Sunday, 9 May 2010

Tough Beats And Hard Choices

Already this Twitter nonsense has come up trumps for me; thanks to Tomsk I have this fascinating rumination on the current choice facing the Liberal Democrats.

Mainly, I think it's bang on, and the biggest evidence of that is that it isn't pretending the answer is a simple one, something an awful lot of people both in the Guardian and amongst politics-savvy American progressives seem desperate to convince us it is.

I've been talking about this political clusterfuck for the last couple of days with anyone who'll listen, and I've still got no idea as to which the best way to go is. I'm not sure about LimDemVoice's argument that staying out of a coalition is problematic because it implies we're putting party ahead of country - that's a charge that we're going to get battered with whichever route we take - but even so I don't know whether I'd recommend allowing a minority government.

In fact, the closest I can offer to anything approaching a considered opinion is pretty bleak and distressing (why change the habit of a lifetime, I guess). We may have to stop viewing this choice with an eye on avoiding disaster, and accept that the disaster is already inevitable. When historians sit down to discuss the moment the Liberal Democrats were humbled for - well, you pick it; months, years, decades - they won't talk about this weekend. They'll talk about Thursday. Not to be too doom-laden, or anything, but we may already be dead.

I'm exaggerating. A little. Probably. I think. But the point remains. We may not literally be about to die, but the metaphor is still uncomfortably close. While that gives me no idea as to what we should be doing right now, it does mean we need to frame our consideration in a slightly different way. Inevitably, my thoughts turn to Dr. Henry Philip "Hank" McCoy - still the superhero I would most like to be by several light-years - and his suggestion to Jamie Madrox on how we deal with knowing we have lost. "So we just lay down and die?" "Good Lord, no. I'm not recommending that. For my part, I intend to die standing up. And singing the Marseillaise."

How about it, Mr Clegg? Wanna die standing up and singing? Only, people are kinda waiting for you to call the tune.


Chemie said...

Have a German perspective. I love the way they unflinchingly refer to our parliament as 'undemocratic',1518,693603,00.html

Tomsk said...

In the long history of Liberal humblings, this one's got nothing on 1983. The LDs should relish the hard choices they have to make, because they don't usually get to have any choices at all.

SpaceSquid said...

What made it so humiliating? Was it (according to Wikipedia) the massive disparity between our seats and Labour's despite a pretty similar vote share? Because at least that time round we picked up a few seats. In fact, looking at it from that perspective (which, of course, isn't the only way to do it), doesn't that make Thursday pretty much the most embarrassing since Thatcher arrived?

I take the point about the LDs finally getting to do something, but it still feels far too much like being asked to choose the colour of one's coffin, having already been forced to dig one's grave.

Man, but I am maudlin about this in print. I blame spending the evening with BigHead...

(As a sidebar, one interesting thing to note is that Labour is the only of the big three to receive more actual votes in this election than they did in '83).

SpaceSquid said...

Sorry; should also have said thanks to Chemie for the Spiegel link. Always interesting to get a foreign, non-US opinion.

Tomsk said...

It was humbling because a year or two earlier the Alliance were polling at 50% and David Steel made a speech saying "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government."

As for now, many of the Lib Dems' seats were picked up from the Tories by default on the back of the massive swing to Labour in 1997. So just to hold on to them as the electorate swing back to the Tories is actually quite an achievement. It shows how much better the Lib Dems have become at targeting seats since 83.