Thursday, 22 April 2010

A week in politics

For a lifelong liberal, of both the small and capital L variety, the last week has been a very surprising one, to say the least. We all had thought that the long anticipated leader’s debate (sorry Scotland – Prime Minister’s Debate) would give us a bit of a bounce in the polls; but a ten point poll bounce, actually being in a poll lead for a while and ‘Cleggmania’ would be an utterly incredulous prediction. Yet here we are.

So it was with that on my mind last night, as I went to the Worcester News election debate. It was as entertaining (well for an anorak like me anyway) as it was un-informing; it essentially boils down to the fact that the three main party candidates are fairly bland and middling politicians.

The incumbent, Mike Foster, in the red corner seemed to be in a surprisingly redolent and conciliatory frame of mind; in answer to a question about what he’d say to enter the Pearly Gates, said that he wanted the people of Worcester to “remember him as putting their interests first” – not the “five more years!” one may have expected given the polls. He put in some fiery defences of New Labour’s policies and eloquently highlighted the inequity of some of the Tory’s proposals; he was certainly the most statesmanlike of those on show and deep down there somewhere, beats the heart of a social democrat.

The main contender, Robin ‘jobs tax’ Walker, fighting in the blue corner, was like the invisible man. He was there allright, his was the only head I could actually see through the crowded room; he just seemed to disappear like the vanishing point on a hazy, long and lonely road. In the opening exchanges we heard last week’s Tory mantra of “jobs’ tax”; I’m sorry – but yawn. Nearly every tax is a tax on jobs, what they really mean is that National Insurance is a tax on businesses, but it is framed in the way it is assumedly because “a-bit-of-a-tax-on-you, but-a-far-larger- tax-on-your-boss” probably didn’t play so well in the focus groups. It’s not a great tax rise, but when viewed against the ‘age of austerity’ the Tories promised us a few months ago, seems unavoidable. He shoe-horned the Tory catch phrase into a few more of his answers before (to my mind, in any case) seemingly disappearing from the debate. He was simply a well groomed and no doubt perfectly capable Tory, who’s keeping his head down, assuming that Labour discontent and apathy will see him and not Mike Foster returned to Westminster.

Jackie Alderson, who was representing the Lib-Dems did okay, but if you are standing for a political party, don’t refer to them as “they” all night long. Surely when you get to the point where you are a candidate, you can use “us” as your choice of pronoun? To be fair, Jackie is contesting a Labour/Tory marginal which she isn’t particularly likely to win, was selected without much time to prepare and she is working on a shoestring budget compared to the other two. She incidentally got the loudest cheer of the night when outlining the proposed abolition of tuition fees over six years – it would seem the policy’s dilution is still preferable when compared to those on offer from the other two parties.

Perhaps more enlightening than last night’s debate was seeing the full force of the Conservative attack press unleashed on Nick Clegg this morning, lined up like tin soldiers patrolling on the petrol station forecourt. If you want to see just how rattled the Conservatives and their establishment are by this election campaign, then today’s headlines are more telling than their words could ever convey. If they had followed one line of attack then it may have popped the bubble that is clearly troubling them. However when viewed next to each other they took on a slightly comical appearance; it was just a little too visceral, as cynical as it was predictable and as crass as it was inevitable. It is the wounded war cry of vested interests. The headlines will no doubt cheer up a few Conservative voters but I suspect they will not have as much effect on those who have flown to Clegg’s banner as these papers may think.

What will happen next in this general election is anyone’s bet. Much will depend on tonight’s TV debate and Clegg’s performance. He has taken advantage once, showing when he is able to talk to the nation without the lens of a partisan press filtering him out, (a former editor of the Sun admitted that it was the paper’s policy to deliberately ignore the Lib-Dems), and without Labour, Tory and SNP MP’s boorishly heckling him in the chamber, that he can connect with the British public. Whatever happens now, at least Cameron will have to earn them, if he still wants those keys to No 10 and that looks far less likely than any point since 2007.

And for the progressives out there; the prospect of a really fair and democratic nation seems at least more plausible than it has done in a very long time indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Shame I couldn't go to that, was it just the main three parties or did the others attend aswell?