On Britain

Matt Yglesias ponders the upside of recent Tory victories:

Ed Kilgore describes the Labour Party’s drubbing in recent local elections, combined with terrible national poll numbers, as “Bad News From Across the Pond.” And certainly for anyone affiliated with the Labour Party the news is bad.
But then again, they’ve been in office for about eleven years now in a system with few checks and balances so on some level the fact that the Tories look positioned to win just seems like a two party system working the way it’s supposed to — having been beaten several times in a row, Labour repositioned itself, then won a bunch of elections in a row, and now the Tories have repositioned themselves and are poised for victory.

Very true. But I think Kilgore’s wrong on a deeper level. Since when is the Labour Party our (that is, American liberals’) ally? After Blair won his landslide against Major in 1997, there was a lot of debate within the British Left about whether or not New Labour would end up being a less-bad continuation of the Thatcher era, similar to the debate about Clintonism here that’s been going on since 1992. But while that which Ralph Nader wrought has proven Clintonian liberalism to be, while not ideal, far enough away from Reagan and the Bushes to be worth fighting for, I’m not so sure the Blair/Brown era has proven that for Britain. Blair’s foreign policy has been, if anything, worse than Thatcher’s; no, he didn’t coddle Pinochet and sing his praises upon his death, but she didn’t throw away Britain’s international credibility by backing an American war that’s left 176 British men and women dead and 2,781 wounded. On domestic policy, he was certainly better, but not by much; he did increase spending, but privatized, didn’t meaningfully raise taxes, massively hiked university tuition, and actually got more support from Conservatives than from Labour on his education proposal. It’s only on social policy – where Blair was consistently good on LGBT issues – that the difference is significant. I just don’t see much cause for American liberals to care about whether Labour fares better than the Tories; yeah, Boris Johnson is a scumbag while Red Ken is perfectly all right, but I have no strong preference for Brown or Cameron.
There is, however, a party that it’s entirely sensical for American liberals to support, and that’s the Lib Dems. Its platform reads like I wish the Democratic Party platform read: repeal of Labour-era anti-terror surveillance programs and civil liberties restrictions, gay marriage, decriminalization of marijuana, progressive income tax hikes to support making higher education free and universal and pension increases, replacing local property taxes with income taxes, foreign aid increases and repeal of agricultural subsidies, opposition to the war in Iraq but support for those in Bosnia and Kosovo, support for the EU and the euro, open borders and more asylum admissions, carbon taxation, disestablishment of the Church of England, abolishing the House of Lords, proportional representation. Really, could you ask for a better platform? And the thing is, the Lib Dems have a better chance of success now than they’ve had since the Liberal/Social Democrat merger. They have a great, young, charismatic leader – Nick Clegg – and some polls show them within striking distance of Labour, which would make them the official opposition to the Tories. That’s a far better situation for the left, both British and American, than for Labour to still be the alternative to the Tories.

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