One (very) last thing to say about the election, before a lengthy moratorium on posts about party politics. Here’s a rubbish intervention in more mundane matters, having essentially said secede from Westminster’s jurisdiction and start self-sustaining hippy communes the other day.
Really, second only to the vast majority of the population, political short-termism was the biggest loser of the 2015 General Election – most notably in relation to Clegg’s dalliance with the Tories, and the Labour Party’s embrace of New Labour.
In 2010, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems threw aside most of their principles for a shot at power with the Tories.
They knew that minority partners in coalition governments tend to be smashed the next time an election comes around.They knew that five years in Downing Street with David Cameron was very likely to alienate three core components of the Lib Dem vote – rural progressives who’ve traditionally voted Liberal to keep the Tories out, students who supported their tuition fees stance, and directionless anti-establishment voters who used them as a protest vote.
And they really should’ve known that the Tories would do their utmost to destroy them. Chris Huhne, ex-Lib Dem MP, Coalition minister and jailbird, recently said he first realised Cameron was planning to annihilate his party when, during the Alternative Vote referendum campaign in 2011, the Tories personally attacked Clegg for going back on his tuition fees pledge, something they insisted he do as part of the coalition agreement.
As everyone knows by now, the pre-election polls were disastrously wrong, and the actual outcome on the night was crushingly terrible. The Tory vote didn’t fall, which looked inevitable beforehand. It rose. And the Labour vote didn’t recover, even to the piddling extent that was widely predicted beforehand. It fell. The polls said no party would win a majority, the result being another hung parliament, and another coalition government of one kind or other.
If you’ve always harboured a Luddite suspicion of ‘polls’ and hated the all-prevailing political obsession with them, last night might have been very satisfying if the real-world implications weren’t catastrophic, socially, economically, morally and ecologically.
By about 3am, it was clear that the Tories were doing far better than expected, and Labour were doing far worse. The Lib Dems were being annihilated. The SNP were clearly on course to win the vast majority of seats in Scotland.
Further banging on about Defensive Voting. Which, come to think of it, is probably just tactical voting with a specific political purpose in mind – namely stalling neoliberalism through the Westminster infrastructure long enough to nail together some kind of radical left-wing alternative outside of it (there was an excellent bit of analysis published by Counterfire this week which came to similar conclusions). And this time, we’re looking at it in relation to a conveniently local real-world example.
Wells in Somerset is one of the most marginal constituencies in the country. It also happens to be the next one over from ours.
Most constituencies are ‘safe’ – the people living in them reliably vote for the same party in election after election, and that party easily wins by a mile. Yeovil, for example, has been Lib Dem for over thirty years (well, technically, it was Liberal from 1983 to 1992, then Lib Dem ever since). At the last election, Lib Dem candidate David Laws got 31,000 votes, 13,000 more than the next placed candidate.
As such, safe seats don’t really matter. The ones that do matter are the marginal ones, the swing seats as they’re often known – constituencies like Wells that are much more likely to change hands. These are the places that will decide who’s in government this time next year.Continue reading “Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study”→
After whole minutes of thought, The Bemolution decided not to watch last night’s seven-way leadership debate, and took in a 1997 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about hyenas possessing people while simultaneously watching Twitter watch the debate instead.
To lazily quote an old blog post rather than have to think of a different way of saying the same thing, the debates are an “awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately”.
We did actually watch the first thirty seconds while fiddling with the DVD player. The announcer burbled some codswallop about Salford. There were some sub-Apprentice/Spooks stop-start swooping camerawork over the Mancunian skyline, set to plasticated techno that sounded like it came from about 2001. Presenter Julie Etchingham said something about the ‘big iss-oos’ facing the country. Clegg looked terrified, Nicola Sturgeon looked stilted, Miliband looked calm, Leanne Wood gave a nice happy smile and looked delighted to be there, and David Cameron did a face that made him look like Michael Howard. All of which are the kind of profound, substantive judgements the debates encourage you to make. No-one ever really offered a satisfactory explanation for why the Irish parties weren’t invited. Then the DVD kicked in.
After two hours of watching 140-character opinions dribble out from the #leadersdebate hashtag, we’d gleaned many an insight into the woeful state of twenty-first century public discourse, including 1.) that a lot of people labour under the misapprehension that you can calculate the definitive winner of something as subjective and un-scientific as a debate, 2.) that a lot of people were just going to declare victory for the person they already liked the most going into it and 3.) that according to numerous self-appointed arbiters of truth – more numerous than those calling it for any other leader, anyway – the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was the most impressive.Continue reading “We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate”→
The biggest political event of the year, if not the decade, is obviously going to be the General Election in May. You’d struggle to describe the mangled, dystopian thing we’d be left with after another five years of the present government as ‘a society’.
The Bemolution’s political views aren’t especially well represented within the Westminster mainstream, what with pledges to essentially dismantle modern civilisation and start again tending to go down like a lead zeppelin in the key marginals. This makes elections morally challenging.
A lot of fuss was made in the media last year when Russell Brand supposedly endorsed not voting. Brand – someone we unashamedly like – clarified his position after a fusillade of criticism from across the political spectrum: he doesn’t vote, he said, because there’s nothing worth voting for.
Nick Clegg can string a sentence together. Over four and half years as Deputy Prime Minister and nearly seven as Lib Dem-in-chief, he’s proven that, at least. Watching him give what will almost definitely be his last leader’s speech to the Lib Dem conference yesterday – defiant in the face of intense unpopularity, unshakably convinced of the righteousness of his own actions, and, at times, still startlingly, worryingly persuasive – he looked and sounded more than a little bit like a late-stage Tony Blair. Just as in Mr Blair’s case, though, the lovely rhetoric can’t paper over what will be looked back on as a pretty wretched political legacy.
It’s fashionable to hate Clegg – and certainly understandable, given that he’s enabled arguably the most socially destructive government in modern British history – but he probably wasn’t all that bad a man, starting out. Watching him on Wednesday, you could still see a few flickers of the unsullied pre-Coalition Clegg – especially when he speaks about mental health, there’s no doubting that there’s genuine passion there. Unfortunately, they only served to highlight the selectiveness of that compassion – and, apparently, of his memory of the past five years.Continue reading “Nick Clegg’s Speech”→
It’s that time of year when arch-politicos and the commentariat take to the provinces to splash around in our puddle-shallow political mainstream.
Radically, party conference season involves the Westminster set actually leaving London, which must lead to many sleepless nights beforehand wondering whether mochas and running water have spread beyond the M25. For everyone else, the abiding question should probably be how so much time, money and media coverage can be blown on events where no-one really says anything.
Last week, the Labour Party – or at least the bits of it that could spare the £100 entrance fee – met in Brighton. This week, the Conservatives are congregating in Manchester.
The Tory Conference is unlikely to tell us anything we didn’t already know. Thanks to the kind of journalists who take DWP press releases as unassailable fact and churn out televisual variations on the theme ‘Why Are You Scrounging On Benefits, You Feckless Scroungers?’, we already bask in borderline-sociopathic Cameron-rays every day of the week. Labour might well be a neoliberalised sham of its former self, but at least hearing from Ed Miliband and co makes for a bit of a change. Continue reading “Party Conferences Are Fairly Meaningless”→
Last week’s local elections trundled past with leaden midterm predictability.
Clearly peeved, a significant slice of the electorate stayed at home, and those that turned out roundly rejected the Coalition parties. Labour made huge gains, largely by default.
The Tories and Lib Dems were soon scrabbling to write off palpable public discontent as typical mid-term blues. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, was extrapolating growing public trust in his leadership from the protest votes begrudgingly cast in Labour’s favour.
Behind the dubiously rose-tinted interpretations, the cold hard statistics remain grim for the government. The Tories lost 419 councillors and 12 councils. The Lib Dems suffered a second successive electoral wipe-out: they lost 44% of the seats they were defending, leaving them with their smallest amount of councillors since they first emerged from the ashes of the SDP in 1988. Labour picked up 780 council seats, but based on the lowest voter turnout in 12 years. Continue reading “Boris and the Local Elections”→
The Liberal Democrat Party Conference is widely renowned for being one of the least interesting things in the Western world.
Finding yourself watching one of its more crushingly mundane fringe meetings live on BBC Politics of a weekday lunchtime is certainly one of the more bleakly existential experiences you can have sat in front of the TV eating a cheese sandwich.
But like Labour, the Lib Dems are too important to be ignored. And not ignoring them becomes marginally more bearable if you just focus on the relatively interesting leader’s speech over the peripheral waffling.
Clegg is an effective speaker. He manages to be persuasive and interesting to listen to, pleasingly rhetorical in a manner as equally far removed from the forced, bludgeoning New Labour apparatchik-style speech as that of the pompous Tory classicists who think Cicero should be taught at Key Stage 2. Continue reading “Clegg: Lib Dem Conference”→