Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cleggbama and me - witnesses at the birth of this new Coalition of Hope

by Suzanne Moore, Independent parliamentary candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Reproduced with acknowledgements to Mail Online.


Do you remember the time long ago before Cleggbama walked amongst us?


Amazingly it's less than two weeks. This Election was shaping up as deathly dull, with Brown and Cameron both flatlining.We sat through the near-death experience that is Brown's campaigning and watched bemused as Cameron failed to hide his exasperation that he just wasn't being handed what was rightfully his.The depressing arguing over cuts and the 'disappearing' of all significant women except dutiful spouses - now cast as fashion-conscious carers - made it even harder to engage.

My own frustration with the lack of choice bubbled over and my solution was to stand for Parliament myself as an Independent. Party politics had produced this stasis.

Rash, I am sure, but my form of direct action.

Even I, though, am not daft enough to think individuals can shift the system, simply that we can draw attention to its flaws. This is something most Independents have in common.

Having already expressed my preference for a hung parliament, my feeling was that the electorate was also in no mood to give one party a mandate. Such an outcome would be a way of ticking a 'none of the above' box.

This was before the TV debates. It's not that people just changed their vote on the basis of 90 minutes of telly, more that an attractive, articulate figurehead had been found for their rumbling discontent.

The Lib Dem leader was an unknown quantity. No more. Now we know his freshness makes both Brown and Cameron look stale.

He looked directly into the camera and connected viscerally with people's desire for a more direct form of democracy.

Arcane arguments about constitutional reform and proportional representation rarely excite.

But something happened visibly in the first debate: we could see the leaders of the two main parties were working overtime to maintain the status quo that Clegg was challenging.

Indeed the forces of conservatism on both sides have been ambushed by the urgency of those who now scent meaningful change. The Tories don't want substantial parliamentary reform and Labour only talks desperately of it in the dying days of its administration.

The Lib Dems may be wobbly on many issues but this is not one of them. It is wrong to suggest all have fallen in love with this party or that the Lib Dems are completely different from the main parties.

They are not. They are not clean on expenses, nor above using very dirty tricks when campaigning.

Surely the surge towards Clegg is happening because so many have felt locked out of the two-party system for many years. This sea change has been called a Diana moment and therefore irrational. But just as the outpouring over Diana reflected changes that had already happened and marked a break with a more buttoned-up past, so the Lib Dems' sudden popularity reflects years of the electorate feeling ignored by its leaders.

It doubtless helps, too, that Clegg embodies an energy and modernity that makes the twoparty system appear lethargic and creaky.

The prize now will go to those who offer actual change.

Brown can offer only more of the same as he floats among the wreckage of the latest job figures and lack of growth.

Cameron cannot hide his look of dismay that a new kid on the block may steal what is rightfully his. It's not in the script, yet it is written all over his face.

The unscripted Clegg, meanwhile, makes his success look entirely natural. You have to pinch yourself to remember that only weeks ago his party was deemed entirely unelectable.

The true measure of the Lib Dem insurgency is the reaction against it.

The unsettled mewlings about a hung parliament causing the end of civilisation as we know it emanate from those who have complacently invested in a Tory victory.

The City - that bastion of fairness and accountability - won't like it, they complain. Oh dear.

Well other countries cope and, actually, not all City people feel the same way.

Two unpopular wars, economic meltdown and huge inequality is the result of a party with a large majority. It is hard to imagine in what way a hung parliament could do worse.

I am biased obviously. I am not a Lib Dem but I share absolutely a sense that something has to shift and am excited to think it might. Standing as an Independent is part of pushing for a shift.

In my constituency other Independents have also come forward. Some good, some barmpots. I now find myself up against 'A Ripperologist'.

Well what did I expect? A clean fight? But what motivates most Independents is the same despair with our political system that Clegg is tapping into.

The practical problem for Independents, as I am finding out to my cost, is that without the teams and money that the big parties' machinery offers it is virtually impossible.

Last week, standing at a borrowed table wi th our lovely little flyers, we watched in awe as a bus pulled up.

Out got the sitting MP (Diane Abbott) and several of her staff.

They glared at us, dispensed their expensive literature and drove off. They must have stayed for all of five minutes.

Labour take my area, Hackney, for granted and clearly don't like being challenged in any way. Still they have the money to do wham-bam-thankyoumam campaigning.

No one at the top should take voters for granted. Something is shifting from the bottom up.

Brown is incapable of delivering the kind of change now being demanded.

Cameron provides only a change of leader and direction but no deep structural change of the institutions.

So forming now before us are two new coalitions.

On one side are those who want to reinvent the wheel of democracy, on the other those vested interests who like things just the way they are.

We have the progressives in the shape of Lib Dems, some Greens and many Independents now arrayed against the conservatives (small c) of the big parties. This is bad news for Labour, but they have had their chance.

Having been fed a politics of fear, something organic and long repressed is somehow manoeuvring us towards a politics of hope.

It is this coalition of hope - not Clegg himself - that is important. Such a moment may pass. But we shouldn't let it.

To witness the birth of a new political era would count as victory for many of us.

5 comments:

AProlefrom1984 said...

Speaking of Labour & their strange campaign tactics - just seen a leaflet through the door from our ward councillors & their libelling you. They're smearing the ICG by saying they're linked to National Front. Gordon Brown's attitude is typical of what this contemptuous party thinks of the ordinary voter.

AProlefrom1984 said...

It's Heston East ward where the odious leaflets have come from.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Thanks for that Prole, they're nothing if not predictable.

As we're not standing in Heston East my guess is they doing a smear by association against somebody else, probably the Tories.

Would it be possible for you to e-mail me a copy at phil@communitygroup.org.uk? If it is an election leaflet it will have to carry a publisher's imprint and if it is libellous it will be down to the agent. The Tories might even want to take action if it is being suggested that their candidates are linked to racists.

I assume we can expect ours a little nearer polling day. People round here take them with a pinch of salt but Labour use them to try to stir up a bit of racial tension for once the election is over.

AProlefrom1984 said...

Just checked. Put it in bin, so can't scan or post it. Would get my neighbour's and send it over. Labour is just weird. Thanks to Brown's bad behaviour yesterday, we've really seen through them. Can't believe I used to be one of their most loyal voters.
Anyway, leaflet was titled, 'The Rose' newsletter. It's sponsored by someone called Colin Ellar.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

"Just checked. Put it in bin, so can't scan or post it. Would get my neighbour's and send it over. Labour is just weird. Thanks to Brown's bad behaviour yesterday, we've really seen through them. Can't believe I used to be one of their most loyal voters. Anyway, leaflet was titled, 'The Rose' newsletter."

Thanks again Prole, hopefully look forward to seeing it.


"It's sponsored by someone called Colin Ellar."

That figures, affectionately known as the Big C. If ever anyone was a legend in his own lunchtime.