Monday, 13 May 2013

Gove, Hammond and the end of the Coalition

To watch the slow-motion disaster that is the modern Conservative Party unfold has a sense of repetition for all those who can remember the 1990s.  Compared with the hapless Major, Cameron's smarmy condescension deserves all that is coming to him - and hopefully he will succeed in turning the Tories in on themselves, revealing their true xenophobic irrelevance and creating space for a genuinely centre-right party; whichever of the current bunch of self-interested spivs succeeds Dave will then compete in a game of two bald men fighting over a comb with Farage.

Over the weekend, two of Cameron's prototypical Tory grandees, Michael Gove and Philip Hammond, gave a carefully-choreographed signal that the entire reason for the rise of UKIP is that they are in a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and that they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were to be held tomorrow.  Given that they are both supposedly senior Cabinet Ministers (God help us!) this will not have been an act of "rebellion" uncleared with the unaccountable coterie that surrounds Downing Street.

Cameron is playing his last desperate card to appeal to the rightist base - coinciding with a visit to the USA.  The neo-cons see America as some kind of substitute parent, which makes Cameron's behaviour seem adolescent - as the Obama Administration is seeking a free-trade deal with the EU.  This would be entirely in line with the kind of activity that Cameron claims to want to encourage, yet at the same time his treachery is to encourage his fools and knaves to raise the stakes, not over points of principle but as a desperate effort to shore up his motley bunch of chancers.

The two Cabinet Ministers who have declared their hand are prototypical.  Gove is attempting to do for education what Osborne is doing for sound economic management, with an arrogance and lack of engagement that can only be born from decades of embedding within the Murdoch empire.  Hammond is a Surrey Tory chancer who looks like a cross between Michaels Fabricant and Heseltine while spouting the kind of 1950s rhetoric about hard work and Little Englandism beloved of his blue-rinsed acolytes - an undistinguished minor Minister whose tenure at Transport and Defence have hardly set the world on fire.

Yet these mediocrities typify the contemporary Tory Party.  The latest tactic is to blame the Liberal Democrats for the lack of a referendum.  Today one of Gove's wet boys was on the radio suggesting that in some way Clegg has betrayed the Liberal manifesto of 2010, which promised a referendum if any treaty changes resulted in a transfer of powers to Brussels.  So the Tories, desperate to find someone to blame for their own inability to create a political case, are using this to justify spending the next two years tearing themselves apart.

Clegg has been handed this as a gift, which will show whether he is a genuinely Liberal politician or, as many suspect, a Tory wannabe.  The Coalition will probably limp on in Government, while the political discourse moves towards a post-2015 alignment.  Clegg needs to veto any Tory activity other than that defined by the Coalition Agreement - or to allow it to be voted down in the Commons, a much more effective demonstration of independence.  Liberals need to remind the electorate (and natural allies in Labour, Greens and the Celtic devolutionist parties) that the current arrangement is of necessity rather than choice, and that there is more than one alignment of political pluralism.

The Coalition is now fatally weakened - and by the Tory inability to maintain cohesion between the few remaining pragmatists and the feral right, whose rhetoric these days would make the League of Empire Loyalists blush.  Gove, who should be avoided on the television unless one wishes to contemplate whether he could be used as a model for a Rentokil commercial, is blundering towards Redwood territory - and the challenge to Cameron resembles that of Redwood and Major back in 1995, one of the events that sealed the direction of the 1997 election.  With Labour not as focused, this means multi-party politics are the reality - the current Tory infighting has reinforced this - and it is up to the left and centre to find the means to exploit this idiocy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.