Monday, May 02, 2005

Election Blog (17)

HOW TO VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

Ignore the risk that, in trying to reduce Blair's majority, you let in the Conservative candidate or even (less likely) a Conservative Government. Have you never taken risks in your life? What kind of wimp are you?

When Charles Kennedy is campaigning he often looks as though he'd rather be with his new baby or relaxing with a drink and a cigarette. This is definitely a Good Thing.

Remember that the only act of violence perpetrated by a Liberal in modern times was when Jeremy Thorpe (allegedly) got someone to shoot the dog of his lover Norman Scott. Distressing for dog lovers but not to be compared with 100,000 Iraqi dead.

Try to forget that some older Lib Dems like Shirley Williams were the people who split the Labour Party and helped to keep Thatcher in power.

Banish from your mind thoughts of Lembit Opik and his obsession with the threat from asteroids. The Liberals were pioneers of care in the community.

Wipe from your memory the Lib Dems' shameful record of dirty tricks in street-level electioneering.

Ignore the fact that the party is like the Catholic Church: a high percentage of party members don't agree with many of its policies. That's why Catholics like Charles Kennedy and Shirley Williams are so at home there.

Indulge, just for polling day, the fantasy that they are a left of centre party. They're left of Labour on some issues but hey, how difficult is that? They're also desperately chasing Tory voters so have one one foot centre left and the other centre right, like a game of political Twister. But if you object to twisters you won't vote at all.

Have a chuckle over their conference voting to allow 16 year olds to buy pornographic magazines, having forgotten that there's this new internet thingy that can pump porn straight into teenagers' bedrooms and has put many of said magazines out of business.

Rejoice that, unlike Labour, they allow their Conference to vote for radical and liberal policies.

Forget that the leadership shred all radical and liberal Conference policies and never put them in their manifesto.


If there's a Lib Dem policy to which you have a passionate, principled objection, don't worry. They're not going to be the next Government.


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Interesting Observer article on Blair by the Editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick.
In the course of his research he was allowed unprecedented access to Little Ant and Little Dec who were in Downing Street to interview Blair. He reveals that one of the ten year olds rejoices in the real name of Dylan McKenna-Redshaw, a name that is more Jesmond than Byker (Geordie readers will know what I'm saying). It's fascinating to read of the Prime Minister being ordered around by the show's producer like an extra and made to do several re-takes.

Like many American journalists covering the election, the author is amazed at the lack of respect we show to our political leaders and the way many members of the public in studio discussions address Blair as 'Tony'.
But this is a complete reversal of what one would expect. After all, it's America that is the young country, the republic, the land of informality and classlessness. Yet not long ago, a journalist at a press conference addressed Bush as 'Sir' instead of 'Mr President' and Bush exploded with rage. (Admittedly, that may tell you more about Bush than America).
But whilst Americans have dispensed with traditional British deference and formality and first-name terms are usually the only terms of discourse from the moment of meeting, they are very obsessed with 'respect'. The word 'respect' is used where we would normally use 'like'. Years ago I was discussing Margaret Thatcher with an American. He said 'Do you respect that person?' The question had no meaning for me. Did I like her? Did I agree with her? - those were questions I could answer but respect didn't come into it.
And of course in Britain the phrase 'With the greatest respect....' as a prefix to disagreement means 'you're talking absolute bollocks, you tiresome little prat.'

There's a nice story from Peter Kilfoyle who once took Blair to a football match. Unsure of the appropriate dress code, Blair turned up in a dark suit and a polo-neck sweater. When Kilfoyle protested that he looked ridiculous, Blair rang Peter Mandelson to ask his advice. Well who else would you ring to ask what to wear to a football match?

The article contains a few errors. The joke about the answering machine message that said 'please speak after the high moral tone' related to Paddy Ashdown not Tony Blair. And it was a nurse not a journalist who asked Blair if he would wipe someone's backside for the minimum wage. But a foreigner can be forgiven for those. After all, many of us are still unsure what a pretzel is although we know that George Bush nearly choked to death on one so they must be a good thing.

5 Comments:

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

The most successful political propaganda campaign ever, and the one thing which unites the two main political parties more than any other issue, is the "A vote for the Lib-Dems is a wasted vote" campaign.

If everybody who, in this election, is not going to vote for the Lib-Dems just because they think it's a wasted vote, actually did vote for the Lib-Dems, they still wouldn't win, but they might just force a hung parliament leaving one of the two major parties in the position of having to form a coalition and just possibly moving us away fromthe politics of "they're for it so we're against it" and towards the politics of "we're for it because it's the right thing to do".

 
At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Old enough and ugly enough to remember hung parliaments. Didn't work.

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I agree, Alan. And I've voted Lib Dem. If the 'wasted vote' argument had prevailed in the last century, the Labour Party would never have replaced the Liberals as one of the two major parties.

Peter, I'm not a fan of hung Parliaments either. But just a much reduced majority would force the leadership to be more attentive to the views of their MPs and the wider party.

 
At 3:34 PM, Anonymous The Merkin said...

But isn't that why the Lib Dems are so dangerous? I like the Catholic Church analogy, but actually they're more like the Church of England - if you have no strong feelings either way, then these days people sort of drift into supporting the "real (sic) alternative" party. But the contradiction inherent in the Lib Dem policies is that they know they're not going to get into power, so they can make up all these ruiniously expensive cloud-cuckoo policies knowing full well that they'll get extra MPs out of it, but never having to worry about delivering the goods.

But even if you do believe that they can turn every 'bog standard' comprehensive (phrase c/o A Campbell Esq, 2004) into Eton, every NHS hospital into Cedars-Sinai (or the Betty Ford Clinic) and give every pensioner a golf-plated index-linked weekly lottery win, all from a 50% income tax rate on the higher paid, why oh why oh why does our political system give a party with 25% of the vote only 5% of the seats? And that technically the Tories can get 41% (I said technically!), Labour 34%, but His Toniness would still win an overall parliamentary majority. Whatever happened to all the clamour for Proportional Representation in the late 1980s?

 
At 5:47 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Well I actually agree with most of their policies which is why, for the first time, I've voted for them.
But I agree that the electoral system has now become so unfair that reform is needed. A strong built-in bias to one party is just not acceptable nor is the fact that 800,000 out of 40 million voters decide the outcome.

 

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