Saturday, May 15, 2010

Britain's new era of "coalition" politics

"What we saw in the UK election campaign and the recent coalition deal is the level of opportunism amongst the political parties, and the real absence of politics and ideas on how to deal with major crises in the economy, over climate change and of our political institutions".

Hilary Wainwright
In the UK there is plenty of backslapping and congratulations about the newly formed coalition government resulting from a historic deal between the David Cameron led Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats led by Nic Clegg. From both leaders there is rhetoric about a new era in politics and a new partnership approach to politics.

We will see. Within days the cracks are already appearing between the two traditional enemies, with Conservative Party MP's (particularly those who missed out on Ministerial appointments) expressing concern and claiming that the British public did not vote for a Coalition Government. Some Liberal Democrats are expressing concern about the likelihood of savage cuts to the public sector and the shelving of Lib Democrat policy that opposed the renewal of nuclear industry.

Hilary Wainwright points out in a recent interview that none of the British political parties really understand the extent of disaffection among ordinary citizens with political parties and the political class. She writes that there are few differences between the political parties and none of them offer options for dealing with the major political, environmental, economic and social crises facing the UK.

Wainwright argues that left and centre left parties have not turned their critique into alternative policies. Of the Left she writes:
"In some ways it has not recovered from the defeats of the trade union movement and other social movements in the 80s. It hasn't found lasting forms of social and economic power on which to base alternative policies or moved on from past, traditional state focused collective forms of organisation to embrace alliances with social movements, the social economy, more horizontal networked forms of politics.

However I am not pessimistic about the ability of the Left to turn it's considerable intellectual resources and innovations into a practical alternative strategy. The existing critique of the Left on the economy and environment clearly has a resonance with the wider population, even if it is more of a 'structure of feeling ' rather than precise policies The challenge is to turn this generalised critique into concrete policies".

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