Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Parallel worlds

I am a man who revels in the ridiculous and grandiose and I am often wrong and misinformed, I am often confused and confusing but I am sometimes, very infrequently right and this maybe one of those times.

Thursday night the coalition will vote on the tuition bill, a bill that has become they symbol of mandate for this government. The symbol of mandate is a bill or action whose passing or failure symbolise the authority or legitimacy of the government. Under heath it was the trade union bill and under Mrs T it was of course the coal miners, under major it was the mastic treaty and under Toney Blair it was the war in Iraq. Now the odd things about these symbols of mandates is that a government can lose them but limp on, evening winning them (as Mr Blair did) but they can win a pyric victory having to use opposition votes.

We are now faced in my view with a symbolic mandate bill, the tuition fee bill; this bill no longer represents the debate concerning tuition fees. It represents the whole coalition government, the whole question of the legitimacy of the coalition program and the strength of public and parliamentary opposition to the cuts. Now the government would not fall if this bill does not passes but its strength and ability to pass further harder legislation will evaporate with it.

I know this sounds farcical but these pieces of legislation become a marker for the strength of will of the government and the opposition, only one can dominate. Either a government is strong enough to pass the bills it wants or it cannot. If the government is defeated, then the message goes out to unhappy lib-dems and unhappy Tories that the government is dying and does not have the will or the ability to keep them in line and is ripe for attack and betrayal. Indeed it sends out the message, leave now and you might keep your seat or `stay and die with us

Now what pray tell does this have to do with parallel worlds, well one of course, the future of the government and the effectiveness is directly linked to the successes or failure of symbolic mandate. There must logically be a world in which heath managed to muzzle the trade unions and did not go down in history as a giant failure.

On a pragmatic note if this coalition fails I can only foresee a time of political instability, if the coalition limps on injured with its mandate daily evaporating until either its own internal enmity destroys it or it losses the election. A new either minority or small majority labour government will regain control and itself limp on unable to reconcile its leader to the public and square the economic circle they have drawn in opposition until either the lib-dems implode and are consumed by the two major parties or a new nasty party Tory party take power and “fixes” the economy.

This coalition is unique; if it succeeded it will mean no more will coalitions (outside of world wars) be seen as foreign oddities, it would fatally weaken the FPTP propaganda that PR voting system lead to coalitions and thus weak governance and it would prove that you do not require a dominate executive in order for good governance something of a revelation to British politics. The more interesting question is what will it do to the idea of the new centre.

New labour proved that the idea of a centre left government was possible if somewhat internally a tad mentally unstable and the successes or failure of the coalition will prove or disprove if a similar centre right government is also possible. I have no idea about the future shape of politics maybe in the future but if a right of centre collation last it will have established that collation can work and can make hard decisions and that a centre right government can make these decisions whilst promoting equality or limiting the harm.


  1. I think you over-estimate the importance of this bill to the coalition as a whole. It is more of a local difficulty for the LibDems. I really think this is the worst of it for them because of the fees pledge, on other issues they have not nailed themselves quite so firmly to the mast (that may turn out to be a fantastically stupid statement, we shall see).


  2. This is very interesting, but you haven't said anything about the bill itself! Surely the issues being considered in the bill are more important than the survival/non-survival of the coalition government!

  3. Actually I have written about tuition fees: http://piemandmu.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-higher-education.html