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To reassure the markets

A great day for plutocracy

As The Race To Run Knifecrime Island (© The Awl) stutters to a Photoshop finish, a phalanx of experts (plus Simon Schama) lines up this morning to say that the most important criterion for any Parliamentary deal is that it be one which will reassure the markets. Which reminds me of Unspeak™, page 209:

How protean, indeed, these markets were. On the one hand, they dispensed God’s justice, free from any interference by merely human justice; yet on the other hand, when the rhetorical occasion demanded, the markets were vulnerable little flowers, in desperate need of “reassurance”.

Economic events of the last few years, it appears, have not proven sufficient to dislodge the assumption that the opinion of the markets is both reasonable and sovereign.

UNSPEAK PREDICTION: if a Lib-Lab deal materializes, it will be presented not as a “coalition”, but as a partnership; maybe even a progressive partnership.

Election open thread, readers!

  1. 1  Roger Migently  May 7, 2010, 12:08 pm 

    I believe what people have voted for is a hanged parliament. The suggestion is around and about that since Cameron’s party has achieved most seats it should have first dibs at forming government. An alternative view is that it would be more fair for Labour to join in “partnership”, as you say – or perhaps it will be in “fellowship”? – with the LibDems because the clear majority has voted for left-leaning parties. Surely this would be wrong, though. As we have seen over the last few years right here on Unspeak™ Labour is a very right-wing party indeed which merely pretends to be left-ish. So in reality the majority of Brits have voted for a right-wing government and Labour and the Conservatives should form the “partnership”. Or the Conservatives and the BNP. Very British.

  2. 2  Matt  May 7, 2010, 1:18 pm 

    “The markets” has become a phrase with the exact meaning of “The Gods on Mount Olympus”. They are capricious, all-powerful, unknowable, and must be appeased at all costs. The overnight coverage of the election, especially in terms of how each development pleased or unsettled “the markets”, was breathtaking.

    The Markets demand sacrifice. Human, Social Sacrifice.

  3. 3  John Fallhammer  May 7, 2010, 5:01 pm 

    Master-level forked-tonguiness from Mandelson at breakfast time, explaining to John Humphrys why they spiked PR last time round: “Roy [Jenkins] recommended a system called AV+, and in the prime minister’s view, and I shared it at the time, this was not sellable to the British public. They overbid in what they wanted then and went further than, in our view, we could bring the British people with us.”

    Nothing to do with us, boss. It was the public that didn’t want it, I claim that I would have asserted that I believed at the time if I had been asked.

  4. 4  democracy_grenade  May 7, 2010, 6:20 pm 

    I laughed heartily upon reading that expression this morning. I mean, what is this… Spain circa. 1933? Are we in danger of seeing wholesale capital flight as the bourgeoisie rushes to protect itself from expropriation by the rampaging Red (Orange?) hoards? It reminds me of a friend’s Facebook status I saw last week in which he claimed that he “liked the Conservatives’ stance on private property”. Which is: favourable, presumably.

    I expect another round of fun-with-“fairness” in the discussions about P.R.. I support reform for tactical reasons, but I’m wary about presenting it as “just obviously” a “fairer” system. I mean, would LD-ish supporters of PR rush to declare “fair” a hypothetical situation in which the Conservatives and a small cadre of UKIP MPs formed a government, with the latter possessing serious power to influence European policy? I’d guess maybe not.

    I was kind of hoping for a Lab-Con Großcoalition. Nothing would reveal the essentially contrived nature of Westminster adversarialism quite as succinctly as that.

  5. 5  UnfitImproper  May 7, 2010, 8:05 pm 

    The most frustrating aspect of the coverage was the constant reference to voters “removing Brown’s mandate” as if those who turned up (and were able) to vote had any positive intentions at all. BBC’s Nick Robinson was the worst culprit (usually as Peter Hennessy was making him look like a shrieking lightweight). I know we were all assumed to be voting for a change in our political system but the existing one was being already being presented as a jumped-up Big Brother style eviction.

  6. 6  UnfitImproper  May 7, 2010, 8:07 pm 

    Obviously insert ‘no’ for ‘any’. Apologies

  7. 7  democracy_grenade  May 7, 2010, 9:37 pm 

    @5: also in the realm of denying that “those who turned up (and were able) to vote had any positive intentions at all” (kind of) are the repeated references to people who “voted for a hung parliament”. I mean, sure, no doubt some leftish voters supported their second-choice candidates for reasons that had much to do with electoral tactics. But it’s not like these people just have an a priori hatred for absolute majorities.

  8. 8  Roger Migently  May 8, 2010, 3:53 am 

    The question is, given that the parliament is now “messily hung” when will Gordon Brown “activate the Queen” (from 1:24), not ignoring the fact that according to Professor Hennessy “the Queen is like Heineken Lager”.

  9. 9  democracy_grenade  May 8, 2010, 6:14 am 

    Oh, and one more thing (truly, I am the Peter Falk of commenters) in relation to Steven’s suggestion about “progressive partnership”.

    A Google News search gives us three very proximate results for that term: all from April 2010. Rather beautifully, two appear in a quotation attributed to a Birmingham councillor about Lib-Con power-sharing at local level; and the other is uttered by Paddy Ashdown to describe a formation that could be brought about by Lib-Lab co-operation.

    So there you have it: vote Lib, Lab or Con; get “progress”. Yucky.

  10. 10  Roger Migently  May 8, 2010, 7:13 am 

    Heard my first “partnership” quote on some BBC World Service interview about 2 hours ago. Talking about what sort of relationship or arrangement Cameron and Clegg might negotiate and the “possibility of some sort of partnership”. Matter of time now.

  11. 11  zebbidie  May 8, 2010, 12:41 pm 

    Could your lot really vote for a hung parliament? In Australia we can only vote for our local member.

  12. 12  Steven  May 8, 2010, 2:06 pm 

    A lot of meaningless guff follows, and has been following, from talking about “the will of the British people” and suchlike; every British individual who voted expressed a local and/or national preference but there is no such thing as the aggregate decision of “the British people”, and no such thing as a “mandate” for any party or coalition thereof, except perhaps for a government of national unity.

  13. 13  UnfitImproper  May 8, 2010, 8:59 pm 

    And quite a few Lib Dems who argue strongly for some form of proportional representation have been getting quite upset that in particular constituencies it was simply unfair that a rather direct form of representation (you vote, it gets counted, most votes goes to Parliament) led to the “wrong” person winning the seat.

    It might be a shame that, say, Dr Evan Harris was beaten, but that’s DR for you.

    At least it has all led to the delicious moment when Sky News cut away because a thousand people were chanting, “sack Kay Burley, watch the BBC”.

  14. 14  democracy_grenade  May 8, 2010, 10:00 pm 

    “Direct representation”? Is that what the kids are calling it these days? Things must’ve changed since I was an A-Level politics student way in back in the balmy days of Oh Six.

    I guess it makes sense though: “First Past the Post” is far too ridiculous a name for our sole defense against the orgiastic frenzy of Hung Parliaments, Behind-Closed-Doors Negotiation, and Government-Without-a-Mandate that would invite such mighty vengeance from The Markets.

  15. 15  Dave Weeden  May 8, 2010, 11:23 pm 

    Steven @ 12 that’s always (well, off and on) been my view. Who can sort out what the voters really want? I took the Vote for Policies thing and Came out 4 Green/3 LD/2 Lab which sounds about right to me. I like LD more than the other major parties, but that’s hardly an endorsement. I’ve always liked the idea of more referenda, as I can’t see what’s wrong with asking as many people as possible about major questions. It’s not like willfully ignorant MPs are rare. I’d like to think that MPs attend debates, are well informed and read the small print on bills, but the evidence suggests that they don’t.

    There’s an idea in the SF novels of Alistair Reynolds (whom I’m ambivalent about) that people vote unconsciously, pretty much all the time, via brain implants which I like quite a lot. (He doesn’t seem to have thought about who gets to decide what they vote on, and how it’s phrased, etc. See here.) The technology for cheaper and easier voting is surely possible. – Although Gore Vidal has argued that, even before the 2000 election, that the software in the US system wasn’t open to proper scrutiny, and thus should not have been allowed.

  16. 16  Alex  May 9, 2010, 1:07 pm 

    There’s an idea in the SF novels of Alistair Reynolds (whom I’m ambivalent about) that people vote unconsciously, pretty much all the time, via brain implants, which I like quite a lot.

    This is an implementation of Stafford Beer’s Cyberfolk concept.

  17. 17  UnfitImproper  May 9, 2010, 1:46 pm 

    D_G @ 14. I agree first past the post is not ‘direct’ as far as deciding who gets to form a government is concerned but the current system does allow me to turn up, vote for someone to represent the constituency in which I can vote and then wait to see if enough others agree with me.

    Either way, it appears no system is reassuring enough for the trembling and insecure markets who, we are constantly told, need stability and certaintly. As a habitual but low stakes gambler, I’m pretty sure that stable and predictable markets are a guarantee that no-one taking part makes any money.

  18. 18  Steven  May 9, 2010, 1:49 pm 

    I imagine it probably makes an unspeaky difference whether you describe the marketplace hysterics who need to be appeased as (as everyone seems to be doing right now) investors, or (as some have done in the past) fund managers and speculators.

  19. 19  Alex Higgins  May 9, 2010, 9:10 pm 

    We’re hearing a lot of nonsense from many quarters about what precisely some people think the British people have voted for – “change”, “a new politics” blah, blah.

    And some did. But quite a few voted straight-forwardly for a Tory government. And others voted for a Labour government. And others still voted for there not to be a Tory government with whatever alternative seemed available.

    It’ll be interesting to look at the polling data over the next week to see what most people actually want or at least think would be a fair outcome.

  20. 20  Alex Higgins  May 9, 2010, 9:10 pm 

    Also, whenever the stock market dips, even for half an hour, it is because you are not giving Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron whatever they ask for. This is proved by connecting random events with graphs of the FTSE Index.

  21. 21  cleggmentum  May 10, 2010, 10:04 pm 

    No matter its ‘opinion’, the bond market is powerful.

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