You reap what you sow or, more aptly, vote for. What a disaster for progressive politics; five years in which the real losers will be the working poor, not to mention social justice and liberalism.
With our weird, archaic voting system, the Greens only get one seat from a 3.8% vote share while the SNP achieved 56 seats with 4.7%. The Conservatives take unfettered command with only 36.9% which means 63.1% of us did not vote for them; so much for representative democracy. The result was a bloody nose for the notion of coalition and the short era of multiparty government.
With one in three people not bothering to vote, we need to reconnect politics back to the people through a polity based on citizen’s rights and equality in a decentralised, multicultural democracy. It was an irrational, fearful vote by an electorate blind to its own self-interest, let alone the interests of others. So we got ourselves one of the most vicious governments in British history as the Tories succeeded in making centrist voters back right-wing policies.
Clegg made mistakes but I think he is right when, in his resignation speech, he said that however unforgiving the judgement was at the ballot box, the history books will judge the Liberal Democrats kindly.
The Conservatives are already planning to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce the controversial law for surveillance powers known as the Snoopers’ Charter, moves previously blocked by the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems stopped the Tories from reducing the employment rights of workers. Now that the Lib Dems are out, subsidies for green energy supplies are likely to be slashed.
With the coalition government we at least had the Lib Dems holding the Tories back from their more rampantly unfair policies. Inequality will now increase as the Tories can pursue their policy of tax breaks for the rich and cuts to the poor. Cuts will continue to fall heavily on local councils and public services - the police, NHS, fire and prison services - which are already stretched thin. Watch as we hand over large parts of their responsibility to private companies.
Did we focus on the right issues when deciding who the next leader of the world’s sixth economy would be? What about public services for an ageing society, the disabled and the 13 million living in poverty; an economy where the main problem is poor productivity rather than the deficit; economic growth reliant on financial services in the south and consumer borrowing; jobs and housing for the young, low pay, the 6.5 million underemployed?
Miliband failed to offer a compelling vision to counter the Tories’ crude but effective choice between ‘stability’ and the notion Labour would damage the fragile recovery; a message relentlessly rammed home by the right-wing press.
Cameron appealed cynically to English nationalism, with a ‘Vote Labour – Get SNP’ mantra; successfully so having made so many Brits believe they are being unfairly taken advantage of by foreigners of some kind or another even if they are, in this case, Scots.
I fear for what an untrammelled Conservative government will do to the cohesion of the UK after another five years of austerity. An unnecessary referendum on Europe to appease Eurosceptic backbenchers will be distracting, divisive and a considerable risk to business and Britain’s global status; Cameron may soon mourn the loss of the moderating influence of the Lib Dems.
The Prime Minister made overtures to Scotland; necessary after his lamentable reaction to the referendum last year which is a major reason for the SNP surge as Scotland turns left and England right. Cameron says that he wants to govern one nation, one fragmented by narrow nationalism and inequalities in income and living standards. He needs to change tack; calling a constitutional convention to distribute power fairly across the four nations of the UK, and scrapping the bedroom tax and non-dom tax status would be a good start.
Clegg was a decent man and may we heed his final words: “Fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it.” The Lib Dems must feel harshly dealt with by voters for their public-spirited decision to enter a coalition. Fortunately Clegg remains in parliament and can still make a significant contribution for the good.