Monday, April 26, 2010

Dished by the Whigs

We live in a land of weather forecasts and breakfasts that set in... shat on by Labour, shovelled up by Tories.

Oh go on then, let's talk about the general election. There is something genuinely interesting afoot here. And it's not simply the delightful unpredictability that the rise of the Liberal Democrats brings. Frankly anything is possible - so don't expect predictions here. (Although I stand by my earlier forecast that things will end very badly for Gordon).

The big thing here is the blank incomprehension displayed by many on the Tory and Labour sides as the yellow tide starts to rise above their heads. Admittedly the less delusional elements of the Labour party have just about accepted that their leader is not terribly popular and that spurning the repeated chances to jettison the Jonah before the good ship Labour glug-glug-glugs into the deepest recesses of the ocean may not have been the wisest course of action.
But there's an obvious point that many people on both sides are missing.

A great many people dislike - with varying degrees of intensity - both the Labour and Conservative parties.

You might call this Morrissey syndrome - I've been dreaming of a time/When the English/Are sick to death /Of Labour and Tories - or you may prefer the more elegant line for Withnail & I at the top of this post.

You hear supporters of both parties complaining the leaders' debates have reduced politics to a sort of X Factor in which the poor, stupid deluded voters are falling for the empty charms of Nick Clegg. (Translation, they are losing and they don't like it). I would suggest that underestimating both the electorate and your opponents at the same time is a rather foolish way of looking at things.

There is a pretty deep well of Liberal Democrat-leaning people - remember there are liberals in all three parties - who have always been deterred from voting for the party because they couldn't see the point. The discrediting of the old way of doing politics, the debates and the resultant Lib Dem bounce might, just might, have unlocked this potential. At the very least there is a strong possibility that the public wants to give Labour the most enormous kick where it hurts but does not trust the Tories sufficiently to give them free rein.

The Tories don't seem to have grasped this yet, nor can they quite shed the assumption that they have a divine right to govern simply because Labour has made such a royal balls up of things. If their biggest selling point is being lead by a man who is Not Gordon Brown then they can hardly complain if someone who is better at being Not Gordon Brown than the spivvy, moon-faced gobshite they are offering as the next prime minister emerges.

As for Labour, oh dear. It is not simply that they are led by a man with all the appeal of a leper's clammy embrace, it is that his coronation as Labour leader is a symptom of how badly they've gone wrong. In part, it because Brown encapsulates the uniquely unappealing mixture of rank incompetence, self-righteous authoritarianism and over-bearing desire to meddle in every aspect of people's lives. But there's more to it than that.

In the Nineties Tony Blair realised that if Labour kept losing election after election to a widely disliked, if not hated, Tory party then maybe, just maybe, the problem was with Labour and not the electorate. Large chunks of the Labour party never forgave Blair for this insight, and by repudiating him in favour a more traditionally minded party figure showed that this old delusion - that Labour is the political wing of the British people - will not die.

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