Here in t’north of England life is starting to look very dicey. We manage to be rampantly and systematically buggered by every Conservative administration that pokes and wheedles its way into Westminster. The fact that they have performed reasonably is a depressing sight, though this is mostly in their Southern heartlands. The gains for Labour in the North show the coalition that, frankly, they can “Carry On Buggering”* as they have enough support from the Midlands down to continue pretty much as is. Cameron, with his head that forever looks like face painted on the side of an over-inflated balloon, is laughing in a nauseatingly smug way now. His plan to basically do what he wanted, using the LibDems as human shields has worked beautifully.
For Nick Clegg, the bell is tolling. What this election demonstrates is that he has led his party into the Valley of Death. It may take a generation or more for any kind of trust and credibility to be restored, if indeed it can be at all. But Cameron will cling to him, even if his party don’t. It is easy to see grass-roots dissatisfaction with him, and the LibDem members of the government, boiling over fairly soon, however. Simon Hughes possibly realised that last night. As he sat in the studio during the election coverage he had the miserable demeanour of a man who’d dropped a tenner and found a pound, desperately trying to defend the indefensible.
It’s also hard to imagine him gaining any comfort from the AV referendum. Cameron played him like an old Stradivarius to get the timing right. It was clear that a referendum was going to have a party political dimension and so it proved, even if the campaign (rather unedifyingly) felt like watching two groups of monkeys at the zoo picking up and throwing their shit at each other. So, electoral reform is also now probably dead in the water for another generation. How may Liberal Democrats will look at tomorrow’s wreckage and stand wondering exactly what kind of position they’ve put themselves into, not to mention what exactly is it that they are getting from the Coalition. To many, they just look like Sock Puppet Tories. And perhaps that anger has been the reason for the meltdown they’ve experienced. Hilariously, though, listening to the likes of Paddy Ashdown and some other figures, there is a feeling that “we’ve been given or kicking, lets move on”, as if this is an endpoint. Worryingly, for the Coalition, this is probably just the beginning.
We find ourselves in a 1981 landscape, with a deep recession, swingeing spending cuts, a Royal Wedding and riots. And ‘ even summer yet. The cuts haven’t fully bitten yet and the strikes and disputes have yet to really bite. Meanwhile the LibDems find themselves in 1975: members of a coalition with no real impact or power and a vanishing level of public support. The levels of complacency in some quarters about the road map for the future and the levels of public anger to come are quite breathtaking.
Meanwhile we in the North are cut adrift. A positive Scottish independence vote in the next few years (now not an impossibility, especially if the SNP continue to do a reasonable job) would effectively mean that we would be permanently saddled with a government we don’t want and consistently don’t choose. For us, in that circumstance, democracy would be a pretty hollow joke. Some might say we should have chosen to have regional parliaments when we given the chance. But they fell flat because they didn’t offer any real power for the regions at all.
Any chance of extending the Scottish border down to somewhere near Humberside?
*The great lost Carry On film.