Saturday, 10 April 2010

At last the phoney war is over

In case you haven't heard, the date of the British General Election was announced on Tuesday, after Gordon Brown went to the Queen to request that she disolve parliament.  The big day will be Thursday 6th May.  And I can't wait.  For the last six months or so, the political parties have been indulging in a "phoney war" - the political campaign you have when you can't call it an election campaign.  (In Britain, the moment you call it an election campaign is the day the clock starts on the electoral expenses and each candidate has a legal maximum spending limit.  The clock also starts if the candidates call themselves candidates or "parliamentary candidates" so they are known as "prospective parliamentary candidates" or "PPCs".)

Anyway, the phoney war has gone on so long that I am totally bored by it.  Because of the rules regarding the life of a parliament, the election had to be held before mid-June.  I don't know how the Americans put up with a year's worth of campaigning prior to their Presidential Elections.  Don't you get fed up with it all?

It's not as if I'm a disinterested party, either.  I think this is the first General Election when I haven't been involved in the campaign, one way or another.  Once upon a time, I was a Young Conservative and a Conservative Party activist.  My politics are a bit more confused than that, though.  If you have to categorise me in terms of British politics, I'm a left-wing Tory or possibly a Lib-Dem.  Back in the '80's, I voted for Bob Hawke, Australia's most successful Labor Prime Minister.  If I was an American, I'd be a card carrying Democrat. 

I joined the Tories when I came to the UK because my friends were Thatcherite Revolutionaries and it gave me an instant social life.  Politics was fun and exciting as a YC:  lots of intrigue against the "wets" in our own party; plenty of political debates about the big issues of the day (irony of ironies, in my day, the Tories didn't "do" political debates in the senior party); we put in the hours knocking on doors and delivering envelopes/magazines.

Many of my friends date from that time and very few of them are politically active today.  What happened?  We grew up.   We got disilusioned and burned out.  We got fed up campaigning for someone/some policy that we didn't believe in.  There is nothing worse than the dying days of a government and our dying days lasted five years longer than expected (nobody had been more surprised than we were when John Major won the 1992 election.  I remember being in a state of shock).

These days, I'm an interested outsider.  The only times I've campaigned for anyone in the last 10 years is when I've supported one friend or another who has stood for their local council or for Parliament.  Unless the phone rings, I think this will be the first General Election I haven't campaigned in since I came to Britain.  (Note:  I'd been here a week when I first went canvasing for the 1989 Euro elections, so I have a long history.)

Who do I think will be occupying 10 Downing Street in mid-May?  Not Gordon Brown.  He pissed off his natural electorate about two years ago, with his clumsily placed tax rises.  He's been fighting a losing battle ever since.  Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is putting up a credible campaign but it'd take a miracle for his party to win sufficient seats for them to even form Her Majesty's Opposition.  So it's David Cameron's for the losing.

It's interesting to note that the Lib-Dems think Cameron will win.  That's obvious from their arguments in various debates on BBC Newnight.  They are only attacking the Tories; they aren't attacking policy announcements, etc, from the Government. 

- Pam (don't think you'll get off lightly with me, David Cameron.  I think your latest "tax break" of £3 a week for some married couples is risible, condescending and stupid.)

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