It says something about the boringness of what feels like the longest election campaign in British history that this morning’s news of the light airplane crash that injured Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP and now parliamentary candidate in Buckingham, standing against Mr Speaker Bercow, was its only interesting item. Apparently, both Mr Farage and the pilot are doing well in two separate hospitals, so the news is not as tragic as it could have been. Apart from that, there really is nothing of any interest one can say about the election campaigns as conducted by the three main parties. There are a few things to be said about the election itself and the political situation in which this country has found itself.
Let us be clear: this is not the most earth-shatteringly important election in British history. Yes, it would be good to get rid of the dysfunctional Labour government that has brought us to the pass we are at but the alternative, David Cameron’s “new” Conservatives do not inspire one with any confidence. The party’s promise to reduce the shockingly high government deficit (almost as high as the Greek one) followed swiftly by numerous promises to spend more money on various projects makes one feel that there is a shortage of people who can do basic maths among the Conservatives. The refusal on the part of the three main parties (apart from the occasional admission by the Lib-Dems) even to discuss the control the European Union exerts over this country’s political and economic life has dismayed many people and not just who are known to be eurosceptics. There is a confused understanding in many people’s minds that it really does not matter who we vote for and that is not something the three main parties like. In particular, the Conservatives, who have been attempting to capture the eurosceptic position (as they had managed to capture and pre-empt any possible tea-party movement in this country) are unhappy. Their campaign has become more and more hyperbolical over the weeks, till it looks positively apocalyptic: if we do not vote for them the Four Horsemen will surely arrive.
The general impression of the last few weeks (once it really was election time and not just the Conservative demanding for no reason whatsoever that an early election be called by the Prime Minister) is that there was very little interest among the voting public and the less interest there was the more hysterical the media and the politicians became. The somewhat ridiculous story of Gordon Brown calling Gillian Duffy a bigot when he thought the mike had been switched off produced larger, blacker, more frenzied headlines than the German invasion of Poland had done in 1939. (I know this, because my friend and colleague, Richard North of EUReferendum compared the two.) Despite the apathetic attitude to the election campaign, anecdotal evidence (there are still several hours of polling to go) says that the turn-out might be quite high. My own anecdotal evidence proves nothing: there were a couple of people in the polling station when I went in and a couple more came in as I was going out. That is about par for the course.
The big question is how have the Conservatives found themselves in this position. This, after all, was the election that they could not lose: 13 years of Labour government, a severe economic crisis, a completely dysfunctional government, a country that is at odds with itself. The Opposition should have walked into office. Yet, even a year ago they could not manage more than a 14 point lead over Labour and that is not big enough. Since November, when David Cameron reneged on his “cast-iron guarantee” to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty a.k.a. a Constitution for Europe, the gap has narrowed dramatically and nothing the Conservatives have done shifted the basic division, whereby opinion polls gave them a consistent support of 35 to 38 per cent, Labour somewhere around 25 and 28 per cent and the Lib-Dems, astonishingly enough and this, too, can be placed at David Cameron’s door, an almost equal percentage. Whichever way one looks at it, every poll showed 12 per cent or more of those asked not supporting any of the three main parties.
I shall have to impose on Chicagoboyz readers some more in my analysis of the British election that will have to be in further postings.