By now, everyone probably knows that the Conservative party has achieved an absolute majority in the latest general elections in the UK.
And that is tragic in many ways.
First, of course, in that it will give them power for at least five years, when they have clearly shown that they should not be left with it unattended. They were seen as better than Labour (not a particularly high bar to clear) on only one field, managing the economy, and even that was only because of a massive disinformation campaign: pretty much all academics rate their performance there as somewhere between poor and dreadful. This has been well covered, if regrettably not relayed by the media.
And they wasted no time in making things worse: a matter of hours after the results were known, plans to cut benefits for the disabled were announced. That is on top of the cruel treatments of the past five years. I don’t see much future for the NHS, and it will take a very dedicated egalitarian to choose to send his kids to a state school if he can at all do otherwise. And the environment simply cannot afford five such years, but it now clearly will have to.
Second, I immediately expected, and it has started to happen, that the Labour defeat would lead to claims that this was because Miliband had been a radical leftist, and to pressure to move Labour rightwards. Yes, of course it is nonsense, Labour actually let the campaign be fought on the Tories terms by not challenging the insanity that is austerity in a depressed country that has its own currency. They never advocated nationalising the railways, even though there is no example of private railways working well in a country of any significant size. They did not have any measure commensurate with the extreme environmental urgencies we are facing, nor anything that would have reduced the staggering inequalities of the land (as opposed to merely slowing down their increase relative to the rush that Tories create). In short, they campaigned as a party of the right. When presented with the policies without naming the party proposing them, people in majority sided with the Green’s. Labour was way to the right of the median preference. But you would not know that from the claims of the Blairists.
Third, right wingers around the world will have noticed. Yes, it is incredibly cynical to slam your own economy for a couple of years (rewarding your client at the expense of everyone else in the process), only to stop without admitting so just in time for the coming election, and then claim vindication for the resulting paltry growth. But the evidence is that it works. When all you care about is power, with the opportunities to repeatedly plunder a nice side effect, this is a very tempting proposition.
Fourth, there were a number of promises made, possibly in the belief that they would never need to be enacted (it remains hard to believe how well the English nationalism scaremongering of the last two weeks worked), that will now have to be dealt with. And so we will have a referendum about the EU. Mind you, the City knows that it cannot afford an exit and will probably wield great power to stop it, but it might fail (OK, I would shed no tears but that would mean finding an exit strategy pretty quickly myself, and quite probably at a time when my home country will still suffer from the Eurozone’s self-inflicted quagmire), and it is unlikely to be pretty. It will also be difficult to not fund Trident, this colossal money sink. And since Osbourne essentially campaigned on his budget restraint, this waste is likely to be covered by further strangling useful public services.
And fifth, Scotland. Tories engineered a victory by vehemently denigrating one of the nations of the union. That is what passes for statesmanship these days, apparently. But Scotland does not, or no longer, wants the kind of cronyism that Tory rule brings and thus Tories have no interest in Scotland. The country may well break apart. I would wish the Scots well –although that will mean even more Tory rule for a while in England of course- but it would be a terribly unfair deal: Tory power from the Thatcher years will have destroyed Scotland while sucking the profits of the North Sea oil (Thatcher would not have stayed in power without it, and even with it needed the help of a war in the Falklands). Scotland will have been made to stay while it lasted, and as soon as this income source dried up it looked like being discarded.
Maybe the only hope is that the EU referendum will create a split within the Conservative party, enough to bring down the government and trigger early elections. But I’m clutching at straws there. Authoritarian parties notoriously don’t let their splits hamper their thirst for power.
And yet (which is yet another way that this whole thing is unpleasant), I will keep hearing as I already do so many conversations at work that take it as a given that of course this is what everybody in the room was hoping for and it's at last time to rejoice, although it could never have been in any doubt as they were doing such a great job whereas Miliband was just a radical buffoon. Yes, it is very impolite to discuss politics in the UK. Except if you promote right-wing nonsense, of course.