Saturday, 6 November 2010

The hardest "I told you so" I've ever had to keep to myself

So, much time has passed and it is said that a lot has happened. Number 10 is occupied by a man who has had an extraordinarily privileged upbringing - so no change there. Number 11 is occupied by a man who wilfully ignores the elephant in the room that is our economy's thrall to the financial sector - no change there either. Government policy on welfare seems to be dictated by the editorial page of The Sun - same as it ever was. So why the bouts of gut-wrenching despair?

Tangent time folks. Various people I love and respect have, over the years, been very receptive to the message of the party that these days goes by the moniker of the Liberal Democrats - all the way back to my youth and the SDP/Liberal Alliance days. While never able to fully concur, it was an understandable position - during my lifetime the Tories have always been too proud of being nasty (or have been far too accepting of nastiness in their midst), Labour have had myriad problems ranging from the noble but unworkable (support for CND during the fag-end of the Cold War) to the ignoble and frankly baffling (the assault on civil liberties in the wake of 9/11) - and this, coupled with apparent crowd-pleasing policies, particularly on education and civil liberties, made the LibDems an attractive proposition.

But there was always a second side there - it tended to manifest in people I knew who came from staunch Tory backgrounds and had some Tory sympathies, but either could not bring themselves to fully embrace the divisiveness of the Thatcher credo or did not want to be associated with the trainwreck the party became after the defeat of 1997. Aligned with the "classical" Liberals in the party, this led to the prominence of the Orange Book faction and the waning of the social democratic cornerstone that attracted left-leaning supporters. Not that a big deal was made out of this apparently subtle shift at the time, but it has to be said that what was apparently subtle has made a massive impact on events.

I mentioned this to my friends and family some time ago, and in many cases was disabused - in no uncertain terms - of the notion that the LibDems would be willing partners with the Tories in government. Frankly, I hoped against hope they were right. When it happened, the eternal teenager in residence wanted to shout "I told you so" from the rooftops. But it's not a victory, and there's nothing to celebrate.

While it's a fair opinion to state that not much has changed in many quite substantive ways, the yawning pit of misery is fed by the things that have. Gordon Brown may have been an occasionally woeful communicator - a career death sentence for a PM in today's media-driven age - but he at least retained a sliver of belief in social democracy and understood the crushing unfairness of expecting low and middle income citizens to foot the bill for the finance industry's largesse. Cameron and Osborne can emote all they like, but you can see in their eyes that at least part of them thinks the proles have had it too good for too long and deserve the medicine they're forcing down our throats.

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