The uncertainty principle in politics
The break-up of parliamentary politics is happening right before our eyes, most dramatically shown in the resignation under pressure of Gordon Brown and the frantic moves to cobble together some sort of coalition before the money markets decide Britain is another basket case.
All the major parties are bitterly divided about who to get into bed with. David Blunkett’s accusation that the Lib Dems were behaving “like every harlot in history” is hardly a term of endearment for a would-be partner in a coalition of the losers. A stable government looks a remote possibility. Political stalemate combined with an attack on the pound could yet produce an all-party “government of national emergency”.
Brown, of course, was the architect with Tony Blair of New Labour, which transformed the old party from a social democratic organisation into full-blown cheer-leaders for globalised capitalism, particularly in the financial sector. Brown’s first act was to create the Financial Services Authority as a hands-off “regulator” which would allow the City to do what it wanted.
Brown once famously declared he had put an end to Tory “boom and bust”. Well, he got that spectacularly wrong. Happy to rake in tax revenue from bank profits, New Labour ignored warnings that a boom based on unsustainable levels of credit would end in crash. Brown’s announcement that he is resigning as party leader reflects the impact of a crisis that has taken the British state towards bankruptcy.
The outcome of 29.6 million people casting their votes (under two thirds of the electorate, but 2 million more than last time) has produced an unprecedented political vacuum. This was not necessarily anyone’s intention. But the result is nonetheless the outcome of millions of individual decisions as voters rejected 13 years of New Labour rule, but refused to endorse other parties in an overwhelming way.
Around the world, scrambles by politicians to form one kind of unholy multi-party alliance or another have been par for the course in politics for a long time, but not in Britain. A vacuum in politics, as in nature, cannot persist for long. As we remarked the day after the election, the top priority for those overseeing the capitalist state at this time of extreme financial crisis is the need for stability:
Just read this account of yesterday evening in the City:
17:41 "A Lib-Lab coalition would be a big negative for sterling," Ian Stannard at BNP Paribas says. "The Government will be unstable and not have the ability to drive through the cuts required."
17:30 Pound is now at $1.4866 against the dollar, compared to $1.5056 earlier in the afternoon. Still falling too.
17:23 Euro has risen by more than half a cent against the pound following Brown's statement. Markets really spooked by prospect of more uncertainty.
17:14 Reaction to Brown's statement and subsequent fall in pound from Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First:
“It’s pretty clear that the market wants certainty and that the news that Clegg is dilly-dallying between Labour and the Conservatives have not gone down well. I’m surprised that the markets haven’t hit sterling hard today, the EU plan has taken a bullet for us. As soon as that become old news however sterling is once again in the firing line”.
Due to the effects of globalisation on politics, the electoral base of both Tory and New Labour parties has changed in Britain, while the rise of the Liberal Democrats has destabilised the two-party system at the national level. These complex realities mark the end of an historical era and the opening up of a new political landscape in which the only certainty has become uncertainty.
Despite their differences, Cameron, Clegg, Mandelson and Balls will seek to impose the rule of the corporations and the markets. Forget all this rubbish about a “progressive alliance”. More like an anti-people alliance. We should seize this moment of no government to advocate strategies to achieve a real democracy in place of the Westminster charade.
A World to Win secretary
11 May 2010