In the days immediately after the election the political class was treated to the sight of Sir John Major popping up to argue the case for a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition.
It reminded me of the cinema advertisements at the time The Sting was first released as a movie. The film marked the reunion of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in their first collaboration since the hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. That first movie concluded with the two stars’ demise and the trailer for the Sting ended with the words: “Maybe this time they’ll get away with it.”
For a Con-Lib alliance would, to all extent and purposes, be a re-run of the doomed 1992-97 Major government. As is often noted all political parties are coalitions anyway. John Major’s turned out to be the loosest kind. Read more
No political party wants to give up power. They are, after all, in the business of trying to govern. But the voices urging Labour to eschew a grand deal with the Liberal Democrats and regroup in opposition may have learned a valuable historic lesson.
In 1992, John Major surprised everyone by winning the election; some commentators went so far as to predict we would never again see another Labour government. Yet after the ERM crisis and umpteen sleaze allegations it was the Tories who were out of power for a generation. Had the Conservatives lost the 1992 election it would have been Labour which inherited the crisis and the Tories might well have returned to office at the next election. Instead they lost their reputation for economic competence and became hated. Read more
So the election has left us in the middle section of a Jane Austen novel. Gruff Gordon and Dashing Dave are competing for the affections of Nubile Nick, a comely young thing, sadly living in somewhat reduced circumstances. Much of his estate is now entailed but by gosh he’s full of brio. And we don’t yet know if Nick is the “consent and supply” type.
But instead of secret billets-doux and private meetings, we are seeing the negotiations played out in public with all emotion laid bare rather than remaining satisfyingly buttoned-up. Of course if this were an Austen romance, we know the Lib Dem leader would end up choosing the gruff stand-offish suitor, having been led a merry and disappointing dance by the more polished Conservative leader. Read more
So after a long night which rewarded those like me who stuck with it all the way through by delivering almost exactly the result predicted by the exit polls at 10pm, we now know that Nick Clegg will give David Cameron the first shot at forming a government.
Clegg’s decision to all but offer the keys to Number 10 to David Cameron is very interesting indeed. The Liberal Democrat leader must be bitterly disappointed this morning – in the end it was almost as if the debates that projected him to the electoral stratosphere never happened. He woke up and it was all a dream, which made it far harder for him to swagger around playing kingmaker. However, the decision effectively to cut Gordon Brown off at the knees so early is a surprising tactical move. Read more
Gordon Brown’s impassioned speech to the Citizens’ UK meeting on Monday has been widely and rightly praised – he showed us a leader worth electing, a leader capable of inspiring. He also showed Labour activists a leader worth getting the vote out for. It reminded me of a speech he gave back in 1994 to a Labour regional conference when the party leadership had already all but slipped away from him – a gutteral, almost political scream, who showed Gordon the radical, the idealist. But again it came only when he already sensed he had nothing to lose. It makes one wonder what kind of leader he might have been had his innate caution not always held him back.
(As an aside it is extraordinary that he was moved to such an animated performance by the tearful intervention of a young woman detailing the financial travails of her mum who worked as a cleaner at the Treasury. This was after all the department Mr Brown ran for 11 years.)
In our election podcast, Charles Lewington points out that John Major also seemed to find a moment of release in the last days of the 1997 election campaign.
There is something terribly sad about modern politics that the political class finds candidates who seem to embody what we admire in raw form and spend the next years stripping out everything that made them admirable in the first place. Some might argue that David Cameron took this process to its logical conclusion by doing the work for us in advance. Read more
“We are fighting to save tax credits”; seven words that sum up everything that has gone wrong for Gordon Brown in both this election and his premiership. I first noticed this, or a variation of it, in a radio news clip on Friday night; I then heard it again on Saturday and today. I’m fairly sure he’s said it in the debates but for some reason it only struck me this weekend.
You don’t fight for tax credits – you fight for hard-working families, you fight for the less privileged. Tax credits aren’t something you fight for, they are a mechanism. Only Mr Brown can elevate them into something worth fighting for in their own right. Tony Blair would never have made such a basic mistake.
One imagines a Brown variation on Winston Churchill: “We shall fight them to maintain a consistent quality of sand on the beaches, especially near the volleyball nets; we shall fight them on the landing grounds where they might seek to park in the bays otherwise reserved for the disabled and mothers with young children”. Read more
The FT’s Robert Shrimsley joined Clive Anderson for the BBC’s weekly election show, The Heckler. Click here for a link to the broadcast, which is a quirky, irreverent guide to this week’s events in the general election campaign. What the politicians really think of the voters they have to woo and flatter, and if we do get a hung parliament, will our leaders be simply too exhausted by all that campaigning to thrash out a deal to run the country?
Oh no, no no no. My innards are shrivelling up even as I watch it. It just goes to show the parties are right to keep their leaders away from voters.
Just to recap on the facts:
1) Gordon Brown on a visit to Rochdale, has a perfectly civil ding-dong with a Gracie Fields type who tongue-lashes him over a range of issues including immigration Read more
The FT’s Robert Shrimsley joined Clive Anderson for the BBC’s weekly election show, The Heckler. Click here for a link to the broadcast, which is a quirky, irreverent guide to this week’s events in the general election campaign. Is positive the new negative? How have all the main parties taken to rebuking the others for “squabbling” – or debating policy, as it used to be called?
OK. A contentious proposition. The TV debates with which we are all enthralled are not setting the agenda of this election; they are simply confirming it. This is not to underplay their significance but it is important to understand their limits.
When the Conservatives conduct their post-mortems on this general election, many will conclude that his poor performance in the first debate and his agreement to Nick Clegg’s inclusion is what cost him victory. (Obviously, this is one of those posts that presumes he is not headed for an outright victory.) Read more
It’s 45 minutes since the debate ended so here’s a first settled view
Nick Clegg had another good debate. Perhaps not as stellar as last time but again he was very strong and there were real touches of Obama in his peroration and call for a politics that could be different and he ended witha real flourish. He did seem a little flustered at one point when the other two ganged up on him but ironically their aggression may work for him. He was particularly effective when dealing with his weakest subjects. He was very good in the immigration round but it is hard to know if his debating talents will compensate for the fact that he is pushing an unpopular policy – an amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is hard to see him losing much ground on this. There was nothing to stop his momentum and if anything he may have cemented his position. he will be pretty pleased tonight. Read more
Remember the Swift Boat Veterans who helped destroy John Kerry’s presidential bid? They were a group of guys who rubbished his war record turning his time in ‘nam against him even though he was running against George W Bush who wriggled out of going altogether. The great thing about the veterans is that they were at arms length and George Bush had deniability over their output.
Well look at this from ConservativeHome. It’s a pretty effective attack video rubbishing Nick Clegg’s record’s on expenses and it is being tweeted out by sympathisers. Read more