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Currently viewing the tag: "UK Politics"

So, just as I predicted, the UK Election was a complete fiasco for the left aside from Scotland. Though I have to admit that even I didn’t expect the Liberal Democrats to wind up with less than ten seats. In retrospect, though, it makes perfect sense. Good summary here:

If the electorate felt an anti-incumbent impulse, they directed it not at the Tories but almost exclusively at their coalition partners. One-time supporters who leaned left abandoned the Lib Dems long ago; those who leaned right preferred to vote for the real thing.

Ultimately, I think, this is why it was such a stupid idea for the Liberal Democrats to join in a coalition. Nick Clegg often talks about the party carrying on this political and intellectual tradition down from John Stewart Mill and all that, but fundamentally, the party was two separate protest movements rolled into one: left-liberals who dislike the Labour Party (many due to the Iraq War), and conservatives who dislike the Tories (many over the party’s stance toward Europe), along with narrowly tailored appeals to specific voters in Scotland and Wales. The Liberal Democrats offered a perfect vehicle for all sorts of discontent: they had a definite presence in British politics and always got to take the high road, to stand on broadly appealing principle in part because they never exercised power (and it didn’t seem they ever would). As soon as they actually held power (or, at any rate, couldn’t avoid responsibility for its exercise), the entire thing crumbled like a fusilli hydra. And then there’s this detail, dealing with the intracasies of British politics that almost nobody here knows about:

Afterwards there was much talk of Lib Dem familiarity with disaster and historic resilience in the face of it. But now there must be a question over the viability of theparty. They lost a fortune – £170,000 – in forfeited deposits. They will no longer qualify for much of the parliamentary subsidy known as Short money. Their funding base in the prosperous London seats they once held has gone.

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If there’s one constant to multinational states, it is that the dominant faction sees the state as one big happy family that is just fantastic and wonderful and everybody else just must feel that way. The elites of the USSR certainly did, and it cost them their empire because to many in the Soviet Republics, the situation was much more like an extended home invasion than a leisurely family dinner. The fact that the UK’s political elite dogged their campaign to keep Scotland a part of the UK reeks of this same tendency, which made the pro-independence case much better than any argument they themselves could make.

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UK’s spinner-in-chief managed to get some good headlines by cutting banker bonuses, but it won’t do any good. They’ll just take it in salary instead. I’ve said it before, but there are three very good reasons for the rise of UKIP in British politics, and those are the three current major party heads.
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I do understand that the UK Labour Party is in a tough spot–they got virtually all the blame for the economic collapse, and while being in charge for thirteen years probably means you deserve most of it, I’m not entirely sure they deserve all of it. So a full-on onslaught against austerity in the style of now-French President Hollande is probably going to be politically dicey. But I see it as extremely ominous when they start sounding like every failed DLC-style failed campaign here in the US: defensive, granting virtually all of the other side’s premises, promising everything in such a way that the public can’t help but realize you’re promising nothing. I’ve long presumed that Cameron is toast the next time he comes up for election, but if this is what the campaign looks like over there, I can’t help but be pessimistic.
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Mr. Stross looks at the most likely effects this would have. Basically, Britain would see its foreign trade dry up and wouldn’t really gain any real independence, and considering that the UK is such a financialized economy at this point, getting cut out of free trade pacts don’t sound all that good. It does seem pretty clear that the UK’s deeply hated leaders are hoping to use Europe as a way of keeping attention off of the inability of their one-dimensional austerity strategy to prove results. The only question is whether or not it has enough juice to accomplish this, and I’m skeptical. It’s shrewd in its way, but it’s buttressing an essentially reactive economic strategy at this point, and that’s the biggest fundamental. It could wind up being Cameron’s “self-deportation” moment I suppose.
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Believe it or not, there are things going on in the world that don’t involve presidential debates! Such as possibly massive changes in Europe due to this:

Germany‘s opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), has closed the gap on Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s Christian Democrats following the selection of her former finance minister to lead their general election campaign next year.

Polls show that the choice of Peer Steinbrück as the SPD challenger last week has given the party a significant boost in its attempt to oust Merkel. The SPD is now enjoying its highest level of support in a year.

A Forsa survey shows that the SPD has gained three points from a week earlier to 29% after the selection of the feisty, plain-speaking 65-year-old. Merkel’s party dropped three points to 35%.

The combined support for the SPD and the party’s preferred partner, the Greens, is now 41%, marginally ahead of the 39% support for the ruling centre-right coalition.

This could well be a polling bump, but I suspect it isn’t only that. Merkel’s party has lost ground in local elections recently, and she has been in power for about seven years now. Weariness is to be expected: in most democracies that’s when people start to get antsy, start seeking new leadership. Not to mention her pious incompetence on finding any sort of solution to the euromess–which hurts Germany too, incidentally, since those are their main trading partners–should make this a doable task for the generally unimpressive German left (two election victories in thirty years!). For the sake of the planet, let’s hope they’ve got it in them.

Also, it would appear that the British public is just about done with Cameronian austerity, Tories now trail Labour by 14 points in the polls, a margin that just seems to keep expanding. Admittedly, the election probably won’t take place there for another two years and much can happen, but it turns out that Cameron’s new vision of conservatism has turned out to be not all that new. I have little doubt his party will make him stick with austerity to the bitter end.

All in all, it’s not looking good for those who want to dismantle the welfare state (theirs in the case of Cameron, mostly others in the case of Merkel) in order to create “confidence.” Several years in, the only thing their electorates are confident of is that there needs to be a change of direction.

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Over in the UK, Labour is now up big over the ruling Tories. Part of that is almost certainly a stalled, ailing economy, but what’s sort of interesting because a big part of their drop is due to implementing a cap on charitable deductions, which is essentially what Obama wanted to do here to cut the deficit. It’s good policy, but really terrible politics. I have no idea if implementing such a cap would limit charitable deductions by wealthy people, I suspect it wouldn’t, but intuitively it seems as though it would, and it’s a short hop from this and austerity to getting the “heartless” tag. Or maybe it’s already done. Of course, none of this wouldn’t have been necessary had the Tories not made a huge cut in the highest tax bracket a few weeks back. I’m beginning to think that all those stories about how thoughtful and moderate the Tories are might be overblown, don’t you?
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