By Mustela nivalis
The general election in Germany last Sunday generated a result that can only be called paradoxical (but only by people who assume that the world consists of a logical sequence of cause and effect): A majority of the electorate voted for (nominally) centre-right parties (‘conservative’ CDU, ‘liberal’ FDP and the upstart euro-critical ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ or AfD). Despite heavy losses for the FDP, the centre-right gained a net share of 2.7%, while the centre-left and left-wing parties lost net 2.9%. However, due to FDP and AfD remaining just below the parliamentary 5% threshold, the result in terms of seats is a majority of centre-left and left-wing parties: SPD, Greens, and ‘Die Linke’, the ex-ruling party of the ex-GDR. (The fact that the latter are even allowed to stand tells you a lot about present Germany.) See here for full election results.
The SPD (Social Democratic Party, equivalent to Labour) do not want a coalition with Die Linke (at least not at this point in time), so the new government will very likely be a ‘grand coalition’ of the two largest parties, the CDU and SPD. The SPD is the markedly smaller of the two. But because the SPD has a numerical (if not yet politically feasible) alternative coalition option, in government it will pull the ‘conservative’ CDU even further left than it already is. Another rather exotic (and very unlikely) numerical option is a coalition of CDU with the Greens, which would be the equivalent of British conservatives forming a coalition with only the left wing, evil and wackier elements of the Lib Dems (Chris Huhne, Norman Baker etc) plus Caroline Lucas.
This is the first time in post-war Germany that the Bundestag has been without representation from a liberal party, even one now only nominally liberal with some residue of true liberalism like the FDP. In fact, it has even been rare for the FDP to be out of government, let alone parliament. The first time it happened (that the FDP was not part of the governing coalition), in the late 1960s, the then grand coalition of CDU and SPD massively expanded the welfare state. This killed off the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’. The second time it happened was Gerhard Schröder’s red-green government (1998-2005, followed by another ‘grand coalition’ 2005-09), which immediately proceeded to take part in an act of unprovoked aggression against a small country (Serbia), the first time since 1945 that a German government did this.
IMHO, the FDP fully deserved to be chucked out of parliament (for being insufficiently liberal – in 2009 they had promised the liberal equivalent of the Moon, lower taxes, less regulation, strict adherence to the euro stability pact etc, got a record 15% and then in government delivered less than a small meteorite – nothing more than lower VAT for hotels). However, it does not bode well for either Germany or Europe that neither they nor the AfD (who are at least somewhat economically liberal, and have some idea of how wrong the euro is) have a voice in the Bundestag. That is not to say that a Fourth Reich is imminent. It’s just a significant sign of the times that Europe’s most important country and economy has now, at least for the time being, lost its last remnant of liberalism on the national level.
There is, I think, a lesson here for the British electorate: illogical results such as the one above are much more likely in a first-past-the-post system such as Britain has than under (German) proportional representation. I’m not in favour of voting reform. But true liberals, true conservatives and libertarians need to take the voting system into account. At least if they see voting as an act of self-defence.
To put it bluntly: By all means vote UKIP at the European election if you want to. I enjoy as much as anyone seeing Nigel Farage make the whole European establishment jump every time he opens his (admittedly big) mouth. However, the general election is a different matter. As things stand, only some kind of pact between the Tories and UKIP will prevent a Labour or Lib-Lab government.
Now, from what we know of the personalities of Cameron and Farage, they will not agree to such a pact before hell freezes over. However, in this day and age of the internet, voters are able to bypass such an official pact, as Toby Young suggests in this Spectator piece (see also the discussion below his article). I know the talk of a pact of any kind with any of the LibLabCon crowd is anathema for some very good people. And I respect that. Nonetheless I would urge everyone to at least consider this option. And to compare it with the most likely election result if a (bottom-up) pact does not materialize or is ineffective.
Before the last election, Sean Gabb recommended voting Conservative as a rational self-defence measure against a Labour party that was threatening to become ruthlessly dictatorial. Sean got a lot of flak for that. I think the recent parliamentary vote on Syria finally vindicated his position. I don’t think a Labour government would have hesitated one second to invoke the Royal Prerogative – they know as well as we do that ‘war is the health of the state’ – and would have landed Britain and the whole West in even deeper trouble than it is already.
I’m sure a new Labour or LibLab government would, as a matter of urgent priority, make an energetic drive towards irreversibility of British EU membership. I don’t know how they’d do it. But considering how hugely inconvenient Farage and UKIP are for the ruling class, I’d be very surprised if they are not hatching such plans already.