Wednesday 5 May 2010

National Views

This has been a strange election where none of the three parties has really done well - apart perhaps from the Lib Dems, where a sparkling "we're not like the other two" performance in the first Leaders' debate has increased their polling percentages, but they have not really stood up to scrutiny.

Labour has had a series of disastrous moments - surprisingly for a Party which was so brilliant at presentation, partly because of Brown's general incapacity to deal with human beings and partly because the split between Brownites like Balls and Whelan and Blairites like Campbell and Mandelson has prevented a consistent approach. They are probably down to their irreduceable core vote, and the recent suggestions that people should vote tactically and their emphasis on negativity (don't vote for us because we're good, but because the oitehrs are bad) suggests they know that.

They deserve to lose: they had ideas of sweeping changes in the constitution and the management of public services but failed to implement them properly, leaving much running much more inefficiently, and more importantly they have squandered 1997's successful economic legacy, with Brown leaving behind a really serious public debt problem, the most complex and costly tax code in the world and serious unemployment, especially in the young. (I'm not going to link to all those points - they are discussed in more detail in my earlier blogposts).

A neighbour yesterday told me that the UK was not as bad as Greece; I'm not sure about that. We have one major advantage: we are not in the Euro, so have more flexibility to devalue sterling (so increasing inflation and interest rates) to stimulate exports and reduce the value of debt we owe externally. But our total exposure is worse, and we have massive uncounted liabilities from public sector pension liabilities and PFI spending. Just like Greece we are perfectly happy spending other people's money; unlike Greece, we haven't had to start paying it back yet.

Brown was featured in a double page spread in the Times today; they commented on his continual emphasis on child tax credits. A good idea perhaps - but so typical of him. He has created a complex and costly structure so that many who need help can't get it and those who do get it become dependent. But that is how Brown got and wants to keep power: to lock people into dependency and to deprive them of opportunity to break away. Little does he care about the effect of his detailed tax and benefit structures as long as he can be boss. Hopefully, whatever else is the result of this election, he will go.

The polls show that the Lib Dems had a sparkling first part of the campaign, overtaking Labour and equalling the Tories. As time has gone on, the sparkle is a bit tarnished. The Lib Dems policies have not stood up to scrutiny in many areas - immigration, the Euro and Europe and defence to name some, and regular readers will know my view that Cable is incompetent. Some of their tax policies have merit but others appear designed to prevent business growth. The Lib Dems are an old party with as many dubious donations as anyone else (if not more), and with electoral behaviour worse than most. The main problem for me is that the Lib Dems have not really spelled out how they will behave in the event of a hung Parliament, and they have not really convinced they can match the rhetoric. Not being Labour or Tory isn't really a convincing slogan, nor a recipe for long term success.

The Tories have had a poor campaign nationally. Never mind the tactical error of encouraging the leadership debates and allowing Clegg an equal platform, they have not sounded honest on the economy (because despite sounding the right warnings during the 80s and at the last party conference, they have not said just how bad things are and will be) and have not sounded convincing on social issues (by focusing on concepts like "the big society" rather than on the need for freedom and a smaller state). Like Labour, they have to cope with two camps running their campaign. And because many voters have not yet suffered from our economic problems - we are spending other people's money and have not been asked for it back - the Tories are worried that too negative a message won't chime with voters. Cameron has tried all the way through to be positive and optimistic. Despite a poor performance, the Tories offer two things which mean they deserve to be elected:
- they recognise that public spending is not the only answer to problems;
- they believe in the private sector, that economic growth is ultimately what pays for things and will pay for us to get out of debt.

What will happen? I've consistently thought there will be a hung Parliament, which will inevitably increase uncertainty and therefore harm the economy. It's also hard to see such a situation lasting for four or five years, suggesting a further election quite soon.

I think one of two things will happen: a Lib/Lab pact if the Tories don't get enough seats to have a go, and a Tory minority Government if they do. I'd hate to see a Lib/Tory pact because we won't get proper policies and the Tories would get the blame. But lets wait and see....

1 comment:

Troy said...

I think the analysis is simple - the English want a Conservative government but the Scots, who already have their own "parliament" and much autonomy (as well as subsidies) send hordes of socialist MPs south to frustrate the English. Its time Cameron dropped his out of date attachment to the Union if he actually wants the power that the English indicate they want him to have.