Saturday, 19 September 2015

Despatches from the Dustbin of History

This will be a brief post as the Lib Dems are barely worth a mention now. But the last few days have seen a smattering of risible press notices as they gather for their first conference since their near wipe out at the General Election where, after five years of enthusiastic collusion with the most extreme rightwing government we have ever had, they ended up with their lowest vote share since the 1950s and just 8 MPs. Their new leader, the rather inconsequential Tim Farron, promised a more progressive left of centre, anti-austerity strategy, claiming this was the natural ground for his battered party.

However, a month and a bit on from his election, this shifty character has shifted his politics distinctly to the right. With Jeremy Corbyn installed as Labour leader after one of the largest democratic exercises in British political history outside of legislative elections, hysterical Lib Dems are claiming a "gap in the market" is opening for their party to "fightback".

1981 - rightwing Labour MPs set up the SDP, which merged with the Liberals
Apparently, this is the yawning chasm between the Corbynite Labour Party and the Cameron Tories. Timmy apparently has fallen for the Daily Mail/BBC line that Corbyn is Stalin's angrier cousin and is preparing to impose a reign of red terror in spite of one analysis showing his economic policies are very close to those of the 1980s SDP-Liberal Alliance.

And so, we have Farron's former deputy boss, Vince Cable, the slayer of employment rights and the defeated MP for Twickenham, declaring that a veritable avalanche of anti-Corbyn Labour MPs are about to defect to the tattered banners of the House of Farron. Timmy himself said that he had "distressed" Labour MPs texting him (they apparently didn't feel like actually calling him) expressing how upset they are at the hundreds of thousands of new members who have joined the Labour Party.

The Labour rightwing have unsurprisingly dismissed the Lib Dems' claims. Yet perhaps it would make sense - our party system is no longer fit for purpose, reflecting neither voters nor even the politics of the respective parties members. We have been governed in a neoliberal consensus for so long that, like the old "front parties" in the Soviet bloc, many of the allegedly democratic choices we are given are devoid of all content, never mind differentiation.

As previously blogged here and across the Left, a realignment is needed and is indeed coming. Corbyn's election is the latest and perhaps most evident stage in it, but it is far from complete. Much sweat and tears will flow before any conclusion is reached - but just as Corbynites and others on the Left like the Greens need to work together, the Labour Right needs a new repository for its band of chancers, warmongers, privateers and dinosaurs. Where better than the apparently welcoming arms of the Lib Dems, whose twisting and weaving rootlessness would be ideal for the pro-austerity Blairites to find some modicum of machinery, however modest or even theoretical it might be in many parts of the country? They might even set up some sort of alliance and promise to break the mould of British politics.

80s revival or a has-beens' tour?
For now it probably is just dreaming on the part of Farron and Cable, a kickback to the 1980s with its perennial false dawns of centrist SDP/Liberal advance in their younger days. As  former New Romantic Timmy's more successful musical contemporaries China Crisis trilled, a case of Wishful Thinking.

For as he surveys the Bournemouth conference hall this weekend, this desperate would-be political gadfly might do well to reflect that the political divide is no longer along some sort of 1980's slide rule with a big soppy, soggy centre segment. In our broken nation, with its ever-growing extremes of rich and poor, the dividing line between progressive and neoliberal is growing ever sharper and deeper. Answers will be found in conviction and commitment to deep-seated change, not spin and dissimulation in some dilatory defence of a slightly softer status quo. Britain and politics have moved on from the vacuum of centrist opportunism.

Timmy may well see a great gap in front of his party. Indeed, it may even be a chasm - the wide, yawning dark mouth of the dustbin of history, beckoning him to jump in.

A Kick up the 80's - Wishful Thinking

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