Well the election was first disappointing (we like to see the new occupant taking over after a crushing victory) then enraging (Lib/Lab ‘coalition of the losers’) and finally quite inspiring.
The love-in between Clegg and Cameron as described in the rose garden of Number 10 was really quite lovely. Whether it will withstand the storms and tides that will buffet the government as they try to force through unpopular but necessary cuts in public services remains to be seen, but for a few days at least we can all be proud to be British and that our unwritten constitution has once again proved flexible in the event of uncertain circumstances.
Best of luck to our new Government – we’re sure they’ll need it!
This Election has been characterised by a distinct lack of direct interaction between voters and the politicians. It’s hard to remember John Major with much fondness, but his “soapbox” tour of the country in the 1992 election was possibly the last attempt by a major politician to actually confront the people head on in person. It paid off too – with the Tories returned to power in the teeth of an economic recession of the kind that routinely spells death for any ruling party.
Gordon Brown’s handlers – mindful of the accusation that everything has been stage-managed in this debate to date – obviously decided to put Brown into direct contact with the electorate. And… well. The results speak for themselves.
Caught in off-guard moment by a microphone he should have switched off, Brown played right into the hands of those who have tried to portray him as desperately out of touch with public opinion, and even contemptuous of the public in general.
He was unfortunate to be caught in such a way (and few politicians can’t have said worse things about the public) but his remarks that she was ‘bigoted’ on the basis that she dare raise the subject of immigration will work to confirm a suspicion that Labour believe that concern over immigration is rooted in racism.
Little wonder, perhaps, that it is in Labour’s heartlands that the BNP is at its strongest.
Apart from the amusing ‘I agree with Nick’ meme (be sure that’s not going to repeated in this week’s debate!) there’s been a notable absence of political catchphrases thus far in the election. Only Cameron has really made a stab at it with his ‘Big Society’ theme – and most commentators agree that no-one on the ground actually knows what that’s supposed to encapsulate.
Of course, we don’t want the election to become all about slogans – it’s empty enough as it is. But even so, those little verbal hooks are the kind of thing that have determined political outcomes down the years. Think back to “Tory sleaze”… “Labour isn’t working”… “Britain deserves better” and so on. All of them gave voters an easily identifiable point of orientation about what parties stood for – even if they were vacuous.
Compare with the US, where 2008′s election saw a raft of slogans and amusing t-shirts. Maybe US participation in politics is a great deal higher than here – and as such people are more prepared to publically proclaim their party allegiances, but even a search on Google for “election t-shirts” brings back almost nothing from the UK – and even the UK sites are selling mainly Obama t-shirts, of all bloody things. The only notable exception I could find was on Red Molotov – which has a mixture of t-shirts with UK political themes.
It’s really surprising given that one of the things that irks people about this election is the reliance on PR, spin and the media (both Cameron and Clegg are ex PR men) so you’d expect them to be able to come up with something a bit pithier and memorable than “Change that works for you. Building a fairer Britain”.
So, I guess if you’re after something like that to show the world that you’re proud to be Labour, Tory or Lib Dem, you’ll have to come up with your own slogan and get your own t shirt printing done too. My favourite idea is just a picture of Gordon Brown with the word C**T written underneath it. Perhaps you can think of something wittier and less scatological!
It’s hard to see what the televised TV debates brought to the table in terms of serious politics. If you missed it, you can see the first one on ITV’s website now, and the second interview is coming up on Sky this Thursday at 9pm.
Most recent complaints about the political system have focussed on the problem of the ‘personalisation’ of politics. Tony Blair’s own personal appeal was massive – as three straight election wins proved – but the substance of his politics was vaguely defined at best. On the one historically critical issue of his tenure as Prime Minister – the Irag war – he so closely identified his personality and belief in the personal nature of his mandate that he felt able to ignore public opinion and use his oratory and popularity to beguile a supine parliament to his will.
As the truth of the Iraq situation became clear, this presidential style of politics became irrevocably tainted by association with ‘spin.’ It is a rock from under which even the ostensibly serious Gordon Brown has proved incapable of climbing from under.
And in that light, focussing the election on the ‘performance’ of just 3 representatives in a controlled debate is the apogee of this move rather than anything new. Clegg “won” the debate on the back of his personality. I’d wager you couldn’t get 1 in 100 people to accurately list Lib Dem policies on issues such as the environment and policing, yet astonishingly the Lib Dems are currently holding a 30% share of voting intention.
If you were looking for proper representative democracy, then you won’t find it in a TV studio on a Thursday night.