Friday, April 30, 2010

Election update

A week in Cornwall has refreshed Mrs. Commuter and myself but left me perilously out of touch with the General Election. We failed to watch the second and third leaders' debate and the only story that seems to have been of much interest is 'Bigotgate', Gordon Brown's unguarded comments about an awkward encounter with a supporter that were conveniently recorded on a Sky News radio mike (that should have been unclipped before GB drove off) and instantly broadcast to the world.

David Cameron seems to have regained some momentum and is on course to head the largest party in the new Parliament but we won't know if he will have a majority until the day after - this at least makes it a highly exciting poll. The best part of this is that many voters will feel that their votes actually matter and that can only be good for democracy. Mine, alas, does not, living as I do in a fairly safe Tory seat.

The long-term question is whether the LibDems can sustain their apparent support and become a genuinely third player, and thereby break up the two party system that has worked, one way or another, since the early eighteenth century. Whig and Tory, Liberal and Conservative, Labour and Conservative - the stark either/or choice has been the essence of British politics for so long that we really no experience of anything else.  Actually that is not quite right, given the influence of the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, as well as the welter of parties in Northern Ireland, but it is reasonably true for the UK parliament.

I think that a more fluid system will be profoundly good for democracy and in making Governments more responsible to Parliament, and Parliament in turn to the people. So let us hope that some sensible voting takes place next week, and a sense of what may be won has more influence than the smell of fear.

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