Category Archives: Election

Sanity Prevails

Congratulations to David Cameron, our new Prime Minister. There’s so much bitterness already on the Internet tonight about the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, but it was the only smart choice. It gives a chance to the party that gained the most votes and seats in the General Election. It also gets rid of a Labour Government that trampled all over our civil liberties, took us into an illegal war, and landed us with an astonishing level of debt.

I’ve got a good feeling about the coalition. I like Clegg, Cable, Huhne and Laws, and a number of Lib Dem policies. So the idea that their best policies will be cherrypicked and implemented alongside the Conservative’s programme for Government, with the sandal-wearing lentils rubbish ditched, makes me very happy. It’s the best of both worlds, and as we all know, that was the best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Anyone still rueing the missed opportunity of a Lab/Lib coalition can blame the outcome on Labour’s own negotiating team, for showing the same mindblowing arrogance that their administration has too often shown over the past 13 years, refusing to compromise and instead just plonking their manifesto on the table and saying “deal with it”. But credit to the Labour MPs with sense who railed against the Mandelson/Campbell efforts to cling to power last night and today. It’s notable that the Lib Dems and Tories had more than one party meeting during negotiations to keep their MPs up with the state of play. Labour had none. And that says it all. Opposition will be good for Labour. I look forward to seeing them restyle themselves, getting a good new leader, and coming back to challenge the new Government.

Many difficulties lie ahead, but I hope that even those who are vehemently anti-Tory will at least give this new coalition a chance before condemning it out of hand. Britain is a country of fair play, after all. It was good to hear Cameron specifically mention helping the poor in his opening statement, and given the praise heaped upon the Conservative negotiation team by the Lib Dems, let’s hope that this really is the new politics that everyone has been banging on about for the past few weeks.

The next few months and years will contain many necessary tough choices on public spending and taxation, but despite this, I feel optimistic. Here’s hoping for a bright new future.

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Well Hung

Whoa. Anyone who says that politics is boring is surely eating their words tonight. Buy shares in Alphabetti Spaghetti – they’re sure to rocket.

I would write a post about today’s events and all the possible permutations, but given that the pace of events is moving like Westminster is channelling 24 on acid, it’s quite possible that anything I produced would be hopelessly out of date before it was finished.

Coalition negotiations between the Tories and the Lib Dems! Secret talks between the Lib Dems and Labour! Hush-hush conversations between Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg! Brown’s resignation! David Miliband touting his candidacy for the position of Labour leader! The Tories offering a referendum on the Alternative Vote system! Labour raising the stakes by offering a referendum on Proportional Representation! The SNP and Plaid Cymru ready in the wings with their “mighty hand”! Adam Boulton nearly punching Alistair Campbell live on television!

By the end of the week, we could be in the crazy situation where, after the Tories gained more seats in a single election than they have in decades, and Labour had its worst election result for 80 years, Gordon Brown is still Prime Minister. What an affront to democracy that would be. Imagine the repercussions.

There’s only one honourable choice, Mr Clegg. You’ve extracted your concessions. For God’s sake, do the right thing, do what you always said you would, and support the party with the clearest mandate from the people of this country.

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Kingmaker

Be careful what you wish for. Nick Clegg will have woken up on Thursday morning dreaming of 100+ Parliamentary seats for the Liberal Democrats and a role as kingmaker in a possible hung Parliament. Instead, he went to sleep knowing that his party failed to move forward in terms of seats, and that while his position as kingmaker did materialise, it could well turn out to be the most poisoned of chalices.

Put simply, Clegg can’t win either way. If he does a deal with the Conservatives, he’ll likely have to give up on the chance of a referendum on electoral reform, and the rank-and-file of his party members will be thoroughly unhappy, partly because politically the Lib Dems are closer to Labour. The countless pressure groups currently demonstrating about the need for electoral reform might never forgive him. However, if he rejects the Tory proposals and instead does a deal with Labour, then he faces different problems. The majority of the media will annihilate him, he’ll be seen as acting out of narrow self-interest just because of Brown’s proportional referendum bribe, and he’ll be helping to prop up a man he personally dislikes who lost the election. That won’t appeal to his sense of fair play or desire to act in the national interest, and any Government which results will be seen by a large portion of the electorate to have zero legitimacy. Insisting on a new Labour leader might be an option, but Brown shows every sign of clinging on for as long as he possibly can, and how can Britain have an unelected Prime Minister from day one of a new Parliament? And how can insisting on PR as a deal-breaker when 39% of the voting public supported the party which ruled out such a change, possibly be seen as democratic? It’s a toughie and no mistake.

But spare a thought for David Cameron, who also faces huge problems. How will he take his party with him if he needs to compromise heavily to get either a “confidence and supply” commitment for the Lib Dems not to vote down a Queen’s Speech and emergency budget, or deliver something on electoral reform to ensure an uneasy coalition? The fact is that the Tories have always been against PR, partly because they can’t see the prospect of ever getting another majority under the system, and also because they have a belief that it will only result in weak Government.

There is an elephant in the room, however, which a forward-looking Cameron might consider. The political map is so different between England and Scotland that were the SNP to win the referendum on Scottish independence in 2011, the chances are that Labour would be dealt a fatal blow in terms of ever being able to win a UK general election again. They have 41 seats north of the border and, some would say, a Scottish mafia currently running the party. So an uneasy alliance with the Liberals, with the promise of a referendum on PR in which the Tories would campaign for a “no” vote, could turn out to be the best option for the Conservatives. After all, it would be quite possible that the first-past-the-post system would remain (particularly with the right wing press inevitably pressing for a “no” vote), and Labour’s Scottish heartlands may no longer be part of a UK general election from next year.

The latter could be good for Clegg too. With Labour weakened, the Lib Dems could be well on the way to becoming the natural party of the left. Indeed, given the right set of circumstances Labour could be destroyed as an electoral force, with the Tories’ proposed redrawn constituency boundaries giving the Lib Dems a fighting chance even under FPTP.

With so many permutations, possible suppositions and problems present in every scenario, it’s all a head-scratcher. But a “Coalition For Change” has a nice ring to it, and if come the end of Monday no deal is done, the financial markets are going to go into meltdown.

No pressure then, Mr Clegg. Your day of destiny awaits.

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I Vote For Sleep

Last night I was up until 6am watching the most fascinating of election nights unfold on television. I subsequently managed to grab a couple of hours’ sleep. Depressingly, I then had to go to work. So all of today I’ve felt like a zombie – struggling to keep up any meaningful level of concentration, and mindful that I could easily make stupid mistakes. When at one point I had to get my head together to make some online bank payments, it was a bit of a tightrope walk, as my adding up went completely to shit. I just couldn’t think properly. I felt like my brain had regressed to the level of an Oceana clubber. I never want to be this tired again. Thank God elections only come around once every four or five years (he says, fearing another one in the autumn).

This blog has concentrated on politics for the past few weeks, and I thought there would only be a need for one big summary of events before I stopped all talk of Tories and Labour and the Lib Dems for a while, but given the hung Parliament result, I could be posting about the horsetrading and ethics/success of any coalition for a while yet. However, given that even I’m pretty much “electioned out” (which is saying something), I’ll try to keep the balance of posting between politics and non-politics a lot better than I have done of late.

Tomorrow I’ll give my opinion of what the election result has meant, and my views on the possible permutations ahead of us. But right now I just need some sleep and a big lie-in. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg likely feel the same.

But I will share with you a clip that’s rather funny with hindsight. It’s Gordon Brown from the 1992 election.

The words “worm” and “turn” spring to mind…

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The Day Of Reckoning

You may wonder why there’s been precious little election coverage on the telly today. It’s due to an amusingly quaint law which disallows any political comment on television and radio services, as they may affect people’s voting intentions. Er… that’s the intention of the previous four weeks of non-stop campaigning, surely. But you can see why this might be advantageous. What if some massive made-up scandal about a candidate hit the airwaves on Election Day, only to be retracted a day later? It could influence the outcome. Then again, such tomfoolery could have happened the day before, or the day before that. It seems that this policy is there as a “just in case” measure, but it has the effect of making Election Day itself an eerie graveyard on television before the main event starts at 10pm. And, of course, it’s particularly curious now that the Internet is so ever-present, because that’s unaffected.

Today’s newspapers were also allowed to say whatever they wanted to. The Daily Mirror put Cameron’s infamous Bullingdon Club photograph on its front page, and insulted him a bit, to try to make people not vote for him. The naughty thing about that, other than the lack of sense of fair play, was that the photograph itself is copyrighted. Three years ago, it became illegal to publish it without permission. So you can take its usage in one of two ways: either the Mirror was cheeky and inspired, or it was an illegal dick-move. The opinion you take there is probably based on your political affiliation.

Anyway, with the exit polls about to be revealed and a long night of hopefully exciting results ahead, I’m sitting down in front of the telly to watch the coverage, with my laptop in hand to monitor the Internet reaction, and a bottle of wine by my side. I’m really looking forward to it. Here’s to a great night!

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Proper Gander

It’s ironic that all the major political parties cite climate change and their concern for the environment as priorities, yet have seen fit to obliterate entire rainforests in their relentless marketing campaigns during the election.

I’ve lost count of the number of useless leaflets shoved through my letterbox over the past few weeks, and even election-obsessed-me thinks that the campaign has gone on just a teensy bit too long. It should have climaxed with the third leaders’ debate and then had polling day the next day. As it is, the final week seems like a shittily long epilogue, and it’s as if I’m suddenly one of those nutzoids who thinks that Return of the King had too many endings.

But back to the propaganda. Some of it is shameless. There are the obvious why-do-you-even-bothers, such as the BNP leaflet which found its way onto my doormat. Er… I live in the south of England. Optimistic then, Mr Griffin. The main problem with the BNP leaflet design was that it looked like it was produced in Year 9 Art class by someone who’d had his glasses smashed into pieces beforehand for being a racist twat, and was then dared to draw the logo lefthanded while being encouraged to use Lidl as his inspiration. The “value” range, clearly.

From the shameless to the shameful. A rather cynical gimmick in this election is to pretend that your marketing bumph is actually a handwritten letter by an ordinary person warning of the dangers of voting for other parties. An example came through today, which was apparently from a Lib Dem voter who had switched to Labour. Hmmm. The very, very microdot-esque small print at the bottom identified the “letter” as being printed on behalf of the Labour candidate. And, frankly, it was borderline criminal in the way it tried to manipulate people who didn’t take the time to investigate the letter’s origins. It even had a laser signature that looked like it came from an old person! Genius!

Sample quotes: “I don’t like the Lib Dem campaign of personal attacks on the other candidates in their leaflets again and again and again. They don’t match up to their ‘nice’ image – and looking at leaflets from Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems are much nastier than anyone else.” “And I won’t be voting Lib Dem even though I delivered leaflets for them last year. The Lib Dems sound too good to be true – just saying ‘Winning Here’ doesn’t mean it’s true. Other things they say aren’t true, so why should that be. The last straw was Nick Clegg saying he would support a Conservative Government.”

That “letter”, having criticised personal attacks, then… er… had a leaflet enclosed that laid into the other parties for things that they’ve been denying on the record for weeks. Things like the Tories axing free eye tests for pensioners (though sneakily, the leaflet said that “their manifesto” didn’t make it clear, while other attacking points were based on things said in the TV debates, where Cameron said explicitly that free eye tests wouldn’t be abolished. It’s that whole selective reading/listening thing again) and various intentional misinterpretations of Lib Dem policies.

But it’s not just Labour. The Conservative and Lib Dem leaflets have also been quick to establish their own positive credentials before laying into the opposition. I live in a marginal seat, and I suppose that I should expect this level of saturation. But what is interesting is that not a single candidate has come to my door during the whole campaign. Instead I just get force-fed the paper mountain, which as a keen observer of how writing can manipulate and shape opinion, I have found both fascinating and depressing.

On Friday morning we will either have a new Government or a hung Parliament, but it’s a crying shame that in order to win votes, all of the main political parties are willing to spin, lie and misrepresent the opposing positions. For all the talk of new politics, the reality is depressingly familiar.

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America’s Take On Bigotgate

It’s about time that America got revenge on the UK for us laughing at supreme brainbox George W Bush so often over the years.

The perception over here is that Americans have about as much interest in foreign affairs as Nick Griffin has in owning a lentils company, but The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central has taken a shine to our election, and the following video is the result. Ripping into the quaintness of our debates, with banter about English accents and traditions thrown in for good measure, Jon Stewart’s piece is a lovingly crafted pisstake which is also really funny. More, please. Unfortunately I’m the Gordon Brown of non-Youtube video embedding, so you’ll have to click on the link below (I blame Sue).

Bigotgate, US style…

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