Friday, April 29, 2005

Election Blog (16)

I finally receive a leaflet from the Lib Dems, but only after I've already voted (by postal vote).
If this was general then it suggests a major cock-up on the vote-garnering front. In this village the average age is about 80 and many people will have asked for postal votes, if only because at the village hall/polling station parking space for zimmer frames is limited. Only Labour and Conservative literature will have reached them before they voted.
But alone of the three biggest parties, the Lib Dem leaflet features photos of the party leader (3) and a signed message from him. That seems to me another reason to vote for them. Both Labour and the Tories were too ashamed of their leaders to mention them on their leaflets.


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Last night's Question Time with the party leaders was rather more lively than expected. Judged solely by the studio audience reaction, Charles Kennedy did best and seemed to have discovered a bit more steel and gravitas. Michael Howard's most startling revelation was that he would have invaded Iraq even if Saddam had made toy guns illegal and become President of Amnesty International (I exaggerate slightly).

But for Tony Blair, usually the great master of these situations, it was close to a disaster. Admittedly, he faced the most hostility with the most noisy boo-ing when he walked on. But for Campbell and the spin doctors it must have been agonising to watch all those close-ups of the sweat standing out on Blair's forehead.
At one point a droplet of sweat slowly ran down towards the corner of his left eye, riveting one's attention far more than what he was saying. Anyone else would have wiped away the sweat with their hand or hankie but poor Blair could not because pictures of that gesture would be on the front page of every newpaper - 'Blair Feels The Heat' or perhaps 'If You Can't Stand The Heat Get Out Of The Kitchen.' Watching Blair drink copious amounts of water which immediately oozed out of his face, it was difficult for those of a certain age not to think of Richard Nixon's 6 o'clock shadow in his debate with Kennedy which was thought to have cost him the Presidential election.

The other fascinating moment was when Blair was astonished to discover that many doctor's surgeries won't accept bookings more than 48 hours in advance because this makes it easier for them to meet Government targets. At my own surgery the maximum booking period is about ten days but it's still irritating if the doctor says come back in three weeks and you can't make another appointment before you leave the surgery.
It made Blair look damagingly out of touch and ignorant of the consequences of his own policies.
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Someone has commented that they are 'electioned out'. I have some sympathy with this feeling because I usually watch or listen to between 3 and 4 hours of election coverage a day, in addition to reading newspaper coverage. Perhaps there's a helpline I could ring.
But to put the election coverage in perspective, it must still be far less than the coverage of events like the Olympics or the World Cup. As with those events, watching it is not compulsory. However an election, I would tentatively suggest, is rather more important in its consequences for people's lives.

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