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Lies, damned lies and a Liberal Con

parliament protestAfter the election of 2005, I wrote an obituary for British democracy. Now in 2010, we are promised that things will change.

Clegg and Cameron tell us our democracy will be revived, resurrected, reformed. We want to believe them, but something’s stopping us. It’s the lies. The big stinking pile of lies.

This week the ‘Coalition Agreement’ revealed which policies of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative manifestos had survived the five days of talks and blow jobs that followed the election.

Contained within those pages are some noble objectives that will reverse much of the damage done by New Labour. But some of those policies, too, are based upon falsification, misinterpretation and deception. Here, I expose just a handful of those lies.

Lie 1: “The government believes that climate change is one of the gravest threats we face, and that urgent action at home and abroad is required.”

Oh, that’s so is it? So tell us this. Why did Liberal Democrat councilors support airport expansion plans in Manchester, Birmingham, Carlisle, Exeter, Liverpool and Norwich? Why did they oppose windfarm proposals in Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon and Worcestershire? Why did they block a Green Party proposal to insulate 25,000 homes for free in Lewisham?

And the Conservative Party, well, according to the editor of a popular Tory blog, as many as 80 or 90 percent of members harbour doubts about the very existence of man-made climate change.

They may have scrapped Heathrow’s third runway, but emissions targets outlined in the Coalition Agreement fall short of tackling climate change effectively. A 30 percent cut by 2020 is too little and too late. The latest science indicates that at least a 40 percent cut is needed.

Lie 2: “We are committed to fair pricing for rail travel.”

That’ll be why the new parliamentary under secretary of state for transport is determined to freeze UK fares, at levels he acknowledges are the highest in Europe. Yup, that’s fair.

Lie 3: “The government believes that there are many barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities in Britain today, with too many children held back because of their social background, and too many people of all ages held back because of their gender, race, religion or sexuality.”

Of course. That’s why the coalition have selected as a minister of state in their new government a man who has publicly encouraged discrimination against homosexuals as recently as one month ago. That’s also why 71 Tory MPs voted in favour of Section 28 just six years ago.

And nowhere in either party’s manifesto, let alone this agreement, does it mention the injustice of a child’s educational standards being determined by parent wealth. Of course, one of the (surprisingly many) things Clegg and Cameron have in common is their private schooling.

Lie 4: “The government believes that immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our economy, but that it must be controlled so that people have confidence in the system. We also recognise… [the] need to introduce a cap on immigration and reduce the number of non-EU immigrants.”

Do you really believe that, Clegg? What will happen when Man City want to sign a new Brazilian striker? Are you a Man Utd fan after all? And don’t even get us started, Cameron, on the economic benefits of immigration. You want a free market, right? But you want to restrict the freedom to recruit from outside the UK? Mug.

Lie 5: “The government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much greater co-operation across party lines, and changes to our political system to make it far more transparent and accountable.”

No legitimate democracy ignores the vote of a single individual, let alone 15,683,974 individuals, as happened on 6th May. Until this fact is rectified, our democracy will continue to rot.

The most ardent defenders of our existing unjust system, unsurprisingly, are those same people who continue to be elected by it. Which is why a referendum of the people, and not parliament, is the only fair way to reform it. In securing this, Clegg should be applauded. For about two seconds. The Alternative Vote is not proportional. It is better, but still not enough to restore trust in politics.

So, if anyone was still wondering why Clegg and Cameron have found it so easy to get along, they need look no further than their respective track records. Both political careers have been formed around a core base of lies. The Liberal Con coalition may be a different politics, but there’s nothing ‘new’ in this government’s willingness to deceive. This coalition is still pro-war, pro-privatisation and anti-democratic.

Ultimately, the Tories have no claim to be modern, progressive or anything other than awful until they apologise unreservedly for Margaret Thatcher. The Lib Dems, meanwhile, have ditched their anti-war mantra of five years ago, reneged on banning nukes, let down thousands of voters wanting tough cuts on carbon emissions, and, this month, let down millions more who wanted to keep out Cameron.

By siding with the Conservatives, Clegg has killed his party. But he has not killed the appetite for change that so many have embraced in this election.


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