Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lib Dems Elect Orange-Booker Clegg As Leader

By a very narrow margin, British Liberal Democrats have elected former East Midlands Euro MP Nick Clegg as their new leader. Clegg, who sits in Parliament for a formerly Tory Sheffield consituency beat fellow Orange Book contributor Chris Huhne by five hundred odd votes.

Despite playing up their differences during the campaign and engaging in the odd spate of personal abuse, there was very little to choose between the two - both fundamentally committed to neo-liberal globalisation and the Euro-federalist project. The media might have detected a little more environmental concern from Huhne or a little more social-democratic populism from Clegg, but on basics they are in agreement and both contributed to the Orange Book - the Bible of the liberal new right.

So, as a Green and ecosocialist, a left Euro-sceptic and industrial unionist I have little to say about the policy implications of the result - it is more of the same that is being dished up by all three establishment parties. However, in the world of realpolitik there is maybe more to be said. For those in the smaller parties, and indeed for those in political minorities held captive in the main parties the really important political question that this might have an effect on is that of electoral reform. At the moment it seems unlikely that either of the big two British parties will implement electoral reform and proportional representation. Labour have blatantly reneged on their manifesto commitments in that area. Without a form of PR elections will continue to be fought over a few thousands of swing voters in marginal seats, subject to the full attention of the reactionary media. Blandness and conformism will continue to be the order of the day and millions will continue to be unable to vote for, or elect people proposing radical challenges to the status quo.

The chink of light is that there might be a hung parliament at the next election. This might give an opportunity for the Lib Dems to force through (as their main demand when the post-election discussions begin) a referendum on the introduction of a form of PR. This is one of the few uses for which that particular political party is fit - and something the leadership would presumably find it difficult to trade away given its' totemic value to the bulk of their membership.

So if it is true that Clegg may be more able to win over the soft Tory vote in the South - which is where the Lib Dems need to be effective if they are to achieve the strength needed to push for PR in a hung parliament - then despite his same-old-same-old politics his election may have a positive outcome in the longer term. Also, for Greens and those on the left of centre, a Lib-Dem Cameron-clone fighting it out with the liberal-Tory himself on liberal-Tory political territory would be good for us too, as it will be less likely that the anti-war, trade union and left-of-centre vote will be wooed (other than in tactical terms in clear Lib-Dem/Tory or Lib-Dem/R-W New Labour marginals). That constituency will be looking for a new home in seats where they cannot make a difference otherwise, and the Greens (socially libertarian, anti-war, environmentalist, pro-workers' interests) are the obvious choice in many areas.

Of course this is not to say that the Parliamentary electoral field is the be-all-and-end-all of politics in Britain under current conditions, far from it; but it would be nice if combat on that particular field were made easier by a fairer electoral system. Then it might be slightly easier to build the kind of real "progressive alliance" - electoral, community and industrial - that is required to confront and combat the powerful forces of reaction and aggressive ecocidal capitalism.

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At 8:39 pm, Anonymous WorldbyStom said...

That's a great analysis in paragraph 5, and one that is a bit hopeful really. Still, he's pretty dull all told and his 'green' and 'social justice' credentials seem a bit haphazard...


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