Tuesday, 17 August 2010

David Cameron's 'Project'?

News of Alan Milburn's impending appointment (1) as David Cameron's 'Mobility Tsar' - probably the least appropriate job title ever, Tsars not being known for supporting social mobility - has provoked predictable howls and gnashing from the left of the Labour party. It's bad enough that the Conservatives have sullied the sweet and virginal Liberal Democrats, mutter the sour Labour tribalists. Never mind that New Labour had the opportunity to do it themselves. But now the Tories have cast their lecherous gaze towards members of the Labour party itself? Is there nothing that can assuage the depraved lusts of the degenerate Tories for miscegenation?

It's probably incurred a similar - though less reported - reaction from the conservatives - "Why put those red bastards back in, after all the trouble we went to trying to get them out in the first place?" In which case, I wonder if what we're seeing is the birth of a Cameronian equivalent of Tony Blair's 'project,' and a genuine move to keep the "Red bastards" out of power forever?

In the 90s, Blair talked about 'The Project,' the goal of which was to effectively exclude the Tories from power for generations. It meant reforming the electoral system and the House of Lords. Establishing alliances with the Liberal Democrats so the (alleged, and probable) social-democratic majority in the country wouldn't be dictated to by the conservative minority. Even moderate Tories, it was implied, might come inside the fold.

Then mephistopheles tempted offered young Faust a compact too tempting to resist - unbridled power, and the opportunity to rework Britain in the image of his own beautiful soul, without having to forge shoddy compromises with others. The price was the usual one. The means was a majority that not only made it possible for Faust to do whatever he wanted, but gave him the moral authority to do so.

The rest is history, and thus The Project died a miserable death. The recommendations of Jenkins commission was ignored. Talk of Paddy Ashdown taking the Defence portfolio ceased and the Liberal Democrats were left to moulder in opposition. Even reform of the House of Lords - which Labour tribal instincts, pragmatism and human decency all demanded be done away with - was botched. The scale of that failure was demonstrated recently with Lord Prescott taking his seat there.

Is David Cameron trying to realize his own project? He's opted to compromise with the Liberal Democrats, and he's 'reaching out' to adaptable figures on the left, like Milburn and Will Hutton. Perhaps the electoral maths works the other waya s well, and Cameron is seeking to form a conservative-liberal 'Wet' bloc to keep Labour out of power for the long term.

In some ways's he's already achieved more than Blair, probably because he hasn't been offered the irresistible majority that Blair was. The Tories probably didn't expect to be in this position and didn't really plan for it. it's strategy being devised on the hoof, but it might work out well for them. The Labour left wing is sullen, watching their parties own 'Wets' sell out (as they see it) and the inevitable rise of Ed or Dave - both the wettest of Wets for all Ed's efforts to rebrand himself as a sort of nice Trotsky - to the leadership. They can't muster enough votes to even put a Brownite like Ed balls into the the top job, far less a genuine socialist like John MacDonell or Jon Cruddas. Their tragedy is that they were sidelined in 1997 when Blairism won it's massive majority - there was no need for Tony Blair to listen to them any more. And now they party heirarchy is trying to compete for the same ground that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have won. Which once more means the left will be put to silence.

The objective reality may be that if you vote Conservative, you get conservative. If you vote Liberal democrat, you get Conservative. And if you vote Labour, you get conservative.
1 - "Nick Clegg defends coalition government's first 100 days in power," by Anushka Asthana. Published in the Observer, 15th of August, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/aug/15/nick-clegg-coalition-100-days)

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