Friday, 6 February 2009

A sobering thought on a National Government

Martin Kettle raises the prospect of a 1930s-style National Government comprising Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. In the same piece he discusses the possibility of the BNP winning a European seat or more on June 4th.

As Kettle points out, the National Government scenario is unlikely but a very remote possibility. Whatever the chain of events that would lead us into such an arrangement, it is highly undesirable. Why? Actually, because of the BNP. Should we be facing the type of economic crisis that would mean that no one party could maintain the popular legitimacy necessary to turn the economy round, we are in a very dire situation indeed.

Imagine the instability that would provoke within the body politic. Who would provide the opposition in a Labour-Lib Dem-Conservative scenario? It would inevitably be parties outside the mainstream. To re-structure British politics along a mainstream-extreme axis in the context of a economic crisis would be extremely risky. Should the crisis be prolonged then the legitimacy of the mainstream parties would erode and potentially quite rapidly. Sounds unlikely? Perhaps, but why take the risk?

A mainstream opposition serves a very important function within British democracy. Actually, the Conservatives have taken the wrong approach with their refusal to contemplate a fiscal stimulus. Nonetheless, at least the government is forced to defend and articulate its position publicly rather than behind closed doors. In the absence of this process, there would simply be the media and expert questioning of policy. You can't vote for the media or experts, so if you were extremely disgruntled and afraid who would you vote for?

Once the BNP becomes a legitimate rather than intolerable alternative, there may be no going back. No matter how tough things get, people need choice. A National Government does not provide for that choice. The scenario is unlikely. It may never happen. It should never happen.

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