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February 22, 2011


Ian C

Thanks Will.

I agree that the Coalition is increasingly impulsive and disturbing. But is the reason for it quite as metaphysically alarming as you suggest? Several factors seem more evidently in play. First, numerous ministers clearly are out of their depth, having never come anywhere near a Cabinet or other executive office in their entire careers. Second, none of the Coalition knows how to run a coalition yet - British political life has equipped none of them for it. Third, ministers realise that the downturn, the cuts and the inability of the state to do anything at all about the banking classes all mean that re-election is at best unlikely: so moving fast and recklessly to create faits accomplis in the economy and wider society makes some sense. Fourth, all modern rightwingers are surely driven somewhat mad by their simultaneous need to be patriotic and admire traditional institutions and also to kowtow to neoliberal capitalists, the least patriotic and tradition-minded people on Earth. Finally, a deep problem in modern Western politics (and not only in the West) is that any politician who told the truth about relative decline, the limits to consumption, the pathologies of individualism and the state of the environment would never get elected. So explaining yourself too much is bound to seem like a bad idea.

Will Davies

All good points, Ian. However, I'm not suggesting that the government is all that "metaphysically" different from any other government. They have reasons for what they're doing, but they seem to view those reasons as their own private business. That's what's alarming. As I argue, they've gone one better than New Labour, and thrown off even the shackles of the desire to be liked. Maybe they view Blairism as hampered by its own need for consensus and moral high-ground. Far more politically efficient to act first, then deliberate later.


Hmm. I'll go half way on this with you. I certainly think that there is a recklessness to current government policy as if they were simply adopting a scorched earth strategy designed to kill off the last vestiges of the post-1945 welfare state: consider, for example, education policy. I struggle to believe they think they're governing for the long term. Policy seems designed to store up as many problems as possible for their successors rather than lay the basis for realising a even partially formed dream of how things might be different and better.

Where I would partially part company with you, though, is on two points:

1. At the level of immediate, day to day politics I'm not sure I agree that they don't offer reasons for what they're doing. They do, they're just not as remorselessly good as doing so as New Labour were. There is a case to say we're all now so subliminally conditioned to expect world class spin and media management from Downing St and Whitehall that its' absence confuses us.

2. More profoundly, they're trying to put the financial Humpty-Dumpty together again after the Great Fall of 2008 - that is, they seek to recreate the international economic advantage of the City of London and financial services more generally that existed in the period of the Great Moderation. Much must be sacrificed to this end. If the initial blood letting and leeches don't restore the patient to health then, obviously, more blood letting is required.

Dick Pountain

@Ian C
< moving fast and recklessly to create faits
< accomplis in the economy and wider society makes some sense

I'm sure you're right there. Thatcher's great strategic sociological insight was to recognise the "ratchet effect" of democratic socialism and seek to break it. These guys have learned her lesson well - do all the damage you can within one term to reverse the direction of that ratchet.


In more blunt terms, they don't really have a strategy and they don't believe in anything. This has been clear since the CSR:


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