Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Mopping Up The Mess

When is a government not a government?  This intriguing question which might tax the best minds might arise again in May.  Back in 2010 we may recall that Gordon Brown, mindful of the nation's needs, camped out in Downing Street until the Coalition had set up.

This LSE article says that something should be done. It is right.  The only snags are how, whom and to what purpose never mind getting the rabble now in Westminster and around to agree to anything sensible or effective.  The phrase "accidents waiting to happen" comes to mind.

Avoiding any prediction as to what the election will throw up, to coin a phrase, it is possible that a messy result could lead to a situation where there is not a clear way of resolving who will agree to join who to form an administration.

Those who recall the history of the old French Third Republic will be aware that it was possible for long drawn out debates and plotting before a new government was formed.  Even then, many did not last long and there could be an unending series of political crises.

History tells us that in countries that were persistently afflicted with uncertainty and inability of electoral systems to deliver effective governments could be prone to lurching into dictatorships, military coups or foreign takeovers.

It would be possible to pick the way through the history of British governments and discuss periods when the two party system did not function but this would make a long and complicated post.

But what should be remembered is that over some long periods one or other or both of the major parties were essentially long term coalitions whose membership fluctuated.  A consequence of this was that a good deal of what happened often was determined by the smaller even marginal groups in Parliament.

Any period of confused or uncertain government is bad but sometimes it is worse.  Thinking of 1914 there was apparently a majority Liberal government but in reality there were several elements who were in dispute over many issues which carried over into foreign policy.

Not only did this distract the Cabinet from what was happening in Europe it meant a failure to pursue a vigorous and organised response to the unfolding of events there.  It needed a good deal more than the endless juggling of Sir Edward Grey's efforts to come up with a positive diplomatic and political formula that might have staved off war.

Almost month by month it seems that the world is becoming a more dangerous and disorganised place in which governments are strained to deal with both the problems at home and the wider implications abroad.

Given the UK dependence on trade and international debt and finance to be going into perhaps a sustained period when not only is there uncertainty in the heart of government and inability either to decide or to function properly but chronic party and policy divisions that cannot be overcome or reconciled.

On the one hand the Atlantic Isles could dissolve into a number of mini states in continuing political conflict, perhaps allied to this or that foreign power.  At the other there could be the imposition of a full blown authoritarian government.

Anyone for an absolute monarchy?

1 comment:

  1. "Anyone for an absolute monarchy?"

    Not with Charles III lurking among the greenery.