So, we’ve had the Party Conferences. The press have had a frenzy. There’s been rumour and counter-rumour, spin and misdirection, fizz and flop. But who is it that really needs an election right now?
Well, I don’t, that’s for sure. To be honest I’m quite fed up with the political process at the moment. We’ve had two years of electoral and political hounding forcing TB into welcome retirement, an election for a new Conservative Party leader, an election for a new LibDem Party leader, and an election for a new Labour Party leader. Gordon Brown has only been in the job a few weeks, but has anyone given him enough time to have a good go at it? No. So who’s doing the stirring?
Perhaps it’s the press to blame. After all, they aren’t shy of a little invention from time to time. They would certainly benefit from a nice storyline that would run and run and keep them busy up until the Christmas season gets going. The old mantra of “Just attack Tony” has with Blair’s departure faded away and as time goes by the echos of his misrule become fainter and fainter.
The press usually need some sort of press release, even just a nod or a wink perhaps, just to get them started on a story. It’s easy to get a rumour started – just have a meeting with the right people and tell them the rumour doing the rounds at the moment about Subject X is not true. Just deny it.
Of course, this will be the first they or anyone else will have ever heard about this rumour, but their curiosity will have been aroused. They’ll start asking other people about the rumour, some of whom will not want to admit they are “out of the loop” (even though no loop here exists) and deny it in such a way the journalist believes they know more than they do. The hack will now be encouraged and start asking, while the “out of the loop” politician will start asking around too. He won’t want to be caught out twice! From then on, the more people deny it, the more these people believe the real facts are being denied them. Rumour born.
So who placed the “there’s going to be an election” rumour in the mill? Could it be the Lib Dems perhaps? After all, their Party Conference was less than memorable. Actually, I know it happened but I have no clue what they talked about. Menzies Campbell sounded great on TV before he was their leader when he was discussing serious issues like foreign policy and Iraq, but these days he reminds me of a burned out wisp of a man, not even a hulk. Not the kind of man I’d elect as leader of the country even if his party does have some sensible policies.
But could the LibDems have placed the rumour? No, I don’t think so. They don’t have enough guile for that: they may be weak and wishy washy but they are fundamentally honest and, err, well meaning. Harmless. A bit like Methodists.
What about Labour? What about Gordon Brown? Well, why should he call an election? He still has two and a half years still to run with the current Parliament. He doesn’t have to do anything at all, except wait for Tony’s memory to fade away a bit more. And people are tired of all the political intrigue of the last 6 years: they want a rest.
Gordon may believe he needs to obtain a “popular mandate” – but he already has that. The UK doesn’t run a Presidential system of government, but a party based one. Voters may be influenced by individuals, but they tend to vote on party lines. That’s why there are so many “safe seats” which every election elect the person representing the same party they always did, irrespective of how good or bad they are personally. This is how Parliament manages to have so many complete wazzocks deciding on issues they have absolutely no experience of, whether they be Tory Toffs or Labour Lefties.
So, because we vote for parties, not people, Gordon himself doesn’t need to refresh his party’s mandate. He needs time to become known for who he is, rather than to be known as the person he had to be seen to be as Chancellor under Blair. Opinion polls confirm this – Labour are at the moment 8% ahead of the Conservatives, not bad for a mid-term Parliament, and a significant improvement over TB’s later lack of popularity.
So, that leaves us with the tottering Tories. Mr PR man Cameron has been losing his air of mystique of late. His party’s faux pas over Grammar Schools started the rot amongst his own supporters. To the tories, Grammar Schools are Holy Cows.
His ratings haven’t got any better over the summer, and with more Local Elections looming, he desperately needs to revitalise his Party and remotivate his local workers and campaigners so they don’t get swamped by the LibDems on one hand, who usually do better at local elections than at any other time, and by the British National Party on the other.
His main problem though, is that there really seems to have been no major change in Conservative policy, although the delivery has been smartened up a bit. No doubt Cameron is earnest in what he says, but as we have seen with the US right wing Republicans, what the leader says and what his party does are not always the same. It’s the undercurrents below the calm surface waters you have to watch out for.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne had a lot to say about tax giveaways, but his basic assumptions were rather naive. Superficially, it sounded good though, particularly to Tory party hard core supporters – almost like getting something for nothing which always sounds good until you look a bit deeper.
Any tax giveaways are more likely to be funded from his declared intention to reduce the bill for invalidity benefit by £3 billion per year, and by David Cameron’s assertion that any unemployed person who turns down a job they can do will have their benefits cut off. Meaning if you as a skilled technician are laid off but can get a job pushing trolleys at Tescos you have to take it.
Then we had Shadow Home Secretary David Davies talking about “tough new border controls to prevent attacks” as though the Bradford born July bombers were really illegal immigrants. Every time I hear David Davies speak I hear a man with a lot of anger within him, trying to get out. It’s as if he was still seeking revenge on someone for some past injury he suffered. I do wonder how he got his broken and scarred nose. I worry his main aim is punishment, not justice, but that feels to me more like the subject for a different blog post in the future.
If we accept the premises above, and of course they may be wrong, only the Tories really need talk of an election now. Their old guard, old minds’ old ideas have new clothes. Political discussion during an election campaign seldom looks deeply at issues, but flits from soundbite to soundbite like a honey bee between flowers. Issues become polarised by party loyalty, reality and reason go out the window. It then comes down to who has the best PR.
And that’s all David Cameron’s got really, isn’t it?