I’ve got it folks. Ever since the Tories and the Lib Dems joined together to form the coalition government following the general election in 2010, people have been wondering what issue, what event could drive the two parties apart? Everyone with an interest in politics has devoted some amount of time to thinking about this because of the potential consequences; a general election. An early general election would not only be important, it would be great to watch on News 24 as the events unfolded.
But until now nothing had quite fitted the bill. Both parties were quite willing to comprise on their supposed deeply-held beliefs and polices to get what all politicians crave above all else; power and the opportunity to make poor peoples live even worse than they already are.
The Tory leadership were quite willing to disappoint their backbenchers and be less overtly sexist and homophobic. It was a win-win for them really, they got to appear modern and tolerant and yet they can say to their backbenchers, “Sorry, we would love to be more bigoted but there is nothing we can do. Those bloody Lib Dems! Oh well…” The Tories were also quite willing to give the Lib Dems a referendum on a change to the voting system that no-one wanted, including the Lib Dems! How they must have laughed about that.
The Lib Dems were of course willing to make comprises to get their grubby little hands on power. They had not been in Government for around 90 years and were like some perpetually horny teenager who was finally getting the chance to ‘do it’. Although the whole experience may be so traumatising that this particular Lib Dem horny teenager will find it’s a long, long time before they ever get the chance to ‘do it’ again.
There had always been a divide in the Lib Dems on economic issues; the ‘orange-bookers’ on the right-wing and the ‘social democrats’ on the left-wing. But the right-wing had always been bigger and dominated the leadership and the left-wing had never been that left-wing, more of a centre-wing really.
It also helped that they were quite willing to abandon any policy whatsoever like their commitment to not raise (and in fact to get rid of) tuition fees, not seeming to understand why it was that people got annoyed when they said “Sorry… for making that promise in the first place.”
Maybe civil liberties would turn out to be the Achilles heel of the government? The Lib Dems have been to the left of the Tories and Labour on civil liberties, ie they believe that people should have some civil liberties. The Tories traditionally have been authoritarian and believed in a government just small enough to berate people on their sexual morals (while never living up to their professed standards), listening to their phone-calls and locking people-up with no evidence for their guilt.
It has to be said that the Labour government went so far to the extreme on believing that having rights a government could not disregard any time it chose was a quaint concept, that they made the Tories seem reasonable in comparison, but there was still quite a gulf between the two coalition partners to be.
It turns out that the Lib Dems and Tories came up with quite a clever solution. Essentially nothing would change. The Tories would not take up Labour’s example and further curtail civil liberties until Britons had so few liberties it was like we were all at a new years eve party waiting in 1983 and the Lib Dems would do what they do best; very little. There would be no roll-back of the restrictions but things wouldn’t get any worse. Genius really although not an Einstein kind of genius, more the genius of a really evil shit.
So what could it be? What could bring down the coalition? Well the riots and their aftermath have given us the answer. That while all the Tories are always completely batshit crazy, the Lib Dems aren’t.
Now I don’t mean the Tories are mentally ill. They are fully aware of what they are doing and should be held accountable. They do not have any kind of political equivalent of being ‘innocent by reason of insanity’. Being crazy is not the only reason the Tories have the policies they do, it’s also because of the deeply flawed, both logically and morally, way in which they see the world. But in a political sense they are crazy. They’re nuts. The hold their political position in a perfect storm of evilness, stupidity and craziness.
We saw it all quite clearly during the riots. Government ministers would appear on TV and say things like “I don’t want to listen to reasons for why things happened.” On Newsnight, Tories would just shout at people who tried to explain that maybe their were reasons for the largest riots in living memory taking place. They refused to believe that was any difference between the words ‘reason’ and ‘excuse’. They seem to be on the verge of coming up with a new word like ‘reacuse’ or ‘exeason’.
Essentially anyone thinking that the recession, 30 years of a neo-liberal agenda that has vastly diminished most peoples standards of living, the criminal corruption of bankers and politicians and the rise of vapid consumerism as an all-powerful force might have something to do with the fact that society had just imploded might as well having been running around London in their looted trainers and committing arson.
Now the Lib Dems are self-serving, opportunistic and completely lacking in any sense of decency but they are not always completely batshit crazy. Some people involved with the riots should go to prison but not EVERYONE involved in the riots – that is clearly completely MENTAL!
Evicting an entire family from their home because one of their members was involved with the riots is many, many things (none of them good) but it also doesn’t make any sense. Where will they all go? Locking people up for 4 years because of a facebook message is as stupendously stupid as putting a message on facebook that could get you locked up for 4 years – it’s facebook for crying out loud not the inside of your mind – other people can see it! Six months in prison for stealing £3.50 worth of bottled water is as crazy as deciding when you’re looting from a shop to take £3.50 worth of bottled water! Wait a minute there’s a theme emerging here.
The Tories and the rioters are like the two flipsides of a particularly sorrow-inducing coin. Their actions are unthinking, short-sighted and wrong but one of the sides has poverty, ignorance and an obsession with trainers and mobile phones to explain (not justify!) their actions.
Locking people up for crimes that clearly don’t merit it and putting them on the path to becoming career-criminals won’t help anyone. America has gone down this route and now has 3 million people in prison – more than any other country in history – though to be far some countries have in fact been little more than giant prisons.
Of course the Lib Dems won’t actually do anything about any of this because apart from their slender grip on reality (this doesn’t extend to their performances in future elections) they have no other qualities apart such as backbone or principals – the kind you do something about.
But as for the guy who took the great riots of 2011 as an opportunity to steal Tesco value Basmati rice. Lock him up and throw away the key.