Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of the 2010 general election. It wasn’t an anniversary widely celebrated. Every corner of British politics had something to feel bitter about on the night. The Tories fell short of what many felt was their destined return to being the natural party of government; the Labour Party were chucked out of government after 13 years, by far the longest they had managed to keep hold of Number 10; the Lib Dems crashed and burned on the night, far short of where they had expected, actually losing five seats over all.
What is the legacy of that election? It still seems to me like a turning point in British politics, the effects of which we are still coping with. An argument that has been made over and over again ever since was that the Lib Dems made a horrible mistake going into coalition government with the Tories. This point can be batted back and forth and I’m not really interested in going over all that here. What I’m more interested in is the legacy of the coalition, as in, the things we’re still dealing with from it politically, and whether those things were worth it.
I would argue the biggest legacy of the coalition is the British left losing their collective marbles, something that ten years later is yet to fully play out. And it happened pretty much literally overnight after the Lib-Con government was formed; Labour went from being a broad church that was still considered a natural party of government, to a weird communist rabble in the space of several days. I don’t mean the PLP and the internal structures of the party disappeared that quickly; they were still keepers of the old flame, at least temporarily. But everything at a grassroots level fell away very, very quickly. I recall the chants of “Tory scum”, a relic from the early 90s, starting up again within days of the government being formed.
Once that happened, things like Corbyn becoming leader take on an air on inevitability. That’s what made Ed Miliband’s leadership such a shitshow, when you strip away all the surface; the left had decided to lose its collective mind and nothing was going to stop that from playing itself out to the painful end. And, you know, what? I think the Lib Dems going into government with the Tories needs to take some of the blame for this happening.
If the Lib Dems hadn’t taken that fork in the road, many things might have happened. The Tories probably would have struggling on as a minority government, contested another election soon after and won handily. Yet when I think about that taking place, I have to concede that the left would probably not have gone full-communist in those circumstances. We’d have a much more functional Labour party now. How much you value such a thing is another matter, but I’m more and more convinced on this point as the years go by.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s available here: