Thursday, 30 April 2015

Wake me up if it gets exciting

For a General Election with stark, definite choices the campaign has been distinctly underwhelming.  The most charitable explanation is that media cannot comprehend the diverse circumstances of individual constituency contests, which are neither explicable through local geography or a bipartisan narrative that fails to address a broken political system.

The exposure of political bankruptcy and blatant charlatanry on the part of all the major parties in terms of their coyness around economic choices should have raised eyebrows.  The Tories should be called out on their inability to articulate where the welfare cuts are expected to fall.  It may be technically correct to claim that specific acts of malicious barbarism are not policy, but to achieve their intended cuts to the state they will need to scythe through the provision for their totemic "hard working families".  The cumulative impact will be massive, the individual targets not clear.

Given that the Tories have come up with an unsustainable gimmick in terms of legislating not to increase some core taxes for the lifetime of the Parliament, should they secure an overall majority, their fiscal irresponsibility is multiplying as they fail to achieve a damaging assault on Labour.  The remainder of their mood music is scare-mongering racism about the Scots and attempting to ridicule Labour for taking Miliband into territory that they would not dare to enter.  I have no time for Russell Brand, but watching him take on members of the Cabinet would be more revelatory of their contempt for the electorate than much of the craven maundering that passes for political journalism on the BBC these days.

Labour's economic policy is slightly more realistic, in recognising that cutting the deficit is not merely a matter of slashing back the state but also through achieving economic growth.  Not once, though, have any party grandees stood up and made the point that better services and community solidarity can be best achieved in an environment where both taxes and earnings contribute to reducing the deficit.  As for the Liberal Democrats, their manifesto is dull, worthy in parts, but compromised by attempting to split the difference between their erstwhile coalition partners and the reality of a fragmented centre-left.

The key issues around housing and society are all being ducked.  For the Tories to propose something as destabilising and blatantly self-serving as extending right-to-buy to housing association tenants was an audacious and strange gesture, given the paucity of both new housing starts and provision of affordable accommodation.  This in itself acts as a blocker on social and labour force mobility, and will continue to resonate whatever idiocy is retained by a lack of an overall majority.

From the conventional and outdated thinking of much of the London-based political apparatus and its parasitic commentariat you would be forgiven for thinking that the surge in support for the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and even UKIP is demonstrative of provincial stupidity.  The SNP momentum appears to be unstoppable at the moment - partly because of this contempt for politics that does not fit the conventional mould.  As it stands, each assault by Cameron on Miliband is designed to drive SNP support up, on the basis that the solitary Tory loon in Scotland would be a sacrifice worth paying for xenophobic and constitutionally-illiterate intimidation after the election.

At the start of the formal campaign, indifference to the outcome was a reasonable option.  The final week will be full of meaningless noise, but the reality of this election is that there is a stark choice.  With the likelihood of government without a secure Commons majority coming closer, there are questions of competency and stability hanging over all parties.  The SNP / Labour dilemma will not go away - but there is nothing wrong with parties working together even while being mortal enemies. Cameron tried to scare London electors through the oligarch's trumpet Evening Standard yesterday that no clear outcome would result in a logjam, conveniently forgetting that he, the self-defined saviour of the universe, had to make a deal immediately after the 2010 election in just such circumstances as the vast majority of the electorate had not supported his party, in an act which, in his perverted worldview, should have resulted in a change of the electorate.

The real post-election scandal will come with the distorted results.  The Kippers will, rightly, feel shafted - and whilst this will be amusing in the context of 1950s nostalgia and the humiliation of racists, bigots and their fellow-travellers - the system will have let them and the electors down.  While the fair-weather metropolitan Labour sophisticates, who switched to the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and 2010 to hold their noses over Iraq and Blair, are now heaping obloquy on a party that made the choice they didn't want, it is likely that the Liberals, Plaid and the Greens will also be underrepresented.  The SNP, Labour and Tories will be the beneficiaries - but my prediction is that this will not be enough to stop the disengagement and disenfranchisement from reaching epidemic proportions.

At least this means that the next election has the potential to be a little more engaging.

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