Chapter 6 examines the Liberal Democrats’ post-coalition fortunes. The contention is that these were intrinsically linked to the leadership of the party. While the ceiling for electoral success was set by structural conditions exacerbated by being in coalition, the action taken by party leaders after the coalition had a significant impact on how well the party performed within these parameters. The chapter details this roller-coaster ride in four sections. The first examines how the party moved to the comfort zone of pavement politics and super-localism under Farron and why this proved unsuccessful as the party retreated still further two years later. The second section focuses on the Cable interregnum, when Sir Vince led a party that veered between existential crisis and electoral elation following local and European success in 2019. Crucially, we assess how the Cable interregnum shaped the environment in which the Swinson leadership had to operate. The third section unpacks the Swinson era and details how structure and agency combined to curtail the prospect of an electoral shock which, before the campaign, some felt possible. A key focus is Swinson’s leadership and the miscalculations and misjudgements of a dismal Liberal Democrat campaign which dramatically backfired. The final section of the chapter examines how Sir Ed Davey has steadied the ship and exploited his rivals’ woes. Caution reigns on whether this is another ‘Liberal Democrat electoral moment’ and whether can continue to wreak electoral havoc despite the structural obstacles.
Around the year 2005, the quiet revolution of Web 2.0 exponentially accelerated the growth of the Arab Internet, so that social networks – which originally were anything but political tools – are now bringing about another turning point in the cultural habits of the region. Gone is the era of watching TV soaps and series, a quasi-religious ritual, which had become closely linked to the social rhythm of the month of Ramadan: after breaking the daily fast, families and neighbours spent the long evenings together, watching and discussing TV series that had been written and filmed long in advance for this peak-time audience. But now is the age of the online series.
Deconstructing stereotypes – interwoven trajectories of young Arabs
During the 2011 overthrow of four aged autocrats, ‘young Arabs’ became the modern heroes of ‘malcontents’ the world over. To a large extent, a decade later, their figure has also come to symbolise the failed promises of political uprisings and also, to some extent, of the path to democracy. Occupying the squares of Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa or Manama, they were then to be seen demonstrating under colourful banners, becoming Internet activists and, in some instances, taking up arms. Their mobilisation became a structuring generational moment, highlighting social trends and fault lines that still bear meaning now. These young men and women embodied the revolt of ‘peoples’ on the move behind the ideals of freedom and justice. Faced with this waltz of images, mixing the metaphor of ‘awakening’ with reference to a radical and violent habitus, the idea for this book germinated out of a desire to speak of young Arabs differently from conventional discourses. Ten years after the project was first imagined, this ambition remains more relevant than ever. This publication produced a series of snapshots, well ordered and meaningful, that continue to help us understand contemporary societies in the Middle East and North Africa. They could be completed with portraits of the new generation.
Chapter 3 addresses whether the Liberal Democrats’ collapse in support after the party entered coalition government with the Conservatives was inevitable. Throughout, it critically evaluates the Conservative–Liberal Democrat government through the lens of cross-national research on coalition-building. As the junior partner, the party always faced an uphill task to get credit; however, the chapter illustrates how the majority of the Liberal Democrats’ problems stemmed from their own misjudgements, errors and deficiencies. The chapter details how the Liberal Democrats ‘got the coalition wrong’ from the outset, including the initial agreement and assignment of portfolios, through to presenting the coalition, messaging and misreading the politics. It also explores how the Liberal Democrats’ electoral prospects were further undermined by Clegg’s misjudgements and campaign mistakes. The concluding section examines the final outcome and the immense scale of the electoral collapse. It details the legacy of coalition, which had become a millstone around the party’s neck, and examines why the prospects of an immediate recovery looked slim.
This chapter focuses on the dynamics behind the practice of tafhit. It examines Riyadh’s politically disenfranchised, urban, male youth and the ‘lust for life’ of some of these apparent ‘rebels without a cause’. But unlike the heroes of Nicholas Ray’s 1955 film, these young Saudis who competed in their cars did have a cause. What struck me during fieldwork was that most of the young people were less concerned with Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood than with a good session of joyriding, with its roar, its risks and its forbidden pleasures.
For most young people from wealthy families or the upper middle classes in the Gulf monarchies, Europe is not, contrary to the stereotype, a peculiar summer destination for individual eccentricities. While clichés portray young Gulf women on designer shopping binges or young men drinking to excess, chasing ‘girls’ and stocking up on luxury goods, most holidays prosaically reproduce the leisure practices and the behaviour practised in the Gulf countries during the rest of the year. For these young people, holidays abroad are first and foremost a family affair (with certain variations depending on the family): they are spent in the company of parents, brothers and sisters (whether married or not), as well as grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts – and families often bring domestic staff with them, such as the Filipina nanny or Egyptian driver. Moreover, going on holiday is seen as a necessity to escape the sweltering heat of the Gulf during the summer months.
The ambiguous social mix of the Palestinians of Israel in Haifa
Haifa has the reputation of being the most important ‘mixed town’ in Israel. Indeed, it is sometimes referred to as the madina mukhtalata, in Arabic, or as ir me’urevet, in everyday Hebrew. Some sociologists and anthropologists even describe the city as a model for the tolerance shown between its Jewish, Muslim, Christian Druze and Bahai inhabitants, since Haifa is also the site of the main mausoleum of the Bahai faith, whose prophet, who died in 1892, was Iranian. This vision is contested by most of the Palestinians living in Haifa, however, who see it as expressing a double violence exerted by the dominant Jewish population. First, this image divides Palestinians themselves along religious lines, while most of them consider themselves members of a Palestinian community. Secondly, it fails to recognise the pressures, discriminations and acts of bullying which they feel are parts of their daily lives. In this chapter, I consider the idea of the ‘mixed’ town through the lens of some coffee shops located on Massada Street, in the Hadar HaCarmel zone. This neighbourhood is the principal point at which ‘downtown’ and ‘uptown’ meet and mingle. As a result, it might seem at first sight to confirm the reality of the city’s cultural, religious and ethnic social mix. Here, Palestinians make up 22 per cent of the population according to official statistics. In some cases, Palestinians live in the same buildings as Mizrahim (Oriental Jews) or Russian immigrants, most of whom arrived in the late 1980s.
Rappers and rockers between integration and transgression
SOS Bab-el-Oued is a community organisation located in the working-class district of Algiers from which it takes its name. Located between two clothing stores across from a public garden, the association’s premises are unmissable. Young people of all ages – for whom artistic and cultural activities are not easily accessible in the Algerian capital – can take advantage of a fully equipped rehearsal room in the basement, a darkroom and film club equipment on the first floor, musical instruments, books and computers everywhere. The association’s origins are linked to the story of some of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants in the context of the civil war in the 1990s. Their personal histories, marked by the loss of loved ones and a politicised relationship with society, are not unrelated to what they describe as their mobilisation ‘against the imposition of fundamentalist laws, to defend the republic’, at the risk of appearing to certain detractors as defenders of the military authorities. Their ‘secular’ activism, in a context where they were largely in the minority, took a more concrete legal form with the creation in 1997 of an association which they initially named ‘SOS-Culture Bab-el-Oued’. They then received subsidies from the authorities, who saw it as a way to counter the Islamist currents that were particularly well established in Bab-el-Oued. Although ephemeral, this state support illustrates the complexity and ambivalence of the power struggle in which associations like SOS Bab-el-Oued were involved at the time. Since then, the association has operated with the help of foreign backers, through foreign aid programmes and international partnerships. The association’s path is particularly clear in light of the post–civil war and post-9/11 context, which favoured the development of private and interstate initiatives aimed at promoting ‘civil society’ and, in so doing, at containing political Islamism.
Cultural and political resistance of the young Sahrawis at Dakhla
Victoria Veguilla Del Moral
Dakhla in Western Sahara is on the Atlantic Ocean, at the heart of a narrow, more than twenty-five-kilometre-long peninsula forming a bay where the browns of the desert clash on the horizon with the blues of the sea. A few kilometres past the Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie checkpoint, white shapes are visible. They are khayyam (singular: khayma), traditional tents used by the Arab nomads. Some tens of these khayyam, a hundred perhaps, are strung out along both sides of the road that runs beside the sea. But what are these improvised houses? They are relics of the history of the indigenous population of this Sahrawi region that is currently disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front. This once nomadic society, structured in tribes of both Arab and Berber origin, has now become settled under the combined effect of armed conflict, repression, droughts and urbanisation. But in the summer, tens of families and a large number of young Sahrawis put up their khayyam a few kilometres from Dakhla – a strange juxtaposition that sees an expanding city studded with satellite dishes sitting alongside these villages of apparently age-old tents.
While youth is commonly perceived as a time conducive to building one’s future (through studies, the quest to ‘marry well’, build capital, etc.), the texts in this second part also remind us that the future does not come out of nowhere. Inherited conflicts, wounded identities and ‘lost paradises’ have affected the leisure time of young Arabs across social, geographical and cultural differences. How young people perceive the past is a fascinating subject. As we saw in the previous part, the leisure practices of young Arabs attest to the development of particular subcultures. They also reveal the paradigms through which younger generations reproduce family customs and appropriate the norms that have been transmitted to them, even when these are reshaped by cutting-edge technologies or changing contexts. As many observers have pointed out, the 2011 revolutions cannot be seen as an ‘immaculate contestation’ without a past or premise. Similarly, leisure activities must be understood within historical trajectories, made of breaking with the past and passing it on. The shaping of social, ‘ethnic’, political, gender-based and generational ‘echo chambers’ reproduces identities, inequalities and forms of domination and submission that are often internalised, and sometimes co-opted. Beyond the need to be entertained, to keep busy or even to ‘fill the void’ while waiting for ‘youth to pass’, the leisure activities of young Arabs reflect the social divisions and many other fault lines that run through Arab societies.