Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 05:33:05 PM EST
This government is dead,
it has ceased to be,
It's pushing up the daisies...
this is an ex-government
In the last few days, the Labour administration has gone beyond the previous damning phrase of "in office, but not in power" with several significant resignations, and now seems to be "in government but no longer in office". One has visions of Brown commanding illusory Ministers to come up with policies with which to attack his opponents; his advisers hovering around him, too afraid to point out they've all resigned. There is no saving them, no thought now of what could right the ship. What might have been done to prevent this is moot; the expenses saga was not the first blow, but it was surely the fatal one.
Brown won't resign, he is famously stubborn and absolutely imprevious to advice. Also, famously workaholic, his habitual 6 hours of sleep per night have been cut back to 4 and occasonally 2, which has only made his equally infamous inability to make quick decisions or indeed, any decision, even worse. No, he will not resign, even if Jack Straw and a host of other high ranking MPs were to quietly offer him the whisky and revolver of dignified withdrawal. And he would have a point; what difference would it make ? Better leave a clean slate for a replacement than have them tarnished with a now obviously unavioidable catastrophe.
Would there, could there, be an election this year if the euro and local elections tomorrow say the public is rejecting the government ? Obviously yes there could, but the worse the defeat the less likely it is Brown would call one. After all, unimagined redemption could be just around the corner if only you wait. And the Tories are slipping in the polls, too many moats, duck houses and servant's expenses are beginning to remind the public who the Tories are, where they come from and the interests they serve.
Truly a plague on both their houses.
But what is the crime of the expenses saga ? Most MPs are fairly honest about their expenses, truly the ranks of the dishonest or merely greedy is dwarfed by the hundreds who have done little or nothing except complain insufficiently about a system too ripe for plundering. Yet they will be punished along with the worst. We can laugh at the sheer stupidity of millionaires losing plum positions of influence over a few thousand here and there on expenses. Almost nobody (Geoff Hoon excepted) made themselves comfortably rich, even if more than a few lined their nests too well.
At the bottom, this is an issue of trust. MPs are sent as our representatives to Westminster. Not to do what we tell them, but to do their best for us and the Country. Yet there have been too many examples of MPs and members of the Lords selling favours and peddling influence for cash. Brown envelopes stuffed with fivers are no theatrical cliche, they really happened. Equally parties are for sale, policies are too heavily weighted in favour of corporate interests which the public are beginning to recognise do not have their interests at heart. Just this year we have had issues involving inquiries into the expansion of Heathrow airport, coal fired power stations and nuclear power where the decisions were bought and paid for long before the public had their say.
Equally there is an exasperation at the impossibility of change. The first past the post system has resulted in a politics of the lowest common denominator, where both parties pitch their policies for about 50 - 80,000 floating voters spread across 40 - 60 seats. Nobody else matters, and nothing ever really changes. Across the overwhelming majority of seats in the UK, it doesn't matter who you vote for, the same old party wins each and every time.
Of course people don't say that when you ask them unless you explain it all first, they just know the system doesn't work, doesn't seem to work for most people. Just the people at the top. Like MPs. And that's why the expenses row has become an issue, everybody suspected they were in it for themselves but this daily parade of moat cleaners, tax evasions, duck houses and the sheer pettiness of claiming for the donation to the church collection has just rubbed people up the wrong way.
There won't be a revolution, no pitchforks and braziers, no tumbrils or cleansing pyres. But the mood is uncertain. Anything could happen, and a lot of bad things are included in that. but if Cameron thinks he's going to turn this into politics as usual after a conservative election victory, he might be disappointed at how things turn out.