April 14, 2005

Corrupt Liberals set to be exposed!

Posted by Anonymous Commentator

Sadly it's in Canada
It baffles me that the politics of Canada, Australia and New Zealand donít get more attention in this country. All somebody has to do in the States is stub their toe in some vaguely politico-legal-televisual fashion, and sit back and wait as every British news outlet going sets up outside the Supreme Court/Congress/White House/folksy in-between bit statehouse/comedy court room to report in tedious detail whatever the cousins are up to. But you know, American politics, for all its primary coloured vigour never tells you anything useful about what's going to happen in Britain. Those English-speaking parliamentary democracies on the other hand, well all you had to do for the last generation was look at them and you'd have seen what was coming Britainís way no more than a decade on.

Iím not saying that, as in the manner of Canada, a vaguely progressive government, seemingly absolutely unshiftable by a morose electorate, is about to implode in a welter of corruption scandals. Yet where did New Labour come from? Surely it owed more than a little to the road reality forced 'democratic socialists' in Australia and New Zealand to follow first? Likewise, did the destruction of the monolithic Tories in Canada not prefigure their disconnection from power here? Certainly Lynton Crosby thinks that John Howardís example is relevant to the Conservative party, but has the Ocker knocker really even been allowed to begin blowing that famed dog whistle of his? Are, in fact, the Tories still far too terrified to oppose properly? If there was one lesson that Mrs Thatcher taught, and that John Howard in office has demonstrated superbly, it's that governments can oppose. In Australia Mr Howard opposes the entire cultural consensus ranged against him and profits as a result. The suspicion has to be about Michael Howard's Tories that they'd far more readily accommodate our consensus than rail against it.

Killjoys were here
The standard line about the Liberals (ours, not the excellent Australian ones) is that there is a 'tension' between, on the one hand their 'libertarian' tendency, and on the other, their social democrat, government-is-the-answer urges. Their manifesto today ought to resolve this supposed divide: British Liberals are, as they have been for more than a century now, profound pessimists about what individual action can achieve. More of your money will be taken to be spent by the state doing more of the things you ought to have decided to do for yourselves, in the world where the Lib Dems have much of a say. We're no closer to that country yet (having ended up with two great, vaguely capitalist parties, and no need yet for a civil service one), but we are already in an age of triumphant success for the Liberal party. And ever ready to embarrass myself, I'll predict that regardless of where government and Official Opposition end up, there will be more Liberal MPs after the next election. Which leaves them perfectly poised to benefit from the split the Conservatives are only another crisis in self-belief away from.

As manifestos go, the Lib Dem did what you expected, and fell between the vacuous stool of the Tories, while falling short of the departmental-fuelled 'something for everyoneness' of the government's. Indeed, while Michael Howard's, with his derivative handwriting, was very seven years ago, Charles Kennedyís effort had the timeless quality every middle management presentation at a country house away day seminar has. Moreover, Charles Kennedy's signal failure to imprint himself firmly on the minds of the public has been a boon for his party. For the absence of any very strong persona, far from being a negative, has allowed voters to see what they want. There's a lesson here: the public like everymen, and since the Liberals can't realistically expect to be respected (which the public need to do those they expect to lead them), a ginger hole where leadership ought to be is the best thing that could have happened to them. It's no way ever to achieve a breakthrough to the silver medal position, but as any fule knows, that's going to take one of the big two cracking up, and how likely is that?

Read this
SAU International Advisory Council member John O'Sullivan, and former Thatcher speechwriter and editor of the American National Review, as well as current editor of The National Interest, has undertaken that most difficult of tasks, explaining our amusing political ways to an American audience. It's quality stuff, and itís instructive to see how intelligent others expect to see us. In another post, I'll look at what so easily could have been the biggest 'what if' of the campaign ó Robert Kilroy-Silk's oh so strange intervention. That this wasn't the dog that barked and frightened Tory and Labour populists half to death is entirely because Mr Kilroy-Silk, twenty odd years out of politics, had become so inept at it that he himself destroyed the excellent opportunity he afforded UKIP and they him. But that this could have been an election quite unlike any other is something to think on, for it goes a long way to illuminating the systemic dissatisfaction British voters have with the choice being offered to them. Robert Kilroy-Silk certainly isn't the answer, but each main political party kids only itself if they don't realise that he smells an awful lot like the question.

For the duration of the campaign, the Social Affairs Unit will be publishing regular commentaries on the progress of the UK election. These commentaries represent the views of the anonymous commentator, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.


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Comments

Well, I've thought for a long time (he's been in a long time) that Blair's "Big Idea" really amounted to the Canadianization of British politics, with a hegemonic centre party, a loyal opposition of the centre-right and a smaller, regionally-based party of the centre-left that can be shafted by propping up a minority government every 20 years or so...

But when I try to explain this to people, their eyes glaze over... I imagine them thinking: "you mean, I have to bother about Canadanian politics..."

Their right-wingers are kinda cute. I well remember talking to a supporter of the late lamented (well, maybe not) Reform Party on Vancouver Island, whose Big Idea was to fund the entire provincial budget by taxing tourists. When I said that then he wouldn't have any, he gace me a very old-fashioned look...

Posted by: Innocent Abroad at April 15, 2005 08:24 AM
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Interesting article - just a minor quibble: John O'Sullivan is in fact no longer the Editor of the National Interest. He was sacked when the National Interest was fully transferred to the Nixon Centre. This was all part of the fall out of the collapse of Hollinger/Conrad Balck who had been previously supporting National Interest.

Posted by: Douglas at April 15, 2005 12:50 PM
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Thanks for the fact checking re JO'S. Never rely on old copies on quarterly magazines lying about the place . . .

Posted by: Anon at April 15, 2005 09:00 PM
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