Monday, 24 May 2010

Labour and Coalition Talks: why being in the opposition may be the sensible choice?

In an interesting insight on the whole negotiation and coalition formation process, Danny Alexander (Nick Clegg's chief of staff and one of the Lib Dems main negotiators, now Secretary of State for Scotland) let slip that they used to text a lot during the talks. To the people sitting across the table. His argument was that it mainly happened in their discussions with Labour who were not talking 'with a single voice' or as the press has clearly noticed, many Labour MPs were quite adamant to be in opposition after the election. The same Highlands MP gives us the answer to the question:

'And I think maybe we're seeing one of the reasons why today, you know, this sense that maybe one of the things they've been doing over the past few months is laying a few stink bombs around Whitehall, and maybe some of them knew that and didn't want to be there when they went off," he added.'

The already famous treasury chief's note stating 'There is no money left', joke or not, is such an example. George Osborne explaining how the country left in an economic mess can be seen as another. But even as all these can all be seen as unintended consequences of what Labour thought was the best for the country, the controversies surrounding the Welsh devolution referendum aren't. Thus, after more than 5 months of preparation to have a referendum this autumn, and serious political pressure, among others, from the junior coalition partner in Cardiff Bay, Plaid Cymru, it seems that Peter Hain, former Welsh Secretary has done a brilliant job of... postponing the preparations. Thus, with very little possibility of the event taking place this year (and most likely being on the same day as Assembly election next year), the whole of the Welsh political leadership and Welsh public is turning towards the new Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan for explanation as to why their wishes have been ignored. Moreover, First Minister Carwyn Jones (Labour) is also playing a very good hand in the game, requesting an autumn referendum, when it would seem he had never argued for that in front of the previous Secretary. One cannot help but be amazed how Labour are already capitalising on the fact that the new government have yet to fix the problems they left behind (Seriously?? What have Dave and Nick done to fix the country so far? And they've been in power for almost 2 weeks!!) while also wondering ... what would they have done if they had been re-elected?

Concluding, I am by no means trying to accuse Labour of ruining the country just before the election, it would be far too cynical of us to have such a perspective (and we all know hope dies last, even if this hope is one in the political establishment), but we must accept that Labour most likely did not want to continue governing the UK. Especially since it is reckoned that this government did get the short end of the straw and will have to face a very harsh judgement five years from now. Yet, they had to go down with a fight, as in no other way could they still keep their voters allegiances, but by saying 'we tried our best'. And their voters, just like some of the press, will just ignore that the so-called Rainbow Coalition was terribly unworkable even if this were a country where multi-party coalitions are the rule. And Gordon Brown had to go down with it, because New Labour is no longer the new black, while a new leadership will be forced to refashion the whole party and it ideology.

I would say 'Bring on post-Labour...' but somehow I can already see the some analysts peeking their heads and arguing in a small voice that Labour is dead and that the Liberal Democrats are rightfully replacing them on the left of the political spectrum. One must remind them that, in Europe, they only judge a party dead when it doesn't get above the threshold in an election (5%ish) not when they still have almost 30% of the vote, but failed to continue in government after 13 years. But that's another topic for another time...


Post a Comment