Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Strange Death of Illiberal England?

Well, looks like it was the best night for British liberalism since the Asquith era. The LibDems' 62 seats are the most they've won since 1923, and their 22% of the vote is the most they've got since the 1980's, when they were running as two separate parties (the Liberal-SDP alliance). This is all very encouraging, of course, and it's especially interesting to see where their gains were. The LibDems didn't do particularly well in their races against the Tories in rural southern seats, which could be bad news for them in the ones they still hold if the Tories do significantly better next time around. If the LibDems couldn't pick up significant numbers of sane, moderate Tory voters this time, when Michael Howard's campaign differed from the BNP's in style more than substance, how will they next time?

But the LibDems made up for the losses to the Tories by expanding upon their earlier anti-war by-election successes and picking up a number of previously rock-solid Labour seats in the cities. Hopefully they'll be able to keep that momentum going once Iraq has faded as an issue (and New Labour goes retro again). At least one North American libertarian hopes so too, with an election-eve LibDem endorsement that, incredibly, mentions the words "peace" only once and "Iraq" not at all. He quotes Charles Kennedy on his party's core values: "The first guiding principle is a mindset, I think—a gut philosophical instinct—to see society in terms of the individual, first and foremost, rather than the interests of the state." After almost a century in which such gut instincts have been relegated to the margins of British politics, it's great to see them finally re-entering mainstream discourse. Can you imagine a leader of the Canadian Liberals (or American Democrats) publicly admitting to holding such an unambiguously liberal philosophy? I guess power corrupts, and majority governments corrupt, like, majorly.

Anyway, out of the possible post-election scenarios, I would of course have preferred a Labour minority government ("hung parliament"), or failing that a Labour majority so tiny that it wouldn't have been able to do anything at all. Labour's 66-seat majority sounds pretty comfortable, but fortunately it seems as though enough of them have rebelled in the past on civil liberties-related issues that it's in fact very tight. (Of course, that's assuming that the Tories would also be voting against the illiberal measures, which strikes me as much less than self-evident.) Well, I guess having the continued existence of ancient English liberties depend on a combination of Tory opportunism and intra-Labour fratricide is less bad than having it depend on the personal whim of a charismatic autocrat and his hand-picked inner circle.

Speaking of which... in other election news, and at the risk of turning this blog into a one-horse show, David Blunkett is back in cabinet. Other fresh faces in Tony Blair's new government include Constitutional Affairs Minister Ann Coulter, Foreign Secretary David Horowitz, and Culture and Media Minister Laura Ingraham. Michelle Malkin will be joining the Tory shadow cabinet, following a two-month transitional period in which she'll be kept at a processing center on the Isles of Scilly being tested for tuberculosis.

In other election non-news, I, Ectomorph has an interesting couple of posts about the differences between the way election night is handled in Canada and the UK. Despite an almost uncanny ability to be wrong about virtually every political issue known to man, his blog is always worth a read.
How odd that we should both possess the same uncanny ability.

That's one dynamite cabinet. New Labour's looking better all the time!

I'm pleased that the Lib Dems are so thrilled to have placed a poor third. Future elections will prove equally delightful for them, I'm sure. With all due respect to Mr. Kennedy, we can think more about the individual when our society as a whole is secure against its enemies. Individuals are doing pretty well, I'd say, even in the current environment.

All in all an interesting post, Urban Pundit.
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