Thursday, 31 December 2009
A lot of commentators have been setting out their predictions for 2010. It is a tempting game because if you get it right you can say, 'look wasn't I clever?' but embarrassing if you are completely out. To their credit most commentators own up to the howlers.
If you are going to make some predictions then it might be worth bearing in mind the following points.
There has been a lot of focus on whether there will be an outright winner at the next general election. This is based on the polls looking like we are in hung parliament territory.
Remember that national swings don't tell us the whole story. Study what is going on in the marginal constituencies if you want your prediction to be accurate.
The Labour party
Assuming a Conservative party win, there has been speculation as to what will happen to the Labour party after the election. There is a view that Labour has been hollowed out and will not be able to present itself as an effective opposition.
Remember that a party without an ideological base may find it far easier to renew itself than one with two strong opposing poles.
The Liberal Democrats
Conventional wisdom tells us that the Lib Dems will lose some seats but could become part of the next government if there is a hung parliament.
Remember even if there is a hung parliament there may not be a coalition government.
There has been no speculation about whether the party will stay as it is or head more towards 'social' or 'economic' liberalism post the election. If you have a taste for prediction this could be fertile ground.
A slim majority is the most expected outcome for team Cameron.
Remember that everyone is having a go predicting this so it might be more interesting to speculate on the shape of the future cabinet and the direction of travel that a Cameron government will take.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
We have yet to hear Gordon Brown's new year message but have now had David Cameron's and Nick Clegg's.
What caught the media's attention about Cameron's was his continuing 'love bombing' of Lib Dem voters.
The response from the Lib Dems has been dismissive. Layla Moran thinks the party has nothing to worry about while Stephen Tall says the Tories have nothing in common with the Liberal Democrat platform.
Cameron talked about our broken politics, creating a more equal society and a greener economy.
Clegg talked about our broken politics, a fairer society and green jobs.
Clearly the two have nothing in common.
I suspect Gordon Brown will also mention green jobs or a green new deal, sorting out the expenses problem and making sure the poor don't lose out.
Regardless of whether one thinks it is healthy to have all three parties offering similar policies, to suggest that there isn't a lot in common between all three appears at odds with reality.
Of course, all three would say we have the better policies to fix our broken politics, create a fairer society and encourage green jobs but for voters who don't spend all their time reading detailed policies, one suspects that their conclusion will be that all three parties are the same and are pretending awfully hard not to be.
And that won't help restore trust between politicians and the electorate.
Monday, 28 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
For the first time in Britain, the leaders of all three parties will participate in a televised debate with each other, during the general election campaign.
Fairness dictates that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, takes part in all three debates and fairness further ensures that the three debates are shown on three different television channels: ITV, Sky and the BBC.
The decision to hold these debates raise various questions about how we do politics.
The convention of our unwritten constitution is that the voters elect a party to govern. That party chooses a leader and that leader becomes the prime minister if the party wins. Everyone knows that whoever is leader of the party at the time of the election is the candidate for PM but supposedly we are not voting for an individual.
If the leader was ousted after the election, many would argue it is outrageous that the electorate went to the polls and voted for one leader and got another.
We also know that when we pick a party to vote for the personality and attributes of the leader plays a part in the decision. For some it may play the largest part.
Despite all that we don't have a presidential system in the UK.
The more we focus on the leaders, arguably as the voice of their party and the propositions in that party's manifesto, the more we reinforce the idea of a presidential system of government.
I am not saying the debates in themselves will lead to that. There has always been a focus on the leader but it does appear to be a growing trend to focus on the leader and not the party. And the power of the leader has built up over the last three or four decades.
Whether one sees this as good or bad, a serious threat or not, isn't my point. My point is, it is something we should be aware of and think about.
Perhaps it is time we decided if we would rather a more presidential system and how that would work. And if don't want it, what needs to happen to prevent it.
The leader of the third party is in all three debates
The main contenders for the job of prime minister are Gordon Brown and David Cameron. While the Liberal Democrats will go into the election on the basis that they would like to form the next government, the polls tell us this is unlikely. They may participate in some sort of coalition or play a significant part shaping legislation if a minority government comes to power but barring a seismic shift they will not become the next government of Britain.
Given that, should Nick Clegg be in all three debates? He leads the largest third party in the country. He represents parliamentarians as well as local councillors who run local authorities. But by allowing him the opportunity to debate with the other candidates are the television stations distorting the voters' intentions or reflecting their wishes?
Partisan views will distort the answer. And even if the answer affirms one's own position, it is something that needs to be properly thought through.
There will be winners and losers
There is already a debate about who will be the winners and losers.
The TV stations will be competing for audience share and PR after each debate.
The leaders will hope to outdo each other and promote their cause.
But until we watch the debates and see how each candidate does, we won't really know who the winners and losers are.
There is a scene in one of the episodes of 'Mad Men' when the ad execs are discussing supporting a presidential candidate.
One says something like: "He is good looking, fought in world war two...". Then we get the punchline. The candidate they are discussing is not the winner of the election, JFK, but Richard Nixon. A candidate who might have had everything going for him except that fact he came across badly on television.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
For more than a month now Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, has been running 'Guy News' in addition to his regular blog posts on Order Order.
As one would expect from the rebellious libertarian each segment is irreverent, edgy and funny.
Staines is not acting alone. He has Tory Bear and Emily Nomates to help as well as Liberal Vision's Sara Scarlett.
Staines has firmly established his blog as a must read for all those interested in Westminster politics. His latest challenge to traditional media promises to be as innovative and as interesting as any of his writing.