Back to: PDF: Satanic horror from the abyss, or merely evil? | Forward to: Next year's Hugo novel shortlist ...

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss ... not.

So we have a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government (those words, I think, throw the difference between the British and American political weltanschaung into stark relief).

I'm really not a fan of the Conservatives; 18 years of ThatcherMajorism left deep scars. (If you're American and not a fan of George W. Bush, it was like this: Thatcher treated her foes with exactly the same contempt as Bush's people did. And eighteen years of contempt backed up by malice and a legislative sledgehammer leave very bad memories.)

On the other hand, the coalition platform seems to have retained a surprisingly large chunk of the LibDem platform on civil liberties. A lot of the most objectionable illiberal and authoritarian measures of the past decade look likely to be repealed in the early days of the new government. (This isn't as odd as it may sound to outsiders; the Conservatives have long harboured a Libertarian faction, and Cameron appears to identify with them strongly on some issues.) On constitutional reform, it looks like we're getting a fully elected upper house to replace the House of Lords, and a full referendum on electoral reform for the lower house — although the conservatives reserve the right to campaign against their coalition partners. I don't like the cap on non-EU immigration, but I suspect it was politically inevitable, as likely under a Labour government as this one.

All in all ...

We've got a government that, for the first time since the 1930s, more than 50% of the voters voted for. There are a lot of positive policies here, on civil liberties and constitutional reform. There are some stinkers, but fewer than I expected. There is also a systemic weakness, insofar as the extreme fringe of either of the coalition parties have the ability to take down the government. So we're probably going to see lots of compromises. In particular, I'm hoping the Liberal Democrats act as an effective brake on the Conservatives (who I fear are capable of behaving much like Stephen Harper's Canadian tories if governing on their own). But I'm deathly afraid of what the Conservatives are going to do about unemployment and drug usage, to name but two aspects of domestic policy where the doctrinaire right wing model is broken (and unemployment is at its highest level since 1994).

I don't think Nick Clegg had any choice but to negotiate with the conservatives, given the noises emanating from some senior Labour politicians: hubris led to a revolt that doomed their effort to form a coalition. And I find it hard to blame Clegg for wanting to be in the lifeboat, rather than swimming along behind it.

So I'm going to hold my nose, and abstain from throwing bricks at the Liberal Democrats for the next six months, by which time we should have some idea of what the unprecedented-in-British-political-history Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition means.

PS: I am waiting for tomorrow's newspapers. If the Murdoch press comes out in violent opposition to the coalition, I will take it as a promising sign ...

148 Comments

1:

I agree that we need to give the coalition government some time to see how this goes. My heart really wanted the Lib-Lab version of this, but seeing the reactions to the idea from the likes of Blunkett and Reid, and being reminded by them of how bullying, all round unpleasant, and tribal the authoritarian wing of the Labour Party is, I'm less unhappy now that the parliamentary arithmatic worked out as it did.

I couldn't have stuck the sight of a Conservative majority government smirking their way into Whitehall, mind, had that been the way it worked out.

2:

Oh, agreed all the way. (Conservative with a Liberal Democrat anchor is a whole lot less unpalatable than a Conservative majority -- or a Labour majority, for that matter.)

3:

From across the sea it looks like if electoral reform goes through such coalition governments could be the new norm.

4:

As an interested observer from the other side of the Altantic, good luck. Navigating the economic rapids for the next few years will be interesting, and if Mervyn King is right, their reward will be a decade or more out of power.

As a non-admirer of G.W. Bush, I cringe at the thought of being governed by their ilk for 18 years. I trust Thatcher's bunch were at least somewhat more competent, even if they were as obnoxious. The UK is still a first world country. I am not sure where the US would be after 18 years of Bush type governance.

5:

What is puzzling to me is the speed by which this deal was made. Especially as coalition governments are far from the norm in the UK.
I would have expected formation talks to last a couple of weeks at least, with both parties checking with their base on the acceptability of the proposed deal. Is this indicative of talks having occurred before the election even, or merely an unwillingness to leave the country without effective government?

6:

I was wondering if you had a take on this, or would (perhaps out of exhaustion or disappointment)leave it to the so-called political blogs.

Very much in agreement with all of your comments and I will also refrain from throwing bricks until we see how it goes.

7:

I'm less forgiving. McJobs for the Libs, no real power to influence policy, and PR in reality ditched for Clegg to get his 'me' McJob.

Labour are playing their opposition long game card, and I fear the Libs will not be up to putting a leash on the Thatcherite Tories - leading to them shitting all over rights and freedoms.

Worst, none of them seem to have the slightest clue of a strategic direction to take to lead the UK out of the doldrums. It's doctrinaire wandering in the wilderness for the UK.

Oh, and the regional parties, are going to get their heads kicked in - scotland chief amongst them.

8:

Kaspar, I think it had more to do with the tv and newspaper's obsession with the markets, and how said markets would rain disaster and plague on us if it took more than a few days to form a "strong and stable" government, and the right-wing media's nonsensical idea that Gordon Brown was somehow squatting in Downing Street as Prime Minister.

Me, I think the world would have still carried on turning if the process had taken a week or so longer.

9:

I notice that the Guardian is already peddling the lie that the Lib Dems walked away from the rainbow coalition negotiations when it was quite clearly the hard-line dinosaurs in Labour that nixed any such deal. I fear this will be the British left's new "stabbed-in-the-back" myth for years to come.

Speaking as an LD party member, who has done much campaigning against the Tories in his time, I can't say I'm happy to be in a coalition with the Tories, but I am very, very happy that there is a coalition at all, and that Liberal Democrats will get a chance to put Liberal Democrat policies into action. To get the sort of political system this country needs, we need to show that political parties can work together and that coalitions are nothing to be scared of. If at the least over the next few years we get more considered, better debated legislation because a coalition simply can't be run with the sort of mindless whipped lobby fodder that is traditional in Britain, then we *all* win.

I'd add that I remain unconvinced that Cameron is truly the moderate "compassionate" conservative that he claims. But I do think he is a realist, and that he knows that for the Tories to have any hope of lasting more than one term, whether majority, minority or in a coalition, he needs to bring them to the centre, just like Blair did with Labour. I think that's why he's been so keen to do this deal with the Lib Dems - in one stroke he's disarmed the head-bangers in his own party.

So like you Charlie, I have my worries and my doubts, but it is just possible this coalition really might be the transformative moment our politics needs.

10:

@4: Oh, Thatcher was competent; in many ways that made things worse. [And she tolerated no dissent, famously so. One of her favourite slogans was "The lady's not for turning." And there was a great Spitting Image* sketch of Thatcher and her cabinet sitting down to dinner:

Waiter: "Have you made a decision, ma'am?"
Thatcher: "Yes, I'll have the steak."
W: "Very good, ma'am. And your vegetables?"
T: "Oh, they'll have the same."]

@5: One thing that all sides appear to agree on, whether correct or not, is the need for a rapid assumption of power. Cameron described this as the need for "strong" government; Brown as the need for "strong, principled" government :).

I agree with OGH that Clegg had a responsibility to his party to get the best deal, and critically to get at least a referendum on AV or some other form of voting reform. [My guess is that AV, while not PR, is in fact likely to give the LibDems a *huge* increase on seats, to the point where I would not actually be surprised to see them come close to a plurality; both Labour and Tories are likely to give them second-place votes. A PR system would have the benefit or cost of allowing in the fringes, but might also reduce the connection between voters and their local MP - a much stronger link than any national-level office in the US has - which would be for the worse. It's an interesting debate; I would not be unhappy with AV.]

And I think I probably have to concur with OGH's nose-holding conclusion. This despite the fact that (like Charlie, I think?) I would fall far to the left of Labour and of the LDs on any political assay (in US terms, I'm a rabid commie). I was horrified at the conduct of Blunkett et al., frankly; and in pure political power terms, having a LD-Tory coalition that has to deal with the measures needed for balance sheet stabilisation yet cannot pass far-right legislation is probably far from the worst outcome for the Labour party. (I'll be astonished if the House of Lords is actually reformed in this parliament, but oddly that bothers me not very much.)

The Guardian had an insightful review of the coalition, noting I think accurately that it's likely as much a Clegg-Cameron partership as it is of the two parties; the two are similar in background (i.e. extremely upper-class and privileged white males) and closer on policy than the mainstream of their parties, I think. I am surprised that I have not seen more objection from the LDs to a Tory coalition, but I think that was muted as soon as the full promise of an AV referendum was on the table.

So now we just have to *pass* AV!

* Smart, satirical UK TV show of the time, based on rubber-faced muppet-like dolls

11:

On constitutional reform, it looks like we're getting a fully elected upper house to replace the House of Lords,

Wait, really? I'm an American, but I'd always thought that the British constitutional vestiges of aristocracy were fun and charming. I'd hate to see the Lords go, just as I'd hate to see the Queen go.

(And what do you need two houses for? We've got two of them here in Leftpondia, but I can't say that it does us much good.)

12:

Initial reports are saying that our new Conservocrat (tm) overlords have already got rid of the national ID card, which is nice.

I'm in two minds about the House of Lords, on the downside, it's not elected by the people, but on the plus side, it's not elected by the people, so they're less likely to look at issues in the typical "what will get me elected again" way that I suspect most politicians fall prey to.
This would be a desirable idea to keep in any reform of the Lords imo, (although I'm not sure how).

13:

Wait, really? I'm an American, but I'd always thought that the British constitutional vestiges of aristocracy were fun and charming. I'd hate to see the Lords go, just as I'd hate to see the Queen go.

You're American, so I'll forgive you -- conditionally.

But?

Constitutional eccentricities are a lot more amusing at a distance.

What the House of Lords means to me: I remember Thatcher bussing in the back-woods peers to ram through the Poll Tax, back in the day. And I remember the Lords -- a house where bishops get to vote -- spiking progressive anti-discrimination measures, too. Since they were neutered in 1911, they drifted into a tool of the rich, powerful, and reactionary. Then under Labour they were halfway-modernized into an appointed-not-elected panel of experts who could analyse and debate new legislation ... but were ultimately powerless to override the government whip. We need something better, but the question of "what" remains to be debated.

As for the Queen, while I bear her no ill will (and think she makes a pretty good hand of a thankless job), she also means that I, and my relatives, and indeed everyone else in the land who is not one of her relatives, cannot aspire to the highest office in the land. When you peel back the layers of pomp and ceremony, monarchism as it is today makes everyone else a second-class citizen; and monarchy as it used to be was a polite term for "hereditary dictatorship", a form of government best represented today by Kim Jong-Il.

For my part, I've often found the US Senate quite amusing -- especially the way places like North Dakota and Utah (population: 53) have the ability to counter-balance legislation favouring places like California or New York. It's probably a lot less amusing when you have to live with the consequences, though ...

14:

I must be a lot more cynical about this than most commentators. I expect the conservatives to stall on any meaningful moves towards PR, try to improve their standing and hold another snap election within a year or so to be able to govern without a coalition, leaving the Lib-Dems high and dry.

15:

@10 - I don't think you quite understand how AV works. The transfer continues until the last two candidates face each other (hence the alternative name 'instant run-off') which means

1: To win you have to be one of those two
2: This means you either need a significant enough number of first choice votes or additional preferences of 'no hope' smaller parties so as to beat your next rival (which from what you're saying is Tory in Labour seats and Labour in Tory seats
3: And you are then reliant on a majority of those voters bothering to indicate a second preference which many of them, being quite tribalistic, won't.

This election we're now in second place in an addition 264 seats IIRC (the number is on UKpollingreport) but even though voting behaviour changes with a fresh electoral system we wouldn't expect to be able to pick up all of those - in some because the incumbent has more than 50% of the votes already, in some because the anti-Tory backlash will hurt us but in some just because of the above. I'd suggest 100 is the most we could hope to gain from AV - now that's a LOT obviously, and that would be great, and it would leave us in an even stronger bargaining position next time, but there's no chance of us gaining a plurality; to think so is just to fundamentally misunderstand the voting system.

Best argument for AV: Evan Harris would win back Oxford West.

16:

@11 A lot of the country appears to agree with you. However, after the proposals for reforming the Lords have been given due consideration for the last 100 years, and the somewhat dangerous experiment of removing the right to vote from the *really* old duffers (who never turned up anyway) during the past 10 years, we are slowly getting to the point where the people might actually be allowed to vote on who gets to make our laws. But, as above, probably not in this parliament. No point in moving too quickly!

17:
I think it had more to do with the tv and newspaper's obsession with the markets

Look closely here. The market obsession all originated from one point - Murdoch. His media control is around 40% of UK TV and newspapers, so it's easy to mistake for a groundswell, but what you were seeing there was a carefully orchestrated marketing message. The rest of the media is unable to ignore the issue when this happens, and gets dragged in to the mess.

And what do you need two houses for?

The Lords currently fulfill a vital role in the creation of legislation. In order to get rid of them, we would have to substantially alter the way in which legislation is passed. This sort of constitutional reform is opposed by both the Tories and Labour, because of their traditionalist tendencies and because they want to continue exploiting the flaws in the system, which a new system would be unlikely to duplicate.

18:

phuzz: but on the plus side, it's not elected by the people, so they're less likely to look at issues in the typical "what will get me elected again" way that I suspect most politicians fall prey to.

Easy fix to that: don't allow re-election to the new upper house.

19:

Principles of agreement for the coalition.

Notable bit:

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

20:

Ian@7

The interesting thing will not be whether the Libs put a leash on more extreme Tories; it's whether the Tories put the leash on the more extreme Tories, using the Libs as an excuse (and vice versa).

Every parliamentary party has its share of the awkward squad, who hold (shall we say) views more extreme than the party leader. It also has its share of the more extreme voter. Each party can now use the other as a justification for avoiding the dafter products of the party conference season, and to stay closer to the political centre ground; the party strategists realise that they will gain more votes there, than they will lose at the fringes to UKIP or the Greens (as an experienced commentator pointed out on Radio 4 this morning, the last two Conservative attempts to gain power while trying to satisfy their more extreme members, resulted in defeat for Hague and Howard).

The new coalition has a fairly hefty majority (~70 votes?) against any opposition, so they are unlikely to be held to ransom in the same way that Major was by the Unionists. I'm willing to give it a chance, on the basis that the party leaders concerned appear to be pragmatists rather than idealists.

21:

@13: Of course its not just the discrimination towards the rest of us (and indeed against anyone in the Windsor family who is Catholic, or who marries a Catholic), but also the discrimination *against* the Windsor family: Charles would, as far as I can tell from his speeches, really love to be an architect. Or a Homoeopath. Or possibly even an organic farmer. But the current system of the monarchy gives him no chance to (try and) fulfil those dreams: he must be Heir to the Throne, and, eventually, King.

22:

Another argument in favour of AV is that is is a stepping-stone to STV (the Lib Dems' favoured system). Once you've introduced all the mechanisms for voting by AV, and got the public accustomed to doing so, moving to STV is a relatively simple matter of merging single-member constituencies to form multi-member constituencies.

23:

As an American, I certainly don't understand all of the subtleties and implications of the current political situation in the UK, but what I like quite a bit (perhaps naively) is that the UK system is setup in a way that can force these natural enemies to work together in a meaningful way. Contrast this to the conservatives in the US who are in the mode of always attack, never back down, never be seen to agree with the opposition, stay "on message" even when events and reality itself show your view to be harmful. And the libs over here aren't always much better either.

24:

And what do these developments mean for the independence movement in Scotland?

25:

Voting-wise, I think my preference might well be for one house to have some variant of AV (thus maintaining the constituency link while being fairer than the current system) and the other to use some more adequately proportional system. Of course, my preference might change depending on what "adjustments" got made to the powers held by the two houses....

26:

And what do these developments mean for the independence movement in Scotland?

Short answer: Nobody knows.

Long answer: after the 1999 referendum, a lot of political power for government was devolved to Scotland. We are also in a global situation where the economic model for an independent Scotland -- Ireland -- had its flaws mercilessly exposed. As long as the conservatives take a hands-off approach and don't dick with the funding allocation, there is no reason to expect any large change in pressure for all-out Scottish independence. But memories are long, and what Thatcher did in Scotland left huge, deep grudges; if the conservatives are foolish, they'll play into Alex Salmond's hands. And it will take relatively little work for them to ignite the giant pile of tinder that Thatcher left as her legacy north of the border.

Blue sky answer: If Labour tear their own guts out over who gets to take over after Brown, and the conservatives prove to have learned from history, then the next Scottish elections may be very interesting.

27:

Re Scotland:

The coalition agreement commits the government to implementing in full the recommendations of the Calman Commission on devolved powers for Scotland. This amounts to giving Scotland a substantial degree of power to set its own rate of income tax, as well as a whole grab-bag of other bits and pieces aimed at strengthening the Scottish government. If this all gets passed before the next Scottish parliamentary elections, then it will make Scottish politics very interesting indeed. I have no idea how it will all pan out.

28:

Why not revisit this issue in a year or two and see whether the coalition achieved the Lib-Dem aims for PR?

Agreements on paper can be avoided or finessed. In this case even subverted. Expecting that any major political party will voluntarily assist a change in the system that would a priori be expected to aid another party is unlikely, unless a side effect was to weaken a major opponent, in this case, labour. If the apparent bias in favor of Labour was overturned, I might expect that Conservatives might opt for a system to change that outcome, as long as it was not at the expense of being able to govern with an outright majority.

29:

Why not revisit this issue in a year or two and see whether the coalition achieved the Lib-Dem aims for PR?

Yes.

(Bear in mind that over the past 13 years, successive electoral boundry changes have given Labour a structural advantage over the Conservatives that they didn't have before. Also note that if the conservatives learn from this experience that they can successfully work as a senior coalition partner, their internal opposition to electoral reform will be undermined. Once a coalition is established as workable, then electoral reform that makes coalitions more likely, but takes the grand Enemy down a notch or two, will become a whole lot less unthinkable.)

30:

My concerns about appointed upper houses, and elected heads of state, come down to two phrases:

"Lord Mandelson" and "President Thatcher".

The Queen (as head of state) doesn't hold the highest office in the land; she holds a ceremonial position, and is effectively a cypher.

The highest office is IMHO that of Prime Minister; the Queen exists as a political neutral, so that no-one within government should have to swear allegiance to a member of one political party or another. It delays the point at which positions of power become "political" - e.g. the Ambassadors, Generals, and civil servants in charge of the various ministries. AIUI, it's the reason why $US takes months between election result and swearing-in of President - it involves a complete change of appointments and staffs. Political appointees occasionally do silly things like fire civil servants because they draw maps which show moose migration over potential Alaskan oilfields, or provide intelligence supportive of the existence of WMD.

...as for the House of Windsor, they seem to do a better job than the families of politicians of sharing the risks involved with the defence of the realm. HM The Queen was wartime ATS, her husband fought in the Med, her father was a turret captain at Jutland, her son was a pilot in the Falklands, her grandson out on the ground in Afghanistan. We might disagree with the wars, but they at least were there; our recent crop of progressive politicians seem only too happy to send under-equipped soldiers off to war, and their children off to a nice internship in the US.

31:

@roy Yes, that was the conclusion I came to after a bit of thought, and from what Charlie's just posted others have had the same thought:
"It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office"

On the subject of the monarchy (I roughly agree with our gracious host, nothing against Liz or her family personally, but dislike the idea that they are in charge), although we are legally under the queen, we are a de facto republic, and any attempt by the Windsors to exercise the power they are supposed to have would either be ignored or I suspect we'd have a referendum and be a real republic pretty damn quick.

For example, yesterday David Cameron had to drive up to Buckingham Palace to kiss the queen's hand and ask her if she would let him be 'her' Prime Minister, and of course she said yes, but then there was never any question that she would, although it would have been quite within her power to say no.

32:

@15: yes, I get how AV works, thanks (heck, I have implemented it on two occasions, once for a non-profit and once for a UK student union). I think the point of disagreement stems from your #3 - sure, you can assert that folks will not give preferences beyond their first, but that's of course an empirical question (anyone have data to hand from other countries?) and we disagree - it would seem to me that for instance the most tribalistic Tory would want to maximise chances of avoiding Labour, and vice versa.

When you add to the mix the likelihood that folks will/may feel freer to vote for their *actual* first preference versus their perceived lesser-evil-and-electable choice, I think that the chances of a LD plurality are indeed non-zero. Significantly so. [An excellent example I am familiar with would be Milton Keynes, where a LD council has for a long time had very high local support but the two parliamentary seats are Labour-Tory marginals; I suggest that that status is largely due to *perception* that a LD vote in a parliamentary election would be wasted, which would be shown to be false under AV.] Let's guess that the LDs pick up ~180 extra seats under this system (halfway between the 100 you suggest and the 260 max). That would give them ~240 MPs. Bingo. *Probable*? Maybe not; but well within the realm of possibility.

"there's no chance of us gaining a plurality; to think so is just to fundamentally misunderstand the voting system." Well, no. It's to have a slight difference opinion over the intelligence of the electorate. We do agree on Evan Harris, though, one of the very few folks to whose fund I contributed from over here.

@22 Whether proximity to STV is a good or bad thing is also open to debate, of course... and I think that a *second* change of voting system in the near future would be unlikely.

33:

My view of a majority Tory government was broadly similar to yours, Charlie. And as a resident of England, it was informed with a particular dread stemming from a piece you wrote a while ago, in which you (approximately) forecast that Tory rule would swiftly lead to an independent Scotland and a permanent Tory majority in England. A lot of us would be making serious inquiries about the Scottish immigration policy if that ever came to pass.

So:

What is your view of the likely consequence of this Tory/LD coalition for Scottish nationalism?

34:

Sorry, you answered that question between when I started writing it and when I came back to my computer and clicked "Submit". Bad commenter, no doughnut.

On the House of Lords, the BBC was quite definite about the shape of a plan, on the World at One:

1. fifteen-year terms;
2. PR elections for one-third of the seats every five years;
3. thus all-elected after 15 years and thereafter;
4. existing surviving hereditaries to be grandfathered in.

This is more specific than the coalition document, and I guess is based on a conversation with one of the negotiators. Whether it is closer to the draft bill we are promised for December, we'll have to see. It was unclear whether the existing life peers are also to be grandfathered in.

There's an interesting thread on this over at Crooked Timber. The key question, which various people are addressing there, is whether "fixed five-year terms" will really be fixed.

35:

@30 has concerns about an appointed "Lord Mandelson" and an elected "President Thatcher".

Appointed upper chambers are, indeed, almost as bad as hereditary ones. But at least at the moment we only get this Lord Madelson, and not all his descendent (or indeed the descendants of last century's equivalent of Lord Mandelson) for perpetuity.

As for an elected "President Thatcher": the point about an *elected* head of state is that they would be *elected", hence you can campaign and, eventually, vote for your chosen candidate. If you dont like "President Thatcher", what exactly is better about an unelected, meddling-in-local-democracy, homoeopathic-woo-supporting "King Charles"? Im afraid I dont think sending ones children off (with vast and expensive amounts of protection) to war is a sufficient qualification for being head-of-state - if it was, there would be alot of other families who would also qualify!

36:

Hope?

Croak!

37:

Horrendous as they're going to be, massive public sector cuts might at least force the government to do some sensible decriminalisation of (some) drugs. Re-medicalising heroin, and knocking cannabis and MDMA onto class C, or a putative class D, would save money.

And we lose the 3rd runway and ID cards, but get nukes. So not all bad. I agree, though, that there's going to be a bust-up in the coalition (perhaps involving Europe, where the Tory red, er blue, lines are drawn in some detail) which will lead to an earlier election or change of government.

38:

Reply to multiple posts.

@11 Two houses: Believe me if one chamber has the sort of freedom of action which is allowed to the UK House of Commons under our current so-called constitution, any second chamber to put a bit of a brake on seems a good idea. I believe the implicit preferred solution in the "politosphere" is something that acts similar to the US Senate without the legislation-initiating power. Probably will still be called the House of Lords though might be renamed.

@18 No re-election to upper house. Emphatically not a great idea - see, e.g. California - experience is deselected and members become slaves to sectoral interests if members can't reelcted. Reasonably long fixed term limits (6 or 7 years) and limited reelection (2 or 3 terms) seems preferable to me.

@14 et seq incl. 18. The coalition agreement imposes a requirement for BOTH tories and lib dems to campaign FOR AV. Labour offered it in the post-election manouevering, so pretty much everyone (who matters) has already conceded the case that its a good idea. "Anties" will be campaigning on non-official tickets, aka a "No" campaign (there will likely be some strange bedfellows). The agreement also provides for a fixed term parliament, so tories can't torpedo the coalition at the time of their choosing, they are stuck with it till 2015 - as I understand this would have been a dealbreaker for the libdems unless agreed to by the tories.

The size of the majority (30 or so if I recall) that the coalition has means that loony fringe elements from either side will not likely alone be able to bring down the government, they would need to combine with other disbgruntled elements - how likely so that? Not very, because after all they are "fringe" elements, butif they are successful it will be because there are serious problems.

AV will probably guarantee a LibDem presence in most future governments unless Labour and Tories combine (not likely for a few decades I think!) or a "fourth force" emerges.

39:

More good news: Ken Clarke, new in the Ministry of Justice, is already backing off from the Conservative policy of replacing the Human Rights Act and swearing alliegance to the European Convention on Human Rights.

That's very different from 1979-97 Toryism ...

Also: high speed rail!

40:

Kevin: the current upper house proposal has them being elected for a 15 year term, elections held every five years for a third of the seats. That goes some way towards avoiding the lack-of-experience problem.

41:

Dunno about the "hereditary dictator" thing. I'm starting to come round to the idea that the Queen might be ok.

When you look at some of the, frankly ludicrous, cults of personality that develop around elected heads of state, you have to admit that there are some significant advantages to having a HoS who most of the country is slightly embarrassed about the existence of. And as a way of running a constitutional system, vesting powers in an entity who has to be seen to be above poltics (on pain of abolition) is actually not as daft an idea as it looks.

Of course, this argument only holds good until the first five seconds of the reign of Charles III, who'll almost certainly bring the system crashing down around his sizeable ears. But until then, if it ain't broke...

42:

Liz and the rest of the monarchial system have always struck me as good value for $, despite being horrendously bad in theory. I am hence conflicted :).

43:

The early Thatcher years were a time when the Labour Party of Michael Foot was committed to disengaging Britain from the European Union which it saw as a capitalist plot against the working class. Maggie always saw Britain as a major part of the EU, despite many of her colleagues vehement opposition to further federalisation, in part because it was then and still is quite right-centrist in nature.

45:

Ain't no way an elected "House of Lords" or whatever we end up calling it will get any more power than the Lords currently has; i.e. it will *not* get any power to veto Bills. The Commons, irrespective of what the government wants, will never agree to that.

46:

Iain@35

My problem with elected heads of state rather than appointed ones, is that it's political nature to attempt to increase the importance and power of the position. HM appears to have attempted to decrease its importance - certainly it's much demystified from years ago.

The other problem is that the campaigning required to become elected, implicitly encourages political parties to get involved; $HEAD_OF_STATE ends up either operating with, or at the behest of, a power base; and stops being a political neutral. Charles may have his personal opinions, but other than persuasion there is no way he can impose them on anyone else.

As an aside, "I don't think sending ones children off to war (with vast and expensive amounts of protection)" isn't accurate. In fact, they need less protection, on the basis that the normal amount of armed blokes and heavy weapons in the vicinity is quite sufficient; the anonymity of the green or blue baggy suit is enough. Prince Andrew wasn't flying his helicopter with a fighter escort, Prince Harry wasn't sitting in an Afghan FOB with half the SAS (the Gurkhas, or any other Regiment, would have been rather offended at any implication that they couldn't defend their fellow soldiers). They wear the same uniform, and get issued the same kit, as everyone else.

47:

I wish that Canada had something akin to your Liberal Democrats; if that sort of thing could lead to a coalition with the kinds of properties you describe, that would be rather good.

Instead, we have:
- Liberals (who are somewhat "Liberal Democrat", but with 100-ish years of corruption so that they smell rather bad, and with 100-ish years of rule, so they'd not be a suitable coalition maker because they consider themselves to be Canada's Natural Ruling Party, not without some justification)

- NDP, who are roughly equivalent to Labour, but who have been declining, with little chance of ruling, and who lean far enough to the left to be pretty unsuitable to mix with NeoCons

- Bloc Quebecois, who are politically similar to NDP, receding to the left, but with a "separatist flair."

I don't see what would be an improvement for us. It's always between Libs and Cons, and both sides have their own nasty trends when in power.

48:

Charlie @ 13:

The US Senate does have some nice features. Unlike the House, which have small and often rigged districts, the Senate is elected by the state electorate as a whole. So you get candidates with broader appeal who don't need to cater to local eccentricities. Something like that could be good for the UK.

The fixed number per state is a legacy of the US starting as a confederation. Probably wouldn't work for the UK due to the large disparity between England and the others. But perhaps if you divided England it would be a good way to address the imbalance between the parts of the US without giving British voters total control over Scotland, Wales, etc.

Maybe give Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, England, and London a fixed number of "senators" elected at-large?

49:

I sure hope that the Libdems got that referendum question down in writing.

50:

Kevin@38: The coalition agreement imposes a requirement for BOTH tories and lib dems to campaign FOR AV.

Not so. the agreement says:

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

Very plainly the Conservatives are intending to campaign against, during the referendum.

51:

Hey Charlie,
I notice the Thatcher/Major years left a scar on you eh. For me it was the (proper old)Labour winter of discontent, the 3 day week, the power cuts!
I think she did a lot of good stuff (though not all!), but each to their own.
There was a nuLabour harpy interviewed on the BBC this morning who banged on about Tory Sleaze, and the Major/Curry stuff which I thought was somewhat laughable! Of course the BBC chap couldn't show bias otherwise something like "oh, so the tories (of 15 yrs ago!) were more like French Socialists, screwing each other, rather than like the recent British Socialists who screwed the country!"

No 7: said
... I fear the Libs will not be up to putting a leash on the Thatcherite Tories - leading to them shitting all over rights and freedoms.

LOL: The Con/LibDem alliance is going to repeal all the stuff the loony nuLabour people did, or tried to do (eg ID cards, etc). So close, but no cigar!

No 14:

I expect the conservatives to ... try to improve their standing and hold another snap election within a year or so to be able to govern without a coalition, leaving the Lib-Dems high and dry.

Nope. Apparently not. They're trying to fix the term at 5 years, probably for that very reason!

My own take is that there are lot of good things (esp. rolling back the jackboot civil liberties legislation, enshrine in law that there be a referendum if more stuff comes from the EU to weaken our parliament - so no rerun of Lisbon!, A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences, High Speed Rail - hell yes! ...) and we just get to sit and see if they can deliver.

As I said, I recall the end of the previous Labour gov and the debt the tories inherited. I recall Thatcher telling us it was going to be a painful job to pay it back, but we did. The tories handed a pretty healthy country over to Blair and the nuLabour champagne socialists and under them the rich got far richer than they did under the previous tory rule ... but the Labour faithful just won't see it.
You simply can't keep spending money you haven't got!

To me this is like the parents coming home to find the kids have had a monster party and wrecked the house.

I'm also quite fond of comparing Cameron and Clegg to Morecambe and Wise and I just wish they were living together in No 10!
"This is a manifesto wot I wrote ..." and always leaving the Houses of Parliament doing the "Bring Me Sunshine" dance ...

Let see how they get on and if they can actually do the things they've promised, then we can judge them on what they've managed to do (or failed to do) rather than pre-judging them on what a Gov. that ended 15 or so years ago did!

52:

Andy: I grew up in Yorkshire.

It bears repeating that, depending on where in the UK you hail from, your experience of the Thatcher years may be radically different. North of Nottingham: bad to awful. South of Nottingham: not so bad at all, and sometimes downright fabulous.

53:

For my part, I've often found the US Senate quite amusing -- especially the way places like North Dakota and Utah (population: 53) have the ability to counter-balance legislation favouring places like California or New York. It's probably a lot less amusing when you have to live with the consequences, though ...

The Constitution was written specifically so that would be possible. The Senate's sole reason for being was to convince some of the smaller (in population) states to go along with ratifying the Constitution by giving them disproportionate power. Fast forward a couple centuries and now we're in a situation where the majority of the country's population live in large urban regions that produce the vast majority of the country's economic output, while at the same time vast tracts of America are practically deserted, and yet those deserted states have just as much power in the Senate as the populous states.

It's infuriating. A lot of the really shitty economic policies we have are the result of Senators from these states using their position to extort the populous states as a condition of their cooperation. Not to mention the way they vote on cultural issues...

54:

Hey Charlie:

Yorkshire - I've got family there too.
The miners strike was indeed an awful time but didn't Scargill have his own agenda? Was he really fighting for the miners or trying to use them (unsuccessfully) to bring down the government?
As I understand it, many of the pits were uneconomical (ie it cost more to bring the coal up than the coal was worth) and that's just foolish.
Had Scargill not taken it upon himself to lead the fight perhaps the fall out could have been less, but the Government couldn't really back down or they'd never be able to do anything - it'd be the tail wagging the dog! And that's not just the miner's but all the unions. The BL strikes all the time (was that Red Robbo?), newspapers, everyone on bloody strike making the UK a laughing stock.

I could agree that perhaps the unions were weakened too much, but nuLabour obviously didn't think so or they'd have given them (some of) the power back when they took over in '97!

Honestly, I think the traditional Labour voters were horrendously let down by Blair/Brown's nuLabour.

If the unions hadn't been led to war with the government by their respective leaders they might be stronger now, but there must come a point where the Government draws a line in the sand and says 'this far and no further'.
Look at the BA Strike from Unite.
My 2p's worth is that they'd be OK if they hadn't thrown all their toys out of the pram over Christmas. Now everyone booking tickets will think twice about BA, who are haemorrhaging money anyway. This has, IMHO, forced Willie Walsh's hand and he now has to crush them or BA is doomed. Unite drew the line in the sand at Xmas, even if they didn't intend to, and now Walsh has no choice but to fight them to the bitter end.
Of course the Unite head honchos won't back down because they're (presumably!) up for the fight with the "devil management", but it's the cabin crew who are going to suffer one way or the other!
Walsh has to end this struggle with something in place to guarantee there will be no more strikes ... or there's no more BA!

Cheers

A

55:

This is wandering way off-topic, but personally I think the BA Unite workers are mostly in the right, and this is deliberate union-bashing by Walsh ... who has a track record, if you look back to his time at Aer Lingus (which he took so far down-market they ended up competing with Ryanair).

56:

I can only view the present situation with dismay (make that shuddering fear). In my view the Tories are just Bad News. I'm so glad I didn't lend my vote to the LDs to "keep the Tory out". Then I'd be biting off my voting arm... Cameron will just gobble them up and spit them out, I think.

Unfortunately, people have short memories and seem to have forgotten Thatcher. (Andy@57 - I don't mean you in particular - BUT the 3 day week was under Heath (Tories), not Labour).

On the bright side for Our Host, I think we're going to need plenty of stuff to read to take our minds off the troubles ahead. I hope the pipeline is full...

57:

Re: ERII

In theory, the monarchy is autocratic and aristocratic and a few other annoying cratics to boot.

In practice, they aren't actually causing significant trouble or costing a lot of money, and booting them out would be political Soviet Roulette (like Russian Roulette, only four chambers are loaded, and one other one contains a free trip to Siberia).

There are bigger problems in the UK (and my homeland of Canada, and other places where ER II is HoS) than the monarchy being a slightly embarrassing remnant of the middle ages.

58:

On the whole coalition/getting along/not fighting each other thing – for most of the Blair years Gordon Brown effectively ran a government within a government, with a coterie of backbench adherents.

It’s entirely possible this will run rather more amicably.

On BA – regardless of who is in the right both sides need to be careful or there won’t be an airline left to fight over.

On Thatcher – grew up in the North and brought up to regard Thatcher as slightly worse than Satan. Now work in London and a couple of guys I work with got on the property ladder through council house sales in the eighties and she really helped sort their long-term life position. As you say it depends on your experience.

59:

For those who think the Queen is a figurehead without political power: ask any lobbyist what they could achieve if the Prime Minister had to come to them every week for an hours 'little chat' about whats going on, and take advice.

For fifty years. Through multiple changes of government and prime minister.

And select Governor-General of Australia, Canada, etc.

While choosing the prime minister or calling an election seems only technically her choice (and a formality), it can be far less so: what if the coalition falls apart in six months time ? bar a clear choice in public (and confusion can be spread by the media if so desired..), the choice of whether it should be a minority government by Cameron/$milliband or fresh election is hers.

60:

At least the US Senate isn't as bad as the old Connecticut Charter (which was based on the original colonial one until the 1960s). The entire state is divided into towns, which each had the same representation in the state legislature. So a town with 2,000 people had as much power as a city with 100,000 people....

It was eventually struck down on civil rights grounds by the federal government when it was noticed that most minorities lived in the cities, so the bulk of the minority population of the state was represented by maybe 1% of the legislature.

61:

Ignorant American here. I know that in theory the queen has the power to choose the prime minister, but that the "wrong choice" would be met with a constitutional crisis. Would, say, choosing a prime minister from the majority party, but who was not the head of the party, be one of those situations?

62:

The PM doesn't have to be a party leader, however it's unusual. Churchill wasn't the Conservative leader in May 1940, Chamberlain remained the leader until October when he became too ill, he died a month later. In 1916 Asquith remained Liberal leader when Lloyd George became PM.

63:

As I understand it, many of the pits were uneconomical (ie it cost more to bring the coal up than the coal was worth) and that's just foolish.

That's lovely; I'm sure you'd be happy to go back and explain the foolishness to all those coal miners without any shot at any other kind of career.

64:

Interesting I also grew up in the South have good memories of that era compared to the prevous labour 3day week, etc.

Of course I was quite young at the time not even a teenager when they came to power. It also odd that one her her early cuts - closed my Father's department - but it moved into growth company and field as a result.

More on topic I'm also unsure whether AV will give the Libdems what they want and it is difficult to do any real analysis to understand what might happen.

I have however down some interesting analysis which suggests if multi-member constituency are formed and voting patterns stay the same we might get the sort of results the Lib-Dems would love.

You can find the spreadsheet here and look around cell W656 (infact all along that row) for this summary:-


Totals of 1st
and 2nd place seats Percentage of seats

CON 503 38.69
LAB 422 32.46
LIB 312 24
NAT 53 4.08
MIN 10 0.77



65:

That's lovely; I'm sure you'd be happy to go back and explain the foolishness to all those coal miners without any shot at any other kind of career.

That's a feature of how it was done i.e. execution, rather than the actual need to do it.

In a sane world there would have been a sensible transition system planned out when it became obvious that hacking coal out of deep mines wouldn't really compete with mass open cast mining elsewhere on the planet.

Likewise it's ridiculous to argue that we shouldn't do things because people will be negatively impacted - because new roles, jobs and employment can and will appear.

What really peeved me about Scargill's rhetoric in the miners strike was his stuff about preserving a way of life and jobs for the next generation... I don't want people to live in a world where they have to spend 30 years doing manual, back breaking labour in conditions which are dramatically going to shorten your retirement just because it's what your family does. The very idea of people wanting their children to go into mining because it's what they did was plain wrong.

What was needed was real choice and that wasn't what the people in the North got.

66:

Well nick good luck to the tories with that. They have more-or-less conceded the ideological high ground by in essence accepting that there should be a referendum on the question, which is (no matter how you slice it) a major shift in their position. I expect pretty much every other major party to campaign for a yes vote in the referendum.

67:

That's a feature of how it was done i.e. execution, rather than the actual need to do it.

That doesn't particularly invalidate my point.

Likewise it's ridiculous to argue that we shouldn't do things because people will be negatively impacted - because new roles, jobs and employment can and will appear.

Was that what I was arguing? Good to know.

In any case, your airy handwave of "new roles, jobs, and employment can and will appear" is made ridiculous by just about every substantial economic revolution in history. No, they won't, for quite a lot of people, and the passive-voice construction of your sentence is exactly the same kind of responsibility-avoidance that Thatcher practiced in the 1980s.

What really peeved me about Scargill's rhetoric in the miners strike was his stuff about preserving a way of life and jobs for the next generation

It's an awful awful thing when a union leader wants to preserve paying jobs that actually enable a coal miner to feed their family. Terrible, that. You speak with such an utter lack of knowledge about what post-war coal-mining was _an improvement on_ that it's remarkable (hint: the average height of a British male in 1801 was 5'9"; in 1901, it was 5'3". Welcome to malnourishment and starvation in the Industrial Revolution). The economics may have been against Scargill, but the desire to save his workers is not thus automatically evil.

Been to Detroit lately, have we? Lots of "new jobs" and "roles" coming for those auto-workers in their mid-50s are there?

68:

@62: there's theoretically even more freedom than that. There is no post of 'Prime Minister' in the unwritten constitution, merely First Lord of the Treasury, a Cabinet member; and the Cabinet is a subcommittee of the Privy Council, which is appointed by the Queen. It is merely long-standing tradition and practicality that the PM is the leader of the largest party, because if someone not from that party was selected the largest party could vote against him and make it impossible for him to get anything done.

If a party wanted to and could get elected, it could dispense with the PM and just have a Cabinet, although I suspect a long talk with the Queen to figure out how well that would work would be a good idea, if just because with fifty years' experience of weekly chats with PMs she must be one of the most politically canny people out there.

For that matter, it is merely convention that the PM's ministers are members of parliament (and fairly often-violated tradition at that).

69:

I was stationed over on Airstrip One during the mid- to late eighties. I have not-so-fond memories of Eggwina and the other vegetables... and equally unfond memories of the Poll Tax riots (they were worse — much worse — near the USAF-leased bases at RAF Alconbury, RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge, and RAF Upper Heyford than either the BBC or ITV showed in London and in Birmingham), the Official Secrets Act, and younger, still-wet-behind-the-ears party activists and first-time-elected Tory MPs who are now in leadership positions. And based on what I saw, the "line of iniquity" was not north/south of Nottingham, but inside/outside a line about 75km away from the Cambridge/Oxford/Square Mile triangle; things didn't go too well in outer East Anglia, or in Devon and Cornwall, either.

Of course, I was also tremendously amused by the Steele and Owen Show... because back home we had Ronald I, the former Director of the CIA two centimeters (literally!) away from the presidency, and the Moral Majority in full swing (as it turns out, "swinging" in a different sense, too), and a defense/foreign affairs leadership still unable to think in any terms but Commieratfinkbastard/Friend despite the recent evidence of what propping up CIA puppets could do... like get Ronald I elected in the first place. Basically, the eighties really weren't very good for anyone in the English-speaking world who didn't already have money.

70:

It is a requirement that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. the person who deals with budgets) has to be in the House of Commons. (This is why Trollope's Plantagenet Palliser was very unhappy when his uncle died and he became Duke of Omnium, because it meant that the one Cabinet position he wanted was one he could not have.)

The PM does not strictly have to be a member of the Commons, but in practice since about the Great War coming from the Lords has been unacceptable -- it was one of the barriers to Halifax in 1940. Indeed, most major positions (other than Lord Chancellor) would normally be from the Commons (and this was one reason that Tony Benn gave up his title); they have to be responsible to the House.

71:

The Prime Minister has had official recognition domestically since 1906, when it first appeared in the order of precedence. The earliest official mention was in a treaty signed during Disraeli's second term.

The first lord of the treasury and the prime minister are not always the same person, Chatham (Pitt the elder) was never first lord, Grafton was first lord when he was PM. Salisbury was first lord only briefly at the start of his second term as PM. His first lords were the Earl of Iddesleigh (first term), W H Smith (most of second term, died in office), and A J Balfour (end of second term, whole of third term). Grafton and Balfour both succeeded as PM.

72:

Good for you, Charlie, re the 6 month nose holding.
Somehow I was raised to think that when your country gets a new government, you give them at least a 90 day grace period, to see what they're up to.
Rush Blowhard and his ilk in the US called for the impeachment of both Clinton and Obama on the very day of their election. So much for patriotically getting behind whoever won and giving them a chance to improve the country that you supposedly love ...

73:

Actually, a lot of what you're saying has curious American resonances, at least to my perception.

* The Democrats are massively dominated by labor, and especially by public employee unions, which are one of the great untouchables of American (especially state-level) politics.

* The Republicans used to have a libertarian wing, back in the past between the theocrats took over.

* There is a third force in American politics, though it doesn't have a political party to speak for it: independent voters. We went massively against the Republicans in 2008; now it looks as if we're turning massively against the Democrats.

* The Republicans are currently moving toward the position that religious and social issues are not the top priority, and they want to focus on constitutional rights and the economy. We're even seeing a few of them criticize the Bush administration for its big-government approach.

Obviously the actual positions are different! But structurally I don't see the two situations as entirely alien.

74:

"in US terms, I'm a rabid commie" Actually, the Communist Party USA isn't anywhere near the extreme left end of the US political spectrum. The very, very farthest left group I can think of is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

Keeping to groups sane enough to have some influence: I would say the Greens are generally the farthest left. Slightly behind them are the Trotskyite groups which haven't decided there's no trace of Stalinism in Cuba's government.

Various flavors of anarchism are in various places near the left end.

75:

TOTAL: I'm really not sure what point you're making, so all I can do is respond to what you're writing.

In any case, your airy handwave of "new roles, jobs, and employment can and will appear" is made ridiculous by just about every substantial economic revolution in history. No, they won't, for quite a lot of people, (silly rhetoric snipped)

The fact is they can and do. There's nothing hand wavy about it, it's a fact of life. I work in an industry that didn't exist when I started school and my particular sub-division didn't exist when I left University in 1992.

The issue is managing that transition when industries vanish. The French and Germans seem to be a LOT better at it than the British or Americans.

It's an awful awful thing when a union leader wants to preserve paying jobs that actually enable a coal miner to feed their family. Terrible, that. You speak with such an utter lack of knowledge a...

Evil, your words not mine.

Anyway, I really don't care how much mining improved in the post-war period because that's completely irrelevant to the point. Lots of things are much better now than they used to be, I take issue with building an economic system where you condemn generations to do things just because that's all there is to do. Yeah, call me a Liberal Idealist.

Been to Detroit lately, have we? Lots of "new jobs" and "roles" coming for those auto-workers in their mid-50s are there?

Firstly: what is your proposal then?

Secondly: The case of Detroit is not equivalent to coal mining. Economically the British Coal mining industry was screwed. However, you can profitably build cars in first world countries. The problem for Detroit was inept management of the companies.

In the case of coal mining, you could have planned the wind down and prepared economically for it. Building cars that nobody wants isn't something that can be sustained for all that long, that Detroit managed it for so long is pretty spectacular.

Again, the French and Germans seem to be able to manage it.

The reality is that these things are going to happen whether we like them or not. Tilting at windmills is only putting off the inevitable. But what you can do, and I'd argue a government is morally bound to do, is make the economic transition as painless as possible.

Thatcher certainly wasn't interested in that.

76:

BTW - this all supposes that you have the money to manage these things. Thatcher had billions in North Sea Oil revenues to spend on it.

I dread to think what's going to happen to solve the current mess.

77:

Secondly: The case of Detroit is not equivalent to coal mining. Economically the British Coal mining industry was screwed. However, you can profitably build cars in first world countries. The problem for Detroit was inept management of the companies.

I can't stand it. There's too much wrong in your entire post to even begin to wade through the issues, though I will reserve special pride of place for the following piece of billowing asininity:

I work in an industry that didn't exist when I started school and my particular sub-division didn't exist when I left University in 1992.

The idea that your middle class experience might somehow not actually apply to the experience of the entire universe never crossed your mind, did it?

Let me repeat my earlier point: in every economic revolution people get left behind. They do not sustain the earning power they had in their (now-obsolete) careers. Whatever replacement jobs they get (if they do get them) usually are insufficient to support their families. Treating the folks who are trying to defend those careers--like the miners or the Detroit autoworkers--with a kind of harrumphing fatalist condescension--as you are doing--is appalling.

I can't let this one go by either:
Secondly: The case of Detroit is not equivalent to coal mining. Economically the British Coal mining industry was screwed. However, you can profitably build cars in first world countries.

It's actually kind of horribly fascinating watching someone argue so completely from ignorance, like an auto accident that goes on and on. Even now, commenters throughout the Internet are slowing down as they drive by this thread, fixated on the three-car wreck that is your post.

Check to see who the top-10 coal producing countries in the world are. We'll wait.

Find out, did you? Four out of ten are a first world country. It is perfectly possible to dig coal profitably in such a country. The British coal industry was no more doomed than Detroit was. Your fatalistic claims are just long regurgitated Tory myth, spewed to justify their neglect.

78:

Total: Again, really struggling to see what point you're trying to make, but the snark isn't making it.

The idea that your middle class experience might somehow not actually apply to the experience of the entire universe never crossed your mind, did it?

Actually, it did. You just aren't reading what I'm writing.

I'd like EVERYBODY to be middle class and I'd like the government to do it's damnedest to make sure that people don't have to work in dehumanising and meanial jobs because that's all there is.

I'd LIKE to live in a post-scarcity world. As that's not an option, as an alternative I'd like to see systems in place to make the inevitable transitions as

Check to see who the top-10 coal producing countries in the world are. We'll wait.

Ok: China, USA, India, Australia, South Africa, Russia, Indonesia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Columbia.

Ignoring the utterly horrific safety record of #1 and the poor one of #2, anything else "leap" out at you from that list regarding the relative geography, PPP incomes and that sort of thing?

I noticed there's only one European country left on that list and I'll take bets on how long the Polish mining industry lasts.

... --with a kind of harrumphing fatalist condescension--as you are doing--is appalling.

Ok, so I'm fatalistic about this. What is your proposal?

Come on, you've said it happens, let's take that as read. What do you propose we do about it. I think that as these changes happen we have government programs to ensure the transition is as painless as possible.

What do you propose?

79:

By the by, thanks for actually making me even more anti-coal mining.

Apart from the relative danger, even in the 21st century, I actually do have a problem with digging up fossilised trees to burn.

80:

Dan@74: Just out of curiosity, in referring to anarchists as extreme left wing, do you include the anarchocapitalist segments of the libertarian movement? Or are you thinking purely of communist anarchists, anarchosyndicalists, and their like?

81:

The 3-day week was under Heath's Conservative government and resulted from conflicts with powerful trade unions, but counts as an argument for Thatcher (who limited the power of the unions) and against Labour (who at that time were funded by the unions and claimed to represent working people). Excessive union power - or the impression of it created by the media - is why Thatcher was thought necessary at first and had some benefit of the doubt until it all went horribly wrong.

82:

@ 12 "Conservocrat"?
Don't you mean Lem-O-Cons" ??

@ 14 Can't. "The agreement" (between the parties) specifically states that they are aiming for a fixed-term 5-year parliament - which can only be overturned by a Vote of No Confidence....

@17 et al...
"The Lords" are there for a very good reason.
We've had an appalling amount of bad and very badly worded legislation recently.
The real job of the Lords is to go through the fine-print and remove these clangers.
When they are allowed to, they do a good job, but... The tendency of late has been to guillotine thise bills, or at the least, shorten the time taken for review.
The results have been ghastly.

@21 Very true.
I think one of the recent (maybe the present) Duke of Gloucester wanted to be an architect, and made a valiant effort to do so, but was stymied by the court officialdom.

Charlie @ 29
The word is "gerrymandering" and it is an ongoing disgrace.

@ 41
I don't think we are ever going to see Charles III - I think he will probably pre-decease his mother (he's looking very old and tired for someone three years younger than me) So our next monarch will, likely, be William V.

@ 56 & Various
Yorkshire / Miners strike.
A battle of equally mad, and probably equally evil people. Scargill called a miners' strike in IIRC APRIL!! Without a vote!! And, Scargill was (and is?) a communist religious believer, in the same way that the madwoman from Grantham was a believer in Friedman/Hayek economic non-theories.
And it could be almost as bad in London when she was in charge as it was "oop North".

@ 62
Churchill was, IIRC Not always leader of the tory party.
Look up "Lord Woolton" - chairman of that party 1945 or 6 until retirement.

@ 67
Err - ever been down a coal mine, even a modern one?
NOT an industry that we needed after 1970, really, but as others say NO ATTEMPT AT ALL was made, by anyone, to try to change direction, and save peoples' lives.
Mining was, and is DANGEROUS, never mind the occupational diseases.

@ 74 and others.
GO back to the start, and read what Charlie wrote.
THIS was the unsaid bit in this whole election, and especially in the after-election negotiations.
Labour are, currently, an authoritarian party through-&-through, as the tories were under the madwoman from Grantham.
The current tories APPEAR to be, and the Lemocrats are much more libertarian in their outlook.
This matters, but no public political commentator seems to have noticed. Yet.

83:

Total@67

"It's an awful awful thing when a union leader wants to preserve paying jobs that actually enable a coal miner to feed their family"

That's not quite what Scargill was doing. His rhetoric was all about preserving the industry, not employment, and guaranteeing future employment in mining for miners and their children.

The most damning criticism of Scargill I heard, came from a Trade Unionist with a fairly impeccable reputation (Jimmy Reid - he led the Upper Clyde shipbuilders in their 1970s action). Within it, he made the point that mining was a dirty, dangerous, and damaging job; and that no sane miner wanted their children to do it. His accusation was that Scargill's actions and tactics were driven by ego and vanity, not duty and responsibility, and that he failed to serve his members as a result.

I live only a few miles south of Charlie, in what used to be mining country (I can recommend the mining museum) - our local Health Service has to cope with the aftereffects of mining on the miners, and even for what was a safely run industry compared to its peers, the statistics are depressing. Read George Orwell's essay on the subject - it's well worth it.

One point to note about the miners' strike; in Scotland, where support for the strike was second only to Yorkshire, both the miners and the police seemed proud that (apparently) the police never once donned their riot gear to deal with a picket. Pragmatism seemed to have succeeded.

84:

With my 'Off topic' hat on ...
@55 Charlie said
This is wandering way off-topic, but personally I think the BA Unite workers are mostly in the right, and this is deliberate union-bashing by Walsh ...

Well, it's certainly deliberate now! I honestly can't see how BA can survive in any meaningful sense without crushing Unite because people simply won't fly BA with the Damoclean sword of strikes hanging over their travel plans!
It is entirely possible that Walsh engineered the fight from the get-go though.

@56 davharris kindly pointed out
Andy@57 - the 3 day week was under Heath (Tories), not Labour.
Hi Dav(e), yes indeed. This was the coal mining unions flexing their muscle and holding the whole country to ransom. That is simply unacceptable and is a great example of the unions having far too much power, and as it turns out, far too much power for their own good, because Scargill presumably thought he ran the country and Thatcher showed him otherwise.
I absolutely comprehend the hardships the rank and file miners went through when following their leader into battle, but the Government could not let them win. Had Heath had any backbone this would have come to blows on his watch. The unions flared up under Conservative Governments because they bank-rolled the Labour ones and so basically had control of them anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I think unions are a great way for workers to have a voice when negotiating with their employer and they greatly redressed the balance.
But when they hold the country to ransom my sympathies start to lie elsewhere.

He also said "In my view the Tories are just Bad News." which is a sentiment I hear a lot of. I was mostly indifferent, but after the last 13 years of frittering away our civil liberties, our pensions, our very economy I'd say the same thing about nuLabour.
I'm the first to admit that the previous Con Gov did bad things - privatising the railways was/is a disaster (but Labour didn't undo it!), but they weren't as bad as they are painted. I'm sure the nuLabour people managed to do some good things too - some of the 3500 or so new laws _must_ be useful - but at the moment I'm glad they're out because they've crippled us financially.

@63 Total kindly pointed out:
That's lovely; I'm sure you'd be happy to go back and explain the foolishness to all those coal miners without any shot at any other kind of career.

Certainly, when your back is against the wall you will fight tooth and nail to survive. That said, and understanding that the country couldn't afford to keep the pits running at that time, my argument would be that the union executive(s) - Scargill? - must have been aware that the Government simply couldn't back down (indeed he was hoping to bring the Gov down, and how democratic is that?), so he led them into an unwinnable conflict.
Maybe it's Heath's fault for making the union think they couldn't lose?
Had he pulled in his horns perhaps he could have aimed for something achievable for the miners?
Seeing the car-crash approaching perhaps he could have been man enough to give up and settle?
But of course Scargill did OK out of it anyway ...

I don't know, but simply painting the Gov (Thatcher) as the bad guy is far to 'black & white'. Scargill _should_ take (at least) _some_ of the blame for the outcome.

85:

jsbangs: it's possible to make a Westminster-style system work with only one House - New Zealand appears to do fine - but judging by the history of Lords reform it would be politically impossible to abolish the House of Lords outright. And after the last thirteen years - during which the unelected Lords have often seemed like the only people in Parliament who gave a stuff about our civil rights - I'd be wary of giving up on a scrutinising chamber. Trouble is, they lack power, and can be over-ruled by the Commons - perhaps greater democratic legitimacy would lead to them being given greater power.

On the libertarian aspect of the current coalition: as a longstanding NO2ID campaigner, I'm obviously delighted by IPS's announcement yesterday, though I'm holding off the celebration until it's a done deal. This coalition could potentially be a very good thing, civil-liberties wise: just what we need after the endless series of disasters that Blair and Brown visited on us.

Environment-wise, I'm waiting and seeing. There are some positive things in the agreement, and some less positive things. Let's hope the resulting policies end up closer to the Lib Dems' than the Tories - though the Lib Dems have a generally poor environmental record in office.

I just wish I knew enough about economics to know whether I should believe the commentators who say "Tory cuts will doom us all!!!" or the ones who say "Painful cuts are needed right now or we're all doomed!!!"

86:

@Greg
Conservocrats? Lem-O-Cons?

Sod arguing about Thatcher and miners, this is the relevant discussion here!

I like conservocrats because it is easily amended to conservo-twats, but that's just my preference.

87:

I like "ConDems", myself. Because then we live in the ConDemNation.

Martin @30: Political appointees occasionally do silly things like fire civil servants because they ... provide intelligence supportive of the existence of WMD.

Are you thinking of a specific story here? My understanding was that no evidence had ever been found to support the existence of Iraqi WMDs, and that if any had been found the Administration would have seized on it and promoted it to the skies. But if I'm wrong, please correct me! Or is there a "fail to" missing from your sentence?

88:

If we have an elected head of state, it won't be a lottery winner from down the road, it'll be a career politician. This would be a bad thing IMO.

The current head of state is someone who happens to pop out of the correct womb: seems ok to me, especially as they have no real power.

89:

Son and brother of British coal-miners here, watched the miner's strike from the sidelines... Basically there was little deep-mined coal left in the UK to dig up by the time of the strike. There was some here and there (Derbyshire, for example) but most of the established coalfields were running on empty. It's an extractive industry and we had been extracting coal from those fields on an industrial scale for two hundred years or so.

The prime cause of the strike was the planned closure of a number of exhausted pits which could only keep running with subsidies and attempts to work more dangerous underground areas with faults, gas, water etc. The union went ballistic, pulled some really stupid moves out of its ass thanks to Arthur Scargill's inability to grasp the realities of the situation and Maggie was prepared for it. The result is history.

Extractive industries work great for a period of time -- the money is dug up (coal), cut down (timber etc.) or pumped out (oil) and then it runs out leaving communities that depended on it high and dry. It's high in profits during the good times and when they stop a lot of folks think the good times and the high wages are a law of nature and should continue forever. Sadly they aren't.

90:

Sorry, but this coalition-with-the-devil can only crash and burn. Clegg and LD policies are being used as a smiley-face mask by the Tories in order to rehabilitate them in public eyes. When the time and the poll numbers are right, something will come along (something to do with national security), resulting in Tory actions/legislation which will force Clegg et al to abandon the coalition. Then Cameron can go to the country and fight for a working majority.

Anyone who doesn`t see this as a likely scenario simply doesn't understand the Tory party and what they're capable of when real power is within reach.

As for those who seem to approve the defeat of the miners (seemingly on the basis of resource depletion or some other cold equation) perhaps you should look into the poverty and deprivation which were the direct consequences of Tory policies in the 80s. But hey, lets just hang around and wait for the Market to give us jobs and homes and schools....yeah, right.

91:

Mike, my big fear is that you're right.

On the other hand, my big hope is that Cameron is using the LibDem coalition as a club to beat to death the Thatcherites and trogolodytes remaining in the Conservative party, much as Blair used the abolition of Clause 4 as a tool to neuter old Labour. If that's the case, then what we are seeing is the conservatives reverting to their pre-Thatcher Heathite roots, to be followed by an exodus of the hard-line nutters to UKIP, and the whole centre of gravity of British politics lurching back towards the centre.

(Remember, at the last election the conservatives tried to win by going further right ... and lost abysmally. That's got to be weighing on their electoral calculations; and they are historically an election-winning machine rather than a party of pure ideology.)

Which is why I'm waiting six months before I make up my mind.

92:

Resource depletion -- at what point do you stop paying coal miners to extract smaller and smaller amounts of coal at greater and greater cost? Do you wait until the last generation of miners retire thirty or forty years down the line, refusing to hire new miners in the interim?

It's also worth remembering that in the 1980s closure plans some pits were being shut because they were becoming increasingly dangerous, with any extractable coal left in them in faulted areas where roof collapses, gas, fire and flooding were increasing risks so the costs of keeping those pits running would not always simply be financial. After the strike ended in fact a number of pits did not reopen because due to lack of maintenance underground roadways had collapsed due to faulting -- the unions had prevented maintenance work being done at the pits during the 1983-84 strike, something that had been permitted during previous strikes.

93:

Haven't both coalition parties now nailed their trousers to the mast by fixing the date of the next election?

94:

I think Charlie's dead right. Whether or not Cameron is truly a centrist, I think he's recognised that the Tory Party cannot prosper in the long term without realigning itself and having its own clause 4 moment, which is what I think this coalition is intended to be.

As for the Lib Dems, it really is a bet-the-farm throw. Quite possibly it'll all come crashing down and if it does we Lib Dems will be history. But if we're right, we get to change the whole system, and I think it's worth the gamble.

I should add, that I'm not sure the Lib Dems will survive in the longer term even if we do win this gamble. I think the end result would be a general remoulding of British politics, with separate parties of 1) Old Labour traditional socialists, 2) New Labour + SDP + social Liberals, 3) Greens + green Liberals, 4) Market Liberals + libertarian Tories, and 5) Thatcherite/eurosceptic Tories + UKIP.

I think that would be a much better, less toxic political ecosystem than what we have now.

95:

On the drugs/unemployment front, I have hopes of former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith, who hasn't completely wasted his time out of the political limelight.

They're faint hopes, though.

96:

@86 phuzz said
"Sod arguing about Thatcher and miners, this is the relevant discussion here!

I like conservocrats because it is easily amended to conservo-twats, but that's just my preference."

OK, maybe slightly off topic, but a lot (if not all!) of the ill-feeling towards the Conservative party stems from the Thatcher years, and most of that from the crushing of the unions.

Thatcher was indeed ready (eg She'd told the power stations to stock up ready for it because it was so obvious they were going to try it on - AGAIN!) but Scargill screwed the pooch by calling the strike in the spring (DOH!). There were also fleets of cargo ships delivering coal and oil to South Wales and the Transport Union members made a bundle out of hauling it to the various power stations (so much for solidarity eh!).

Also, the industry had been propped up by successive Labour governments for years and was massively inefficient (apparently the UK miners would pull up something like 45 tons of coal per miner per day whilst the Germans could manage 300 tons!).
Not to mention the fact that the ones that were to be closed were pretty much empty anyway.
And do remember that while the Labour governments had been subsidising the mining industry they hadn't been improving efficiency or providing access to any other industries in the area showing a complete lack of any forward planning because the coal will (and did!) run out at some point.
Hey, maybe they wanted the Conservatives to smack the unions down so they could run their own nuLabour party with less interference from the unions?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for unions negotiating a better deal for their members in the good times, but surely it must be in everyone's best interests if at least someone in the Union can read a balance sheet!

@90 mike cobley said
"As for those who seem to approve the defeat of the miners (seemingly on the basis of resource depletion or some other cold equation)"

I honestly feel for the miners (or rather felt for them, as it was a long time ago), but they were led up the garden path by the union leaders and they should be held (at least partially) to blame for the defeat! I can also say I am happy that the power of the unions to hold the country to ransom was somewhat curtailed but I'm not happy that any of the workers bore the brunt of it.
Scargill took the fight to Thatcher and you blame her for winning?

And what does "... or some other cold equation" mean exactly? The country should have continued to prop up the failing industry for ever? Again, the previous Labour Govs should have known it was coming and done something about it, but they didn't. The Union leaders _must_ have known the mines were spent but still took the miners to war over it?

When (ok, if) the Gurkhas do badly in battle they change the officers but Scargill became president of the NUM for life!!
It is easy to point the finger at the Government of the time for having the foresight and backbone to stop the spiralling costs of propping up the failing industry, but if Thatcher hadn't done it some future Gov would have had to!
She had the cojones and was spoiling for the fight. Scargill walked right into it and led the workers into a fight they couldn't win ... and he's held up as some sort of hero? He didn't even let the miners vote on whether to strike or not!
Thatcher's certainly not innocent in all this, but she's not to blame for the demise of the coal industry, though she can certainly be thought of as the catalyst.


Anyway ... as Charlie so rightly says, 6 months or so should give us some indication of whether the new Con/LibDem alliance are actually the devil incarnate or not. I have high hopes, but then I'm an optimist!
I'd say the LD element will rein back the worst excesses of the Conservatives, and they will in turn hold back the worst the Lib Dems were pushing. This should leave us with all the useful stuff they agree on in the middle!

Here's hoping!

97:

I'm thoroughly in favor of abolishing Lords, if only for the means of selection to it; but, from a pragmatic standpoint, I'd prefer to see something else happen first:

A severe butting of heads between the new, and relatively untested, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Commons over an issue of fundamental rights or structure. Only then will we see if there's a political institution available to restrict the worst impulses of partisan parliament.

The life tenure of US federal judges (compared to the election of most state-court judges) has historically resulted in a much greater tendency of the federal judiciary to raise the bullshit flag against waves of populism and certain varieties of partisanship. It hasn't always been done well; it hasn't always been effective; and it hasn't always been "right". The key problem with the UK government has been not so much the merger of the executive and legislative branches as it has been folding the judiciary into that first merger: There really is no effective check on things like abuses of the Official Secrets Act. Combine that with the Old World concept of "constitution," and the whipsawing and overreaction to immediate crises endemic to UK government in the past century seem almost inevitable.

SCotUK has the potential to restrospectively act as a brake on some of the extremist tendencies of any unchecked majority-rule parliamentary government... and perhaps even more effectively than the Lords (and sure as hell more effectively than the Law Lords). First, though, it has to demonstrate the institutional spine to do so; second, it has to demonstrate the institutional ability to do so.

98:

And, for a tear-your-eyes-out moment:

The thought of the Madwoman From Grantham wielding the party whip in open session of Parliament... in paisely-patterned leather dom gear and stiletto heels. I can just see Douglas Hurd at the podium being "encouraged" to deal more rigorously with the Opposition...

99:

In the run up to the strike I remember a pile (well about 2 acres of waste land behind the railway station, 20' high) of coal appearing mysteriously. Scargill certainly walked into a baited trap.

Anyhoo.

As for those who seem to approve the defeat of the miners (seemingly on the basis of resource depletion or some other cold equation) perhaps you should look into the poverty and deprivation which were the direct consequences of Tory policies in the 80s. But hey, lets just hang around and wait for the Market to give us jobs and homes and schools....yeah, right.

I think most of us have argued the problem *was* the poverty and deprivation brought about by Tory polices. Markets don't, IMHO, work fast enough to deal with the problems of economic change - but that's not going to stop markets and economies from changing. The trick is to plan for it and expect your government to have a duty of care to deal with the problems.

As I said before, I'm willing to bet that most of us posting here are working in jobs that didn't exist 30 years ago, and working on technologies that didn't exist 15 years ago, and in some cases 10.

Hmmm... there ought to be a branch of fiction that dealt with imaging the social impact of that kind of rapid change... perhaps through postulating on technologies that could emerge and what they could do to society.

Gosh, if only we had people who did THAT for a living!

100:

@99 Dave O'Neill suggests
"I think most of us have argued the problem *was* the poverty and deprivation brought about by Tory polices."

If we can agree that the mines that were to be closed had run their course anyway, and that other mines were likely to follow, and that the remaining mines were too inefficient (ie the coal cost more to dig up than it was worth on the open market) then perhaps we can agree that the poverty and deprivation was a runaway train heading for the buffers anyway.
I would agree that the Conservative Government of the day brought it to a head earlier than it might otherwise have been had Scargill not started the fight. I would also concede that it didn't end well for a lot of people, but again, had Scargill been a good leader of the NUM he might have been able to soften the blow and spread the closures over more years. But he didn't!

Perhaps people think Scargill didn't know the mines were empty?
Perhaps people think Scargill didn't know it cost more to drag the coal to the surface than it was worth?
Perhaps people think Scargill didn't know there were huge stockpiles of coal, and further supplies arriving in South Wales by ship?
If he did know these things then he led the miners into the strike under false pretences, and for his own ends.
If he didn't know then he had no business being the leader of the NUM!

Back On Topic (sort of!)

@98 cepetit.myopenid.com gives us the horrendous mental image:
"The thought of the Madwoman From Grantham wielding the party whip in open session of Parliament..."

I can only respond by suggesting you swap The Grantham Madwoman for "the oily one who shall not be named", Lord Mandlemort ...

[shudder]

101:

If we can agree that the mines that were to be closed had run their course anyway, and that other mines were likely to follow, and that the remaining mines were too inefficient (ie the coal cost more to dig up than it was worth on the open market) then perhaps we can agree that the poverty and deprivation was a runaway train heading for the buffers anyway.

I can't agree it was a runaway train. It was a problem that was happening, but the way that the process of the closures and the subsequent recovery or lack there of was handled could have been managed better.

Other European countries have handled these transitions better.

102:

I think it's apposite to recall the Chingford Skinhead's comment on the subject of unemployment and bicycles at this point.

There was a breathtaking naivete among the Thatcherites about how to manage the aftermath of industrial decline; they seemed to believe that poorly educated workers in manual trades would naturally leave the steel mills and coal mines and somehow re-skill and find work elsewhere in an economy where the primary stimuli for growth were applied to the service and finance sectors.

If they'd taken 5-10 years over the shutdown of the smokestack industries, with a clear policy of retraining the work force and finding new jobs for them, subsidizing the program with the North Sea oil boom ... we'd still have had a massive structural unemployment problem among the older workers, the ones nearing pensionable age; but it should have been possible to rehabilitate a million or more ex-miners and steel workers, and their dependents, and to have avoided much of the turmoil, unrest, violence, and decay of the 1980s and 1990s.

But people who come out of school at 15 or 16 and go straight down a pit or into a Victorian-vintage steel works aren't educationally or culturally equipped to deal with change without a lot of help, which they didn't get.

What do you call a politician or administrator who through short-sightedness deprives a nation of on the order of 5-10% of its male work force for a generation by examining only the short-term balance sheet? Thereby saddling the nation with huge social problems and an extra million-plus long term unemployed?

There's a word for it, and it isn't "competent".

103:

What do you call a politician or administrator who through short-sightedness deprives a nation of on the order of 5-10% of its male work force for a generation by examining only the short-term balance sheet

I'd argue that the short-term balance sheet mentality wasn't just a problem for the British government. The mess we're currently in stems from a lot of astonishingly bad business decisions made in that period by people heading for short-term gain.

Everything from industrial decisions, financial, creation of bond markets and the development of a system of essentially "imaginary" (for values of i and j) fiscal systems that made short term gains while undermining a century of painstaking development is going to be hard for us to believe.

104:

Ugh: believe = recover from.

Pressed submit too soon.

I fear it will take the best part of a decade to get back to where we were in the 70s.

105:

Charlie said:
"If they'd taken 5-10 years over the shutdown of the smokestack industries, with a clear policy of retraining the work force and finding new jobs for them, subsidizing the program with the North Sea oil boom ... we'd still have had a massive structural unemployment problem among the older workers, the ones nearing pensionable age; but it should have been possible to rehabilitate a million or more ex-miners and steel workers, and their dependents, and to have avoided much of the turmoil, unrest, violence, and decay of the 1980s and 1990s."

Too true, unfortunately the previous Labour (and Conservative) Govmts did nothing of the sort, indeed the previous Labour Govmts worsened the problem by adding subsidies to skew the situation even more and make the work force believe they had something worth fighting for and a great industry for all their kids to aspire too.
Without the subsidies it would have been far less painful at the end and perhaps a generation of miners might have looked elsewhere for employment before the fan-based impact!

The utter collapse of the mining industry is perhaps down to the severity of the battle between Thatcher and Scargill - if Scargill had given up earlier perhaps the end could have been more amicably arranged.
Had there been no fight over the first (exhausted) pits there _could_ have been a more gradual shutdown of the industry, but as you so rightly say, there was always going to be a lot of people put out of work in the end.

There were a lot of mistakes, such as drafting in the over zealous Met to police areas in Yorkshire (and we've seen those over zealous Met officers in action recently over the G20 protests!) which must have massively inflamed the miners.

I'd say people on either side of this debate probably have deeply entrenched ideas about the rights and wrongs (mostly all "rights" on their side and all "wrongs" on the other!) but actually there are more shades of grey involved. For many it would be impossible to even consider that perhaps 'their side' had any hand in the proceedings at all, and yet such deep rooted enmity can't be healthy.
I can totally see how those on the Scargill side will never be able to forgive the Government led by Thatcher for their downfall but a goodly part of the blame lies with NUM under Scargill, and certainly some blame should be laid at the feet of old Labour who kept feeding the beast (their beast!) and assuring everyone all was well when all was obviously not well!

... and on the subject of short term decisions, that's one of the things wrong with our democracy. The governing party(ies) aren't going to spend money now for gains later because their opposition might get back in and reap the rewards!

Anyoldroadup, I reckon I might try not to respond on the miner's strike again ... unless a new blog appears specifically about it ... I don't want to be the Off Topic Johnny after all ...

106:

Relative to CHarlie #102, I had a discussion with a contractor a coupleof years ago where I managed to get him to admit that shutting everything down and leaving people behind, like Thatcher et al did in the 80's was bad. The thing was, he was a few years into an apprenticeship engineering with British Coal at the time, and was young enough and capable enough to parley this into a new job doing engineering related stuff. So for him the 80's were a good time.
Yet when I was in Sheffield 8 years ago the local news had a short bit on how proud they were to have started training ex-miners to be plumbers. Only 15 years too late, morons.

So, the other related point is that CHarlies characterisation of Victorian vintage steelworks is rather wrong, one hopes it was hyperbolae. I've come across quite a few mentions of Victorian era equipment going out of use after WW2; I've got books from the 60'sand 70's talking about the wonderful new technology which has been installed after WW2, and Ravenscraig was one of the most advanced steel works in the world in the 80's. (Just built in the wrong place) A lot of people who worked at Ravenscraig were capable of re-training and suchlike, but there wasn't exactly much on offer at the time. Again, some people had the drive and determination to get out of there altogether, other were held back by community interests and lack of education.
Hmmm, wasn't it the Thatcher years which saw the promotion of more intellectual learning as opposed to on the job trades type learning?

107:

The thought occurs that, had we had PR back in the early 1980s, some form of Liberal-Conservative pact might have happened then (I somehow can't see the liberals going into coalition with the mess that the Labour party was in at the time) and might have acted as a brake on Thatcher's determination to dismantle the country's loss-making industrial base as quickly as possible and damn the consequences. And what we might have got instead would have been a slower, more measured move in the same direction. Gradually closing the pits, ensuring re-training opportunities were in place, and not closing all the mines in a given area at the same time, which created a huge glut of unemployed low-skilled workers at one time in places where there were few jobs.

To me, the great tragedy of the 80s was that the battles were fought by two hard-liners who would brook no compromise, in Thatcher and Scargill, and there was insufficient restraining influence on either. Thatcher believed that the markets would take care of everything and was dead set against using government money to subsidise loss-making industries, no matter what the human consequences of closing so many of them down simultaneously, while Scargill seemed more interested in trying to bring down the democratically elected government of the day than considering the best interests of the workers he represented.

All of which is to my mind an advert for the advantages of coalition and minority government as a moderating influence on all parties' doctrinaire ideological tendencies.

108:

A conservative large majority would have sucked. But a slim majority, or a minority government, would have sucked a hundred times worse. Cameron would have had no choice but to cut deals with the very hard right, to make up the numbers. As things stand now, not only can he afford to blow them off, but the Lib Dems will see that he does so.

109:

Charlie Stross replied to this comment from Andy Wood

"Andy: I grew up in Yorkshire.

It bears repeating that, depending on where in the UK you hail from, your experience of the Thatcher years may be radically different. North of Nottingham: bad to awful. South of Nottingham: not so bad at all, and sometimes downright fabulous."

Charlie, could you please translate that into - well, not 'English' units, but 'American', for those us us who don't know what Yorkshire is, or what north/south of Nottingham means.

Thanks!

110:

Barry - let me :)

It would be the difference between spending the 1980s living in the Bay Area or Detroit. The North of the country was largely industrial - "old" style manufacturing built in areas where the resources were during the industrial revolution. The South, in and around London where the lion's share of the population live benefited from proximity to government and the financial services sector.

The "North/South divide" is pretty artificial but runs solidly through people like a piece of steel. My father who was born in the South of Ireland was a) very angry I chose to go to university in the North and b) really honestly believed that civilisation pretty much ended somewhere just to the North of Cambridge.

111:

Don't forget vast areas of South Wales being utterly decimated as well, the effects of which are still very much felt today. Not that i was of working age in the 80s but it would be ignorance indeed to have avoided thatcher's scorched-earth policies.

112:

A line from the Wash to the Severn is a fairly standard working definition. That includes in quite a bit of big-farm country in the North, but it does capture the whole traditional industrial economy except for the Hawker Siddeley new town belt around London. It also leaves working-class London in the south, but that cancels-out. So it's a reasonably true misrepresentation.

Of course, it wasn't just the miners and British Steel. At the same time we lost a huge amount of manufacturing/engineering industry as well - exactly the companies that might have absorbed the people from coal'n'steel. And that was directly driven by the Tories' macro-economic policy - the high pound, tight money, and tax breaks for real estate, while North Sea oil would have driven up sterling on its own.

Part of the tragedy of the strike is that we couldn't have kept burning so much coal anyway for climate reasons. It's quite possible to hate Thatcher for it, and Michael Heseltine for the second wave of closures in the early 90s, while still grasping the CO2 numbers. Some day, we'll all have to stop burning coal. But it's not a requirement to use that as an instrument of ideological war, and you could ask the French.

113:

Thanks, all, for clarifying.

114:

Strangely the rate of decline of coal under Thatcher was lower than under either her predecessors or her successors as shown in this.

115:

One, hopefully last comment on the miners' strike....
Did any of you realise that there was a standard joke doing the rounds at the time, that Thatcher was OBVIOUSLY in the pay of the KGB, whilst Scargill was EQUALLY OBVOIUSLY in the pay of the CIA?
Please think this one through, carefully!

116:

"For my part, I've often found the US Senate quite amusing -- especially the way places like North Dakota and Utah (population: 53) have the ability to counter-balance legislation favouring places like California or New York. It's probably a lot less amusing when you have to live with the consequences, though ..."

This is a feature, not a bug. For instance, what if California (53 representatives) decided to produce legislation making next-door Nevada (3 representatives) a national garbage dump? Every property developer in CA would be behind it, and given the our horribly broken lobby system, it's not (quite) impossible that such legislation would be introduced.

There are many factors favoring the continuing growth of population centers at the expense of more rural areas. Lack of bandwidth is one that's important to me, at a more local level, as a tip of the hat to Accelerando. State's rights have been a serious bone of political contention recently (Tea Party, etc.) with a decidedly fringe element getting lots of press. That doesn't mean that less-populous states shouldn't have a means of avoiding being shouted down. I don't want to have to live in an urban jungle to be a first-class citizen. State's-rights people have valid points.

How it will work out is anyone's guess. For my part, I've seen some video of how your government does business, and *I* find *your* system 'quite amusing'. Such shouting and theatrics, which are unfortunately becoming more common here. And isn't this the first time in quite some number of years that the government represented the majority of the population? Here, that situation has been a rarity. Not that that says anything good about us, with G. W. Bush being a two-term president.

In recent years, we seem to be operating in FAIL mode, and the original system seems to have been better than we currently deserve. I'm not convinced that the UK has done better, though, over the same period of time.

Here's a thought--why don't I refrain from laughing at the UK system, which I don't know much about, and you refrain from laughing at the US system, which you don't know much about.

117:

Greg ... that kind of thing doesn't happen within states or in other countries. Weak gruel to defend the Senate. It's a feature, but a stupid one.

Y'know, I've never understood constitution-worship among either my countrymen or the British. The U.S. constitution is a pretty bad governing document, although it hasn't produced any critical failures. Ditto Britain.

My worry about an elected British upper house is that it would accumulate power (as happened in Australia) and become more like the American upper house. That said, the U.S. upper house is a disaster due to a combination of ludicrous representation and idiotic internal rules. So the risk is remote. But so might be the benefits.

My question to y'all, then, is simple. Has the House of Lords actually done anything in recent decades that would make it worth taking the risk of reforming it?

118:

One of the problems facing 1970s Britain was that it had discovered and started delivering oil during an oil crisis. As a result, the pound gained strength as a currency, which attacked the competitiveness of British export-dependent manufacturing industries, and turned them from profit to loss. The loss of Empire didn't help - our manufacturing base was organised to support a huge internal market that mostly got independence in the 1960s and started looking elsewhere for goods and services.

I've got this vague memory of a quote along the lines of "Britain spent the proceeds of North Sea oil, on the increases in the Social Security bill from unemployment that wouldn't have happened if they hadn't discovered oil".

AIUI, Thatcher isn't totally to blame for the severity of things - in the 1970s we were getting rejected for loans by the IMF! She was just the PM when things got so bad that we couldn't afford to carry on trying to make the transition pain-free (see: nationalisation of entire industries in an attempt to make the transition that Charlie described).

The rigid attitudes of the time towards hard-won union rights didn't help. You'd have to explain the famous "Not the Nine-o-Clock News" printworkers sketch (about the unfairness of docking someone's wages because they were dead, "but rigor mortis has clearly not set in" / "only because you tied him to the radiator") to today's youth, because they would see them as surrealism rather than satire.

If we want to understand the current crop of Greek protesters, we only have to look to 1970s Britain.

119:

My question to y'all, then, is simple. Has the House of Lords actually done anything in recent decades that would make it worth taking the risk of reforming it?

From a personal view. No I tend to the 'Take care of offending Nurse, for fear of getting something worse.' And there's a hell of a lot worse out there. Agreed I haven't a clue why bishops get to vote there, but on the whole they've been fairly moderate. To a great extent those actually sitting in the Lords are those with outside knowledge - sadly lacking in the lower house (vague memories House of Commons breakdown something like 85% legal degrees 10% Accountancy and 5% miscellaneous. Less than 30% have actually held down career or job outside of politics-Ought to check really). Another political electioneering house? Only a bare stage better than Prime Ministers patronage (aka life peerage).

120:

I haven't a clue why bishops get to vote there, but on the whole they've been fairly moderate.

Have they? I seem to recall them speaking out loudly against LGBT rights being included in the recently-passed equality bill. And defending a loophole in the proposed law that was specifically added to allow religious organizations to discriminate on religious grounds. And it's a broad loophole that they wanted -- we're not merely talking about allowing Religion X's authorities to reject applicants for their priesthood for not being adherents of that faith, but lobbying for the right of faith schools to sack members of staff at for not being members of that faith. (Note for Americans: a lot of British schools have explicit religious affiliations.)

We've got a word for Bishops -- or any priests of any superstition -- sitting as unelected members of a legislative body: it's called "theocracy". And it's an absolute disgrace that there's even a vestige of it hanging on in the UK.

(I have no problem with religious people, including members of clergy, running for elected office. But they should be there by the will of the people, not as of right.)

And you only have to go back to the mid-1980s to find Thatcher's use of the Lords as a rubber-stamp for legislation (the poll tax, notoriously) while using the Parliament Act to override the Lords if they delivered a result she didn't approve of. The former problem has already been reformed out of existence, but the latter is still an issue; we're left with a constitutional imbalance that leaves too much power in the hands of the commons and places too little accountability on the upper house.

121:

Agreed I haven't a clue why bishops get to vote there, but on the whole they've been fairly moderate.

An alternative view is they have been as reactionary as they calculate that they can get away with.

122:

Re the House of Lords,

I have come round to the idea that an appointed house is better than an elected one in a parliamentry system.

what we have evolved is a revising and moderating body on a house of commons that has supreme power and clear (currently) accoutnability to the electorate.

Staffing this with experienced people who can only hold up legislation not over turn it seems to act as a good break on perhaps unwise legislation but doesnt override the will of the electorate since a delay is only a delay.

Electing an upper house is probably a dangerous thing to do

123:

This could be a bit technical, and a bit out of date, but bear with me, OK.

In Britain, most people pay their income taxes through a system called PAYE. This gives you a tax code, which specifies what income is not taxable, and each week or month (depending how you are paid) there is a calculation of how much you have earned in the year so far, how much of that is tax free, and how much tax you should pay.

This works well if you are in steady employment.

When you start a new job, it takes a while for your tax code to arrive from the revenue, so there is a special procedure which uses a week_1/month_1 calculation with a default tax code. When the correct details come through, there can be a sizable tax refund. From the employer's point of view, this is offset against the PAYE due for all the other employees, so it's just money going into a different pocket.

Today, a lot of jobs are temporary, or otherwise short-term, and people may never be in a particular job for long enough to get that refund when the details come through. And, on the default W1/M1 figures, full-time minimum wage is enough to be taxed. So people get tax deducted, grumble, and maybe never realise that they can get that tax payment back.

Also in the PAYE system is the NI contribution, a different income-based tax. You don't have the tax code problem. That part of the system has an upper limit. There's a point where the NI contributions stop increasing. If you do the calculations, all the income-related tax, there's a point where the total percentage, for the very well-paid, starts to fall. It's easy to feel grumpy about that.

Incidentally, the tax code can also reflect some special tax allowances. Here, I'm likely very out of date. I know farm workers used to get an increase in their tax code from a tax allowance for providing their own working clothing. This was something agreed as part of the whole Agricultural Wages Board process. In effect, it set a minimum wage, but it also set higher wages for workers with agreed qualifications, and covered a lot else. The way the AWB was set up, it was a collective negotiation on both sides: a huge number of farmers, and a huge number of farm workers.


124:

The most the current House of Lords can do is ask the Commons, "Are you really sure you want to do this?"

That isn't much good for anyone if the Commans, as it often seems to happen, acts a bit bloody arrogant.

An heritary peerage, and even an appointed one (Lord Mandelson is still there), allows the Commons to claim this arrogance is "the will of the electorate".

It's a reason why one might think the Commons will never accept an elected Upper House. Maybe this Coalition can show that there is an alternative to "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

125:

"Maybe this Coalition can show that there is an alternative to "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.""

They seem though to be starting by bending the constitution to fix themselves (or rather the Conservatives) in power - it will take a vote of 55% of MPs to dissolve Parliament. This is new. So, if the coalition falls apart, you could get a minority Conservative government (as the largest party) which can't get any business through (because the combined non Tories had more than 50% of the MPs) but Parliament can't dissolve to hold an election (because the combined non Tories don't have 55%).

That is something that, I gather, the House of Lords might not wear - and they'd be quite right. (And as this wasn't a manifesto commitment, the LibCons wouldn't be able to use the Parliament Acts to force it through.)

Returning, for a moment, to the Thatcher issue: no, it wasn't just the miners that made her hated. She managed to lay waste to huge chunks of manufacturing/ engineering industry - useful stuff, which I'd accept that coalmining no longer was. My father was, until the early 80s, a salesman for a company selling drawing office equipment (things like old fashioned drawing boards in those days of course) in the North West of England. There were many, many medium to large companies actually designing and making things then, but most of them were killed (as was his living, of course, but that's another issue).

And, of course, she abolished free milk for schoolchildren in the early 70s...

126:

"And as this wasn't a manifesto commitment, the LibCons wouldn't be able to use the Parliament Acts to force it through."

The Parliament Act has nothing to do with manifesto commitments: it can be used for any bill. Manifesto commitments get through the House of Lords under the Salisbury Convention, which avoids the year's delay required when the Parliament Act is used.

127:

Another reason Thatcher is so detested in Scotland is that she used it as a testing ground for her mad schemes: both the poll tax and student loans came into effect in Scotland before the rest of the country. The fact that the level of non-payment of the former was so high (was it something like 30%?) must have contributed to its eventual scuppering but the latter has, unfortunately, gone from strength to strength.

128:

john

Thanks for the correction re Parliament Acts.

129:

There was a belief among many folks in Scotland about the Poll Tax that when Labour promised to abolish it, the tax dodgers would not have to pay their arrears when it was replaced by the Council Tax. They were sadly disillusioned...

The Poll Tax was basically a local income tax to replace the complicated and oft-dodged local rates based on property value (rented or owned). A household with two wage-earners was billed the same amount as the retired person living alone next door under the old system and the poll tax was meant to be fairer in that respect. A lot of lies were told about it; for example it was widely believed that the tax could be dodged if you didn't register to vote and it was meant to discourage poor folks from voting -- in fact poll tax collection was never based on the Electoral Register any more than national income tax ever was.

130:

The country circa 1979 was facing a number of serious situations, financially, industrially etc. But Thatcher, in cahoots with Kenneth Joseph (aka the Mad Monk), came into power with the avowed intention of turning Britain into a global financial hub. The corollary of that was the need to scrap heavy manufacturing, shrink trad resource extraction industries (steel, coal), and neutralise the unions (whether Scargill was involved or not).

The introduction of the poll tax was naked social engineering, based on the idea that if you alter people's economic behaviour you'll change their voting behaviour. Likewise student loans, which has arguably been the single most effective method of suppressing student dissent. Both of these policies had the added attraction of shifting costs onto the people. Because we all know how pampered those workers and students are, eh?

131:

What a lot of people don't know is that the Parliament Act can only be used on House of Commons bills, the Lords can veto any bills originating in the Lords, this is about half of all legislation. If you look on the Parliamentary website some bills have (H.L.) in the title, this indicates a House of Lords Bill. Acts originating in the Lords include the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Parliament Act procedure has not been invoked very often.

The uses are as follows

Parliament Act 1911:

Welsh Church Act 1914 (disestablished Church in Wales)
Home Rule Act 1914 (Home rule for Ireland delayed by WWI never implemented)
Parliament Act 1949

Parliament Act 1949:

War Crimes Act 1991 (UK courts gained jurisdiction over acts committed on behalf of Nazi Germany during WWII)
European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999 (Closed List PR for European Elections in Great Britain)
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 (eq1ualised Gay age of consent)
Hunting Act 2004 (banned fox hunting, hare coursing &c.)

More information here.

It is notable that the Commons want the Lords to be elected, the Commons voted for the 80% elected and wholly elected options rejecting all of the less elected options. While the Lords voted for the wholly appointed option rejecting all elected options. The Commons does not appeared to be too worried about an elected upper house being rather more assertive.

132:

No, as I understand it, this 55% thing is actually a device to stop either of the coalition partners from pulling the rug from under the other before Parliament reaches the end of its new fixed term.

Under the current system the PM can go to Brenda at any time to ask for a dissolution. There's a convention that the PM doesn't do this on a whim - there has to be a good reason such as loss of confidence or supply - until towards the end of the parliamentary term. But this does mean that in the last year or two of a parliament Brenda is expected to grant a dissolution simply because the PM calculates he/she is in a better position to win an election now than is likely at the final end of the parliamentary term in a year or so's time.

So fixed term Parliaments are supposed to remove that power of the PM, yet there may still be a reason to end a fixed term parliament early due to some unforeseen contingency. This 55% proposal is intended to move the power to force an early dissolution from the PM to MPs, with the 55% value set so that neither the Tories on their own nor the Lib Dems + everyone else can use that power to end the coalition early.

The important thing to understand is that this does not affect votes of no confidence in the government. These will still require a straight majority of those voting. But a vote of no confidence does not automatically cause a dissolution: if one were to pass the Commons, then Brenda would look to the leader of that new majority group of MPs that had just voted out the old government to form a new one for the rest of the parliamentary term. Only if he or she couldn't, would there then be early elections.

Having said this, whilst this isn't quite the Assault On Democracy that its opponents are busily portraying it to be, it's rather a kludge (that 55% figure is tailored specifically to the current coalition's seat numbers, so presumably would have to be adjusted after every election depending on the result) and probably won't work anyway as the Tories or Lib Dems + everyone could still pass a no confidence vote then fail to form a new government.

So not exactly a good early step for the new coalition: at best it makes them look stupid, at worst sinister. But I guess with parties that have been out of government for 13 and 65 years respectively, you're going to get some cock-ups in the early days.

133:

Community Charge wasn't an income tax, it was a poll tax or head tax, everyone paid the same amount. Council Tax was like Rates a property tax.

The student loan introduced a heavily subsidised loan on extremely generous terms to replace grants, the grant system would not have been affordable with the expansion of student numbers so the additional costs were placed on graduates, a group with higher earnings than taxpayers in general. Costs were going to substantially increase, the loans were probably the least bad way of paying them. The grants were a transfer from the general population to a substantially wealthier than average group, students in the 1970s were mostly middle class. The social background of students now is far closer to that of the general population. The loans only need to be repaid once your earnings are above a certain level, so they don't appear to be a significant disincentive.

134:

There is some precedent for acts restricting dissolution of parliament. In 1640 the Long Parliament was so named as on first sitting it passed the Triennial Act 1641 which had provision that that parliament could be dissolved only with its consent.

135:

Robert Sneddon@129:

The Community Charge (Poll Tax) was not a local income tax - it was a flat-rate tax paid per person. That's why it was unpopular. The system of rates (local taxes) that it replaced was based on property values and charged on property. That wasn't an income tax, but did at least mean that people in expensive houses paid more.

But it wasn't just a switch from a progressive tax to a flat one. Because rates were a property tax they were paid by landlords. Tenants had to pay the poll tax, but there was no legal requirement for landlords to reduce rents when the rates went away.. so you may not be surprised to learn that rents stayed high. High rents + poll tax = everyone in rental accommodation much worse off.

All of this, of course, was intended as a feature. The Community Charge was supposed to curb the power of left-wing local authorities (who set high rates and provided more social services) by forcing the less well-off to pay a higher proportion of local tax.

136:

Further to #124, You only pay NI on earned income, not on investment income, so if you can collect income as dividends from a company, you can save 10% or so up to the upper NI threshold. Or at least that's how it used to work.

Also, ref #133, according to an ex-colleague of mine, the threshold for starting to repay student loans is about £15_000, not much compared with national average earnings at over £25_000.

137:

Student loans are why I never had a proper job after graduating. Disincentive to work if I have to pay it back, see, especially as I would have been paying more tax anyway.

No, I'm not claiming benefits either. And the loan was eventually repaid simply to get rid of the incessant hassle that is the "no, I'm not earning anywhere near the threshold so bugger off" process.

Alas, the non-proper job is turning into a proper job, despite my efforts to avoid such an eventuality, and the government will get some tax off me this year, which they will probably spend on bombs rather than anything useful.

138:

Roy

"the Tories or Lib Dems + everyone could still pass a no confidence vote then fail to form a new government."

That's partly my point - the coalition could fall, but the Tories could then veto a dissolution, effectively leaving themselves in office (since D Cameron is PM he would remain PM if no other coalition could be formed, in the same way as G Brown was PM for those few days post election).

The only way to get a dissolution would then be first to repeal whatever Bill is to be introduced giving effect to all this.

IF the aim is simply to prevent one of the coalition parties pulling the rug from under the other, wouldn't it be better to rely on that behaviour - if it happened - being recognised as shabby and punished at the subsequent election? Otherwise it looks, as you say, either stupid or sinister - and could lead to a real muddle.

139:

Of course the problem is that in our constitution there's no-one to whom these decisions can acceptably be referred - the Monarch is only supposed to have a formal role, so we have to avoid anything that means her exercising real choice. So it's left to Parliament. And once you start tying up how Parliament can act you risk it eating up its own legitimacy. We need a Constitutional Court or something like that.

140:

davharris: That's partly my point - the coalition could fall, but the Tories could then veto a dissolution, effectively leaving themselves in office (since D Cameron is PM he would remain PM if no other coalition could be formed, in the same way as G Brown was PM for those few days post election).

I don't think that could happen. A loss of confidence means the PM has to resign. Currently on resigning in such circumstances he can ask for a dissolution but the Queen is not bound to grant one. Now he wouldn't be able to, and an early dissolution would only follow if no-one else can form a government.

I believe that the 55% thing is a Lib Dem proposal, and as such can be seen as their guarantee to the Tories that they won't wimp out if the going gets tough. Given that a vote of no confidence followed by an inability to form a new government would still lead to early elections, I think the coalition would be well advised to drop this.

141:

Hmm, it's just occured to me that not only do the Lib Dems get their long-standing desire for fixed-term parliaments, but that irrespective of whether or not the 55% value survives, a bit of the British Constitution is actually going to get written down at last.

142:

I think a lot of it's already written down - just not all in one place, there are bits missing, lots of it is unclear and some of it is contradictory!

143:

sorry to pick nits: Weltanschauung ist spelled with two 'u'... ;-)

144:

This makes them sound like Gordon Brown, hanging on until the last minute. And a promise for the full five years seems a bit excessive.

And it's dangerous: what if things fall apart? What if one or the other party doesn't keep its promises?

Something like: "While the coalition is maintained, an election shall not be called before May 2014" seems to cover things better. The extra year is available, but it isn't a blatant grab right now.

But, whatever the timing, at some point the parties will want to emphasise their differences, and why you should prefer them in any election.

145:

I used to have a seasonal job going door to door checking that the electoral register was up to date. Once someone objected to giving their details because I was "working for the Tories" and I pointed out that only by registering to vote could they have a say in removing the Tories.

Then the Poll Tax came in. I had stopped trying to do that work by then but it seemed to me that the number of canvassers had dropped substantially. Checks were mainly postal.

From what I remember, the local Electoral Registration Officer was not allowed, by law, to release details of people registered to vote other than for electoral purposes. (Some credit reference agencies misused the public nature of the registers for their own purposes.) But, the Poll Tax Registrar (can't remember their official title) had legal powers to require anyone who they believed might have information relevant to the charging of Poll Tax to release that information.

The Electoral Register guy had to keep information secret unless threatened with legal action by the Poll Tax guy. In practice however they were the same person, appointed by the local authority.

So the Poll Tax guy could send a letter forcing himself to tell himself something that was illegal for him to tell himself unless he'd threatened himself with legal action!

Being registered to vote automatically meant that the Poll Tax man could find you.

146:

Always interesting for me to hear someone from another country talk about Canadian politics. The fear of the Canadian Tories as junior republicans when the reality is that Canada is much to the left of mainstream US and virtually all the Canadian right is left of the Democrats. Fear of Harper's Tories is fear of what exactly?
To hear any wistfulness for Labour seems ridiculous when the UK is failing socially and economically. The most complete nanny state, virtually bankrupt and 3rd in line for failure behind Greece, Portugal and Italy. Labour achieved what exactly in their years in power? How much of that legacy will be left when the economy recovers? Granted, I have an outsiders point of view but what will Labour's legacy be?

147:

Fear of Harper's Tories is fear of what exactly?

You're not LGBTQ, are you? Or a refugee from a dictatorship? Or attempting to fly while in possession of non-lilly-white skin? (See also: Maher Arrar, torture scandal, prorogueing of parliament ...)

To hear any wistfulness for Labour seems ridiculous when the UK is failing socially and economically. The most complete nanny state, virtually bankrupt and 3rd in line for failure behind Greece, Portugal and Italy. Labour achieved what exactly in their years in power?

How about a 70% reduction in child poverty? Repairing 18 years of neglect of the healthcare infrastructure (with around US $100Bn in capital infrastructure costs alone, never mind chronic under-staffing issues)? Repairing a metric shitload of other repair shortfalls left behind by the Tories who, in their mania for privatization and tax cuts to bribe the electorate, neglected the roads, railways, and other infrastructure? How about an actual constitutional mechanism for safeguarding human rights? How about devolved power for Scotland and Wales -- which sucessfully pre-empted full on independence movements and held the union together? How about attempting to achieve an unprecedented increase in access to higher education and rebuilding the education system to handle a minor baby boom?

Let's not forget, while we're at it, that the long term policy of promoting financial services over industry in the UK was set by Thatcher's government and largely locked in -- to maintain the City, a strong pound was desirable: but this was inimical to engineering exports, despite which We Still Make Shit (but employ fewer people in so doing).

Sheesh.

I'm not a fan of New Labour -- I have never voted for them, believe it or not -- but: credit where credit's due. They did their best to make up for two decades of malign neglect of our social capital and national infrastructure. If they erred towards bureaucratic managerialism and authoritarian nannying, it wasn't for the lack of good intentions -- and at the end of their tenure, the average Briton is better off than they were at the beginning of it, 13 years ago.

And as for "virtually bankrupt and third in line for failure behind Greece, Portugal, and Italy", that's not a description I recognize from here. (Here's a hint: Greece's government bonds are high interest short term ones. The UK borrowing -- which the government is taking budgetary measures to cover -- are denominated in low interest long term bonds.) Yes, Labour played fast and loose with the balance sheets, and the over-emphasis on financial services left the entire country over-exposed when the global crunch hit -- but the UK isn't in the same league as the real basket cases.

148:

Meanwhile, "[t]he new minister for broadband, Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, has laid down the law and said there will be no repeal of the Digital Economy Act." Combine that with immigration minister Damian Green's apparent indifference to the Sehar Shebaz case, and the LibDems need to do something soon to disabuse the Tories of the notion that their junior partners are to be played for suckers. I hope everyone is checking the fine print of the five years / 55% legislation very carefully.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 12, 2010 1:00 PM.

PDF: Satanic horror from the abyss, or merely evil? was the previous entry in this blog.

Next year's Hugo novel shortlist ... is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda