Friday, May 14, 2010

If I ever wondered what ambivalence feels like...

These have been a confusing few days. First you had the nauseating spectacle of David Cameron and George Osborne - memorably described by Paxman as two highly privileged young men with a glint in their eye - taking up residence in Nos. 10 and 11. If I thought nothing could top that, hot on its heels came the despair-inducing news that Iain Duncan Smith of all people was to be the new overlord of the welfare state. Never could I have imagined that Yvette Cooper's reign would come to seem so thoroughly enlightened within a few short hours of its end.

But then came the publication of the coalition agreement, which if we can take it literally (big if), seems to set the stage for reasonably substantial progress on both constitutional matters and civil liberties, the like of which has been desperately needed for years, but which the self-styled 'progressives' in New Labour have signally failed to deliver on in all their long years in office. So on the pivotal question of the moment, ie. will the blue/yellow pact last the intended five years or fall apart in acrimony, what is someone with my views actually supposed to wish for?

I don't think there's really an answer to that. It's a timely reminder that, while being on the left-of-centre and being a libertarian/reformer sit very easily with each other, they're not necessarily one and the same thing. So, from the point of view of wanting Britain to finally become something resembling a fully-fledged democracy, I can perhaps see some plus points to this most peculiar of governments seeing out its full five years. But then when I consider the lives that are potentially about to be wrecked by IDS at the Department of Work and Pensions, I'd heartily want it to collapse before this year is out. So I'm internally conflicted, although I strongly suspect that the latter urge will gradually gain primacy in my mind. But naturally the simplest way to resolve this conflict is independence - then we can have a reforming government that protects and expands civil liberties, without having to cruelly sacrifice social justice along the way.

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