I have no stake in the outcome but an amateur’s interest in a developed country which is steeped in ancient history and recent identity politics. Class, media, wealth, socialism, capitalism, liberalism and many ideas of the Enlightenment get an airing here, without the supernatural and supranatural factors of religion (Continental Europe) or race (South Africa).
Some characteristics that have appeared out of this election are important to gain a better understanding of, well, change management in particular.
- The outcome appeals to me as a centrist libertarian – which means, apart from being pompous and different, that I believe the Left and Right of the political spectrum are just moods; there’s a time to vote Left or Right yet refusal to budge from ideological battles is dangerous. It also means I believe that better outcomes are normally guaranteed by increasing liberties of the individual. I do believe there is a place for state, state control and organisation which is where I differ with anarchists (of the Left and Right).
The current result shows that Conservatives have had to come closer to the centre. This in order to grapple with existing Labour legislation as well as the media image of conservatives. It necessarily creates a vacancy on the right wing which will see disaffected conservatives occupy.
- I hold that politics, metaphysics, history and management describe a pendulum effect. Too much in one direction creates a force for its extreme opposite. The swing to conservatism was natural after 13 years of Labour socialism and social engineering; the added boon to the Liberal Democrats was a response to the nanny-police state.
While the Liberal Democrats polled few votes their influence was felt in the last month where voters indicated their support. More would have actually voted for them but for tribal politics built largely out of fear. It is probably fair to assume that the Liberal Left, who were Blairite or simply useful idiots, will identify themselves as Liberal Democrat during the coalition period.
- I called it wrong. I believed that Clegg would be king-maker by making the deal with Labour to remove Gordon Brown on April 21st. It was a valid option once the Conservatives one it would have been remarkably cynical. While a week can be a long time in politics, reputations last a long time. Many tribalists will not vote Tory because they remember their parents grumbling about Thatcher, or they can image grandparents wearing cloth caps and therefore feel affinity to Labour.
- Spin was the basis of Blairite NuLabour politics. Style over Substance, US presidential-style, ‘Cool Britannia” and the Spice Girls etc. It sold NuLabour to the rank and file union workers along with the promise of materialism. It was the glue that sold leftist politics to the middle class and trendiness to the uninformed. Where Campbell was the spinmeister, Mandelson was Machiavelli.
Thatcher and the Conservatives of the 1980s divide the UK today still: conventional wisdom holds that they ruined society and trod on the poor. The myth was constructed and damaged the Conservatives since that time. The effects of spin also became the undoing of Labour in the campaign as distrust was rife within their upper ranks and the divisions between old Labour and Blairite Labour became pronounced.
- Tribal politics is the groupthink of the electorate. Democracy is constructed ostensibly to create the outcome of various rational thoughts, “wisdom of crowds” if you will. When people have few choices and are pressured to vote for the lesser of evils one gets parties that are divisive on identity politics and blandly similar on progressive ideas.
- Ideology is always dangerous. One of the species’ key takeaways from the 20th Century, perhaps because Labour straddled two centuries it allowed them to miss it. NuLabour was filled with educated and ambitious professionals who had the idealistic spark common to all revolutionaries. They were not Conservatives and therefore mobilised the rank and file of the existing Labour movement, bringing in new tactics of being media savvy and having a sound economic policy. They appealed to the middle class who felt guilty voting Conservative and built on that.
However, there were elements of Marxism still in Labour that adhered to Frankfurt School principles which require society to be deconstructed to build something more fair, in the parlance of NuLabour. While that may retain some noble bearing it occasions problems when it has to be slipped into policy insidiously. See, no electorate likes to know it is being socially engineered. This caused the usual uproars against immigration and political correctness which can be managed. The recession was not factored in, nor was the disgruntlement of the white working class. Remember, fascism and socialism are but two moods of the working class, not the sworn enemies their controlling classes pretend them to be. Labour lost the confidence of its core vote and while there was a fear of defection to the extreme right wing the tribal loyalties remained.
- Taxation and representation. The Home Counties (Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland) get a percentage of taxpayer spend in return for representation. They are overwhelmingly Labour constituencies in Scotland as Scotland is heavily subsidised by the state. Labour is a creator of the big state. Get the picture?
The situation creates some flash but no bang, until the various nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales offered to join a Labour-Liberal coalition in return for more substantial state subsidies. This leads on to the debate about proportional representation which will have a political impact rather than an operational impact for the next five years.