Politics just got Interesting

Politics Interesting

As the old saying goes a week is a long time in politics, but it will take longer than seven days for political pundits and commentators to get over the shock General Election result witnessed on May 7th – and it will take the Labour Party much, much longer than that.

It was a devastating result for Ed Miliband and his team, made worse by its unexpectedness, but had we all looked at the campaign less tribally and more objectively, then the Tory victory, actually, should not have come as that much of a surprise.

No party in modern times that has gone to the electorate offering tax increases has been successful at the polls; wheeling out a cross dressing celebrity to campaign in Glasgow and getting the leader to have a cup of coffee with an elitist hippy shouted ‘out of touch Londoners’ to even the most traditional of Labour supporters; and the less said about the ‘Ed Stone’ the better.

Labour must now get itself up and dust itself off as quickly as it can practically do – and if the party has any sense they will leave the Blair/Brown days behind, jump a generation and take a risk of one of its up and coming young guns to lead it into the 2020 General Election. Labour needs a leader that can beat Boris – not someone who can go head to head with Cameron.

Talking of the Prime Minister, there was probably nobody more surprised, and relieved, than him when the ballot papers had all been counted.

Only a fortnight ago I and many others were predicting an early demise for Dave, as predators such as BoJo and Theresa May eyed his job. The election victory has bought him some time, but he will be more aware than anyone that he has a difficult balancing act of chastising his swivel eyed backwoodsmen and keeping his modern Conservatism agenda on track.

The EU in/out referendum was a panic promise too far, as he must surely realise when now analysing the UKIP performance, but he must go ahead with this folly now, risking the ire of both business and his own Europhile MPs.

His majority is far from huge, and therefore the chances of him going through the lifetime of this parliament without experiencing his own ‘bastards’ moment is highly unlikely. However, he has two big advantages over John Major. First, he has already announced he will not be fighting the next election, so on a personal level he has nothing to lose. Second, the official opposition will take some time to recover from what was a massive and unexpected setback.

Devolution remains a big part of the chancellor’s agenda, so opportunities for the north will offer themselves; whilst the whole issue of the Union, in light of the SNP’s surge, will keep the new government busy on many a front – and give us all plenty to talk about, and keep us interested over the next five years.

As for Farage and Co, and the almost extinct Liberal Democrats, for me, they got what they deserved.

Five Things we’ve learned from The Election Campaign

Election 2015
  1. Ed Miliband isn’t as daft as he looks

Before the campaign it was generally acknowledged, even by some of his closest allies, that as far as profile and image were concerned, Ed Miliband was hardly ‘A’ list Hollywood. However, more in hope than expectation, they hoped that his intellectual capacity and his genuine ‘niceness’ would win over sceptics. To a large extent, he has. Even if you don’t like his policies, or find him the least attractive political leader you have cast your eyes on, Miliband is hard to dislike. He has had a good campaign, articulating his party’s case in a firm, direct and effective manner. The Conservatives personal attacks on him, in particular the crass ’back stabber’ accusation, backfired on the Tories spectacularly. Even if he doesn’t get the keys to Number 10, Ed has done a decent job.

  1. The case against voting reform is weakening

The big argument that is always used against changing our existing ‘first past the post’ electoral system is that it provides a process that results in strong, single party government. However, we are heading for a second consecutive hung parliament, and if voting intentions continue to be as transient among a new generation of voters in the future as they appear to me now, then the days of one party government are well and truly behind us. At least a new proportional voting system would give voters in cities like Liverpool and Manchester, where they weigh rather than count the Labour vote, a reason to visit their local polling station.

  1. UKIP are as daft as they look

I have now lost count of the number of candidates and members who have been removed, suspended and expelled from a party whose main influence has been to drive the Conservative party to the right on the issue of Europe, and the Labour Party to run scared of this issue of immigration. It must be with regret that Cameron and Miliband now look at the past five years and wonder why they didn’t apply a far more robust and aggressive strategy to rebut some of the utter crap that UKIP has been allowed to get away with on both of these key areas of policy. That the wheels would fall off the Farage bandwagon was inevitable in my opinion, and they will be lucky to retain their existing two parliamentary seats, whilst Farage is looking less likely to win in the constituency of South Thanet, where the voters appear to have more sense than the owner of the Daily Express!

  1. Cameron won’t be Tory Leader for much longer

His admission that he would only want to be Prime Minister for one more term of office may have been honest, but it was also a mistake. As soon as those words and that statement was broadcast, David Cameron was a dead man walking. Last weekend’s newspapers were packed full of stories about the runners and riders for the Tory leadership, with Dave’s campaign considered by many a Tory donor to lack energy, focus and passion. That ‘Team Cameron’ have attempted to address that this week by taking off his tie and rolling up his sleeves is, I fear, too little too late. His failure to deliver the Conservatives an overall majority, which is what they really crave, is what will cost him in the end though. Boris, Teresa May and George Osborne are the early frontrunners; but don’t rule out a ‘dark horse’ emerging from the pack. Cameron beat more favoured candidates – and who can forget John Major’s surprise succession of Maggie?

  1. If a week is a long time in politics – 5 week’s is a lifetime

The campaign has been too long, a bit boring even for political anoraks like me – and it appears that it has failed to have much, if any, influence on people’s voting intentions anyway. A piece of advice for all the parties for the next election – which may be far sooner than was planned – keep it short. Less is sometimes more!

And finally my prediction for the 7th May: I’m sticking with what I have been saying for some months now. Conservatives the biggest party, but lacking a credible coalition partner to be able to form a government for more than a few months; and the spectacle of a second election highly likely as many Labour MPs’ would find it hard to stomach any sort of arrangement with the SNP.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies


“The truth – you can’t handle the truth.” So responded Jack Nicholson to a question posed to him by Tom Cruise in the movie ‘A Few Good Men.’

It is a line that David Cameron and George Osborne would probably articulate to the great British public given half a chance, because it is the very fact that they have been telling ‘the truth’, as they see it at least, that they have not moved significantly ahead in the polls as they had anticipated by this stage of the General Election campaign.

The downbeat message of Osborne and the Prime Minister may paint an accurate picture of where the UK Plc’s finances are, but it is difficult to get anyone particularly enthused to support another five years of hard slog and austerity.

So, with this, the Tories, with almost gay abandon, decided to go on a bit of a spending spree this week, promising a host of positives including Rail fare freezes, £8 Billion extra for the NHS and a big announcement offering everyone in the public sector 3 days off to volunteer during the year, at a cost of – well who knows?

The Conservatives lead when it comes to ‘managing the economy’ is fairly healthy in all opinion polls; but even so these ‘bag of a fag packet’ commitments have allowed Labour to level the charge of a Tory Party scrabbling around for attractive goodies to hand out before the election, without having any clue as to how they will be paid for.

Labour itself is so paranoid about its reputation in managing the country’s finances, that they have put themselves into a ‘triple lock’ discipline over future fiscal policy that was spelt out on the first page of its Manifesto, launched in Manchester on Monday.

Other than protecting the NHS budget and overseas aid, you will go a long way to find any Labour spending commitment worth talking about.

Not quite ‘carry on regardless’ more ‘re -arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ would be a fairly accurate description of the oppositions approach to its economic policy offer to the electorate, with the usual rhetoric of hammering those with ‘the broadest shoulders’. An increasingly confident looking Ed Miliband and his would be Chancellor Ed Balls will be hoping that they don’t meet the same resistance to a very similar Labour message trotted out by Neil Kinnock and John Smith in 1992. History tells us that parties that promise tax rises have not fared particularly well in UK General Elections.

The lack of ambition contained within the Manifestos of the only two political parties who can form a government basically demonstrates a realistic view from them as to where we are in terms of public finances. But, it is not a particularly exciting message, and it is failing to turn the voters on.

Instead, for ‘vision’ and fantasy politics, those who have a wanton desire for radicalism over reality have opted to support fringe parties who, quite frankly, can say what they want and promise what you want with no fear of having to carry out their barmy policies. It was a trap the Liberal Democrats fell into five years ago but, unusually for them, it came back to bite them on the bum – no tuition fees anyone?

This time around it is the Greens offering billions of pounds of public spending; Farage’s mob promising to rid the country of pesky foreigners and the SNP building a whole nation’s economy on oil, despite the falling price of the black stuff in recent months.

Between them, the so-called minor parties are currently polling around 35% of the vote accumulatively, which tells me that a significant number of UK citizens do, indeed, prefer ‘sweet little lies’ to the brutal truth. Who would be a politician?

Time for a serious EU debate


According to opinion polls following both the radio and television debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg on the UK’s future in Europe, the UKIP man won fairly handsomely.

This should surprise nobody who knows a little bit about how the media works, and how much easier it is for a non – politician who talks in populist sound bites to impress over a much discredited Deputy Prime Minister who has forgotten that his advantage as a fresh faced alternative, back in the day of the first televised party leader skirmishes in 2010, has long disappeared.

The Farage bluff and bluster bears no scrutiny and, as UKIP probably counted on, it got none from his Liberal Democrat opponent who offered two performances that aspired to bland.

As a pro European my heart sank the moment I heard Clegg would be ‘batting’ for my side. No credibility, no substance, no chance sums up ‘I don’t agree with Nick’ nowadays.

In truth we learnt little about the real issues facing Europe or the UK’s membership of the European Union from these two debates. Insults were traded and outrageous claims made, but no real analysis of a UK isolated from Europe was undertaken. That type of serious discussion wouldn’t have suited either Farage or the media channels who acted as the event hosts.

The poll results, for what they are worth, demonstrate that pro EU politicians do need to start to articulate the positive benefits of European membership rather than simply saying we will ‘reform from within’.

Outside of Europe we would lose jobs, investment and influence, which is why the Prime Minister and the Leader of the opposition both support our continued involvement in the EU. They need to start to explain to us why they support EU membership in much clearer terms between now and next year’s General Election. The minor players have had their moment in the sun, a spat of little consequence in my view. It’s time the grown up’s got involved in a debate that, worryingly, currently fails to register as a key issue of interest among the vast majority of the British electorate.