Saturday 24 April 2010

Election 2010 - This week's thoughts

Another fascinating week in this year's election campaign. I originally thought I'd talk exclusively about the second election debate, but there's so much more to discuss. We've had the inevitable media backlash against Nick Clegg from the Tory supporting press, and the issue of electoral reform is dominating the political agenda in way that's not been seen before.

At the start of the campaign I said this election reminded me of 1992. I take that back. This is totally different and has a unique feel to it, as for the first time in most people's lives we have a genuine three horse race! How exciting!

Looking back over the last week, I watched the second election debate on Sky. I don't think we learnt anything really new from this second debate. Clearly Nick Clegg is very good on TV and he gave another self assured performance.

David Cameron was stronger this time round than last week. As for Gordon Brown, despite the polling figures I don't think he's doing too badly. He got off to a strong start last Thursday, but he shouldn't bother trying to be funny. Humour doesn't work with him.

Brown's problem is that I don't think people are interested anymore in what he has to say. He's the old face and it's always hard to present yourself as being the person who represents real change.

Overall I don't think there's really that much between the three leaders in terms of their TV debate performances, and this seems to bear out in opinion polls as the three parties are all pretty close to each other in terms of support.

This leads me onto my second point, about the media coverage and support, this is mainly in terms of the press.

I haven't been reading to much of the press to be honest. Depending on the paper there's too much of a biased and unbalanced view of what's going on.

Most of the press are generally in support of the Conservatives this includes the Sun, The Times, The Mail, Telegraph (Obviously)the Express all to varying degrees. The Mirror is the tabloid cheerleader for Labour, and the Guardian is the main broadsheet that remains anti Tori.

I've found it both fascinating and amusing how the rise of the Lib Dems has suddenly shaken up this election particularly the way the press have responded to them.

Having previously been ignored, the Tory supporting press have now begun their attacks on Nick Clegg and started scrutinising the Lib Dems policies in more detail. Some of the scrutiny was justified, other reports (I'm thinking of the Mail) were uncalled for.

I'm sure the Lib Dems are secretly loving it. It shows they're finally being taken seriously, but I'm fed up of the press and also leading figures in the City constantly warning against the threat of a hung parliament.

At the moment a hung parliament seems to accurately reflect the feelings of the electorate. People aren't overly enthusiastic about the two main parties and are seriously looking at the third. In this situation what's wrong with a hung parliament?

The real issue is that in this country unlike some European countries, we don't have a tradition or history of coalition governments. If we end up with a hung parliament we're entering into the political unknown.

Of course we hear more scare stories about the last hung parliament in 1974 which then led onto a Lib/Lab coalition government in the late 1970's, but the country was very different then to how it is now, and it's a mistake to say that a coalition will be some sort of political failure.

If we end up with a hung parliament then politicians, City bankers and everyone else will just have to get on with things and make the best out of the situation. I have to say a coalition government would bother me in the slightest.

There are a number of reasons why we're heading for a hung parliament, some of which I've already mentioned, but the biggest one for me begins with the Conservatives and the amount of seats they currently have in parliament. I'll explain.

This is the Tories election to win, and I still believe they'll gain the most votes and become the largest party in parliament. Their biggest problem is that they currently only have 193 seats. They need 326 to win an overall majority.

To put things into context, they have less seats today than what Labour had in the 1983 General election. It took Labour another three elections, 1987, 1992, and 1997 to finally achieve a majority. It's asking a lot for the Tories to do this in one election.

If they had something like 250 seats in parliament, I'm sure they'd comfortably win a majority and we wouldn't have all this coalition talk even with the Lib Dems doing so well. Nobody seems to highlight this point, they forget that despite leading in the polls they have an electoral mountain to climb.

My final thoughts over the last week centre on electoral reform. I can't think of a time when electoral reform has ever been so high on the political agenda. and this is one of the most fascinating things about this election.

Depending on next week's results, election reform may be unavoidable in this country. For example what happens if Labour come third in the popular vote, yet still end up with the most seats? The whole system will be an embarrassment!

I've got a lot of thoughts on this subject, so instead of carrying on now, I'm going to stop and write a new separate post on electoral reform in a few days time.

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