Posted by: John Elliott | May 6, 2010

Vote Lib-Dem or Lab – anything to keep Cameron out of Downing Street

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I can’t see how anyone could want David Cameron (left) and his elitist, neo-con, anti-Europe and inexperienced tribe to win today’s British general election. He’s inherited the self-superior look and style of the British shires – imagine what it will be like if this guy, who’s only ever worked in public relations and politics, becomes prime minister tonight! 

Britain certainly needs a change, and Tuesday’s Financial Times’ pro-Conservatives editorial neatly summed that up, starting with the point that Labour is tired and needs a rest. 

Basically the FT wants less government and state intervention, which it believes Cameron will give and Labour would not. It also wants political renewal which Cameron surely will not give, and economic and public sector reform and spending cuts. The FT hopes Cameron would do this, but I doubt he could without extensive labour and possibly social unrest. 

At the end of a long editorial, it says that “on balance”, the Conservative Party “fits the bill”. “On balance” are the most significant words in the editorial. They mean that the FT really wants none of the three main parties on offer, but has to choose one. Labour needs a rest, the Liberal-Democrats’ policies are an “uneasy mix of sanctimony and populism”, so what to do? On Balance Vote Conservative. What an unenthusiastic endorsement! 

The Economist was little more enthusiastic last weekend. It gave Brown long-overdue credit for his economic management last year, though tempered that since he helped to create the mess when he was Chancellor the Exchequer. Saying, like the FT, that Labour is “tired”, it believes a change of government “is essential”. 

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Nick Clegg, the Liberal-Democrats leader (left), is described as “clever and charming”, but The Economist rightly points out that Lib-Dem policies are muddled. So, it says with little apparent enthusiasm, “that leaves the Tories……who plainly have faults”, including their “Europhobic fringe” and overstatements about Britain’s “broken society”. Cameron, however, “would get our vote”. 

Both the FT and The Economist have backed Labour in the past. Both believe in open markets, social justice and small government. Both, to varying degrees, like Gordon Brown, though both say it is time for him to go. Clegg is not a realistic alternative, so vote Conservative! 

However, anyone who saw the tv debates between the party leaders over the past three weeks must surely have been impressed by Gordon Brown’s (below) grasp of economic issues and ability to govern. These prime ministerial talents are usually hidden behind his often grim looks and style, but he should be respected in the UK, as he is around the world, for his handling of last year’s international financial crisis. 

In my opinion (though I’m in a small minority here), he clearly outshone Cameron’s bland generalisations in the debates, though Clegg’s cheeky new guy on the block approach was harder to put down. 

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Brown’s appalling gaffe (rather Shashi Tharoor-ish!) last week when he said Gillian Duffy, a Labour supporter, was “bigoted”, has been unfairly used against him by virtually everyone. The actual gaffe was committed not by him, but by his staff who allowed him to be driven away with a live tv-linked microphone attached to his jacket. 

Geoffrey Goodman, a veteran political and industrial reporter who covered elections years ago, tells me that the things politicians said then would have finished many a career if they had become public: 

“In the old days when political leaders made nasty side comments no one was aware—or if they were the political reporter would discreetly make a note and not use it (except in his memoirs !!!). Not now.  Modern communications means instant disaster —or fame. Nothing in between.

“I recall the 1964 general election when I was with Harold Wilson for the whole campaign —  along with a Fleet street army that included Peter Jenkins (Manchester Guardian) who got smashed every night so he missed Harold’s comment about:  “those f…ing reporters from the Manchester Guardian—can’t even keep sober or write proper shorthand”.  Or for that matter Winston during the war who, Iam told, was constantly berating the generals behind their back but nobody would ever dared reporting it. I am also reminded of George Brown [dear old George] with whom I covered the 1970 election. He made comments about everybody that would have destroyed him on the spot in the present media culture.”

Brown was of course on the ropes long before the Gillian Duffy episode, and he has lost ground in the last two weeks. And in many ways I would agree with the FT and The Economist that it is time for Labour to be replaced in government. 

But that is surely not wise at a time when there is a need for capable and experienced handling of Britain’s growing economic problems. Today’s riots in Greece show the depth of unrest that is threatening mainland Europe. Personally, I’d rather have anyone but Cameron as prime minister in such a crisis. 

If I had a vote (which I don’t because I’m not registered in the UK), I would vote either Lib-Dem or Labour in order to defeat the Conservatives.

My ideal would be a Gordon Brown-led coalition government, with the Lib-Dems as a significant partner providing several Cabinet ministers to replace many of Labour current listless team. It probably won’t happen, but we’ll regret it if it doesn’t.


Responses

  1. I am rather optimistic. Two young practical leaders leading a centrist government, willing to reform where necessary, intellectually strong and economically literate with over 60 percent of the votes is very good for Britain after the mess left behind by GB.

    There will be strains and stresses – sniping from the right against Cameron and from the left against Clegg but that would happen anyway regardless.

    Cameron is a very able politician and so is Clegg. I hope the doubters will be seriously proved wrong.

  2. A few thoughts on the British election result.

    The centre-Right Clegg-Cameron coalition is the best solution that was available. My hopes for a LibDem-Lab coalition, with Gordon Brown continuing for at least a few months as PM, became impossible, partly because Labour did not have the seats and partly because of Brown’s perceived character flaws. Given that, it’s best for Labour to reorganise itself in opposition.

    However it won’t be surprising if serious cracks appear soon in the Con-LibDem coalition. There will be tensions over issues like Europe, economic cutbacks and political reform. Also, while several LibDem MPs have been made ministers with real and satisfying jobs to do, Nick Clegg has the possibly frustratingly nominal role of deputy prime minister, apparently i/c only political reform, much of which the Conservatives are pledged to block.

    But let’s give them a chance and see what they can do – and hope Labour can sort itself out quickly enough for a centre-Left coalition next time, whenever that may be………

  3. It should be remembered that in State supported Scotland, the Scottish voters propped-up Gordon Brown; the Scottish results being identical to those won by Labour at the last election. In England, by contrast, Cameron won hands down by seats and votes.

    I believe the main reason why Cameron did not achieve an overall majority is that of all the three major party leaders, he came closest to being up front about the economic truths faced by the country and courted unpopularity by announcing that he would be tackling the problems sooner rather than later. GB’s to the very end remained in denial painting himself as some sort of experienced economic guru and Cameron as some slash and burn anti state sector employment vandal. Of course a lot of people were taken in by this classic peice of Brownism.

  4. John, it did not go great for the tories, it was a terrible night for the Liberal Democrats, labour had an awful day.

    But of all three parties Labour’s results came in as one would have expected.

    In fact if there needs to be spin on the result, given all the predictions of a hung parliament and the ascendency of the Liberal Democrats, clearly someone profited at their expense in the end.

    Hard to see how anyone could make the case it was the labour party who did that.

    The centre left had its run, these days it is almost indistinguishable from the right.

    Frankly the UK needs a good period of dealing with income inequality primarily through economic growth rather than redistribution of wealth and free transfers.

    Though given the state of finances, its debatable whether even the most conservative parties can achieve that.

  5. Congratulations Gordon Brown on leading the Labour Party to 253 seats in parliament (261 final total predicted). Compared with Conservatives’ inconclusive 298 (306), this is an amazing result given that Labour has been in power three terms and was facing what many believed would be a disastrous collapse. Brown may not be prime minister for much longer, but he has surely done well.

  6. John, you’re surely not making the intellectual argument that basically you would have anyone but David Caemron run the country, when that basically means Gordon Brown.

    I have a soft spot for Mr. Brown, I think he gets the short end of the stick constantly, but the problem of incumbency is insolence. Shakespeare’s “the insolence of office”.

    Mr. Cameron is untested, and perhaps is more style than substance, but many said that about Barack Obama.

    Frankly speaking it is a poisoned chalice the election BoE governor Mervyn King says whoever wins he believes will be out of power for a generation afterwards. There will have to be deep and painful cuts, and in the end if someone needs to make them, its probably best they are made by people other than the ones responsible for ramping up expenditure in the first place.

  7. You must be insane if you want Brown back who is clearly a liar and Clegg a fantasist.
    Your points on Cameron pertain even more to Clegg, who is as elitist and less experienced – and funded by the Delhi arms trade. Furthermore, Lib-Dems are a bunch of socialists in a very loose church and one really does not know what policies they would push.

    The reference to Delhi’s arms trade stems from a story in the UK’s Observer newspaper in April last year, headlined “Liberal Democrat donor Sudir Choudhrie accused of brokering Israeli arms deal”. It alleged that London-based Choudhrie donated £95,000 to the Lib-Dem party and that other family companies donated a further £475,000. Choudhrie is one of India’s top three arms dealers and has close connections in Russia as well as Israel – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/apr/19/liberaldemocrats-donors-corruption
    This morning the Times of India reported the figure has risen to £700,000 – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Arms-dealer-wanted-in-India-major-funder-of-UK-Liberal-Democrats/articleshow/5894959.cms
    – je

  8. John: I do not normally disagree with you but with regard to your views on Cameron I do. He may look like a “shire” Conservative, in fact his privileged background is very similar to that of Nick Clegg whose parents I happen to know, but Cameron is certainly not a neo-con. His social ideas are in fact liberal and not dissimilar to what Tony Blair had wanted to do with regard to health and education only to be baulked by Gordon Brown.

    On Europe, Cameron has made a mistake with his realignment but he is practical and will probably end up with the centre parties – Merkel in particular – as long as they do not push Europe in a federal direction. On the Euro, even Clegg has backed away, There are no popular votes in any party for supporting it. On overseas development he has overseen huge support for a number of African countries.

    Of course The Conservative party is full of backwoodsmen just as the Labour party has its militant quasi marxists, but where Cameron deserves fulsome praise is in the way that he transformed and modernised the party.

    How you could support a coalition led by Gordon Brown of all people amazes me. Brown has been a disastrous leader who continues to be in denial about the deficit
    and blocked all radical ideas that New Labour came up with for the renewal of the nation and squandered our reserves. His compulsive lying has been revealed to all. No thank you. He has to go.

  9. Cameron is the only hope for British to save them form Islamize and others.

    Vote CAmeroooooooooooon

  10. John
    I concur with your views and, as I do have a vote, I have excercised it accordingly.
    In my opinion the only positive outcome of an outright Conservative victory would be the likelihood of a brake on the BNP and UKIP. As in the years of the Thatcher government, the racist right and the anti European elements would find themsleves at home in the nasty party.

  11. There seems to be a deep anger and frustration in the British people which could blow Gordon Brown away even if they did not want the Conservatives to win.

    The “bigot gate” episode damaged his perception quite badly. Some felt it exposed his hypocritic attitude and the politics of spin. It does appear from opinion polls that people stopped listening to him in the third debate after this episode.

    He may be the most capable but people are less rational when they are in anger and may opt for a change for good or bad.


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