Watching a British election from abroad is strange and never more so than now. If ever Britain seemed foreign, this would be the time.
I have mixed feelings about watching the Lib Dems entering into coalition with the Tories. Although I’m a largely detached member of the party and less tribal these days, I do identify myself as on the left. So watching the deal being struck between the two has been uncomfortable to say the least.
But it seems that at least some of the constitutional objectives of the Lib Dems have been secured. Fixed term parliaments will go a long way to ensuring a more level playing field between parties, by removing the prime minister’s right to call an election. They also managed to get a referendum on the electoral system. OK, it’s only a referendum – and a free vote at that, which will mean the right-wing Tory press will oppose it for all it’s worth. But it’s still an improvement over Labour’s abandonment of the Jenkins inquiry.
And let’s face it: even if we did get a more proportional electoral system (which I know AV is not) the reality would be that the horse-trading that has taken place over the past week would become commonplace after every election. In such circumstances ideological purity may be a nice thing, but in terms of government formation it’s unlikely to happen (hence my preference for sitting as a critic on the side!).
Beyond the constitutional commitments, I’m less convinced that there is much overlap between the two parties on issues such as public spending, immigration and foreign policy. I’m particularly concerned that that Vince Cable won’t be able to make much headway against the banks in terms of regulation. And already the Lib Dem amnesty on illegal immigration has been watered down along with support for the euro (which after Greece would anyone in the party still be advocating entry?!) along with partnership of a party that has its friends with some of the more undesirable elements of the homophobic and anti-semitic east European Right.
And finally, why exactly did the party focus so much on one particular education policy of the pupil premium? Surely it should have had a broader remit to review the curriculum, teaching methods, etc?
Either way, for the first time political discussion around the Burton dinner table will no longer be divided and enter uncharted territory; both father and son will have some sympathies for the same government. I just wonder whether this means that the Telegraph will be replaced with the new house newspaper, the Guardian?!