Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Howard's End ?

It was slightly strange to see Michael Howard suddenly come out with his plans to reduce the abortion term-limit from 24 weeks to 20, in the sense that it was wholly unexpected.

Michael Howard has been doing this a lot lately. Suddenly he will make a speech or put an article in a newspaper on an issue no one has been talking about. This is clever electioneering. Kick up a fuss on one issue. Send out the dogs of war to blast the government who are caught on the back foot. They rush out anyone they can find (normally John Reid or Hazel Blears) to defend it in the usual "you can't trust Tories" way. The Tories respond in kind with accusations that Labour is fighting the election on past issues, when they want to talk about the future. Labour don't take the bait, the trouble dies down, or Howard quickly moves on to a fresh issue to start the process all over again.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems get sidelined, even though Charles Kennedy made a speech today outlining how he would introduce more free prescriptions and dental and eye checks for all.

I must admit that Howard is doing a pretty good job of setting the agenda. He's creating positive headlines and making people think carefully about whether Labour really are going to ease to another landslide. Labour's strategy to defend against him has been poor, and Gordon Brown is once again making rumblings after giving some pretty major interviews on Newsnight, so there are clear signs of divisions in the Labour camp.

This election probably isn't so clear cut.


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