Historical precedent for attempt to keep power

- SOMETIMES you just can’t help falling foul of Godwin’s Law.

I don’t mean breaking it. You can no more break Godwin’s Law than you can break the law of gravity.

I mean demonstrating the truth of it. And the thing about Godwin’s Law is that you should try to avoid demonstrating it until absolutely necessary.

Mike Godwin, an American lawyer and writer, first proposed his law in 1990. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” In other words, becomes a near-certainty.

Though Godwin’s Law is an internet adage, in practical terms it doesn’t only relate to the net. It applies equally to pub conversations, for example. Or, I fear, to newspaper columns. So here I go.

Having found themselves without an absolute majority after a March 6 election, the party that polled most votes could only form a government by allying themselves with one of the smaller parties.

But this didn’t satisfy them. They wanted “strong, stable government”, and managed to persuade nearly everyone that this was what the country needed.

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So they changed the law to keep themselves in power for a fixed term of years – even if more than 50 per cent of Parliament was against them. Sounds familiar?

The year was 1933. The country was Germany. The smaller party in the coalition was the so-called Centre Party, which had the third largest parliamentary presence.

And the big party, which rewrote the rules to its own absolute advantage ... was of course Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

David Cameron has not quite attempted an Enabling Act, which was Hitler’s short cut to dictatorship.

But he wants a fixed five-year term of office – not the four years Hitler claimed.

And he wants to make it impossible to unseat a government with anything less than a 55 per cent majority of MPs against them.

Which is patently undemocratic, surely unworkable, and transparently – laughably – based on the arithmetic of the present Parliament.

Mike Godwin says his law was only intended to dissuade people from making glib or inappropriate references to the Nazis.

The analogy this time was too painfully close to avoid.

- IT’S a lot of years since politics in Britain was as interesting as it’s been these past few weeks.

And one of the interesting things is the reversion to tribalism brought about by the Lib Dems’ chicanery.

I have never known such a wave of people rushing to join, or re-join, the Labour Party. Not even in the first flush of enthusiasm for Tony Blair (which was when I quit).

The battle for the Labour succession will be more than a fascinating sideshow to the coming trials and tribulations of the Con-Dem coalition.

It could – indeed, it should – be a contest to determine the country’s next PM.

The choice between the Miliband of brothers is interesting in itself. It will become more so if more, and more varied, candidates come forward.

I’m disappointed the admirable Jon Cruddas has declined the opportunity.

“Hand on heart,” he says. “I do not want to be leader of the Labour Party or subsequently prime minister. These require certain qualities I do not possess.”

I don’t know exactly which qualities he means.

Perhaps a craving for fame and the ability to handle the constant attention it creates.

Maybe the arrogance – as best exemplified by Blair and Thatcher – to know you’re right even when others can plainly see you’re wrong.

Or maybe the ability to squash your doubts and press ahead, for pragmatic reasons, with policies you don’t fully believe in.

If all or any of those points explain Cruddas’s lack of ambition, then I see his point.

He might serve the country – and certainly himself – better as a voice of conscience from outside the seat of power.

As Tony Benn has always done so splendidly. And as Michael Foot should have done to the end.

- IT sticks a little in my craw to say it, but our new government is not all bad.

In fact, in a few important ways it’s better than we might have hoped for from any other alignment of parties.

Principally, because it features Chris Huhne in the role of energy secretary.

As a committed opponent of nuclear power, he will not offer any financial support to electricity companies wishing to replace our aging nuclear power stations.

The new policy allows for private companies to continue down the nuclear road. But only at their own expense. And, crucially, at their own risk.

Which, in his assessment – and he’s almost certainly right – means they won’t do it.

And that’s a good thing for the environment – now and for generations to come. For the avoidance of colossal and unnecessary dangers.

And because it will put the onus for development back where it always should have been, with wind, tidal and especially solar power.