,000 votes”.

This is when a mood of anti-incumbency is sweeping much of the US and indeed, other parts of the world, partly on the back of President Obama’s “change” election. Greene’s victory “has puzzled and embarrassed the party after it later emerged he is also facing a criminal obscenity charge”. 

This is what you get when you mix a volatile political mood an angry, unpredictable electorate and a needlessly democratic party nomination system. Instead of a calm, measured debate between party officials who would choose a candidate that they thought would be the best, the people, have chosen a political nobody with no experience of dealing with legislation or lobbyists or the complex tasks faced by a legislator every day.

Apparently the “leader of the state Democratic party immediately asked him to step aside but, in a further twist, Greene is refusing and plans to run against incumbent Republican Senator Jim DeMint in November”.

Here the benefits of a party list system come to the fore. Instead of the candidate representing his party on the ballot, voters have no say who the candidate is and only vote for the party and therefore, (one would hope) its policies. This forces voters, who sometimes need to be forced, to decide who to vote for not on personality, as is so often the case, but on what they as the voter actually believe.  

The list system leaves aside the irrelevancies of who stands and leaves that to the party, who one would hope, pick people who don’t have a criminal record. Not only that but a list system avoids people with no political experience getting the party nomination and causing the party to splinter over whether to support the nomination or not, as I suspect the South Carolina Dems are know doing, weighing up Greene’s anti-incumbency record over his, eh, inexperience.

I hope people learn that there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it has such enormous ramifications for so many people.

Monkey see, monkey do


The Brits have followed Obama slavishly on the numbers of nuclear weapons held. The UK has “set a limit on its nuclear weapons stockpile, at 225 warheads”

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and First Secretary of State, William Hauge MP said,    “For the first time, the government will make public the maximum number of nuclear warheads that the UK will hold in its stockpile. In the future our overall stockpile will not exceed 225 nuclear warheads”.

The article said that Hague “hoped his announcement would help build trust between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states”. Do these people not know the basic law in all the international arena? Mistrust and danger is sadly all around us as it has been before and indeed will be in the future. To ignore this tenet of the international system is both dangerous and naive.

No nation with a basic understanding of the international system would take such a step.

The EU’s existential crisis


Are we witnessing the collapse of the European Union, or its potential strengthening? Both? Neither?

The crisis that is gripping the markets at the moment is the future of the Euro, which after reaching such high’s against the dollar, now is at an all time low.

Much of the problem comes from Dr Angela Merkel ‘s desire to save the fragments of the political union that she and the French so desperately crave. In bailing out  Greece, she stated that “if the euro fails, then Europe fails”.

Part of the problem is that “The euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man’s lifestyle.” However, why were they not stricter criteria for Euro entry, and if there were why weren’t enforced? Because, firstly when it was concieved, times were good economically and no one in high enough places had the foresight to realise that times might not always be as good as they were. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the French and the Germans felt they could gain a political upper hand easily by admitting as many countries as they possibly could to the Euro and thus bring the EU one step closer to the nation-state that they hope it will be, with all the top jobs held by either a Frenchman or a German, with bones thrown to the others who are willing to kowtow to the diminution of their respective nation-states, ie, Benelux, Austria and a few others. Even the Americans have chimed in.

As the journalist states plainly, “By any legitimate measure, Greece was unworthy of eurozone membership.” He says that the “game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med.” The concept is bringing Germans, Swedes and Italians and others into the one currency makes no sense. The cultures, irrespective of how much globalisation happens or how fast we can communicate to each other does not seperate fundamental cultural differences.

What’ll happen to the EU? The Germans and the French have invested too much time and money in the project to let it all fall asunder now. So the correspondent predicts what should have always happened, “Greece and Portugal are favourites to be forced out through weakness. At the top end, proposals are already being floated in the Frankfurt press for a new ‘hard currency’ zone, led by Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries.”

So we’ll get a two speed EU, which we have already in places due to all those opt-outs. This means that those “countries” that have most “dissolved in a lukewarm bath of multilateral, transnational, secular, and postmodern fudge” will stumble forward on a path to integration, leading possibly to political union, while the rest of the world and possibly the rest of Europe will see sense and take a more cautious attitude to integrating with each other. 

Stephen Walt assess’s the result of the crisis in foreign policy terms correctly when he says “whether Europe grows closer together or begins to spin apart, it’s going to carry a lot less weight in world affairs in the next few decades. Its population is shrinking and aging, its military power is increasingly hollow, and it’s going to be short on money for years to come. If U.S. officials think they are going to get a lot more help from NATO in the decades ahead, they are living in a dream world.” 

As David Cameron said when he met Dr Merkel last week, “It goes without saying that any treaty, even one that just applied to the euro area, needs unanimous agreement of all 27 EU states including the UK, which of course has a veto”. 

Two speed EU, here we come!

New UK government


There is, in case you hadn’t noticed, a coalition government in the UK, and believe it or not, the sky hasn’t fallen in!

Brown decided he had had enough so he just resigned and suddenly, well sort of, there was an agreement between the Tories and the Lib Dems that steers clear of any disagreements, more or less, and focuses on the items where there is commom ground, which there seems to be. The Cabinet announced, on Wednesday 12th is as follows:

*Prime Minister   The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
*Deputy Prime Minister & Lord President of the Council
(special responsibility for political & constitutional reform)
  The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
*Foreign Secretary & First Secretary of State   The Rt Hon William Hague MP
*Chancellor of the Exchequer   The Rt Hon George Osborne MP
*Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice   The Rt Hon Ken Clarke QC MP
*Home Secretary   The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
*Secretary of State for Defence   The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP
*Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills   The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP
*Secretary of State for Work and Pensions   The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
*Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change   The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP
*Secretary of State for Health   The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP
*Secretary of State for Education   The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
*Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government   The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
*Secretary of State for Transport   The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
*Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs   The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP
*Secretary of State for International Development   The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
*Secretary of State for Northern Ireland   The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
*Secretary of State for Scotland   The Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP
*Secretary of State for Wales   The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP
*Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport   The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
*Chief Secretary to the Treasury   The Rt Hon David Laws MP
*Leader of the House of Lords & Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster   The Rt Hon The Lord Strathclyde PC
*Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State)   The Rt Hon The Baroness Warsi PC

What should be clear is that from the Cabinet at least, the Tories are very much in charge, being in control of all of the Great Offices of State. The Lib Dems getting five seats at the big boys table. Former shadow Secretary of State for Justice,  Dominic Grieve had to be moved to allow Ken Clarke to take up the Justice job, who in turn was moved to allow Dr Vince Cable take up the BIS job. Talk of Cable getting a newly formed ministry quickly faded as did talk of him getting the Treasury job.

Obviously the Tories had to be compensated in some way, with those particularly on the Right of the party feeling snubbed, so IDS made his return to the Cabinet as DWP Secretary. In addition to that the coalition has laid out a plan that would allow an election to take place no earlier than the first Thursday of May 2015. In order to allow both parties to hang together and take the blame, and (hopefully?) some of the gain after taking what are expected to be some savage decisions.

Will it work? I hope so, with the Tories not budging on things like Trident, but rightly ditching their inhertiance tax cuts, and the Lib Dems getting some badly needed voting reform as well as some economic jobs in the Cabinet this could be an excellent coalition with some brilliantly sensible policies on both sides. It also leaves Labour who are searching for, David Miliband, as their new leader, to spend some well deserved time in oppostion.

If they can keep to their areas then it could work exceptionally well, however, there is bound to be tensions, especially over the health sckeptism that the Lib Dems have of the market, as opposed to some of the Tories still bottomless faith in it. With, Osborne, Hammond and Cable all going to be in each others pockets, due to co-ordination efforts, it will be a tremendous test of both Cameron and Clegg to reign in their respective parties extremes and prevent the collapse of the coalition.    

Here’s hoping.

The haggling begins…and ends?


The results are in after a month of campaigning in the UK election, with the Tories gaining the most seats, 306, with 36.1% of the vote, up 97 from the 2005 election but not the 326 which is needed to form a government. Labour took a hammering losing 91 seats taking 258, and 29% of the vote, while after all the hype of Nick Clegg becoming the next Prime Minster, he lost 5 seats getting 57 and 23% of the vote.

Now with Gordon Brown clinging on to power, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are talking, perhaps ultimatly fruitlessly as the differences, not just over reform of the voting system, whch at least half of Britons want, but also there are substantial differences over the economy as well as over defence, most notably Trident.

There will be talks supposedly finished by Monday, to please the all powerful markets,  but the Tories will probably end up forming a minority government for a few months, that will last until the end of the year, if even, and then another election will be called.

Will a Conservative minority government pass electoral reform on its own, and will Cameron be able to bring his party with him, all without the help/hinderance of the Lib Dems?

UK general election


I suppose I should give some thoughts with less than an hour before the close of polls.

This has been an exciting and infurating election for some time. Exciting because there has been so much going on with the rise of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems and at the same time the justified “implosion” of New Labour coupled with the highs of the Tories reached only a few months ago, only to have Labour claw back ground despite the deeply unpopular government and the economic mess they helped create. Not only that but there was every agonists dream, two or more parties, with truely different visions, dare I say it, ideologies, debating (more or less) their ideas in the forum of the public sphere – which is exactly what every election should aspire to, this one came the closest to this in the UK for some time.

Unfuriating because of people’s unwillingness to see that it is the first past the post system that is causing such problems, and will only continue to cause such problems in the future unless there is reform of the voting system that allows for some form, exactly which needs to be debated, of PR. As has been commented on before here, the UK is working on an electoral system designed for two parties but with at least three.

Some have said that the best option for the Conservatives would be to have a Labour/Lib Dem coalition which would take all the “tough” decisions and then collapse, leaving the Tories to bask in the glow of the electorate – this does ignore the fact that these decisions will have to be made anyway, and that to take the tough decisions is what real politics is about, the exact opposite of New Labour. 

Savage cuts are coming from whoever has the luck/misfortune to get in.

The only other thing that is clear is that by this time tomorrow there will be a 649 newly elected MPs – to say any more at this stage would be premature.

Thought for the day


After seeing the second UK prime ministeral debate one thing struck me that needs urgent change. Of the two “major” – whatever that means anymore – only Labour has promised a referendum on the future of the electoral system.

Chaos will ensure, more hung parliaments, more haggling and lack of leadership unless there is an acknoledgement that the UK is no longer a two party system. Therefore it should no longer have an electoral system made for only two parties. If the system remains as it is, instability will be rife.

Ideology and civility


The “conservative” Dr Andrew Sullivan draws a comparison between the upcoming United Kingdom General Election and the context in which elections are set. He says that the atmosphere in which elections are run are increasingly poisonous. He says that there is so little difference between the two main parties that the reasons for this acrominy is almost baffling.

Yet it is percisly the reason why there is so little difference that there is so much attention on the personality and style of each party leader. It is the death of ideolgy that has caused exactly this kind of news-lite to emerge and pass itself off as news, the media is of course partly to blame for faciliating all of this.

Dr Sullivan does not seem to understand that the current climate   in American poltics is perhaps the least worse option, although there could of course by more substantive policy discussion, and no, I’m not referring to Sarah Palin’s “book”.

The death of ideology in the European Union and perhaps the European continent (not that there’s too much of a difference between those two these days) brings us the punishment of the Blair’s,  Sarkozy’s and Merkel’s and Clinton’s of  the world, instead of the known that is the Thatcher’s, and Mitterand’s. 

Save us from the Third Way and the horrors of triangulation!