David Cameron has been crowned. After days of torturous
negotiations, the Tories have finally cobbled together a “principled” deal with
the Liberal Democrats “in the national interest”. Cameron is now Prime
Minister, with Nick Clegg his ever-so-thankful Deputy PM. Five cabinet posts
are to be given to the Liberal Democrats to cement together this unholy
coalition, the first coalition in 70 years, since Churchill formed the war-time
government. Gleggaroron is upon us!
Yesterday (Tuesday), Gordon Brown was forced to resign
twice, first as Labour leader, then as Prime Minister after coalition talks
broke down between Labour and the Lib Dems. It was a humiliating and inglorious
end for New Labour after 13 years in office. It marks the end of the New Labour
Project, the key architects of which were himself, Blair and Mandelson.
Over the last week, the New Labour politicians, starting
with Lord Mandelson, were desperate to get a deal with the Liberals as part of
a so-called “progressive coalition.” As with Tony Blair in the build up to
1997, they were keen to heal the split with the Liberals that took place over
100 years ago. They are from the same stable and feel at home with the SDP
types who joined the Liberals to form the Lib Dems in the fallout from their
failed attempt to split the Labour Party in 1982.
Deal… or no deal!
These new negotiations, however, fell apart. “At just before
1pm, Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis, the two Labour negotiators most
enthusiastic about the prospect of a Lib-Lab pact, were seen trudging gloomily
across New Palace Yard, resigned to defeat,” commented the FT.
The attempt to forge a Lib-Lab deal also provoked opposition
with Labour’s ranks. Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, attacked those who were
“willing to barter away” their principles for a chance to be in power. Paul
Flynn MP described any Lib-Lab pact as a “vision of hell.”
The defeat was a defeat for New Labour and the market
economy. The right wing will now correctly be blamed for allowing the Tories
back into power. The Labour Party will be thrown into a struggle for the new
leader, which will be decided by the September party conference. The right wing
and the capitalist press have put their support behind David Milliband, a
creature of New Labour. Nevertheless, this will not be easy given that the
blame for losing the election will be placed at the feet of the Blairites by
many in the movement.
The Blairites are hoping against hope that things will get
back to “normal” as if the defeat had nothing to do with them. We even see the sickening sight of Alan
Johnson, the former Labour Home Secretary, actually wishing the new Cleggameron
coalition well. It is like some game where, as in cricket, the first eleven is
asked once again to come into bat. It shows how out of touch these career
politicians really are with the working class.
Tangled up in blue
Cameron was desperate to become PM and was prepared to offer
almost anything to anyone to achieve this. These concessions, especially over
electoral reform, have opened up big divisions in the Tory party, many of who
see it as a betrayal of right wing principles. But principles are not at issue
here. It is a question of political power. When it looked a possibility that a
deal was being cooked between Labour and the Lib Dems, following Brown’s
announcement that he would not be staying on as Labour leader, Cameron and Hague in a mad panic
started promising all manner of new things to the Clegg team to keep them on
board. No wonder there is much
resentment inside the Tory ranks about how things have gone given the huge poll
leads they enjoyed not so very long ago.
It is being hidden for now but it will not go away.
“It’s not unanimous, but the overwhelming majority of the
parliamentary party are behind David Cameron’s move”, said one Tory
backbencher. They were very much caught between a rock and a hard place.
Failure to form a government would have meant the end for Cameron and back to
the drawing board for the Tories.
Clegg sees this deal is the same light. He has been
desperate to get a deal as much as Cameron. Their fates are now entwined, which
will mean they will drown together. The fix-term parliaments idea will not save
them as things fall apart. In 50 days they are to present a crisis budget that
will mark a new era – the era of austerity. All the smiling faces and talk of common purpose will fade
way as the pressure starts to grow.
As the Financial Times
soberly commented “the rhetoric of agreement cannot mask the sense (that) the
Tory party as a whole enters its new alliance as an uneasy, somewhat
This ‘uneasy’ alliance also goes against the feelings of
many in the grass roots of the Lib Dems – as well as those who voted for them.
All those who voted Liberal Democrat to get change, were clearly not looking
for a new Tory government as the outcome. “Vote Clegg, Get Cameron”, became
true. There will be anger and bewilderment in their ranks as the realities sink
in. While some felt uncomfortable climbing into bed with the Tories, Clegg has
grabbed power with both hands. He has gone so far as to express his “great
admiration” for David Cameron and the way he conducted himself. Such gratitude
will not rest easy with some of the Liberal rank and file who consider
themselves “radical”. But they count for nothing in the leaderships scramble
for power. The reality is that both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are
capitalist parties, acting in defense of big business. The illusion of the Lib
Dems as being in some way part of a “new politics” is now exposed as just talk.
It should be noted that just as Lib Dem coalitions at a local level has seen
cuts in public services so we will now see the same at a national level.
The ‘national interest’
Everything is done in the “national interest”, namely the
interest of the bankers and big business. This is their main consideration.
They hope that the Tory-Liberal coalition will bring stability, but they are
The deals over income tax thresholds for the low paid are
dependent on timing and funding. But as they are about to take an axe to public
expenditure, any such concessions will be kicked into the long grass, again in
the “national interest”. Osborne has promised that some tax cuts for the rich will not be done while they
are busy implementing a one-year public sector wage freeze due to start in
April. Not much of a concession when you consider how good the rich are at
avoiding taxes anyway!
This government, as Osborne said about the Tories before the
election, will be the most unpopular government since the Second World War. It
will be wracked by crises as they move to cut public spending and push up
indirect taxes such as VAT, a tax which hits the poorest the hardest.
The Liberal Democrats will not escape the backlash from
this. Their fate is now directly linked to the Tories. In 1931, Lloyd George
split the Liberals over the issue of entering the National Government. The
Liberals that went in were absorbed by the Tories, while Lloyd George hoped to
gain by remaining outside. The growth of the Labour Party cut across his hopes,
but at least he was able to see the consequences of joining the coalition. The
present Liberal Party grew out of that split. Now, they will be crushed by the
unpopularity of the coalition and the inevitable revival of the Labour Party.
The greed for power has forced them to throw all caution to one side. Now they
will reap the whirlwind.
Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, warned
that whoever formed the government and implements the horrendous cuts that are
coming will be so unpopular that they will be out of power for a generation.
That is what faces the parties of the coalition. “Now they must share the
inevitable opprobrium for some of the toughest decisions Britain has faced
since, well, since Mr Churchill’s day”, explains the Financial Times.
The cost of bailing out the bankers and saving capitalism
has been immense. The country is still running a fiscal deficit of over 11% of
output. This year, 15% of the debt issued by all European states will be
British. Only Italy needs to borrow more. Now the working class is being asked
to foot the bill. A series of austerity budgets are being lined up. The Lib
Dems have been told that this cannot wait.
“Thank you and goodbye”, said Gordon Brown. For the working
class, however, this is not goodbye but a massive wake-up call. The coalition
government will now attempt to prove itself to the markets and its big business
The working class must learn from our Greek brothers and sisters.
Weakness invites aggression. The labour and trade union movement must gear
itself up for the coming show-down. This must go hand in hand with the need to
transform the Labour Party byclearing out the careerists and New Labour
carpet-baggers. We are in unprecedented times. The British labour movement must
rise to the occasion. The Marxist tendency will play its full role in this
struggle to re-arm the movement and prepare the way for the overthrow of
capitalism and the carrying out of the socialist transformation of society.