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Fa la la

Brian Taylor | 11:52 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

In times of turmoil, I usually turn to that great sage and acute observer of the political scene, Lewis Carroll.

However, on this occasion, only W.S. Gilbert will suffice.

You know, I feel sure, the great song from Iolanthe in which Private Willis, while guarding the Palace of Westminster, offers his views on the politicians of the day.
Here's one classic:

When in that House MPs divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
They've got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.

But his sharpest observation is to note:

That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!

What would Private Willis make of our new UK Government which contrives to blend the two?

I know that members of the Liberal Democrats contrive to castigate their Labour and Tory rivals - do we still call the latter that? - as the "old parties", cheerfully ignoring their own prolonged history.

No deal

But still it is remarkable to see the party of Gladstone and the party of Disraeli conjoined in coalition.

"Remarkable" might not be the chosen description for some LibDem activists - and indeed some Tories.

Was there an alternative? The Lib Dems talked at length with Labour - but no deal emerged. One, because the numbers did not fully add up.

It would have taken a rainbow extending far beyond primary colours - and, even then, it is arguable that it would have been vulnerable to internal dissent and disquiet.

Two, there was a palpable and growing lassitude on the Labour side with regard to remaining in government.

They knew they had lost ground, substantially - and that was reflected in their wider party approach to the prospect of a deal.

Consequently, the Lib Dems felt they had no choice. Their rivals in Labour and the SNP - we definitely still call them both that - will continue to insist that there was: and that the LibDems have "inflicted" the Tories upon Scotland and the UK.

Nationalist 'wickedness'

Of all the reaction statements, I particularly loved the one issued in the name of Margaret Curran, Labour MP and (still) MSP.

Suggesting that the SNP can "barely hide their glee" at the Tories taking power, Ms Curran (or her ghost writer) provides the full, shocking list of Nationalist wickedness.

Apparently, they "stood candidates against Labour". The beasts. Further, they "fought to reduce the number of Labour MPs".

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it infamy.

Now, do I believe there was a degree of calculation in Alex Salmond's offer to support a Lib/Lab coalition? Yes, of course. Welcome to politics.

But it is not, primarily or even substantively, his responsibility that there is not a Lib/Lab coalion today.

That is, mostly, down to arithmetic: the small, insignificant fact that the Tories got many more votes and seats than Labour across Britain.

Great machine

Now we are to have a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland. To return once more to G&S, it will be a source of innocent merriment to watch Danny Alexander occupy the office which his party has pledged to abolish.

The Scotland Office is not perhaps the great machine of state it once was (I know, I know, when precisely was that, Brian?).

But Jim Murphy transformed it into a form of embassy or, perhaps, High Commission, keeping a close watch on the Scottish government.

Perhaps Mr Alexander will perform a comparable role - although he will also have to ride point in defending the further spending cuts which are coming down the road.

As his Scottish colleagues are already saying privately, loadsaluck with that one.

It makes sense, I suppose, for that particular post to go to the Scottish Lib Dems.

At least, they can muster a football squad at Westminster - rather than the lone striker, David Mundell.

Apparently they agitated for this job. Presumably they hope that, in Scotland, they can mitigate the political damage which they fear may be coming their way as a result of forming an alliance with the relatively unpopular Scottish Tories.

As Private Willis would trill: Fa la la.


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