I promise I’m doing my level best to get excited about the General Election campaign – which, the pundits were saying yesterday, has just 38 days to go – but already it feels like I’m swimming upstream in a fast-moving swollen river.
Here are some personal snapshot reactions to developments so far:
Yesterday the Labour and Conservative parties both hit the ground running with different initiatives almost as soon as David Cameron had returned from popping over to Buckingham Palace to have a word with the Queen.
Ed Miliband opened the batting by going to the City to announce Labour’s devotion to the world of business, championing staying in the EU as being best for the country economically and attacking the Tories for being obsessed with having a referendum which would paralyse everything for two years and ultimately be counter-productive. I don’t know who he thinks he’s fooling – every businessman I talk to has him marked down as a Hampstead-type socialist who hates everything about capitalism and espouses the growth of the public sector and centralised, controlling, government (i.e. the very things that businessmen complain about most). Furthermore the early skirmishing over the economy – e.g. the Tory ‘coup’ over Labour’s “Would you pledge not to raise VAT?” taunt, sprung when Cameron replied “Yes!” at Prime Minister’s Questions, and the “yah boo sucks!” games over each other’s future projections regarding costings, revenues and borrowings – have been pretty small beer and petty.
Whether he’s a puppet whose strings are being pulled by Aussie political strategist Lynton Crosby or not, David Cameron continues to demonstrate an unerring ability to flap about and trip up. Announcing he won’t serve a third term was a boo-boo and he’s still trying to boil the Election down to a choice between “We who’ve been sorting the mess out versus the raving madmen who caused it in the first place and would take us straight back there” – a theme that I believe is just too transparently simplistic (and therefore annoying to the point of turn-off) for most voters.
My impression is that as yet the Tories are failing to capitalise upon the strength of being the incumbent government. Instead, when it comes to election campaigning, they’re acting like underdog amateurs under pressure and accordingly making little impact.
We’re not hearing much from the Scottish Labour party candidates, a significant proportion of which have apparently already given in to the inevitable and are planning their farewell parties and post-political futures, given the likelihood of the SNP wiping them out.
A strong reminder I’m getting at the moment – via the innumerable vox pops and focus group-type interviewing being conducted by radio and television broadcasters – is just how thick and/or ill-informed the British electorate actually is.
[This is, of course, against the background in which the pundits tell us that Elections in the UK are always ultimately decided by the maverick swing voters and key marginal seats, this year defined as those where the current MP has a majority of 1,000 or less].
Given that apparently 90% of the electorate always votes as it traditionally has, I suppose it’s not shocking (though every Election it certainly surprises me) that 90% of vox poppers never try to take a considered view in the round, but instead spew out the sort of prejudiced rubbishy sound-bites that they probably learned at their parent’s, if not their grandparents’, knees.
You know the sort of thing – “The Tories are toffs who simply run the country for themselves, and their rich friends and donors, and don’t give a fig about ordinary people” versus “The working class (and my god, that’s a contradiction in terms!) are all living it up on benefits and wallow in the socialist delusion that the world – i.e. the elite – owe them a living, and a very nice one thank you”.
It’s not A Tale Of Two Cities so much as A Tale Of Two Nations … in which never the twain shall meet.
Hence the growing interest in all the fringe parties, by which I’m referring to those which have suddenly woken up to the possibility that – irrespective of how successful they turn out to be in terms of votes (or, more importantly, seats) – by some quirk of fate they might just find themselves in the horse-trading bun-fight that will presumably follow a hung Parliament on the morning of 8th May.
The SNP are preparing a wish-list as long as your arm; Plaid Cymru have decided they want to be funded (proportionally) to the same tune as the Scots; and the Northern Irish … well, I’m not even sure they yet know what they want.
Amidst all this confusion, I’m claiming my first nationally-important intervention in the campaign.
A few days ago, in surrealist fashion, I wrote an intended a post-modern ironic humorous piece suggesting that the best way forward in dealing with home-grown fundamentalist jihadists would be to put a daily Aerobus on a Gatwick runway at 10.00am every morning, offering free one-way flights to the area of the word currently controlled by ISIS.
It looks as though this has struck a chord in some circles. Here’s a link to an article on The Independent website today – NEW UKIP POLICY?