Wednesday, April 20, 2005

About that "other" election...

It has been awhile since either of us posted anything tangible on the British election happening in these parts. Mostly, I'd say this is because the campaign's been rather dull. Despite early promise of an exciting tactical campaign, so far neither opposition party has been able to develop any sense of momentum. Why? Three reasons, briefly:

(1) Blair (critically) agreed to bring Chancellor Gordon Brown back onto a virtually equal footing with him in the Labour campaign structure and manifesto launch. This put the focus squarely back on the stellar performance of the economy since Blair-Brown have come to power. When it comes to who the voters trust on this key issue, Labour simply trounces the Tories, in large part due to memories of the previous Conservative campaign. In the best rhetorical line of the opening weeks, Blair turned the Tory slogan on its head: "Are you remembering what we're remembering? Recession, ten per cent interest rates for four years, one million home repossessed, people thrown on the scrap heap." The decision to bring back Brown, initially sidelined in favour of Blairite former Minister Alan Milburn, was also viewed as a humbling one for Blair, satisfying some supporters who want to see him suffer a little.

(2) The Conservative party has been simply unable to move off an at-times demagogic focus on issues of immigration, inviting accusations of bias and preventing them from staying on message. The pre-election campaign saw a confident Michael Howard control the political agenda (just as Harper seems to be doing adequately in Canada now), but thus far have not been able to link this with mismanagement and poor Labour governance in other areas. You certainly don't want to be dealing with mid-campaign headlines such as "Tories Deny Immigration Obsession".

(3) The decision of Lib-Dem leader Charles Kennedy to spend the crucial opening days of the campaign with his wife and newborn first son is certainly understandable, but it tired him out to such an extent that he flubbed up crucial questions on his policies at the launch of the party platform! Who knows if this truly makes a difference, but it certainly doesn't lend an air of professionalism or competence to this perennial 3rd party at a time when they are trying to sell themselves as the "real" alternative.

For my part, I find myself oscillating between Labour and the Liberal-Democrats. This despite serious misgivings with Tony Blair, mainly over his penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth. And this is by no means limited to the war in Iraq, I must stress, but a broader pattern. As the satirically titled "Backing Blair" website FAQ explains:
"People involved in this campaign pretty much want to get rid of Blair and bring a halt to his style of government. We hope that includes you. Common beefs include Iraq, the erosion of civil liberties, Blair's almost unquestioning loyalty to the Bush administration and the Blair government's ongoing swing to the right.Our ultimate goal is to significantly reduce Labour's majority. We hope this will weaken Blair's position within the Labour party and lead to a viable leadership challenge."

But on the other hand, the Labour government in power has made great strides for progressive politics in Britain. Consider the arguments of a "Ben P" over at mydd.com on Labour's successful efforts to ensure that everyone across the spectrum benefits from these improving economic conditions. I also applaud Labour's staunch support of Britain's involvement in the European Union.

Maybe I'm just tired of voting against political parties, on the periphery, and so find myself in the classic mindset of a "Vote Blair, Get Brown" member of the electorate. Still undecided. I laugh in passing that, hilariously (maddeningly?) and for diametrically opposite reasons, I may yet find myself on the same side of this debate as this guy and this guy. Unbelievable.

All testament, perhaps to the shocking good fortune that has accompanied Blair throughout his political career. Other poor souls, like Paul Martin, must simply shake their heads in frustration at the comparison.


Blogger The Tiger said...

That's right -- you guys can vote over there!! God bless the Commonwealth.

11:19 PM  

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