With Gordon Brown’s Resignation, Is a Labour-Lib Dem Coalition Possible?

10.5.10

Since Friday morning, when it became apparent that no party had won an overall majority in Britain’s General Election, the country has been in an unprecedented state of limbo. Personally, I was surprised at how relieved I was that, despite the overt or subliminal support of just about every media outlet in the country, David Cameron was unable to secure enough voters to endorse the mirage he and his tiny circle of close advisors had grafted onto the Conservative Party.

Over the weekend, the main topic of conversation was, of course, the wheeling and dealing that has been taking place behind the scenes. No one I have spoken to was remotely convinced that the Tories would offer the Lib Dems electoral reform — or, indeed, that striking a deal with the Tories would be anything other than political suicide for the Lib Dems, given the chasm that exists, for the most part, between the two parties’ policies.

Instead, conversations drifted towards the prospect of the Lib Dems giving up on the Tories, and seeking to form a coalition with the Labour Party, contingent on Gordon Brown’s resignation, and with electoral reform high on the agenda. Today, that resignation finally happened, via a statement that was, for the most part, dignified and appropriate — although I could not, for the life of me, figure out why Gordon Brown chose to mention both the “fight against terrorism” and the continuing deployment of British troops in Afghanistan, when the latter, at least, is deeply unpopular with the electorate as a whole, and the former, though fuelled by hysteria on the part of both Labour and the Tories, is not a vote winner as it is in the dark heart of America.

This, for the record, was what Gordon Brown said:

I believe that the British people now want us to focus on the economy, the continuing fight against terrorism, the terrorist threat to our country. They want us to continue to pursue the economic recovery, and I will do so with my usual vigour and determination, and I will do all in my power to support the British troops whose service and sacrifice create a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay.

This decision has, of course, triggered a new round of speculation regarding the party’s next leader (and, possibly, the country’s next Prime Minister), but in a sign that the Tories are glimpsing the prospect of power slipping away, George Osborne announced, shortly after Gordon Brown tendered his resignation, that the Tories are now prepared to offer a referendum on proportional representation to the Lib Dems if they will come back to the negotiating table.

I never thought I’d be typing the words “Tories” and “proportional representation” in such close proximity, but on this, as on so many other issues, political certainties are evaporating in light of the electorate’s refusal to crown a champion in the long-running “Winner Takes It All” farce that is Britain’s unlevel electoral playing field, as maintained by Labour and the Tories for far too long.

No one knows what’s going to happen next, but at the very least there is now some hope that the wholesale butchery of jobs to combat Britain’s deficit may be open for discussion. No one talked about it on the campaign trail, but voters did, amongst themselves, and what emerged from many of those conversations was, appropriately, a refusal to hand the axe to any one party.

In the binge-bubble of the boom and bust economy presided over by New Labour, many are to blame (including the people themselves, who fuelled unsustainable lifestyles on credit, and the politicians who allowed casino capitalists to thrive), but when it came down to it, voters didn’t trust the Tories not to have done the same, had they been in power, and many no doubt recalled the enthusiasm with which Margaret Thatcher decimated the workforce in the 1980s, and feared that the “new” Tories would do exactly the same.

Moreover, what no one has yet examined is the anger, bubbling away just below the surface, which may erupt if anyone thinks that savage austerity and job losses will be acceptable, unless those who decimated the world’s economy with their unfettered greed, and who amassed unacceptable riches in the process, are also made to pay. As the horse-trading continues, the great irony is that the winners’ only reward may not be any sort of victory whatsoever, but may, instead, be nothing more than a poisoned chalice.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and currently on tour in the UK), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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