When their councillors start losing their seats, MPs reflect on the safety of theirs.
While it’s true that places with sitting MPs fared relatively better than others on 3 May, in most cases that is not saying much.
It is easy to find MPs who are highly critical in private of the political direction of the coalition and of the party’s expected behaviour within it as a sort of 57-headed human shield for the Tories.
Southport’s MP John Pugh – whose councillors in fact put up a stonkingly good performance – has cogently grasped the problem, to judge from a missive titled ‘The Elephant in the Room’, which he sent to his parliamentary colleagues in the aftermath of May’s wreckage.
His central point is that, while the party had no control over the economic circumstances the government inherited, “how we have acted within coalition is down to us” and that the loss of votes and support that has followed was not inevitable.
Pugh notes that “the ‘Con Dem’ characterisation has had more traction in urban areas than the alternative Richard Reeves vision”, by which he presumably means the ‘coalition works’ message.
“Within the tribal optics of British politics we are seen to have re-aligned ourselves with the Tory tribe,” Pugh said, arguing that this was because the Liberal Democrats had supported measures that appear to make sense only in terms of Tory values.
Parties are doomed if they vote for things they don’t believe in but those who draft legislation have “worked on sharing out the grief and dragooning the unconvinced”.
Pugh then gave it both barrels: “We have been suckered into the Tory tribalism that involves chanting unconvincing mantras, demonising opponents, exaggerating policy differences, bowdlerising history, producing self-congratulatory press releases of staggering vacuity – all the sort of things that rational normal people don’t do and don’t like to see done.
“We do not allow the Commons to amend the wisdom of our ministers or change the face saving conventions bred in the days of one-party government. Thus instead of preaching the ‘new politics’, we have fallen victim to the anti-politics mood of the nation.”
The paper says much about what should not be done, but less about what should. However, if it is indicative of the mood in the parliamentary party, things cannot continue as they are for much longer.
Also in Radical Bulletin 353:
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