The interesting thing about this election is of course the prospect of a hung parliament, because there is probably nothing else that could possibly shake up the political system to the same degree — although there’s no guarantee that it would, even so, because the establishment which works behind the scenes will be doing everything possible to ensure that it doesn’t.
We keep being told that it was us, the tax-payer, who bailed out the banks. It isn’t true. It was the Government that did it. OK, they had little choice and they did it in our name, but it was botched. They pumped in money but didn’t take control. They left the bankers to carry on running things. The truth is they were scared stiff the whole thing would come tumbling down on their watch. They were completely unprepared and missed a unique opportunity to cut the banks down to size, and now the tax-payer is having to pay through the nose and public service cuts for the debt that saving the banks incurred. No-one in the political establishment seems to think there’s any other way of doing it. Only the Greens and a few maverick voices in the press. (See the excellent piece by Andrew Fisher in The Morning Star, 14 April 2010, ‘Beyond the parties’ slash and burn policies’.)
The media have forgotten their own response to the madness of the crash, when they immediately declared that all the ideological assumptions underpinning government policy and political discourse over the past thirty years had been undermined. Neoliberalism is finished, they cried, back to Keynes!
Now it seems the outsider, Nick Clegg, has stolen the thunder, and there are certainly one or two radical alternatives lurking in there. Yes, I watched the debate and I heard him say it: let’s not renew our independent nuclear deterrent, and look how much money that will save us. Everybody heard it, and it didn’t stop them giving Clegg a remarkable boost in the opinion polls. And the stuff about reducing the tax burden at the bottom end, that’s sort of Keynesian. Even if it’s a lesson learnt from Elephant Man Vince Cable.
I also heard Brown say let’s reform the House of Lords, turn it into a democratic chamber elected by proportional representation. This begs the question of why he didn’t do this already, and I don’t trust him to deliver if returned to 10 Downing Street. Unless it’s part of a coalition deal. Is this too optimistic?