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[personal profile] godricgal
My father and his business partner have been waiting for over a year for a big meeting in Sweden to happen and were finally granted an audience of two days this week. Of course, now that they're there, they can't get back. The scale of the disruption is unimaginable, really. As if Iceland hasn't already done enough damage in the course of the recession! ;) Don't know what's going to happen to Dad and Graham, though, even if the prospect a ferry journey wasn't rather more of an ordeal than staying put, the ferries are chockers.

Anyway, I thought if I'm really going to continue to write about the election, I ought to comment on last night's 'debate'. It wasn't a debate by any stretch of the imagination, so those decrying the Americanisation of our politics are sounding just as petty as much of what is being said by the politicians they criticise. It was a thoroughly English affair (as those in Wales and Scotland are fuming about for entirely different reasons; they can keep quiet, too, when their politicians have a say in our affairs but ours none in theirs) -- far too restrained, devoid of true passion, and clinical to the extreme that left it wanting for any sort of atmosphere that might have truly engaged the people and marked it as the occasion it ought to have been. Not that I'm implying that's true of England, merely English politics -- our politicians, once again, demonstrated their talent for mediocrity and doing things by halves, and, once again, in varying measures, demonstrated their reluctance to truly engage the public. In the event, the BBC's enduring headline of 'leaders clash' was optimistic ahead of time and verging on the ridiculous later on.

The big news is, of course, that Clegg has emerged on top, which, if you think about it, is not altogether surprising. Brown didn't have a leg to stand on -- one only has to ask him why the big issues have become big issues and he cannot answer the question directly without admitting his government have caused the problems. Cameron is, unfortunately and unjustly, still suffering from the hatred of his predecessors and illogically, some people would rather see a return of proven ineptitude (13 years of it!) than put their misplaced prejudice aside.

I thought Clegg started out rather well, but after a time, his holier-than-thou attitude began to grate, and while his messages and conviction came across as good and honest at the beginning, it seemed to me that he didn't have a debate's worth of things to say and began to repeat himself (I would have thrown my remote at the tele if he'd said, 'stop the young offenders of today becoming the hardened criminals tomorrow' one more time). I'm actually still open to liking him, but I would like to hear more about what he's got to say and less about why we shouldn't vote for the Conservatives or Labour. Not that I'd ever vote for a pro-EU party in a general election, but he might get me for local government.

I thought Cameron did rather well; I may be biased in favour of his party, but it's only fairly recently, since his decisive handling of the Expenses Scandal that I've started to see him as a proper leader and not 'Tony Cameron'. Some people have criticised him for trying to personalise everything in the debate, and perhaps, in places, it was a bit too much, but I thought the message he was trying to portray was a good and necessary one -- that he, too, is a user of the NHS and state education -- when the class war is so often played against him.

Brown sounded good on the economy, and I think a lot of people will have been swayed by that, but he didn't address the scale of the cuts that will be necessary once he's had his year-long spending spree.

At the end of the day, Cameron is a lot more honest about what can and can't be afforded. It was refreshing to hear him say, on the subject of care for the elderly, "I'd love to be able to do this, but we just can't afford it." And I thought his interim plan is a very good compromise to the ideal. £8000 to guarantee a person who has worked hard all their life to own their own home doesn't lose it, and their relatives' inheritance, in the event they require residential care in their old age, is a small price to pay against the possibility of losing everything. Brown's plan is all very well, but caring for people in their own homes is far more expensive than residential care, and how can we possibly pay for that while addressing the deficit and not raising taxes significantly?

So while I will concede that it was enlightening on a few points, it wasn't the event that it could, and should, have been. The conditions negotiated for its go ahead are to blame, of course, and while it could be argued that we should cut them some slack for it being their first time, but they go at each other well enough in the Commons that we should not allow them a practice run. It is symptomatic of the secrecy and self-sufficiency to which our governments have been accustomed.

I was glad to see Nick Clegg doing well, but I'm afraid that it was at David Cameron's cost and not Gordon Brown's, which is very worrying. Not because Brown did well -- I think he was, by far, in third place -- but because the average floating voter is between the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Lib Dems might look like a good vote, but voting for them is NOT going to hurt Labour, and will only make a hung parliament more likely. Outside the context of a recession, a hung parliament might actually be a good thing for democracy, but we cannot afford the uncertainty that would produce in the stock markets and for the pound.

Not sure this was a particularly coherent post or a good argument, but it's late and I've been number crunching my fieldwork all day. Still, nearly done with that and then I can get on to my discussion chapters!
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godricgal

March 2011

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