The last few weeks have been a time of great political turmoil around the world. The terrible situation in Japan understandably dominates the front pages of every newspaper, whilst the Japanese government does all it can to aid its people and stop the situation from getting any worse. It really is in the face of tragedy not directly caused by human hands when politics becomes overshadowed by the levels of suffering occurring.
This is in stark contrast to the latest goings on in Libya, where the cause of the suffering is all too human. With widely reported incidences of brutal intolerance from Libya’s leader towards the rebels, and their defiance in fighting for democracy, it seems we must reflect in the UK on just how privileged we are to have a free and open system of democracy in which we can live our lives free from oppression and totalitarianism.
Inevitably, people in this country look to our government to try to ascertain how far it would go to support democracy in Libya. This was addressed rather briefly in a statement to the Commons on Monday by the Prime Minister. He was careful to use language which, whilst expressing disapproval, would not fan the flames of intervention: “Of course we do not want that, [Gaddafi to regain power in Libya] and that is why Britain is and will remain at the forefront of the response to this crisis.” But, despite stating his opposition, he did go on to say “No one is talking about invasions, boots on the ground and the rest of it.” However the tone has appeared to change later this week, as the UN Security Council has backed a motion proposed by the UK, France and Lebanon with US support to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, in an attempt to stifle Colonel Gaddafi’s ceaseless bombardment of his people.
On a more domestic note, Nick Clegg has had a tough time of it again this week. Over 5,000 people marched in protest in Sheffield, where a Liberal Democrat conference was taking place in the City Hall. Police were expecting around 10,000 protesters over the course of the three day conference, providing further evidence still of the strong resentment felt by a large number of people towards the Lib Dems – and Nick Clegg in particular.
Their anger could be further exacerbated in the next week as George Osborne prepares to announce the second budget of his time as Chancellor. Speaking this week, he referred to the first budget of his career as “a rescue mission, bringing us back from the brink of fiscal disaster”, adding “We will stick to the course that we have set out.” This seems to indicate that there will not be any drastic deviations from current policy, which is hardly surprising given that any changes now would serve to undermine the government’s authority, and make it look as though they were backtracking on previous policies. In all likelihood there will be a few tweaks here and there, but on the whole the country will stay on the path that the coalition has decided to set it upon.
Finally, Ed Miliband faces a certain amount of mutiny from Labour MPs over the AV Referendum. Miliband backs the voting reform, saying this week that it would allow more voters’ voices to be heard. However a “No” campaign has already been launched by more than 200 Labour MPs, including three members of Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet. At the moment he faces potential embarrassment by either supporting the reform against the wishes of the majority of his party, and perhaps suffering the indignity of losing, or being held accountable by a large number of his own MPs for their defeat if the ‘Yes’ campaign wins. Alternatively, if he steps back down, he will be seen as putting party ahead of what he thinks is right for the country. In these otherwise-uncertain political times, the one certainty seems to be that 2011 is not going to be an easy year for any of the main three party leaders.