The Corner

The Joy of Compromise

Britain has three main political parties, with orientations corresponding to American center-left (“Conservative”), green-left (“Liberal Democrat”), and far-left (“Labour”). Think Joe Lieberman, Al Gore, and Dennis Kucinich, respectively.

The green-left Liberal Democrats are the smallest of the three parties, holding 9 percent of the seats in the House of Commons, against Labour’s 40 percent and the Conservatives’ 47 percent. Since no one party has a majority, the Lib-Dems are in a coalition government with the Conservatives.

(The Liberal Democrats emerged in the late 1980s from a fusion between the old Gladstone-Lloyd George Liberal Party and the Social Democrats, a splinter faction of the Labour Party. Their first attempt at a name for themselves was the Social Democratic Party and Liberals. This was quickly abbreviated in common discourse to SODPAL … and was then quickly dropped, memories of the blackmail/attempted-homicide affair between Liberal leader (until 1976) Jeremy Thorpe and a male model being still fresh. The Lib-Dems will, however, always be SODPAL to me.)

Well, SODPAL have been having their annual party conference. One of their cabinet officers in the coalition, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (there’s glory for you!) Chris Huhne, gave a speech to the party faithful. The latter part of the speech was a prose hymn on the wonderful virtues of compromise.

This coalition government saved Britain’s credit standing by compromise. The danger if you don’t compromise is now clear from America.

There the markets looked over the brink when the mad-cap Republican right in Congress would not compromise with the President.

Let that be a warning to the Conservative right here: we need no Tea Party Tendency in Britain.

If you fail to compromise, if you fail to seek the common ground that unites us, if you insist that only you have the answers, if you keep beating the anti-European drum, if you slaver over tax cuts for the rich, then you will put in peril the most crucial achievement of this Government.

You will wreck the nation’s economy and common purpose.

We are all in this together and we can’t get out of it alone.

So no more of that beastly, uncouth political conflict, then. Compromise is the watch-word! Embrace compromise, and you can have a political system just like Britain’s: center-left, green left, and far left.

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