Britain's Unbroken Politics


A characteristically wise column from Charles Moore:

Mr Cameron’s scheme [a Tory-Liberal coalition] is, surely, as near as we can get to what the voters wanted – a big change, but with no absolute trust placed in a single party.

So three men – all contending with difficulties within their own parties, all struggling for advantage and all to some degree disappointed – nevertheless realised that the situation had to be solved, and set about doing so. And they are managing it within the existing system. Who says it is dysfunctional?

It turns out that the least right analysis of this campaign was the one favoured by the Guardian and the BBC and, indeed, Mr Clegg. The voters were not completely disillusioned with the old politics. They found the leaders’ debates a useful stimulus, but not a replacement for parliamentary democracy. The “old” parties (actually there aren’t any new ones of any consequence) are not collapsing. Even Labour, though it did very badly, held on to its core support. Except in their leaders’ debate participation, the Liberals did not break any mould. The party that achieved by far the biggest movement – attracting more than two million extra votes – were the Conservatives. Our way of doing politics has come under strain, but has not been shaken to its foundations.

There is a chance for a truly imaginative Tory-Liberal fusion here, reinvigorating the party of the center-right. Others on the Tory right are as restless as those on the Liberal left, and blaming Cameron's move to the center for the failure to get a majority. But the Tories gained a staggering 100 seats from Labour - one of the biggest gains in British history. It's just that the mountain was so high to climb. And the polling suggests that more austerity, more anti-Europeanism, anti-gay sentiments, or crude anti-immigrant rhetoric would not have won more votes. It would have lost more.

It's also true that if you exclude Scotland, Cameron would have a clear majority. The collapse of the Tories north of the border renders Westminster's national parliament all the more bizarre, given that Scotland has its own as well. The Scots could soon face a government down south with no one elected from Scotland in it at all.

(Photo: Cameron and Clegg at a VE Day Memorial today. By Leon Neal/Getty.)