Left Out Liberal

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

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Calm before the Storm

Of course, with Pope John Paul II being on his last legs, there is little coverage of politics in the media at the moment. Understandable, though not intentional obviously. This event is giving us a brief respite from the pre-election politicking so that we can all be refreshed to start the campaign proper from Monday (!).

There are some stories rattling around behind the headlines at the moment, but they're hardly worth considering. Labour, just to confirm my point from yesterday, pulls out its latest "on-the-spot" fines for drinking patterns not in line with Official Party Diktat as if they're going to change anything. The solution is more medium-term, as usual, requiring a culture change and discouraging bars from running dirt cheap "all you can drink" promotions. Fining people left, right and centre, particularly bar staff, since by what objective measure do they decide people are drunk and if it's in line with police expectations, tends to lead to a lot of unpaid fines and a determination "not to get caught again" rather than to reform.

The Greens, meanwhile, are talking up their chances of getting MPs elected. I'm not up to date as to what their prospects are in the two seats they are after, but it would be nice to see another party getting through the hurdles of first-past-the-post as a new party would help to bring some fresh faces and a further dimension to British politics. I wish them luck, although they probably have very little chance.

But the headlines are still the Pope, and rightly so. He has had a lot of political impact on the world, and he should be respected for that. He has not received universal acclaim for all his doctrine, but that should be left to one side for the moment as this isn't the time for such disputes. May he rest in peace.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Just what is New Labour?

After watching Margaret Hodge, the Labour "children's minister" on Question Time last night, I finally realised that there is no support for the programme of social justice within the Labour upper-ranks any more. Sure, I knew that it was mostly being left behind, but I really didn't think I'd hear a Labour minister push hard for strongly authoritarian "lock 'em up - it's the best form of rehabilitation!" policies on petty crime.

This morning, once more, we are treated to how Labour are going to use the economy as the centre of their election. We also have news of how Gordon Brown is going to make one million more homeowners.

Now, this in itself isn't bad. It is very difficult to get onto the housing ladder after all. But what I find alarming, and perhaps indicative of all that New Labour stands for now, is the fact that they are making this, and the economy, the number one and two priorities. Social justice, where are you?

It's dead and buried. I never thought I'd see the day where a Labour party spent the vast majority of its time appealing to the nation's back-pockets in the way the Tories have mastered for decades. It was Harold Macmillan, after all, we told us that we'd never had it so good. It was Thatcher who liked to proclaim that it was her who brought about the "homeowner democracy" and liberalising the economy.

Sure, no one is disputing that we need an economy doing well. But that is not all that Labour is about. Whatever happened to public services? Whatever happened to redistribution of wealth? Whatever happened to ironing out the injustices of society?

They're gone. And the worst of all this is that the party of the official Opposition don't give a stuff about any of those, and they're damn proud of it. Where is the choice going to be in this election? Can we ever trust Labour again?

Looks like we're going to have no choice.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Yes, those elections are finally here. While Blair and his chums in the Cabinet are preparing for battle, Robert Mugabe and his cronies are preparing to roll to another "landslide" in their rigged-as-usual "elections".

Zimbabwe is a travesty, as most people know. I don't think what's going on there is as bad as the atrocities in the Sudan, but still, I hope the British government finds time to condemn the lack of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe tonight. Even if we're embroiled in our own petty politicking, we must continue to place pressure on the failed democracy of Zimbabwe. After all, if we really did go into Iraq for human rights reasons, then it would only be right, surely, if Blair applied more serious pressure to a country that is currently actively suppressing them?

Back in Britain, Blair is about to hold his last Cabinet meeting where he will continue to pretend he doesn't know when the election will be. It's nice to see, however, that his little "face the media" sessions on Sky News yesterday have gone largely unreported beyond Murdoch's institutions. I've had more than enough of seeing his simpering, unapologetic face everywhere I turn.

As usual, it's still important to remember that Blair is a liar, and that that majority of his must be pinned back. I want to be able to see the light at the end of this tunnel in a post-Blair era, but I still feel it's beyond us. Only the voters (in marginal constituencies) can make it happen.

I just wish I didn't live in a dead-cert seat. Must be nice to be able to think of your vote having power. It's not something I'm used to...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Moving on

It could be possible that yesterday is the last time that Howard Flight will top the news headlines. From the looks of the stories on offer this morning, it is probably saying something that if Jamie Oliver can get to the top of the news with the government's wholly electioneering pledge to increase the money spent on school dinners then the media probably have got bored with Mr Flight.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair will today face the "media" - aka. Sky News. It's remarkable how he can find the time to do these things, given that if anyone asks him when the election will be, he will still tell them that he has not yet decided. The announcement in theory should be a matter of less than a week away now, and it will be nice to get this properly underway. I'm getting the distinct impression that everyone's pre-election campaigns are rapidly running out of steam.

Of course, the TV interviews today will throw off more heat than light as Blair repeats the same old arguments we have all heard before and will doubtless be fed up with by May 5th. But it probably is a sign that he wants to retake the initiative. It's amazing how people may be tempted to vote against Blair, but his appearance on TV is always a fantastic reassurance to them and suddenly they're back on the New Labour "project" as if they had never been unfaithful in the first place.

Tony Blair is probably right when he talked about this being a "relationship" with him. It was a sickening speech, but when it comes to people's reactions to him in the country, it pretty much sums up the mood well. I could never trust him again - I think of myself as being something of a fool for ever trusting him in the first place - but there are still a lot of people on the edge out there who are up for grabs.

Coincidentally, most of them seem to live in the key marginal constituencies...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Flight comes in to land

Howard Flight is still hitting the headlines for the Conservative party. I'm beginning to suspect that there is a bit of revenge wanting to be exacted by Mr Flight here. If he was a committed Conservative, then he would surely realise that his actions are very politically damaging to their election strategy. They are simply reminding people of those Major days when the Tory party was split right down the middle. And those were pretty dark days for them.

But instead, we're still being inflicted with this media circus. What I find so amusing here is that the media like to claim that it is not them who choose what news to display. All through yesterday, while Howard tried to talk about his proposals for childcare, the media were coming out with the classic, "He's trying to divert attention from Howard Flight and we won't let him!" as if somehow that Howard's actions would stop other news from happening. They like to make us believe that they merely report the news, but in fact they are only drawing the parallel between the two stories because they want to. It's important to remember how pivotal the role of the news editor is...

Meanwhile, Charles Kennedy this morning is to unveil his plan to tackle crime. Of course, it will all be ignored and dismissed by the big guns as "weak" and "lacking discipline". This forces the Lib Dems to overplay their hand by concentrating on exactly what all the other parties offer: more police. Of course the police have a role to play, but once again, tackling crime requires a grand vision, consistently applied, to defeat the root causes of it. This may or may not involve police officers at all.

So instead of talking up the genuine and very different policies they have, they are forced on the defensive by sounding exactly like every other party. "More bobbies on the beat!" is the usual rallying cry.

This is why there is no hope for the Liberal Democrats.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Devoid of a Plan

I decided not to post anything yesterday for the simple fact that the news was dominated by Jim Callaghan's death, the Pope's struggle with Easter Sunday and the continued fallout from Howard Flight's gaffe. Enough has been said about those.

This morning, it seems Michael Howard is going to be out and about proposing how he would pledge extra maternity pay. An interesting proposal from the Tories... interesting in that it's the kind of thing old Mrs Thatcher would not be too impressed with.

The Tories are trying to paint the impression that they have changed. Maybe they have, but it is not from one ideology to another. It's one of my favourite subjects, but once more it demonstrates how parties have gone from one ideology to no ideology at all. Conservatism has always been pragmatic, so that would be their defence, but the past few weeks, with the Tories jumping on issues that might become popular, have just given credence to the fact that there is no grand vision or principle that can be seen behind any major party's plans any more.

It just makes voting that little bit tougher to decide. How are we supposed to believe what anyone says, when they present you with a set of ideas for dealing with today's problems? How are we supposed to judge how they are going to react to the problems of tomorrow? At least when there was ideology, we could see how they would consistently apply their fundamental principles and would have some idea where the solution would come from.

Perhaps this is how we have all been fooled by Tony Blair. We thought he'd be a social democrat when we elected him. Anyone who thought he was going to be a socialist was very naive. But in fact, he only presented us with faux-social-democrat solutions to the problems of 1997. Then once elected, he demonstrated how he was, in fact, an authoritarian democrat.

But we still kept on voting for him. And we're about to do it again...