Thursday, 15 April 2010

Prepare for people power?

Essays and the Agricultural adjustment act; A power station that generates no power; The elusive Mr Osborne; Let the debates begin

The last few days have been spent getting slowly back into work/essay mode. I would say I'm easing myself back in, upping the hours each day like a jogger slowly upping the mileage in preparation for a marathon. However, it's been more like a jogger who gets to the end of his road and decides he can't be bothered so turns around and walks back to his house. Word counts are the issue at the moment with the essay I've pretty much done a couple of hundred words short and the one I'm working on at the moment shaping up to fall similarly wanting. I blame my laconic style on the useless History A-level exams where you had an hour to write one essay showing how knowledgeable you were. This involved being concise and getting straight to the point to the extent that adjectives and conjunctions came at a premium and was more a test of how many facts you could jam in to two scribbled sides of A4 than a gauge of aptitude in the study of history. For an example of its success I can tell you that one of the bills in FDR's first new deal resulted in the slaughter of 6 million pigs. What I couldn't tell you is what act it was, when it was enacted or whether this great loss of swine life had any effect on America's economic recovery (for those who are interested it was the agricultural adjustment act, enacted in 1933, and I'm still none the wiser on its impact).

The last few days have seen all the main parties launching their manifestos as well as some not so main parties- my favourite proposal from the lesser parties is Ukip's plan to fund the Met Office depending on the accuracy of its predictions. The launch greeted with the most fanfare was the Conservative's on Tuesday, unveiled in the rather bemusing surroundings of the long-defunct Battersea power station. John Prescott, never one to miss the opportunity for a bit of Tory bashing, saw similarities between the two tweeting 'impressive from the outside but hollow and empty within'. Turns out the manifesto wasn't empty. No, it was all about people power and was filled with all kinds of invitations to set up schools, elect police chiefs and sack MP's. The PR wizards had come up with the High School Musical inspired slogan 'we're all in this together' and David Cameron even had the temerity to quote JFK's old 'ask not what your country can do for you' line. Whilst the presentation may have lacked imagination, the manifesto did finally provide some clue as to what Cameron, as a conservative, stands for.

The question though is whether anyone 1) actually wants to take advantage of these schemes and 2) has the time to do so. At least these were the questions Michael Gove dealt with as he did the media rounds Tuesday evening. I quite like Gove. He speaks eloquently and intelligently and generally answers the questions put to him. He's performing well, as he's playing a pretty predominant role in the Tory campaign at the moment whilst others- Chris Grayling and George Osborne for example- have receded into the shadows. Osborne is an interesting case as, for someone who in a month will likely be controlling our ailing economy, even the Tories seem to realise he can come across as immensely unlikeable. He still has the superior demeanour that Cameron seems to have shaken since their Bullingdon days, and he has a perpetual look of contempt etched across his face. I was fairly surprised when the latest Conservative's letter through our door came baring his photocopied signature (no photos, unlike the Cameron ones though).

Whilst Cameron and Nick Clegg are their parties main assets, Gordon Brown is conspicuous by his absence from much of Labour's election material, replaced by marathon-running comics and vanquished timelords. Tonight he will have nowhere to hide. All three have been attempting to play down the impact of tonight's leaders debate, but it looks set to have a some effect with the expected audience around the 10 million mark. Cameron has been most guilty of trying to dampen expectations warning that it could be 'slow and sluggish'. Despite his efforts he knows he has the most to lose if he doesn't perform. Nick Clegg, who has already shown himself ready to be challenged on his policies with a reasonable performance against Paxman, will benefit from an equal footing with the other two and should show better than his rather tepid interventions at PMQs. And then Brown. It's finally time for him to show why he deserved to survive more coup attempts than most small west African nations ever manage. I can't wait.

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