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What's going on in world politics right now?
Earlier this year, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to remain within the European Union, a referendum promised by David Cameron as a cynical attempt to get more votes in the 2015 General Election due to the gains being made by UKIP over fears about immigration. A referendum won by the Leave campaign in large part over fears about immigration.
A couple of months ago, the far-right, anti-migrant AfD - Alternative for Germany - party made big gains in regional elections.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump was elected as the next President of the United States, and the Republican party retained their majority in both Senate and Congress.
Stoking fears about immigration to control your population is a classic move of authoritarian nationalism - develop more power over your population by using "them" as a target of hate. Simply put, these parties are all the 'acceptable' faces of fascism. This has been building for a while and it is likely to continue building for the foreseeable future, both in these countries and elsewhere.
I finished Mass Effect 3 yesterday, finishing a series that I've loved on and off over the past few years, and I've been dying to talk about it with someone but no-one I know has completed it yet. I should say that right now that this whole post will have major spoilers so if you care about discovering the plot for yourself at all then don't read this! It's also long and wordy but with a super-brief tl;dr at the bottom, after the break!
So, the election's over, and after several days of negotiations, we are to get a new government. Like many people, I was disappointed with the results of the election, in that the LibDems went down in number of seats. It is worth pointing out, however, that we went up in our share of the vote - a full percentage point, in fact.
I hoped that it would be possible for the next government to be a LibLab coalition. I rather like the Labour party as a whole, and personally I don't think that Brown is such a bad guy, but I recognised that he would have to step down as part of any LibLab pact - as I've been saying for some time now, he's a liability for his party, despite his ability.
But a LibLab coalition would not be only a LibLab coalition - the two parties alone would have given them 315 seats, meaning that at least one, probably two, nationalist parties - Plaid Cymru and the SNP - would have to be brought in. Aside from the obvious national imbalance in favour of Wales and Scotland, that would simply make the whole enterprise too unstable to last.
So, despite my hopes, there really was only one viable option in some sort of Tory/LibDem deal. Like many LibDems, this irks me to say the least. I find the Tory party as a whole an insult to much of what I stand for - removing necessary services for those who need them in favour of tax cuts is my primary reason to despise the Tory party, but treatment of sexual minorities is definitely another topic for contention. I'm going to be starting a secure job in 20 days, and the Torys, despite the attitudes of their party members, wouldn't be able to reverse the fantastic (but admittedly incomplete) job that Labour have done in advancing issues of equality, so in terms of simple self-interest I shouldn't care. But they're still an insult to much of what I stand for. Yet we do have common ground with our foe. And they did gain a large share of the vote. And we do need a government that is stable. So this was the only real option.
I am glad that it is not simply a deal to allow a budget and Queen's speech to pass. We have a full coalition government, most likely with Cabinet seats for a few LibDems, maybe even Clegg as Deputy PM. This means that Tory policies can be tempered with liberal attitudes, blunting the axe that cuts away at lifelines for the needy, perhaps even diverting it. And that has already happened - I gather that the Torys have been very generous with the compromise necessary to make this work.
My thoughts on coalitions and PR
We had no decisive winner in the election, and it took a few more days before a government was formed. The press wanted us to think that there was all this chaos going on, that if it went on any longer then the UK would cease to exist or something, but in reality it was just a few more days. That government won't be able to hold up all of the manifesto pledges of either party, and which pledges stayed or went was negotiated behind closed doors, but I'm okay with that. Yes, I voted for the Liberal Democrats and their manifesto, but compromise and cooperation are important facets in ordinary life. I trust that my party (I really should actually join the party I think) did its best to uphold the core values that the party stand for, and that I believe in, and I'm sure that the Torys did much the same.
A lot of people are afraid of coalitions. They shouldn't be. In other democracies, they are common, yet seem to work just fine. The reason that they seem alien to us is that our electoral system gives parties an easier time getting a 'majority'. But this does not mean that they have a majority, more than 50%, of the votes. Even the Labour landslide in 1997 only garnered 43.2% of the vote - so 56.8% of the voting population did not want a Labour government in 1997. With proportional representation (PR) a government has to have a majority of the votes, which inevitably means coalitions. This does not mean weak government in the slightest. This means compromise and cooperation between 2 or more (but with our current party layout, probably just 2) parties, each keeping their core values and giving way on lower priorities. This means that we don't see big changes if a new party comes to power, we see a more gradual change to the way of life. But most importantly, we see the core values of more than half of the voters brought forward. And that can only be a good thing.
That we have a full Tory/LibDem coalition makes me happy for another reason - this will show those who are against PR because of coalition governments that they can work, that we can still get a strong government through cooperation. That there is nothing to be feared. Between them, they represent 59.1% of voters - more than 15% more votes than Labour's 1997 landslide. How is that not a good thing? When this government's term is up, and we've had 4(?) years of stable, strong government, I predict that there will be a lot of changed opinions on PR, even in Tory ranks. That we have this coalition, despite only getting a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) system, we will make a huge step towards PR in the long-term. And as a result, this election has been a huge win for democracy in our country.
Getting around to watching this a couple of days late, but here are my reactions - which I'm writing whilst watching it as they come to me.
- David Cameron... The thing that strikes me most about him is this:Poor little Cammy-wammy, confused and out of his depth. "What are the other two men saying?" he thinks to himself, "oh, I just don't understand."This picture shows it again - Cameron seems to struggle to understand what is being said to him, whereas Clegg looks calm and composed. I've noticed this in other debates too, but in this debate it was mainly in the economy section. When Brown is listening to the others talk he tends to shake his head. That's a simple way of showing that he doesn't agree with their statements, but he uses it far too much.
- Another point about Cameron: He tries so very hard to dodge questions he almost gets away with it. The two in particular for how far through I am are regarding the £6 billion worth of cuts they want to do this year, and the cut in inheritance tax for the highest earners. Now, its all well and good that he makes his comments about 'only £1 in every £100', but those are efficiency savings. As Brown rightly pointed out, these cuts are coming on top of efficiency savings. These are actual cuts. Cuts will inevitably lead to lost jobs. We heard over the past week that some areas of the UK have nearly 70% of the economy in the public sector - Northern Ireland and Wales in particular. Yes, that's too high, but evening out the balance by reducing the public sector isn't the right way of doing it. That just removes money from the local economy which could be spent in these private companies. And that could very easily lead to a double-dip recession.
- As for inheritance tax, he made a point about how he wants to encourage people to save money that can be passed on to their children and do the right thing, but completely ignored the point that the other two made that the cuts the Tories want to make benefit the richest people in this country. He made no claims that he was raising the threshold of inheritance tax, so his little argument about ordinary people doing the right thing was entirely pointless.
- The issue of the banks. Now, I personally want to see this economy move much more towards highly-skilled manufacturing and science as our main economic outputs. As a country we still cling to our military power for our place in the world, which is something that is out of date ever since World War II, but I won't go into that. The simple fact regarding banking though, is that we are a world leader in this sector. Ignoring the fact that it could be this very issue that got our economy built so very heavily on debt compared to other economies, that doesn't mean that a move towards manufacturing and science has to include a move away from banking. Indeed, implementing the correct infrastructure and the amount of time required for those sectors to develop means that a move away from banking would be unwise in the short term, let alone the long term. It is for this reason that I don't agree with the LibDem policies on this matter - they'll simply push the companies out to another area of the world where they can make more money. It's not like they don't have enough money to do such a thing at the drop of a hat, after all. The Tory plans could very well do the same thing. It is only Labour who really seem to understand this.
- Cameron definitely performed better in this debate, but the other two did well too. Clegg was the only one who actually answered questions from the audience directly on a consistent basis, but he did not do such a good job presenting his policies as he has done in previous debates. Brown performed very, very well in the economy section of this debate - showing that he is the only party leader - and his the only party - that understands the situation properly (specifically between Labour and the Tories - I prefer the general gist of the LibDem economic policy) but not quite as well throughout the rest. I would say that Brown is the only one who seemed Prime Ministerial, despite his failings. But I wouldn't call him the winner, or either of the other two.