Election day

6 May 2010 by Jennifer

UK elections today. A quote and some thoughts of my own.

I was amused at this article by David Mitchell in the Observer last week.

“You’re sick of the government, aren’t you? So vote for me!” is how British opposition leaders have always addressed the electorate. It’s usually enough. “Why commit to policies in advance when I can win just by not being Gordon Brown?” Cameron must have thought.


… Cameron’s strategy, to everyone’s surprise, isn’t working.

The public’s reasoning may have gone like this: “The Tories represent change, in that electing them would result in a change of government. But somehow I’m not sure they’d be a better government, just a different one. And, in fact, there’s something eerily familiar about them. Big business seems to back them. Does that mean they’re nice? Hmm.

“Oh, it doesn’t make any difference who you vote for, does it? They all use the same platitudes. I wish they could all lose. I suppose that means I want a hung parliament? People seem to think that could happen. And everyone says Nick Clegg won the first leadership debate. I only saw a bit of it myself, but I’m quite glad – he was the underdog. Maybe I’ll vote for him? That might give the LibDems a bit more influence if there’s a hung parliament. Also, it might keep the Labour/Tory [delete as applicable] candidate out in my constituency.

“Actually, wait a minute! I feel quite good about Nick Clegg now! Nick Clegg and a hung parliament! And the LibDems want proportional representation which would mean there’d always be a hung parliament. Would that matter? It seems interesting.”

Speculation about the consequences I’ll leave to those more expert, but I do think David Mitchell’s pinpointed a certain spirit of the times. “I wish they could all lose.” I was especially tickled with that bit about celebrating the underdog – that is such absolutely classic English reasoning. Hahaha.

My thoughts

Lib Dems do strike me as possibly the least worst prospect at the moment, though that doesn’t mean I’m greatly enthusiastic about them.

I went to a local hustings to get some vibes of who’s who, and I did like most of what our local Lib Dem blokie had to say. (And I do think he’s got a chance of getting in – a lot of the “Labour majority” here last time was really an “Alan Simpson is a sound bloke” majority. A.S. was a “rebel” and outspoken against the war in Iraq, and he’s standing down at this election.)

I liked a lot of what the Labour candidate said too, and I liked the look of her background – but unfortunately she’s representing the party that’s got Ed Balls in it, and he’s determined to obliviously trample on autonomous education.

Which, OK, on the one hand, minority interest, but on the other hand, deeply indicative of New Labour’s mistrust of any human beings but their well-intentioned selves. Hence bureaucratic top-down micromanagement and clunky malfunctioning “incentives”, and little or no recognition of the intrinsic satisfaction of being able to do a good job. And that reflects, I think, a fundamental strand of New Labour culture, certainly not limited to the tiny pioneering world of uncoercive education. Yes they have done some good things (yay civil partnerships, yay money towards the poorest families), but it hurts my systems-geeky sensibilities to see how partial and short-term-thinky some of their measurements are! Come and look at how your great schemes play out on the ground, people.

Plus: war in Iraq, ID cards, ContactPoint. All huge amounts of money, all highly debatable in terms of causing long-term good results.

Plus, Digital Economy Bill boshed through with widespread complacent ignorance and feeble scrutiny. One of my thoughts about the idea of a hung parliament is that perhaps it would slow down the passing of ill-thought-through poorly-designed laws. Not sure if that would actually be true, but it’s something I’ve been wondering.

(see, I care a lot more about the laws our Parliamentarians make and the processes by which they make them than I do about e.g. the famous “expenses scandal”. Not to say I approve of the latter, but it seems to me the damage caused by it is mainly to politicians’ credibility, individually and as a class, rather than to other people’s lives.)

Pretty convinced now that the Tories wouldn’t be any better though. In some ways they’re less distrustful of human beings than New Labour is, but they’ve not got a good track record on thinking about what vulnerable people need. And I hear they’ve been allying in the European Parliament with scary homophobic people, so that’s no good.

So Lib Dems it will have to be, this time – with fingers crossed that they’re no worse than I’m imagining, and a hope that they’ll be able to do something worthwhile with that teeny tiny bit of influence that is my vote.

Appreciation, criticism & new ideas all welcome...

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