England Has No Diebold Machines
Refering to the upstart Liberal Democratic Party: Here he is, they complain, gifted a historic electoral opportunity. His party has a record number of MPs, and scored some spectacular byelection victories during the last parliament. Never have so many Tory and Labour voters been simultaneously disaffected, there for the taking. But can Kennedy do it? Is he a uniquely well-adjusted politician, who has worked out that we actually want ordinary people in charge? Or just a rather ordinary man not cut out for the big league?
His confidence comes from the polls. An ICM survey last autumn confirmed his personal lead, giving him a positive rating of plus 25 points in voters' satisfaction. Blair's was minus 15, Howard's minus 11. But people can be hypocrites, moaning about "yah-boo" politicians, but voting for them all the same. Isn't it a terrible gamble to take them at their word?
Two months on, though, Kennedy's grip on the moral high ground seems altogether shakier. The Tory revival has roughly elbowed him out of the picture, and every day, as the fever over Gypsies, flying pigs and abortion burns hotter, he risks melting further away. Part of Kennedy's problem is intractable, a product of our electoral system. The current vacancy on the political spectrum obviously lies left of Labour. That's where he probably feels at home. But in each constituency he must chase the votes of the party doing worst — which in most cases is the Conservative party. As few Tories are likely to defect left of Labour, this leaves him with the invidious job of what he calls "riding two horses".
I have been reading about the snap election called by Tony Blair and decided to do something about the rising sense of confusion the news media gives me over there (a side effect of having a real press, I think): I contacted Richard, a sensible man who happens to live in England!
We chatted atTAPA since I can't quite afford long distances calls to England...yet. I started off asking Richard about himself and his political affiliations, if any.
I Live in North Western England, on Merseyside, not many miles outside the city of Liverpool.
I'm not a signed up 'party member' of any political party. Over here, it's not the norm to be actually signed up as a party member. Those who are form a very small minority. They're the real die-hards. I was tempted to say extremists but that's probably a bit too harsh.
It's quite normal for an election to be called ahead of the end of the maximum four year term. Unless a party thinks it's almost certain to be kicked out at the next election. Then they cling on for dear life right to the very last minute.
I don't think he just 'thinks' things would be worse for his chances later on - I'm sure he KNOWS they would.
Sorry, I forgot to say that my politics HAVE changed over the years - very much so.
When asked if he was always Labor, he surprised me, "I voted for mad Maggie Thatcher the first time. Before her second term ended, I'd seen what was coming. I've swung further left ever since. As I've gotten older and wiser."
As an American, I asked about our President. Richard assured me that Bush is an albatross around Blair's neck. Since this blog often talks about economic matters, I wanted to know if he was aware, as a home owner, about property issues.
Properties did boom, Elaine. But too much too quickly. Then, in December gone, they started to fall. They had to sooner or later. It was like the South Sea Bubble. Misery's on the cards for many in the near future, I'm afraid to say. That terrible spectre of 'negative equity' is looming large again.
As an example, the much publicized [dubious]purchase of couple of properties in Bristol, by the Blairs, is now losing them money at a quite dramatic rate. They're trying to sell - fast. They had one deal lined up - but it's now just fallen through.
The subject of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber came up. I wondered," John Major, the hour he left 'public' service, joined Carlyle and became part of that machine. Do you expect Blair to do this? How do you feel about whoever you elect, ending up working for Carlyle or Halliburton?"
Richard understood the system of buying leaders, "As you say over there, Elaine - I'd 'bet the farm' on Blair getting payback BIG-TIME from Bushco. He's "gonna be 'a made man'". Be it via Carlyle, Halliburton or some other branch of the crime families currently running the US administration.
Hows that for 'firing away,' Elaine? Heh. I even chose my words very carefully, and didn't swear, even once!
Blair will win, Elaine. The Liberal Democrats will have to wait at leat another decade, I believe , for their first real chance to govern. The conservatives under Michael Howard and his current crew will not get in.
The best we 'real Labourites' are hoping for, is that Blair's huge overall majority is slashed - dramatically. That way, he won't be able to claim he has 'a mandate' to do pretty much as he likes. Hopefully, he'll be forced to actually get this country back to being governed by 'cabinet' - rather than cronies & spinners."
We chatted so more. "Richard, do you and your neighbors talk about this? Or is there apathy about this election? Do you all worry about apathy leading to the sort of messes that happened in France when the far right nearly won because of stay at home liberal voters? "
He seemed fairly certain, "Unfortunately, activists like myself are always in the minority. That's not to say that most people I have as neighbours and as friends aren't fed up to their eye teeth with the Blairs, Bushes and Berlusconis of the world.
Thankfully, there won't be a big enough swing country wide to let in any right wing government.
As I said, the best we can hope for, indeed the best result we do hope for, is for Labour to win - but by a greatly reduced majority - and for Blair to soon be replaced as Labour leader by Gordon Brown. He's[Brown] the current Chancellor of the Exchequer.
One light at the end of the tunnel is that Blair's already said quite publicly, he will NOT serve another FULL term if elected - and Brown is the 'accepted' heir. Young British squaddies being asked to go and die - anywhere - is very much home politics, Elaine. You just ask any of their grieving relatives and friends."
We talked about fox hunting, "I prefer hunting squires", he added, and how domestic politcs can be about nearly nothing important. I have the feeling, from chatting with Richard over the years, that disenchantment with Tony Blair is extremely high but the namby pamby politics that are pressed upon a people when there seems to be no pressing matters at hand, causes elections to rage over very trivial things. One of the things that bother Richard is certain, whoever runs England can't fix: the rain.
" I live litterally just back from the sand dune lined, coast, Elaine. Not far from many pretty, tree lined streets. And, only yards away from beautiful, old mansions once owned by wealthy shipping line owners.
As for loving it - yes I do - in summer. In winter - nice it's not. We suffer too many gales. When it rains or hails - it's the horizontal variety.
Hear that? Well, gentlemen running for Prime Minister! You have quite a job ahead if you can fix THAT! We will hear from Richard after the elections.
Addendum: Since this interview, Richard has learned the joys of blogging and now has his own site which I visit daily. How This Old Brit Sees Things. Do drop in and have a tat of tea.