Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The 2015 UK election... Full of Sound and Fury

I have held off commenting on the UK general election in too much detail. Partly because I have found it so disappointingly provincial that it has been a challenge to sort between the electoral shallowness of each of the pitiful manifestos.

At a time when the UK faces existential challenges: the threat of another European war; a global economy whose life-support is fading by the day; a failing and spectacularly expensive public sector; and any of another thirty or forty serious problems, it is shocking how weak the response of the politicians has been. Yet in truth I do not blame the political talking heads themselves- in the end it is the ignorance of the voters that is driving the most dumbed-down election that I can ever remember. The sophistication of the parties' voter ID systems has already eliminated the most egregious points of debate, and 90% of the electoral resources of the political parties are now focused on the 20% of seats that will actually decide the outcome, and here the messages are in simple primary colours. The necessary nuances are lost to cheap populism and all the sophistication of a reality TV show.

Only the Liberal Democrats have put out a consistent and coherent manifesto, and their reasonable costed programme has been drowned out by Conservatives pitching to estate agents -allowing social housing tenants to sell their houses at a guaranteed profit to large corporations- or Labour economic illiteracy- imposing rent controls guaranteed to turn entire districts into slums. This and the creepy weirdness of UKIP is now unaccountably more popular than a grown up programme for Liberal government. 

In the face of the contempt of the media and the intolerance of the electorate it has been impressive, even moving to see so many Liberal Democrats carrying out the campaign with cheerful good humour, even in places where it is incredibly hard even to get a hearing.  Yet the polls have not moved too much, and the hoped-for recovery is still looking pretty elusive. Despite heroic efforts, the party is facing a very difficult election indeed.

One week out from the general election, and with many votes already cast, it remains to be seen what will happen. Yet one thing is now clear. The need for constitutional change is now more urgent than ever- again not a theme of the general election campaign, but then so far despite the crisis the UK faces, it seems that the voters want to talk about anything except the very real mess that they are in.

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