Well, it’s been over a month since I last wrote a blog; for you see I’ve been busy writing essays, making a radio feature and working extra nights at the petrol station (the things I will do to put bread on the table!). It has certainly been an interesting month and I’ve rued not having the time to pontificate on a number of events.
We have also seen BP unleash the greatest environmental disaster on the world ever. Well, the largest to affect a Western country anyway. Who gives a toss that there has been a strikingly similar event going on, unreported for years, in the Niger Delta. Rule one of news – a hundred dead Africans is no news; ninety-nine dead Africans and one dead Anglo-Saxon and it leads the ten o’clock news. Still, this has given the increasingly suspect Obama the opportunity to rant and rave with high hyperbole about this being a new 9/11, and to exercise his barely concealed Anglophobia. Never mind that the rig was operating under licence for BP by an American company; never mind that it was Halliburton (of course it was!) that was responsible for the failed blow out preventer; never mind the criminally lapse US regulatory body, which it would seem didn’t regulate anything other than signing off contracts; never mind the fact that the US is the largest polluter on the globe by a very large margin and have done their utmost to block any attempts to modify their excesses, and that their insatiable craving for oil has caused untold misery across the globe for the last hundred years. Why take an uncomfortable look at yourself, when you can whip up xenophobic sentiment against ‘British Petroleum’ to mask your own impotence in the situation and the subsequent drop in the approval ratings. We’ll ignore the fact that BP is 40% US owned and Britain has been America’s staunchest, loyalist and some would say slavish ally for a century, even when that has meant British leaders damaging themselves to defend America’s interests. We’ll ignore all that, because you’ve got those midterms coming up, oh brave and principled leader of the free.
We also had a mad man go on a killing spree in Cumbria. Whilst this is a thankfully rare event in the UK, it didn’t stop the media going into overdrive, with all its phoney soul searching and seeking answers to unanswerable questions. BBC news24 and Sky take the prize though, for their usual brand of insensitive reporting. Did they really still need to be camped on the street 48 hours later, interviewing people with no connection to the events? Is it only me that finds the mawkish and intrusive way that rolling news treats these events so distasteful? These were real people whose lives were cut short in a brutal way by a man who clearly had severe problems. It wasn’t an episode of Midsummer Murders or CSI. It should be possible to report the news in restrained and respectful manner; I suspect there is just too much emphasis on ratings and too much technology available to these rolling news shits. I half expected a reconstruction of events by day two to star Robert Carlisle as the gunman being stalked by PC Dick van Dyke with Cracker providing psychoanalysis back up, leading to a final confrontation at the top of Scarfell Pike.
Now to the much maligned coalition. I am growing somewhat weary of people telling me that the Lib Dems are somehow sell-outs, I have been told we should have, for some reason yet to adequately be explained to me, put the national interest behind some narrow ideological standpoint, which isn’t what we stand for anyway. This probably stems from the woeful and lazy media coverage we have received for the last two decades, where we have unfairly been labelled as Labour-lite. We are now the little-Tories, which of course is equally inane and un-descriptive of our politics. We are a liberal party. That we have areas that overlap with Labour and at the same time with the Conservatives shouldn’t be that hard to grasp, unless you have a very low intellect. We believe in protection for those who have fallen through the gaps of society, we agree with the welfare state (to a degree) and it was the Liberal Party of Asquith, Lloyd-George and Churchill who instigated the state pension, unemployment payments and National Insurance. It was Beverage, a Liberal, who drew up the welfare plans adopted by Labour after the war, and which we have supported ever since. We also deplore bureaucracy, government waste and seek value for money; we believe that the free market is the best way to deliver economic freedom; however that it requires regulation to reduce inequality and to produce stability. Above all else, we believe in personal freedoms in all its forms, the state should be limited in its interference in personal affairs; only to prevent individuals from impeding on another’s freedoms.
As a Liberal, the idea that you can have welfare provision which offers value for money and reduced bureaucracy and that you can have a government which doesn’t spy, pry or dominate individuals, whilst seeking to restrain the free market to reduce the inequality gap doesn’t seem inalienable positions. We have much in common with the liberal wing of Labour and the One Nation Conservatives – at the same time! It would have been just as difficult to form a coalition with Labour, as we Liberals despise the authoritarian Old Left Labourites as much as we despise the ‘unreformed right’ of the Tories. I believe Clegg made the best of the options available to him. We have an amazingly liberal set of policies for the coalition – and for the record, coalition doesn’t mean the Lib Dems have ‘joined’ the Conservatives, it is an agreement between the two parties forming a joint government of Lib Dems AND Conservatives – but the fact remains the country is bust and some unpopular choices will have to be made.
What this will mean for the Lib Dems in the future is difficult to guess, however I strongly believe that any other choice made by Clegg would have led to an even worse outcome. If we lose votes, so be it. If we lose the more demented of our activists, to Labour or the Greens, good riddance. Finally, I would like to counter a repeating charge that the Lib Dems have betrayed Labour supporters, who voted Lib Dem to ‘keep the Tories out.’ As a party, we could not have been any clearer. Repeatedly in the last week of the campaign, Nick Clegg urged voters to not vote tactically: “vote with your heart, for what you believe in” he said maybe a little too frequently. It was Peter Hain, Alistair Campbell, the Mirror and the Independent who urged you to vote tactically – not us.