Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Election Blog (1)

I receive an email from Tony Blair this morning telling me he went to the Palace a few minutes ago and is calling an election.
Nice of him to let me know so quickly.
It seems my MP, who has my email, has stuck me on the Labour Party mailing list.

"You may not agree with every decision I have made", says Tone.
Go easy on the understatement, Tony. There are dozens of them that I don't agree with.
But I fear we're going to see a lot of Wheedling Tony over the coming weeks:
Look Dad, it's like I know I kneed you in the balls...and...yeah...OK....I petrol bombed the neighbours' houses....but we've been through all that before......so please let me go on the school trip......cos if not it's like so unfair.....


Why will this election be both predictable and exciting?
Predictable, because the Tories need something like a 10 point lead to get a majority.
Exciting, because despite that, national polls won't tell us much about the actual result. Abstentions and votes for the LibDems, and to some extent fringe parties, mean there will be wildly divergent results in different constituencies.
Plus, people seem to lie to pollsters far more than they used to.

Charles Kennedy made a good point today when he started from the premise that we are a very wealthy country, the 4th richest in the world.
But most political debate [this is me, not Kennedy] starts from a narrow and basically right-of-centre premise of what is practical and affordable in the 'real world'.
It therefore takes as a given that we must have high levels of defence expenditure, a so-called 'independent' nuclear deterrent, commit over £5 billion and rising to Iraq, and have low levels of taxation on even the wealthiest. (On the latter point, even the Liberal tax proposals are extremely modest).
You cannot have a sensible discussion about how the cake of Government expenditure should be divided up if you're only arguing about part of the cake. And since so much of the cake is off limits, you cannot do anything effective to tackle poverty or provide good public services. You end up boasting that you've managed to find another 5 pence for primary school dinners.

A long letter in yesterday's Observer from Labour's showbiz luminaries - Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Richard Wilson, Jo Brand, etc - urging us to vote Labour. They were terribly angry about Iraq, they say, and still are but hey, elections aren't about just one issue and faced with a choice between Howard and Blair, well, it's a no-brainer. That's the gist anyway.

One would have hoped that when Jo Brand was shown this letter she would have responded in characteristic style: What a load of bollocks. Fuck off, you wankers. (For those who don't know Ms Brand, that is a feature of her stage act, although she can be much funnier than that suggests).

The great error in the thespians' argument is that they are confusing things that are qualitatively different. Rather like confusing income and capital when assessing your financial situation.
Iraq is not just another issue on which you might happen to disagree with the Government. The slaughter of up to 100,000 innocent people in a country that was not an aggressor for bogus reasons is not of the same order of political policy as personal tax allowances, funding of school meals, or even locking people up without trial.
The Iraq war was illegal (Kofi Annan) and a crime against humanity (the Pope - yes, he was right sometimes). The novelist George MacDonald Fraser (who I'd tended to assume was a Tory) said on the radio this week that he had two images in his mind. One was of a small Iraqi boy with his arms blown off and the other of Blair strutting the stage at Congress as though he were a second Churchill.

At elections one weighs different policies in the balance in deciding whether to vote for a particular party and personal advantage will also be a factor. But for me and many others, the mass slaughter and maiming of thousands of people in Iraq make those metaphorical electoral scales fall off the kitchen table.
Let me make an extreme comparison, but the principle is exactly the same. One doesn't judge Hitler on his stewardship of the German economy and an ability to make the trains run on time doesn't figure highly in the overall evaluation of Mussolini.
So 'yes, we have sincere disagreement on this matter but we've done a lot of good things and the other lot would be worse' seems a rather pathetic and insulting counter to thousands of dead men, women, children and babies.

The BBC reporters are as excited as kids given free run of a sweet shop over their new Election Battlebus. It features an open air verandah on the top deck where they can interview politicians.
Er, just one problem. As its first outing today revealed, this means that they have to shout to be heard above the surrounding traffic noise. Nice one, Beeb.

The knock-on effects of the Pope's death continue.
First the Election is delayed. Then the Royal Wedding. Now the Grand National has been put back.
I predict that next Friday the clocks will be put forward at least another hour so we can fit everything in and still have time for Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.


At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

So at last it's here,like the family Do that we knew was coming but hoped we wouldn't get the invite.So who do we vote for,Wee Charlie and the Lib dem's(were really an alternative.Count Howard and the "Something of the Night Party"**Shudder**Or Teflon Tony.
As a trade unionist I will never vote labour again after that Budget Where Gordon Brown,a Labour Chancellor and the Labour MP's were laughing at the Tories,waving dispatch papers Hooting we can sack more Civil Servants than you.Never Again..At least up Here we have the Scot Nats as a protest vote.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous asta said...

I'm curious to know whether you think the end result will be another round with Mr Blair.
We could be facing a not too disimilar situation over here in Canada in the next few weeks.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger james henry said...

Interesting article in the Guardian about how frustrating it is that one's vote has to be only for Lb, LD, Con or Other - that you can't, say, vote for Labour, but you know proper Labour... Although I'm actually Lib Dem, for what that's worth.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Graham, yes, Brown is such a canny politician that it's easy to forget he was as much an architect of the 'New Labour Project' as Blair.

Asta, I responded to your question in a post today but didn't really answer it.

James, with new technology we could have a far more sophisticated voting system and even vote on specific issues by pressing the red button on the TV remote. But then we'd have capital punishment, closed borders, withdrawal from Europe...etc, etc. I'd rather stick with representative democracy and keep the people muzzled most of the time, a view that any Liberal Democrat should quietly share.


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