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!
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”.
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.
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.