Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The dust settles

Ok, so we were in with a shot of helping form a government. And then it turned out that Nick Clegg was just squeezing for a better deal with the Tories.

Well, perhaps it's for the best. Labour needs some time to reflect, and perhaps John Reid was right, it was too much clutching at straws.

However, if there is some comfort we can get from this situation, it's that Cameron has taken a massive gamble on his party's future, something which in their rush to fawn on the new government the British media seems to have forgotten. Why?

If the vote for AV (which, don't tell me otherwise, IS a form of PR or, at least, a system which more closely follows share of the vote) is won, the Tories could be out of power permanently. It ultimately boils down to what Tony Blair tried to negotiate with Paddy Ashdown (and then thought better of), but the principle remains: in all elections as long as anyone can remember, the Tories have had a minority of the vote compared to the sum of Labour and Liberal. So, if the vote is won, they could be out of power for a generation, if not forever. The smarter members of his own party are aware of this, which is why they have always been solidly against PR.

And, finally, if the vote is won by the Liberals, does anyone really think the coalition will hold till the end of the Parliament? Of course it can't, because if the people have decided they want PR, and the incumbent government probably wouldn't have been formed if PR was in place, then it pulls the rug from under its legitimacy. The Libs press for an immediate election and, hey presto, the Tories lose.

This scenario isn't certain, of course - it depends on a lot of things - but if it were to happen, Cameron would go down in history as the man who destroyed his party, like Lloyd George and McDonald before him, and in the case of Lloyd George it never recovered - until now.

Not a great result for the "new politics", eh? Watch this space.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

End of an era

Well, Gordon has effectively gone. Although I'm not exactly his number one fan as Prime Minister, I have to admit that he is a political heavyweight, a brilliant political strategist and was an outstanding Chancellor, and therefore a huge loss to Labour. And where are the rest of the political heavyweights - in ANY party, for that matter?

If there is some small comfort to be gained, it's that Labour are now in with a shot of stopping the Tories take office. But is a coalition (or other deal) sustainable? No-one really knows, and there are very strong opinions on both sides. Not surprising since no-one in this country is used to cross-party negotiations (try living on the Continent).

And what rubbish the media are coming up with, David Dimbleby laying into poor old Alistair Darling for wanting to "cling to power". What rubbish, honestly. If you are the second party and the first can't do a deal, it's your duty to do a deal.

We're in uncharted water here. God knows how it'll all end up.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Egg-on-face time for UK press

So, a hung parliament is official, as of half an hour ago. The media, who have largely been braying of a Cameron walkover, were wrong (see front pages here). The Guardian, who foolishly talked of the "Liberal moment" having arrived, was wrong. The pundits were largely wrong. The exit polls, which no-one believed last night, have turned out to be uncannily accurate.

Labour has been hurt, no doubt about it. The Lib Dems have certainly been hurt, after the ridiculous expectations build up over recent weeks. The Tories have also been hurt, as they cannot form a majority government. But there are still more seats for progressive parties in the Commons than for the Tories. Can we (Labour together with the Lib Dems) grasp the moment and do something with it?

Still all to play for.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Polling day 2010 - forget the press

Well, the last week has seen a great example of the UK press showing its true right-wing colours. Across the press - and I say "press" rather than "media", as the BBC, for instance, has been a lot more objective - everyone is trying to confidently predict a Cameron win, when the polls don't actually point to that at all. First of all, what does a win mean? Majority or Prime Minister? For Cameron, both seem at best uncertain, or at worst improbable.

Oh, and our big thanks to the Guardian, for sticking with Labour when the going got tough...vote Lib Dem, indeed. What were they thinking?

Anyway, it's time to ditch the press spin, and look at the evidence.

Let's get this straight: the latest Harris poll predicts more seats for Labour than any other party, which would very likely put them into a minority government with an arrangement with the Liberals. The other two May 6 polls, ICM and Comres, show a hung parliament the other way. It is, however, much less likely that the Liberals will pact with the Tories. Which means it is wide open whether or not Cameron will be Prime Minister by tomorrow.

I don't claim to be able to predict the outcome. It's impossible to call until 10pm tonight, when we'll know the exit polls. And even then (cf. 1992) we can't be sure in a situation as close as this, things may well change as results come in.

What is clear is that this is the Bush-Gore 2000 of recent UK electoral history and that every single vote will count. What is also fairly likely is that there will be a hung parliament, followed by days or weeks of frantic horse-trading. And, if Cameron ends up being Prime Minister, God forbid, it will probably be by the skin of his brightly-polished teeth.

So, please, get out and vote.
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