Sunday 24 January 2010

A week is a long time in politics

The new Massachusetts senator has a lot going for him. It was a surprising Republican victory, and was an early indication of one of my New Year questions: would US voters give Obama time to put right what was wrong? The answer appears to be no, although apparently the Democrat candidate was pretty useless so this may not be a final answer. Republicans very forcibly highlight increased deficits as an indication he is making America socialist – forgetting that most of the deficit arises from the bail-out and structural deficits of the Bush administration. Bush was almost as cavalier with other people’s money as Brown.
It also highlights a real problem for David Cameron if the Conservatives manage to win the next election (particularly if they have a narrow victory, which is probably the only type of victory they will get). Voters seem to want quick results: they may not have the patience for a long haul, and if there are voter pressures then MPs may not support difficult action.
I know Cameron is trying to balance being realistic with not being negative: he wants to point to the City upon a Hill. But I worry that he is not setting expectations properly. Putting the country’s economic and social problems right will take years and he needs to highlight that now. Better to lose the election than to win it without a mandate so he then fails.

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