This omnishambles is no joke

2 May 2012

As those of us in London face up to the prospect of the
none-of-the-above election, it’s worth thinking ahead to 2015 and asking yourself if any of the major parties really deserves your vote. It’s hard to remember a time when things were
quite like this. Daniel Finkelstein has a theory that the British electorate rarely makes the wrong judgement. And it is almost always the case that at least one party is firing on all cylinders.
The 1992 election was an exception, but right now John Major, Neil Kinnock and Paddy Ashdown are looking like political giants.

We are staring into the political abyss and we think it is mildly amusing to talk in terms of an omnishambles. But this is no joke. At the heart of government, as we contemplate the consequences of
the double dip recession and rising interest rates, there is an ideas vacuum. The coalition’s best minds, Steve Hilton and Richard Reeves, have announced their departure for the Unites
States, which is where European intellectuals fled during the 1930s.


It is tempting to argue (as I did in 2008) that the time has come for a national government. But the trouble is that the experience of coalition government has left a bad taste on the mouth for
collaborative politics. It might be tempting to imagine Michael Gove, Alistair Darling and Vince Cable working with a common pupose (or indeed Rachel Reeves, Dominic Raab and Sarah Teather). But
the likely outcome of the next election now seems to be a Labour victory by default or another hung parliament.

Even in the medium term this is not sustainable. The government may hope that it can ride out this misery until the summer recess but this is not a standard mid-term crisis. This is not like
cash-for-honours, or cash-for-questions or even the Iraq wash through. The political situation we face can only really be compared to 1939 or 1974 and the sooner we wake up to it the better.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice thought.

  • Jon Stack

    Why do people believe that government has, or should have, the answer to economic and social ills? It hasn’t and can never have. Your argument, Martin, makes this assumption. it’s individual people who can make the difference and make this country a decent place to live again. So stop moaning about politics and get out there and do it yourself.

  • TomTom

    “”Daniel Finkelstein has a theory that the British electorate rarely makes the wrong judgement.”

    For a man who failed miserably to get elected he may have a point. However, the system has run out of steam – now Voters are saddled with 30 years of accumulated debt to service and Politicians have no way out.

    This is the Start of New Era – Japan as a 23 year head start on Stagnation – and Politics is irrelevant because it has destroyed LOCAL in terms of community, economy, accountability and sustainability in favour of Global for Corporatism – so it no longer has any relevance

  • Tarka the Rotter

    “This omnishambles is no joke…” No indeed, but the one promised by Ed Milibandwagon is hilarious…

  • Nicholas

    Well said Ian Walker. Exactly the same mix of envy and greed that motivated Bo Xilai to wear Saville Row suits and send his son to Harrow and Oxford whilst advocating and implementing Maoism for the powerless people under his power.

  • daniel maris

    We are indeed staring into the abyss on several fronts:

    An unbalanced and unproductive economy.

    Destabilising mass immigration.

    Housing crisis.

    Education crisis as schools become overcrowded.

    Welfare dependency and substantial areas where criminal behaviour is allowed to dominate.

    If someone doesn’t tackle these soon we are heading for a social disaster.

    The time has come for populist politics: directly addressing these areas of concern.

    We need to reorientate economic policy towards sustainable employment and recuding welfare dependency; develop referendum government; ending mass immigration;and building decent housing.

    We need to embed referendum government into our constitution – on the Swiss model.

    Never again should we allow tiny elites to usurp the popular will.

  • Ian Walker

    @Danielle, the fates of those regions were sealed when Labour nationalised fundamentally uneconomic industries. Thatcher just delivered the coup-de-gra

  • Danielle


    No, that would be the Thatcher who had two recessions, destroyed the North of England and Scotland, implemented the poll tax and created welfare dependency, by putting millions on the dole and incapacity. Some legacy.

  • Fergus Pickering

    seb, the British electorate is much like any other electorate. What yu don’t like is democracy. What you DO like is government by clever people like you, the dictatorship of the commisariat. The EU is your ideal where nobody is allowed to vote on anything because the people are so ignorant and stupid. Democracy is flawed, like ordinary people, but at least it saves us from people like you.

  • seb

    “Daniel Finkelstein has a theory that the British electorate rarely makes the wrong judgement.”

    A monumentally inane utterance. Millions of British voters imagine that the sole purpose of government is to divvy up a lot of yummy free money amongst them. Millions, no doubt, are people who believe in astrology or that, yes, you CAN talk to deceased family members.

    No one who sincerely believes in representative democracy should risk too much contact with the British electorate for fear of developing suicidal tendencies.

  • Keith

    cg @ 1:36

    That would be the Thatcher who, together with Major, left the economy and public finances on such a sound footing that it took three successive Labour governments to wreck them?

  • Ian Walker

    A National Government would only work if there were enough MPs with a grounding in reality to push party politics aside and rally the country behind the commond cause.

    Sadly, all we’ve got is a bunch of PR ‘professionals’ and ageing lawyers who can’t remember the last time they paid for their own lunch.

    The great irony is the one thing that could have remedied this – electoral reform, could have been the great legacy of this coaltion. If the Lib Dems had had any sense, they’d have insisted on multi-member STV voting as the price for supporting any number of Tory policies for five years. But the bright lights of potential power blinded them, and they got duped into a referendum they could never win.

    Until we fix the way we elect our parliament, we’ll never fix the rot that stems from it.

  • cg

    Can’t believe the sort of people who come on here and blame all the bad times on New Labour. Where were they during the curse of Thatcher?

  • Archibald

    Martin, the only thing that’s left a bad taste ‘on’ the mouth is the spin surrounding the coalition, I don’t think the public are in any way against party cooperation. Successive parties make noises about wanting to work together, which makes sense given that they all occupy essentially the same ground apart from very minor differences, but they then proceed to attempt to amplify any minute differences and any MP who is sensible enough to want to work cross-party is almost always vilified by their own side. The party system has developed such that many key people put the party first, and the country second. Nick Clegg is ironically one of the few people who deserve some respect, although none of you would ever have the guts to go against the party line. It’s pretty much the root cause of voter apathy, the obvious and blatant spin that surrounds every issue. The set answers for anticipated questions, the childish point scoring. It is spin that the Westminster bubble including the media now feeds off, it has done for years, and the press have lost all sense of direction. No longer is fact scrutinized, all discussion is around ‘public perception’ of issues. The press have lazily slumped into reporting on meaningless squabbles and point scoring and serving as a gullible sluice that pours party bullshit into our homes untreated. Labour are without doubt the worst for spin and lies currently – and how could there be any cross-party cooperation on a meaningful level when if you believed Labour rhetoric then you’d think, as many do, that the Tories are fundamentally evil and probably eat the babies of the poor when noone is looking.

    It’s like Big Brother gone wrong, but with the cameramen and commentators living in the house along with the house mates. Why don’t you take a step outside and try for something different, or will the parties not let you play any more if you do?

  • Nicholas

    “I know: how about a military coup?”

    Unfortunately the proliferation of fatheads extends to the MOD and all who sail in her too. A maritime nation with no aircraft carriers, a cash strapped little army deployed on two international counter-insurgency fronts with insufficient helicopter support and too much IED vulnerable transport, RN Captains who let their away crews get captured by pirates in rubber boats, more pen pushers than combatants, more chiefs than indians and equipment supply contracts writ in terms of decades let alone months. No Churchill, no Thatcher and no Slim or Montgomery either.

  • Vulture

    Martin Bright is right. (God, I never thought I’d write those words).
    The political class – not only in Britain but also in Europe – is utterly bankrupt. They have no money, no ideas, no principles, no will and no vision.

    In 1939 at least there was Churchill waiting in the wings. In 1974 – love her or loathe her – there was Thatcher.

    But today? Dave and George? the two Eds? Nick and VInce?

    I know: how about a military coup?

  • Sam Davidson

    Congratulations Mr Bright. You have now managed to begin an article with the most absurd and inaccurate clause since the Speccie decided it was time to start employing people like you. Brave as it may be in the company you keep to suggest that Boris is as unpreferable as Ken, and I assume you’ve only done so for a bet, one really has to wonder if… no, just carry on.

  • Paul

    Hope Labour don’t win Fergus, but given the bloody-mindedness of the British electorate…

  • Fergus Pickering

    Betcha Labour don’t win, old son.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here