. Bewildering Times! | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

Bewildering Times!

Mon 6th Dec 2010

Back in 2008, the world was introduced to the term “Credit Crunch” in the midst of banks falling like dominoes and the economy tanking, which unfortunately didn’t turn out to be a new Kellogg’s cereal range. Since then, the repercussions have been enormous. We have elected a coalition government to sort out the debt crisis created by the Credit Crunch. We have bailed out banks to the tune of billions of pounds to ensure no hedge fund manager in Islington has to suffer without his B&Q patio heater on full blast. Perhaps most monumentally, through the medium of dance, Ann Widdecombe has become a national treasure. These are scary, bewildering times, people.

The Liberal Democrats, now that the sweet scent of power has given way to a looming atmosphere of forthcoming electoral doom, have had to put up with their far larger beastly coalition partners bullying them into supporting increasingly Tory ideas under the guise of “progressive” ideals. Hence Nick Clegg argues passionately that trebling student tuition fees is the most radical left-wing idea since sliced bread. Abolishing student fees was a central plank of the Lib Dem manifesto, and Clegg was even photographed during the election campaign signing a pledge to vote against any increase in fees. Yet now, having seen the scale of the budget deficit inside big red books at the Treasury and said in a shocked voice “Mine eyes! Mine eyes!”, he argues in favour of the higher charges, crippling middle and lower income families with higher debt for generations and putting off talented working-class kids from going to University, reinforcing low social mobility.

The Education Maintenance Allowance, which encourages 16-19 year olds who may have once thought further education was beyond them to stay in school, is also being cut in its entirety. Forget the bleeding hearts of opinion pages sabotaging plans to scale back child benefit for the well off. This is scandalous. For a student from a poor family that can barely get three good meals on the table per day, let alone pay for the books, transport and socialising that comes with the territory of a college education, it was a lifeline, giving adolescents some independence while also not being a burden on their parents. But the Liberal Democrats don’t seem worried in the slightest. It would be like UKIP coming to power and then saying “Actually, we all quite like the Germans. And we had a wicked stag do in Prague a few years ago, the locals were very friendly. Where’s the application form for the Euro?”

Lib Dem supporters say that criticising the party is unfair because there had to be some compromise for the coalition to get the green light. But when the policies spewing forth from the administration are straight from the Right-wing Guide to Ruining Britain (Again), it is difficult to muster much sympathy for the blighters. From the Conservatives we expect privatisation and victimising of the poor and attacks on welfare and corporate tax cuts. They’re Conservatives! But to have some Liberal Democrat spokesman appear on Newsnight to defend some absurd policy like the random brutal decimation of benefits claimants as being in the nation’s best interests, you have to wonder where their heart and soul have gone.

Labour is not exactly helping. Fresh from his fratricidal victory over his brother, Ed Milliband has been busy tending to the birth of his baby. He was probably glad to stop shovelling excrement for his helpless little uncommunicative bundle of joy. Then he went on paternity leave.

Everything Labour does is scrutinised through the prism of Blairism or Brownism, not Millibandism. This is not helped by a continuing parade of self-indulgent New Labour memoirs doing the rounds. Ed Milliband could propose the nationalisation of lap-dancing clubs and would still only be given a cursory two paragraphs on page 9 of The Independent, while another blast from the past sells the serialisation of their book to the highest bidder.

That’s not to say that the coalition hasn’t got some things right. The entente cordiale with France, allowing Britain and our near-neighbours to share some nuclear testing research and aircraft carriers, is a welcome bit of Europeanism from a famously Europhobic governing party. When you think about it though, only the Conservatives could ever get away with sharing any form of military defence with the French. If Labour had done it, they would have been painted as cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

After all, what is the point in spending billions of pounds on things which can easily be shared? Some have argued that it compromises our independence and could stop us from launching a Falklands-style assault as quickly as before. This is somehow seen as a bad thing. So what if we don’t get dragged into pointless conflicts to further American business interests because the French can see a lost, illegal cause from ten paces? Less people will die, less money will be spent on the killing of other people and we will be less hated around the world for being arrogant imperial bullies. Boo-hoo.

Besides, if there is one place you want the French, it’s beside you. It has got to beat them sniggering behind your back at the size of your nuclear arsenal and making snide jokes about your ‘capabilities’. I can just see it now: battle is called, the soldiers march their way to war, the kit is ready, the helicopters have been deployed but the charge is stalled when an announcement is made to the waiting servicemen. “I apologise for the delay to this Eurostar service to Paris, we hope to be under way very shortly”. It’s the future and I have seen it.
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