For all its outward appearance of partnership and harmony, the Lib-Con coalition government is an inherently unstable regime. Patched together solely to impose the burden of the economic and financial crisis on the backs of ordinary people, the coalition is a high-risk operation.
Far from ushering in a “new politics”, the coalition only operates by rejecting politics altogether, setting aside not just party differences but their parties as well. As we noted last week, we are witnessing a very British coup by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, which is already producing internal resistance.
Yesterday Cameron won his bid to allow government ministers and whips to have full membership of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, but only by 168 votes to 118. Now plans are already afoot to create a new committee made up entirely of backbenchers. One backbencher said Cameron’s move was “very dangerous”. He added: “We are not lemmings like most Labour MPs – we don’t just do as we are told. It’s as if power has gone to David Cameron’s head.”
Many backbenchers are not enamoured with the joint programme of the coalition published yesterday, which ditches several cherished Tory policies on inheritance tax, stamp duty and abolition of the Human Rights Act. Similar simmering political tensions exist inside the Liberal Democrats too.
The coalition will shortly be involved in conflict on another front – with ordinary people.
The Lib-Con merged programme insists that the need to cut the deficit “takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement”. The £170 billion annual deficit results from a combination of bailing out the banks and the recession that followed the meltdown of the financial system in 2008.
Starting next week, the coalition will start to cut the deficit, which presently funds public services and jobs. Teachers and civil servants were placed in the immediate firing line yesterday, along with postal workers through the privatisation of the Royal Mail promoted by the Lib Dem’s Vince Cable. VAT is certain to rise along with other taxes to reduce living standards.
The insecure nature of the coalition makes it heavily dependent on the capitalist state bureaucracy for its survival. Leading officials applauded after Cameron went through the agreement with the Lib Dems in a public show of support senior civil servants are not normally given to. They, of course, facilitated the creation of the coalition in the first place. There is a distinct Bonapartist air about the two youngish public schoolboys now running the government, balancing between bureaucrats and sections of the electorate, while sidelining their parties.
Things can only get worse for them as the debt crisis which brought down the banks finds its way into governments, particularly in southern Europe. Panic measures have done nothing to stabilise the euro and the continent is on the brink of a major slump. Financial markets are demanding their pound of flesh and governments are no match for the beast they helped create in the first place.
We have to think about what is coming up the line. Serious conflict between public sector workers and the government is certain. Emergency measures against strikes cannot be ruled out. Yet opposing the dictatorship of the markets and the coalition has to have an objective beyond resistance itself.
Halting the cuts is only possible if the financial system and the basis of economic activity is reorganised to replace profit as its foundation with a socially-useful approach to meet society’s needs. Politically, the aim cannot be to replace Cameron/Clegg with a new generation of Blair/Brown type New Labour leaders. That would be just a change of management.
The crisis since the general election, with voters displaying a distinct lack of trust in any party or the Parliamentary system itself, must lead to a truly “new politics”, founded on a revolutionary, democratic transformation of capitalist society. The opportunities for building a people’s coalition against an unsustainable capitalist system are opening up before our eyes.