Playing the game again

About a month ago, I wrote this post about the question of the ‘national interest’ and whether the Liberal Democrats remaining in the coalition served it. A week after that, I wrote this post on how treating politics as just a game played between the parties isn’t benefiting anyone and is contributing to the public turning away from seeing politics as a way to solve problems and resolve issues.

I’m flagging up these as background because this morning Liberal Democrat Voice have posted this article by Stephen Tall on the future of the coalition. The problem for me is that while it looks at some of the questions I raised in the first post, it does it in terms of the behaviour I criticised in the second one. It’s looking at whether continuing in the coalition is purely a good thing for the Liberal Democrats, rather than whether it’s a good thing for the country as a whole.

(Though in the comments, someone tries to tell me that ‘what’s good for the party is good for the country’ which is a very strong candidate for 2012’s most illiberal statement by a supposed liberal)

The point here is that back in 2010, I don’t think anyone by the most wild-eyed optimist expected us joining the coalition to be wildly popular, but we did it because we thought it was better for the country than any of the alternatives. Any discussion on what we do now should be based on the same principles – what’s best for the country? Instead, we’re getting stuck in questions of party advantage, and it’s being suggested that we should stay in the coalition not because of what it might achieve in the next three years, but because we have to prove a point about ‘pluralist politics’. Yet again, we’re forgetting that political parties are meant to be tools for achieving political aims, not an end in themselves. There’s an odd notion running through Stephen Tall’s article that the voters will apparently be impressed by us digging in for the hell of it, regardless of what Liberal Democrats in goverment will actually achieve.

Yet again, we’re back to seeing politics as a big game, where the people are supposed to be impressed by the style and not the substance. Parties just become teams to support and you’re assumed to want your team to win regardless of how they do it or what they achieve with their victory. Actual policies and discussions about principles, looking at the reasons why we’re here, become something to be avoided at all costs. We’re here because we’re here, and we’re going to remain here to stop them being here.

The simple question we have to have the answer to is this: what is the coalition going to do over the next three years? If the answer’s nothing more than ‘continue existing’ or ‘not be Labour’ then just what are we doing in it?

One thought on “Playing the game again”

  1. But surely the point is that by being popular you get to make a bigger difference in the long run. Being in government once is good but largely meaningless if followed by 50 wilderness years. What’s important is not just doing the right thing now, but laying the foundations so that we can do the right things in future governments. If that means being political, so be it.

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