It’s been over 4 months since the 2010 UK elections, the first election I’d say I researched to a significant level and followed closely. I watched many of the debates, interacted in many political discussions in person, on Facebook and on Twitter and consumed huge quantities of mainstream and social media discussion. It was a very strange election for a Liberal Democrat member; my party was thrust into the mainstream far more by the televised debates and ended up deciding who would form a government; finally deciding on forming one with the Conservatives.
I was initially pleased to think that the Lib Dems might provide a balancing influence to the Conservatives cuts and that the Conservatives approach to the deficit and cost-cutting was correct. The more I read and observed however the more I realised that looking through Keynesian economics paints another picture from that painted by Cameron and Osbourne. Seemingly overnight Clegg turned from being someone who has loudly condemned the Conservatives cuts to being the very man who has enabled them to happen. I would obviously prefer the current coalition over a Conservative government but, once all the Lib Dem flag-waving died down, I realised that this was one of three choices (LibLab coalition, LibCon coalition, minority Con government) and, as I see it today, Clegg chose the option I’m least happy with. The emergency budget and hard cuts simply could not have been made with a minority government and I’m not sure this would be a bad thing. After all, all parties seemed to agree cuts needed to be made, it was just a question of where and by how much.
If the massive cuts that are being pushed through cause the double-dip recession or society-breaking effect we all fear then it will hard to not look upon Clegg as similar to the main aspect of Blair I loathe: someone who should have been smart enough to avoid legitimising a horrible destruction of our values (Blair in Iraq, Clegg in the budget).
I’m glad the next election won’t be for quite a while as I’m currently conflicted about my Liberal Democrats membership. I doubt I will be renewing my membership this year and my vote could be anywhere from Labour (if Ed Miliband pulls the party left-ward) to the SNP (I believe an independent Scotland would be a more liberal one) to returning to the Lib Dems (if they manage to get some form of PR and the budget doesn’t decimate the services for the needy in society) in the next UK election.
I’m left with the increasing temptation toward apathy. The election was so frustrating in so many ways, particularly that no seat in Scotland changed hands and that the Lib Dems failed to turn brilliant results in the polls into actual parliamentary seats. However, if nothing else, hopefully this coalition signals an end of the Labour-Conservative back-and-forth that we’ve seen for all to long. I think the worse political situation for a country is the US-style two party system where you’re screwed if both parties agree on an issue and you don’t.
I live in hope that people like Johann Hari and the Labour leadership are proved wrong and the coalition don’t inflict huge wounds on our society. For the moment, hoping and staying aware seems all that can really be done.