Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Progressive Minority

Brief thoughts. On the AV result, disappointed but not surprised. I'd be pretty happy to be a Tory just now with the apparent ability to steam-roll the Lib Dems when needed and Ed Miliband looking far from Prime Minister material. Stiffest opposition Tories will come up against will be from the public on specific issues, as seen with selling off the forests and as likely to be seen on NHS reform. Labour could do with some policy proposals soon rather than simply pointing to the cuts the whole time. Just trying to ride the coat-tails of public dissent won't work.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Pre-Election Round-Up

AV, the shag that nobody wanted; Cameron the Tory and Chris Huhne on the rampage; Celebrity endorsements in Heslington

So it looks as if Nick Clegg's 'miserable little compromise' is going to be defeated and it looks like it'll be convincing with ComRes polling a victory for the No campaign at 66% to Yes's 34%. The onus was on the Yes campaign to run a positive campaign to try and galvanise support for a change but, whilst it is true that No have run a cycnical, stultifying campaign, those at the head of the Yes campaign (including Gregg Dyke, our beloved Chancellor here at York) appear to have stumbled over their own sense of intellectual and moral superiority. Both camps have, to different extents, treated the public with disdain- No with their hyperbolic scaremongering and Yes with their implying that the current system leaves us in some kind of corrupt, tin-pot shamocracy ruled by kleptocratic elites.

The public has remained steadfastly disengaged, a stance bolstered by the events this weekend that have left the AV referendum as the rather dubious shag option in this weeks shag, marry, kill of news events. The apathy is not a new phenomenon however, and has existed from the start due to the simple fact that whatever result we get tomorrow, Yes or No, the UK will remain a functioning Parliamentary democracy with a disproportional system. A vote on PR might rile up a bit more of a fuss (though I would expect FPTP to still win), but a switch to AV is not an urgent remedy for the issues with our system (I still advocate a Yes but can see why interest is low). I expect that pretty soon after May 6th the referendum will be consigned to its role as a case study in A-level politics books of British apathy towards referenda.

The interesting bits to have arisen from the referendum have been its effects upon characters within the coalition. Ed Miliband rightfully stepped above short-term Lib Dem hammering to support the Yes camp but seems to have been more focused on Labour's local election push. David Cameron on the other hand, seems to have seen his support of No as a way to reach out to the Tory core, refusing to associate but also refusing to condemn the official No groups ruthless campaign of misinformation, whilst riding their coattails to victory, victory not being something Cameron has experienced much in National elections. The sense of confidence arising from this seems to have also helped him to find his true Conservative voice in the past few weeks, indulging in a bit of defending upper-class privilege and some good, old patriarchal sexism. Seeing as even a soft Tory Cameron failed to win a general election, I don't think his opponents should be too worried about his conversion to the kind of Tory that was so successful in 1997, 2001 and 2005 should give opponents much to worry about.

On the other side of the coalition, Chris Huhne's been kicking up a fuss about the Tories playing dirty. Likely aimed at winning some acclaim from the Lib Dem base, such histrionics have gained little traction with anyone else. The consensus seems to be that he's positioning himself as Nick Clegg's successor (for the Lib Dems to return as any kind of force in British politics surely Clegg's successor has to be Tim Farron), but he seems to have gone around posturing for leader in the way that a rhino might posture for a place in the penguin enclosure at a zoo. It's not very smart, it's been an ungainly spectacle and he's ended up looking like a fool.

It's a centre-left paradise here in the local council ward of Heslington, the ward that encompasses the inhabitants of the small village Heslington and the 10,000 or so students of the University of York who descend on it for thirty weeks of the year. We've (I say we, I voted back home) got just three candidates, one from Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens, with not a right-winger in sight (quiet you New Labour/Lib Dem cynics). Labour posters are very much focused around attacks on Nick Clegg and the tuition fees policy, whilst the Greens have forged a decent presence and a candidate with lovely woolen jumpers (unfortunately he's not sporting one in his bio picture but I saw him on campus the other day and I can assure you he's got some great wolly jumpers). What's caught my eye, however, are the Liberal Democrat posters that carry an endorsement from none other that University Challenge superstar Andrew Clemo, captain of the York team who made it to the final in this year's competition. I don't imagine you get to many celebrity endorsements in local elections but the local Lib Dems have pulled of a coup with this one.