(Cross posted from NEW EUROPEAN TIMES)
It’s that time again to discuss the latest breathtaking events surrounding the great democratic process of the British General Election.
This week we are without Febble. She has, as many of you know, produced an extraordinary piece of statistical research work concerned with the US Exit Polls. We are very proud of her. Sadly, however, it has become a temporary pre-occupation for her as millions of hungry statisticians across the Internet subject it to the fiercest peer review assessment that I have ever known. The paper has stood up to it and stood up to it well. Febble, I fear has not. She is a quivering wreck as she nervously opens the next email that may be the first to find flaw in her algebraic equations.
What a weird life these academics live. Not like a permanent blogger. Oh, no. We are normal. There is not a week that doesn’t go by that I don’t change my pajamas and I alwys wear an overcoat when I venture outside in them.
Take care of our Febble, guys, as you have your way with her. She is precious to us and we want her back!
So, it is just Edis and me today.
And of course Anthony Charles Lynton Blair whose anagram is the remarkably accurate “Nobly rare. Nonchalantly shit”.
Along with him is Michael Howard, Tory Leader for whom the anagram “Oh Dear Me! A cowardly **.”(Censored to avoid offence) is very worrying , indeed.
And finally, there is Charles Kennedy liberal leader, recent father showing post natal depression, whose anagram “Lechery and likeable slanderer” only goes to show that you can get two out of three accurate but not the third. I hope.
Now at all of this might seem like pretty trivial and childish stuff. Have pity on your poor weekly diarist. There may be some Brits that will come on here and write up some detailed and lengthy piece about the political exchanges of the last week. Ignore them. They are giving you a false impression. It is like producing an impressively researched biography on the academic achievements of George Bush. No cattle, sure, but no hat either.
The best summary I can give is this:
That’s right, nonchalant shit, you have it in the bag. Just look at the latest polls:
Labour 368 -42
Conservative 180 +19
Liberal Democrat 67 +12
Or take the betting forecasts:
I mean, 33 to 1 ON Labour forming the next government and 16 to 1 AGAINST the Conservatives? Is it any wonder I give you anagrams to fill the diary?
OK, this weekend, finally and at long last, the Liberal Democrats remembered their ace card in the form of their steadfast opposition to Iraq. It is a strong one. I will applaud their poster, the best of the campaign:
Of course the Tory Party couldn’t resist jumping in and also criticising Blair, in the hope that the electorate will forget that it was their vote that gave Blair the confidence that he could sway Parliament in his favour to authorise his support for GWB. (Even more sickeningly, asked if Blair had done anything right in a Sunday Times magazine article last week, Michael Howard offered up the war against Iraq as the one example)
Will it by itself change votes. It is doubtful. Only 16% of voters have identified this as an issue that will influence them. What it will do is remind people not to trust Blair and will adversely affect his ability to influence people regarding his other policies.
More importantly, the polls allow Kennedy to concentrate on now persuading the voters that Blair is so securely back in office that hesitant Labour Party supporters can afford to vote for Lib/Dems in protest without fear of putting the Conservatives into office.
So concern for those 12,000 soldiers out there in Iraq? Well, they are yours really:
So, despite the best efforts of a minority to persuade the British public to take action NOW, in one fell swoop, by saying…..
……it sadly looks like the fear of a Conservative government is such that we will have to wait until after the election to deal with Mt Blair.
Next weeks post will be the last week of the election. I shall do my best to give you a final and more detailed summary of the issues that have emerged. Really, though, this rather sparse and flippant report today is no less than the attitude and impression of the majority of the British Public.
Markos will be there next week, giving his impressions in the Guardian. It will be fascinating how he handles it. He will feel almost compelled to be polite. Inwardly, I suspect he may wonder what on earth he is witnessing. I wish him well, good weather, much more interesting material than I have been able to find and provide here and the chance of a decent lunch if he comes up North at all.
Out of respect to Markos, I will finish on the high note of Edis’ contribution. Edis is out there in Milton Keynes, canvassing from door to door, meeting voters and distributing the leaflets on behalf of the LibDems. Salute him, he is the hero of this week’s diary.
The latest score in on the doorsteps of this corner of this Labour held marginal is Conservatives four leaflets (but see note) LibDem three and Labour (a selection of) one.
Labour seems to be doing target letters so Labour supporters are getting an `Achievements’ letter and known LibDems a squeeze letter and leaflet. The LibDem targeted letter is signed by Charles Clarke, current Home Secretary. I suppose he is regarded as the least off putting face to go on such a mailing. Much amused LibDem speculation on the how the debate in Labour HQ could have gone on this – using Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (for example) would have automatically harden support back to the LibDems.
As for the Tories they are using commercial delivery services to get their leaflets out since (unlike the LibDems) they do not have a network of voluntary deliverers. This may slightly have gone wrong since one delivery was of a previously delivered leaflet. So four known leaflets produced but only three texts through any particular door in four deliveries.
The LibDem leaflets going out in the next week will have one of the most extraordinary photos ever used in an UK election – a picture of Tony Blair gazing soulfully into the dominant eyes of President George W. Bush. Extraordinary, as a party is using a picture of the leader of a rival party and a powerful foreign head of state in the confident expectation that this will cause righteous revulsion amongst supporters of that rival party.
In short, the Basil Fawlty stage of this election (Don’t Mention The War!) is ending. The LibDems have played this card very coolly (to some criticism) up to now. What they have done is establish positions over the whole range of issues domestic and foreign so it engages with voters and gives people positive reasons for supporting the LibDems., For the first time in a modern election. the LibDems are established as leaders in a number of national campaign themes.
The LibDems have given good reasons for people who previously supported Labour (and in many cases the Tories) to vote positively on their general programme. There are sound reasons to support the LibDems with hope and enthusiasm not just with tactical clothespegs on nose.
If the LibDems had gone straight into campaigning on The War, by now they would now be criticised for running a one-issue campaign. Now they are calling both the Government and the Official Opposition to account for their miserable record on the Iraq mess and the betrayal of our civil liberties at home.
One strong message is that the Tory Opposition should be thrown out and replaced by a real Opposition that will hold a Labour administration to account even if it is headed by Brown not Blair. In the national interest, in the interest of the dignity and integrity of our political processes, both Labour and Tories should be severely punished. If there is no LibDem government there should at least be a LibDem Official Opposition with the Tories reduced to a properly chastised rump.
So this is the basic message as I see it in this last week and a half of the campaign:
It is essential that both Labour and the Tories loose seats, and loose them in substantial numbers. The LibDems need every vote they can get. If you value our democracy (such as it is) and our embattled civil liberties a LibDem vote this time is a national essential. At the very least it will give a profound and positive message that the defence of freedom at home is still important for the people of this country. If you normally support Labour or the Conservatives, a LibDem vote is a tactical vote for Britain and a message to your otherwise preferred party that it needs to think very seriously again.
But please also look at the good positive reasons for a stronger LibDem presence in Parliament.