I haven’t really blogged about the election campaign since it started in earnest. That’s not because I haven’t been thinking about it, but rather because I’ve been talking about it and watching it on the television and tweeting about it to such an extent that it was all starting to get a bit much for me. Even I, who am more interested in politics than most and try to be well-informed, have been flagging at times in the face of the relentless onslaught of the campaign, and the conflict it creates when you discuss it with people.
But anyway, we are now just one week away from election day, so I thought I’d catch up a little bit on the stuff I’ve been thinking about and where I think my vote will be going (at the moment) when I reach the polling booth.
I have watched the two leaders’ debates with interest, and will be watching the third one tonight. I’m so pleased that they have held them, because it has really changed some of the feel of this election campaign for me, and it seems to have sparked some additional political interest amongst people who normally wouldn’t care.
I feel that the format is rather dry, which is unfortunate, and I blame this mostly on the fact that the audience aren’t allowed to clap or respond in any way to what they say. What’s the point of having a mute audience? It just means it’s the three of them talking to camera for long periods, like a party political. It gets much more interesting once they start debating properly and responding to each other, instead of just rattling off pre-prepared answers.
I felt that Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the first debate, based partly on what he said and partly on the way it changed public opinion of the Liberal Democrats. I felt he was always going to have the most to gain from it, as he was suddenly depicted on an equal footing with the other two leaders and people had to actually listen to what he has to say. And what happened in the polls once the three candidates were giving an equal platform? Suddenly it’s a three-horse race, with all the parties polling around the 30% mark. That came as no surprise to me at all.
The second debate had no clear winner for me; not because Nick Clegg did much worse, but because David Cameron and Gordon Brown did much better and seemed to settle into the format much more. It was a little bit samey towards the end when they starting talking about similar issues to the previous week, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Stupid party political broadcasts
One of the things I really hate during any political campaign is scaremongering and negative campaigning. I realise that they’re always going to do it, but it annoys me intensely because it detracts from the real issues and is insulting to the intelligence of the electorate.
There have been a couple of party politicals in the last two weeks that have riled me up in particular though.
The first was an appalling Labour advert featuring Eddie Izzard, that made me think much much less of him. In it, he talked about the Conservatives (why bother talking about Labour policies, eh?) and said “These are Thatcher’s children! Be afraid, be very afraid!”
Fuck. Right. Off.
Seriously, how long are Labour planning on flogging Thatcher’s corpse (interesting image) as a reason to vote for them? She was in power THIRTY years ago. It’s fucking ridiculous! And contrary to the opinion of most uninformed socialists, she wasn’t the worse thing ever to happen to this country anyway. A modernised economy and inflation reduced from 18% to 4% during her time in office? Yes, DISASTROUS. Such a terrible effect on the country that she was re-elected TWICE with whopping majorities and therefore had a clear mandate for what she was doing? Yes, that really shows how the people hated her. Hated her so much in fact that even after the Tories deposed her, they STILL got re-elected the next time around. It’s not like everyone went running straight to Labour, desperate to be free from Maggie’s claws, is it?
So anyway, I found that advert patronising, childish and irrelevant.
The second party political that’s pissed me off is a recent one from the Conservatives, styled as a fictional advert from the Hung Parliament Party. Seriously, it looked like crap, like a GCSE Media Studies project, where it had been so hastily thrown together once the Conservatives realised a hung parliament was a distinct possibility. And it had a stupid noose logo everywhere, despite the fact that a noose would imply a HANGED parliament, not a hung one.
But leaving aside the generally shitty aesthetic aspects of it, the content was what really annoyed me.
A hung parliament would be undemocratic and would mean the country was governed via deals done behind closed doors, they said. It won’t be the utopia of cooperation some people would have you believe, they said.
So they’re saying that the present system is MORE democratic are they? A system where only 60% of the electorate vote, and then a party is installed as a majority government having received only 35% of that? That’s 21% of the electorate backing the party that gains power, who then get to pick whoever they like to fill the cabinet and can spend five years legislating pretty much with impunity, even in the face of large-scale public opposition to any particular plan. How democratic is that?
And on the question of cooperation, other countries seem to manage perfectly well with coalition governments, including Germany: the strongest economy in Europe. The problem actually is that our two main parties are very used to having all or nothing, and they don’t normally have to play nicely with the other children. They don’t have to negotiate or compromise to get legislation through, they can just force it through on the strength of a questionable public mandate and a large majority in the Commons. A hung parliament doesn’t necessarily mean an ineffective one, and the only way the Conservatives can guarantee there would be no cooperation is if they’re saying they won’t cooperate with any other party.
Anyway, I can feel I’m getting more and more riled up as I write this, so I’m going to leave it there. My final point will be to describe where my voting intentions lie at present, so I can compare that with next week.
At the moment I am voting Liberal Democrat. I would like to see them gain a much larger share of the seats in parliament, perhaps around 100, and for them to exercise that power to bring about political reform.
I really, really wanted the Conservatives to convince me and win my vote, and I gave them ample opportunity. But at this stage, my principal feeling is that I can’t trust them. This is based particularly around the issue of gay rights, but has broader implications than that, and relates to the fact that members of the Conservative party don’t actually seem to agree with the official line we are fed by David Cameron. There have been too many homophobic views expressed, and it has been enough to put me off. How would these MPs actually vote in the Commons on gay rights issues, if this is how they feel? What value is the official party line if the party’s members don’t actually support it? And that lack of trust and credibility on gay issues has seeped across and eroded my support for them in other areas, and my whole opinion of them.
My main disagreements with the Liberal Democrats are on issues such as the euro. I don’t want us to join the euro, I don’t think that we need it or that it presents sufficient benefits to us. However, as the LibDem pledge is to hold a referendum on the issue ‘when the conditions are right’, I can live with that. If we have a referendum, I’ll vote no. And if most people vote yes, I’ll just learn to live with it. It’s a democracy after all; if that’s what the majority of people want, then so be it.
So that’s my political update and I’ll shut up now. Roll on election day because it’s all starting to get rather exhausting.