Alternative Vote, backbencher, backbenchers, boundaries, boundary, Cameron, Coalition, Conservative, constituency, David Cameron, Democrat, Grima Wormtonge, House of Lords, JRR, Labour, Liberal, Lord of the Rings, LOTR, minister, Nick Clegg, Party, Prime, Reform, Saruman, Sauron, Tolkien, U-turn, U-turns
I would like to apologise in advance to fans of JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy Lord of the Rings for the content of this blog.
You see, it occurred to me today that – in Nick Clegg and David Cameron – we can see a real-life parallel with the relationship between Grima Wormtongue and Saruman, the evil wizard who plots to be a dark lord.
Can Clegg be compared to Wormtongue? I think he can. For much of LOTR, Grima spends his time telling the people of his country that the best policy is to put themselves at Saruman’s mercy and let him ride roughshod over them, their homes and their livelihoods – much as Clegg has advised us to let Cameron ruin the UK.
Can Cameron be compared to Saruman? I think he can. In LOTR, Saruman plots to be a Dark Lord, as powerful as Sauron (who, as everyone knows, is the principle villain of the piece, portrayed memorably in the film version by a flaming, computer-generated eyeball). However, it turns out that Saruman just doesn’t have the ability to be a successful Dark Lord. He’s bad – but he isn’t very good at it.
In reality, Cameron wanted to be the Prime Minister because he thought he’d be “good at it”. After two years, we can look at his back catalogue of failures and U-turns and see how wrong he was.
As the novel has it, Grima finally turns on Saruman and stabs him in the back, killing him – which brings me to this week’s events concerning House of Lords reform.
Clegg has long cherished the idea of delivering constitutional reforms to the British Parliamentary system. Deprived, by referendum, of the opportunity to change the voting system to the Alternative Vote (which would have improved his party’s chance of getting Parliamentary seats), he fell back on reform of the House of Lords – a scheme which, his party claimed, had nothing whatsoever to do with Cameron’s plans to change constituency boundaries, cutting the number of of seats in the Commons down to 600 (which would have improved HIS party’s chance of getting seats).
This week, that idea was dealt a fatal blow – more because Conservative backbenchers refused to support it in principle than because Labour took issue with the scheduling of the debate. Lords reform has been dropped.
In retaliation, Clegg has announced that he will be instructing his MPs not to support boundary changes when the vote takes place – stabbing Cameron in the back, just as Grima stabs Saruman.
And the parallel can be drawn closer still, because both incidents hinge on side-issues. In the book, Saruman is causing trouble in the heroes’ homeland, out of nothing but spite, when he is killed. In reality, the boundaries issue is about making it harder for Labour to win Parliamentary seats – a spiteful attempt, by the Conservatives, at punishment for being kept in Opposition for 13 years.
But will the wound prove fatal? Cameron was doing his best to play down its significance immediately after, claiming that both Coalition parties would continue to work together to rebuild the nation’s economy. That’ll be a hard slog, because it is under the Coalition that the economy has slipped back into a recession that has grown deeper with every month that passes – fuelled, as we saw demonstrated in the Workfare case (see the immediately preceding post), by Coalition policies.
Commentators have already suggested that one way out for Cameron would be if Scotland secedes from the Union. That would deliver a cut in the number of Parliamentary seats and an increased likelihood of Conservative victory, given the current state of voting intentions in the seats that remain. So it seems unlikely that the Conservatives will fight very hard to keep Scotland in the UK.
Even then, though, what will the voters do? We’ve had a little more than two years of the Coalition and already the vast majority of the population are feeling the pinch, while having to watch the Coalition’s leaders and their big-business friends getting their snouts in the trough.
Future developments could be stranger even than fantasy fiction.