Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A General Election a Long Way Away

There's an election back at home on May 6 but you'd be excused for not knowing living over here.



When I was much younger than today the General Election was a massive defining event that dominated media coverage for weeks and whipped the whole country into a frenzy. It, therefore, gives me an odd sense of dislocation being over here and hardly being aware of the main players, let alone every twist and turn. It's not even easy to get British news on the British news sites because sites such as the Guardian, the Daily Mail and BBC have been Americanized - even if you type in .co.uk. Thank goodness for the reactive folks at the Telegraph.

I feel rather sadly disconnected from it all now. I met David Cameron, who happens to the the Prime Minister, on one occasion. I may have met Liberal Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg once, but seem to have forgotten. Labour leader Ed Miliband looks like he should be a playground monitor, I don't want to think too closely about the UK Independence Party and some Green party person.

The polls are close but demonstrate that while much has changed much remains the same - the election will either be won by Labour or the Tories, even if they need a bit of help from someone else.

When we grew up in the 1970s people were either fundamentally red or blue and it's still that way. You believed in the working man or woman in a flat cap or you had floral curtain and china cups and fondness for fox hunting. we were Labour in a fairly unenthusiastic way. There was a minor rumpus when my mother voted for Margaret Thatcher one time. She never repeated the mistake again but continued to flirt with the Liberals for some time. In the divisive 1980s I did some canvassing for the Labour party and joined a university group where people shouted a lot, sported frightening hair cuts and went on about Trotsky until I realized there were more exciting temptations such as beer and women.

Later in life I wrote about politics, although the people I interviewed have mostly vanished to sunken old homes in Surrey or wherever politicians go to be put out to grass. I remember a terse exchange with a grumpy Michael Heseltine at a suburban railway station and a pint with John Gummer who remarked on the noteworthy cleavage of the woman behind the bar. One time at the House of Commons while involved in a scintillating talk about badger culls I turned around to see a frail but somewhat fierce elderly woman and momentarily made eye contact with Margaret Thatcher.

For many years the Tories dominated and Labor was the underdog. Then the tables were turned and the country was ruled by Tony Blair who may as well have been a Tory anyhow and infamously got stuck up George W Bush's pants leg.

From a distance much of the emotion has gone out of British politics. I can't really relate to much of the Facebook hatred I see about David Cameron who seems cuddly compared to Margaret Thatcher - although the same could be said about a nest of wasps. And it's hard to feel much sympathy for the Lib Dems who spend the last four decades saying their time would come when they could be part of a coalition government and would push through voting reform that would change their fortunes.

Four years ago the Lib Dems finally got their moment in forming a coalition government known as Con Dem Nation. Now they are struggling at about 10 percent in the same old voting system that dogged them in the past.

When it comes to British politics, the faces may be different but the old notions of red and blue and left and right, still linger.

5 comments:

  1. They go to Guildford or Hove when they're past it. So I've heard.
    The problem now is there isn't too greater divide and the two walk either side of a middle road. The problem I have with Miliband is that he would have made a great Spitting Image puppet. How can I take that seriously?

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    1. I know right Jules - his brother would have been less of a puppet...

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  2. I suspect this election will produce what I think in the US is known as a "clusterf**k". We can only wait and see, although strange things do happen. Last election, Nick Clegg briefly visited our office. We all looked up and went "Oh, that's wotsisname" and got back on with our work. Then lo and behold within about a fortnight he was deputy PM. You never can tell.

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    1. ha ha - yep he is monumentally unremarkable - I think you are right re the result - fun times.

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  3. Bit of a surprising result there. On the whole, I think the Cameron haters were complacent and thought it would be a landslide against him - in some form or other.
    Now onto 2016.

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