Monday, April 18, 2005

Poll watching

Ten days into the election campaign (and I don't mean the conclave under way in the Sistine Chapel). For this blogger it's become rather quiet. Not one communication from a political party through the letter box since last Monday. Not a single poster to be seen in Ruislip. Somehow I have failed to see a single party political broadcast, not through conscious avoidance, just because none have been scheduled at any time I have been watching TV (which has not been a lot recently, apart from the snooker, because I have been playing Rome: Total War again, having discovered how to play as any faction available, instead of just one of the three Roman factions - I've been playing Egypt for several days and am finding it tough going, especially now that Rome has declared an utterly unprovoked war on me, the bastards, and is clearing my ships out of the Eastern Med...but I digress).

The opinion polls are pleasingly diverse, some showing the Tories just ahead and others showing a 3 - 6 point gap in favour of Labour. It's much more fun when public opinion is volatile and politicians are forced to listen more closely. Hopefully the Tory campaign based on "we are not racists but are you thinking what we are thinking, wink wink nudge nudge, foreigners out" is failing to galvanise floating voters, although it may be bolstering the will of die-hard supporters to turn out on the day. Amazingly, the disaster at MG Rover has seemingly been accepted as just one those things, instead of it being used to show incompetent the Government is, or provoking a massive kneejerk reaction - in the past quasi-Nationalisation would be the outcome from a Labour Government desperate to sway the many marginal seats in the West Midlands.

I think the strangest theme has been the Matron/Cleaner hospitals idea from the Tories. It is hard to understand how this can possibly be a party political issue anyway - is there a party in favour of dirty hospitals? I don't think so - but to have this coming from the party who on ideological grounds privatised cleaning and created the internal market is galling. The internal market where,every service within a hospital was charged for, creating a useless layer of administration and paper-processing, whilst almost certainly reducing efficiency and health-management (because the lowest cost providers of any service are not normally the best and the short term economies invariably increase longer term running costs, as is clearly shown by the grip that the MRSA bug now has in many hospitals) is a disaster. It is based on a thorough misunderstanding of the theory of markets, a ludicrous belief in the idea that "pure competition" is the best state for an economy and a value judgement that all non-financial transactions are inherently sub-optimal. (This is one subject I feel I know something about, having read economics at Cambridge.)

And the missing theme of this election? Massive improvements in the ghastly signalling and information systems used by the London Underground. This commuter would pay keen attention to any party sticking their neck out on this one.

So onward into the second full week of the campaign.

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