The prolonged agony of the non-election in the UK finally seems set to reach its culmination: Mr. Brown is going to the Palace to start the election campaign.
I think that the feeling across the country will be relief. This coy game of "guess the election date" at times has tipped into farce, and sets pretty low standards in the banality of much of our political life.
Sadly I fear the campaign is already set to be an exchange of simplistic half-truths, rather than the informed discussion about the future of the country that it ought to be. Politics has about the same following as the Highland League, so I guess we should not be surprised that the metaphors are all about the kind of loyalty that one gives a football team, rather than a debate about ideas and policies. It is depressing nonetheless to see how little we are able to understand the policy platforms on offer from Labour or the Conservatives: they have explained little or nothing about what they intend to do. In part that vagueness is a ploy to avoid attack, in part- and more seriously- they do not yet recognise the scale of the changes we must now begin.
George Osborne argues for tax cuts- on NI- when the cupboard is bare. If he tries to enact them, he will need to make deep cuts in areas- like the NHS- that he has pledged to defend. The idea that there is so much "inefficiency" that could allow painless cuts of billions is a simple fantasy: if it were that simple, it would have been done. After all every government promises such "savings"- and every government fails to deliver them. Alastair Darling can only offer stealth taxes and more of the same.
I contemplate the campaign with rather mixed feelings: hope that the country will indeed try to change the system that has trapped it in an endlessly repeating cycle of political mistakes; fear that the result will turn out as a disappointing step back from radical reform. The vast financial resources available to the Conservatives make me fear the worst. Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats do enter the election season with a certain momentum- if either Labour of the Conservatives stutter, we may yet end up with more seats and more votes than ever- and the opportunity to help bring in the measures we know are needed to create a fairer, more open and more prosperous country.
Elections are fun, and at least we can fight on in hope.