Scattered Thoughts on the General Election

An Election Unlike Any Other

This election is going to be completely unique in our lifetime, probably ever. Because people will be torn between voting on the normal things they care about: health, security, homes, welfare, the economy… — and the big thing of our time: Brexit.

There were close to half the electorate who voted to stay in the EU (close to half the turnout, anyway). There’s no reason to suppose that any of those have changed their minds, even if many now talk in terms of acceptance. There are plenty who voted the other way who wish things had gone differently. And the non-voters are an unknown.

If a party — or a coalition — were to clearly stand on a platform of stopping Brexit, or even of promising a second referendum, they would be in a position unlike any party ever. Or so it seems to me.

Unfortunately only the Liberal Democrats seem to be even close to that position.

I Can’t Vote Labour

I can’t in conscience vote for a Labour party that won’t clearly place itself against Brexit. I just can’t. This means I have to leave the party, I guess. Corbyn called today for “A Brexit that works for all.” No, no, no.

I imagine this means I’ll be voting Lib Dem. Possibly Green. I’m not sure where they stand yet. In one sense, of course, it doesn’t matter, as I live in one of the safest Labour seats, but that’s not really the point. I’ll be writing to Diane Abbot to explain my position, but I don’t imagine it will change hers, which is to support Corbyn, even though her constituency is one of the most pro-remain in the country.

I voted for Corbyn as leader twice, but he’s very disappointing now. Though I have to say that his policies on literally everything else would be dramatically better than the Tories.

Why, and Why Now?

Why has Mayhem changed her mind on a snap election, and why now? The obvious thing is the Tory lead in the polls, and to take advantage of Labour chaos. Nothing to with Brexit at all, not directly.

But something I was seeing on Facebook tonight was the idea that they were about to lose their majority, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brings charges for electoral fraud against up to 30 Tory MPs. The prosecutions will still happen, but they won’t affect the position of MPs who get elected this time round (well, unless they get convicted, of course, but I’m guessing the Tories will quietly deselect the ones who are likely to go down).

Effect of Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

My first reaction was, “They can’t: what about the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act?” Turns out that contains a clause that lets the sitting parliament ignore it, as long as they get a two-thirds majority. The irony of that figure was not lost on me, as possibly my most-retweeted tweet shows:

Without Labour voting with the government they wouldn’t get that two-thirds. Corbyn has cheerfully agreed to go along, missing an open goal. First, the opposition should oppose the government, as a general principle. Unless the government is doing the right thing, which is not the case here. More amusingly, if they didn’t get the two-thirds, they would have to go for a vote of no confidence. That is, a Tory MP would have to stand up in the House of Commons and move that “This house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” Even if they could come back from that, Corbyn should have forced it just for the lulz.

Polls Can’t Be Trusted

All is doom and gloom, because the polls look so bleak. Except… if there’s one thing the last few years have taught us, it’s that we can no longer rely on polls.1

On Newsnight tonight Paul Mason says he thinks Labour will win. Gotta admire his confidence, at least.

  1. Or the bookies, and don’t get me back onto that argument about how bookies’ odds can be mapped to percentages of expected voting. ↩︎

The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats

It seems like a curious choice for the Liberal Democrats to have their national conference in Glasgow this year, what with everything else that’s been going on in Scotland. I don’t think they’re very popular there.

Then again, they’re not very popular anywhere.

Back before the the coalition, when the Lib Dems were the third party, they always spoke in favour of coalition government. They always said that they would work with anyone if it they ever held the balance of power.

Then when it looked there was going to be a hung parliament, and when there actually was, they still said that they would work with either Labour or the Tories in order to bring a government into being.

The trouble is, no-one really believed them.

OK, I can only really speak for myself; but I’m probably not that unusual. The Lib Dems were always seen as being closer to Labour than to the Tories. There was the Lib-Lab pact back in the seventies. And all through the New Labour years, they were generally seen as being further left than Labour.

So when they held the balance of power in 2010, it was obvious — so we all thought, I say — that they would work with Labour, rather than the Tories.

Alas, it was not to be. Imagine how different the country might be now if Clegg had swung the right way back then. The country wouldn’t have been half-destroyed by Osbourne’s “austerity” measures. (I mean, really: haven’t they learned by now that you don’t cut public spending in a recession?)

Of course, there have been some good things during the coalition: marriage equality; the Scottish referendum (irrespective of how it turned out, Cameron agreed to it). There was even — if you recall — a referendum on electoral reform. Remember that?

No, me neither. It was a fix (since it got voted down), but I don’t recall how. Oh, yes wait: the anti-reform camp made a big thing of how much more complex than first-past-the-post the alternative vote (AV) system would be. When in fact it’s quite simple. And I guess they got the friendly media working against it.

Anyway, now they’ve been all but wiped out in yesterday’s by election. The worst thing about that is that UKIP seem to be in danger of replacing them as the third party.

Scary but interesting times.