Election Day

Well, today’s the day. The day when the sitting Labour Government will either be rewarded with steering the country through the ‘Credit Crunch’ with a clear vision of what needed to be done  in the crisis or, they will be turned out of Government by an electorate without any sense of what is going on or one who cares.  And if this is so, who will replace them?  A Conservative Government who opposed the actions taken under Gordon Brown’s leadership during the credit crisis?  A Party led by one David Cameron who flits from one band wagon idea to the other?  A man who after so many years leading the Conservative Party, nobody really knows where he really stands on anything or what he stands for.  Only recently a Tory Manifesto has been revealed.  ‘Where was it before now?’ I ask myself.  I never heard the words ‘Policies’ or ‘Manifesto’ mentioned by the Tory leadership until recently.

The above aside, the Election of 2010 is probably the most important election in many years.  General Elections and those of our representatives are always important affairs.  I don’t believe in voter apathy.  I believe it is one’s right and duty to vote if you are able to, as there will always be factors as to why a person is unable to vote.  That aside, this Election will determine if we move forward and Labour under Gordon Brown’s leadership, keeps us on a course that will get the UK out of the Recession and we start to see growth or, we vote for a return to the dark days of the 1980s and a return to the kind of Government we endured under Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party.  That is the stark choice facing the British Electorate.  On the one hand, we move forward with a Labour Government, dealing with those issues we all face, or we divert from that course and onto a course of chaos, lost chances, another lost generation and missed opportunities under a Cameron–led Government.  That is the stark choice facing us today.   Having gone through the hell that was ‘Thatcherism’ during the 1980s, I have no desire, nor the will to live through those dark days again under a Cameron Government and that is my greatest fear should The Conservative Party gain enough MPs to form a Government.

One familiar with the whole Election process in the UK may well ask ‘Why haven’t I mentioned the Liberal Democrats or their Leader Nick Clegg?’ There is no reason in particular why I did not mention the third major party.  Indeed, until recently one could argue that up until last year, Nick Clegg was the invisible man of British Politics.  Indeed his predecessors, Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy were far more visible, the latter of the two extending the number of ‘Lib-Dem’ MP up to sixty or so in the House of Commons.  The recent televised debates between the three leaders is where Mr. Clegg truly made his mark, in terms of engaging with the audience both in the studios and at home.  I have made my views known about the televised debates so I won’t bother re-iterating here.

‘A Hung Parliament’.  What is this?  My understanding of this is a situation arises after a General Election where no one party has a working majority in the House of Commons to form a Government.  In order for a Party to form a Government, they need  three hundred and twenty-six MPs in the House.  That is out of total of six hundred and fifty MPs (the exact figure is 649 but don’t quote me on this).  If no political party has the working majority, then we have the situation of a ‘Hung Parliament’ and so what will most likely happen is some kind of horse trading will happen between the political parties and if either Labour or Conservatives can form some kind of deal or alliance with one or more of the other parties with seats in the House, then we will see the return of either a Labour Government or (God forbid,) a Conservative Government, with David Cameron as Prime Minister.  There will not be a Liberal Democrat Government with Nick Clegg as Prime Minister.  No British voter sees that happening but many are fed up with the two-horse race that has been between the Conservatives and Labour for decades.  And to be honest, a three-horse race is no bad thing for British Politics and Democracy for that matter.

The three main parties aside, there are the other parties.  I wouldn’t call them ‘Fringe Parties’ because to a degree they have some kind of wide spread support.  If one takes the political situation in Northern Ireland/Ulster, none of the three major UK has a presence there.  You have the Ulster Unionists (that have close links with the Conservatives), the DUP, SDLP and Sein Fein.  Scotland has the presence of the three main parties as well the Scottish Nationalist (SNP).  Wales have Plaid Cymru.  I would guess (as my knowledge is sketchy here that Ulster, Scotland and Wales have other fringe parties in addition to the ones I have mentioned.  England has the UK Independence Party (UKIP), British National Party (BNP), the Respect Party and the Green Party (the latter two who may well have representation right throughout the UK). The above are the Political Parties that operate throughout the UK.

There has been much speculation over who is voting for whom, what the polls say, who is ahead, who is not, who is undecided etc.  The latter, always surprises me.  I have never understood how people can remain undecided about who they are going to vote for (if they decided to vote at all,) right up to the day of the Election.  But we do have a situation where out of all those polled by the various polls being conducted, what they flag up, is there is a large number of people who are still undecided about who they are going to vote for.

There are reasons for this of course, one being people well and truly are undecided about who they are going to vote for.  As I have said above this General Election is probably the most important in many years because for the first time in decades, it truly is a three-horse race between the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, and mainly because the core vote of the two more powerful parties are split on some level.  Many people are dissatisfied with Labour after thirteen years of Government but do not want to see Conservative Government.  Conversely the there are traditional Conservative supporters that are unimpressed with David Cameron’s style of leadership but don’t want to see a continuation of a Labour Government and probably not one under Gordon Brown’s leadership.  So across the mainland of the UK, the Liberal Democrats (especially in England,) are in unique situation of challenging both Labour and Conservatives for parliamentary seats, in a way they never have before, with a real chance of actually gaining seats from both parties, hence the debate concerning a ‘Hung Parliament’.  There is a cautionary tale concerning the electorate, polls and the eventual outcome of a General Election.

The polls conducted during the General Election of 1992 predicted a Labour Party victory under Neil Kinnock’s leadership but come the Friday morning after the polling stations closed, Mr. Kinnock had a headache and wasn’t induced by an all-night knees up and victory celebrations.  He lost!  John Major who like Gordon Brown before him, was elected Party Leader of the Conservatives in 1990 (and continued the Conservative Government term of Office after Margaret Thatcher was forced to stand down as Prime Minster,) until he called a General Election for April 1992.  Those polled had either refused to reveal their voting intentions or just plain lied and said they were going to vote for the Labour Party.  It is the first time (to my knowledge,) even with the margins for error they include in their polls that the Pollster had got it so completely wrong.  So odd that so many people would lie about their voting intentions.  Clearly people didn’t vote with a clear conscious nor did the right thing in their own eyes.  They were so ashamed to admit they would be voting for a party who had been the institution of Government for thirteen years at that point.  There are some clear parallels here when you compare the situation as it now stands.

In the early 1990s there was a recession that had been affecting or should I say infecting, most of the UK apart from the South of England that had remained relatively shielded from the 1980s but by the 1990s the recession had begun to make its presence felt in the South.  There was also the situation with Iraq which was not a major factor as it was stopped once Iraqi troops had been expelled from Kuwait.  We also had the situation of a Prime Minister who had not led his party to electoral victory but was seeing out the term of his predecessor.  Gordon is doing no less than John Major did in the 1992 General Election.  Like John Major he was facing imminent defeat and given this, like John Major he got off his backside, went around the Country, across the Country and all over the Country, campaigning and his reward?  Clutched victory from the jaws of defeat.  With a lot of help from the British electorate.  In Mr. Major’s favour he was not in Government as long as Mr. Brown and even though he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was not in that job for very long, unlike Mr. Brown who was managing the UK Economy for more than ten years.  He was a part of the Thatcher Government as Chief Secretary for the Treasury, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Chief Secretary was probably his longest role in Government before becoming Prime Minister.  Despite this he was not significantly known or tarred with the brush that was ‘Thatcherism’.  And he was pretty much an unknown quantity, even though he was Prime Minister for about fourteen months prior to the 1992 General Election.  Unfortunately Gordon Brown is not so blessed, as he has been a major part of Government Policy and so clearly attached to the Labour Government since they came to power in 1997. Yes, he has made mistakes so clearly identified during the Election Campaign but in his favour, he is a Man of Substance who clearly has a plan, a workable one compared to his Conservative Counterpart.  He is ranked as a clear outsider but then so was John Major back in 1992 and Mr. Major brought the Conservatives another five years in Power.

The polls once got it wrong and they could yet get it wrong again – I could be completely wrong here as well but I think the game is still wide open.  Gordon Brown could win an outright victory or remain as Prime Minister in Hung Parliament.  Stranger things have happened in British Politics – The events of the 1992 Election, Margaret Thatcher’s four election victories in a time of austerity, are just two examples of how strange the outcomes of British General Elections can be.  The only poll that truly counts is the one where those who are eligible to vote, actually vote.  That is the only vote that truly counts.  Some would argue (and I am one of them,) that another five years of a Labour Government would a vote for commonsense in uncertain times.  If the British people overall choose a different path then with plenty of salt, I will be eating these words above, along with a big dish of humble pie come the morning of Friday 7th May.