GE2015 minus 50: Voting and elections… and me

Posted: 18 March 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

Coming up to my 50th Birthday last year, I wrote a series of blog posts entitled “50 minus…” counting down towards the big day. Since they seemed to go down well, and we have another big day approaching, the first general election to be held since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act came into force, I figured I’d do it again. So, below is the first of fifty daily blogs; they’ll mostly – but not exclusively – be about the 2015 election, and British politics. But there’ll also be the usual mix of news, public stupidity, and, well, ‘slice of life’ stuff. If there’s anything you’d actually like me to write about, let me know. The only thing I won’t be saying way in advance, is who I’m planning to vote for. Mainly because as of this date, I haven’t yet made up my mind. More about that as we progress though.

I can’t remember when I first became interested in politics. Mine wasn’t a particularly political home. My mum had no interest in politics, and my father, while being a huge advocate of debate and learning, rarely discussed politics at home.

I recall watching with some amazement the second 1974 general election (yeah, there were two that year) on television, my interest sparked by the Rory Bremner of his day, Mike Yarwood. I should qualify that: Yarwood was the pre-eminent impressionist of the day, but his style was for general entertainment, not satire. Very, very occasionally, he’d slip into genuine satire, but it was more by accident than a delberate choice. 

But yeah, the October 1974 general election; I was 10, and for the first time, I realised what parliament was, or at least purported to be; that people stood in something called a “general election” for the right to ‘represent’ us. I didn’t know who my MP was, of course, nor what the various parties’ policies were, not even what the parties stood for, who they were supposed to represent.

I just knew that one of the parties was headed by a bluff man with a pipe, another was headed by someone with a spectacularly annoying speech pattern and who seemed to own a yacht. (I wasn’t sure what relevance that had, but it seemed to be important as it was mentioned a lot.) There were also these people called “The Liberals” but no-one seemed to like them much. How things change, eh?

I do remember being puzzled as to both the slowness and the speed. How come it took so long to get the result? Everyone kept saying that we’d know the result “tomorrow”. That didn’t make sense to me. Why couldn’t they decide it straight away? And yet, they also said that if “Mr Heath” won, he’d be “Prime Minister” and “Mr Wilson” would have to leave his official house straight away. That didn’t seem fair.

OK, enough of 1974. Let’s jump forwardto 1979. By the time of the 1979 election, I’d become fascinated by politics; not with the policies themselves and what the parties said they stood for, but the process of politics, elections and government. I’d already realised that what parties said they stood for and what they actually stood for were two very different things.

The 1979 election was held in May, and like many schools, we had a mock election. I didn’t put myself forward for election; I was quite content to just enjoy the process. I used to remember who won (I think it was the conservative candidate, but I’m no longer sure.)

And then moving forward again, I studied government and comparative politics at A-level; once again, this played to my interests, as it was much more concerned with government than with politics, the latter mainly being a comparative excercise between the political systems of the UK, the United States and China. While I simply lost interest in the Chinese political system, the American system is one that fascinates me to this day. 

More of my personal history on another day, I think. 

George Osborne presented his sixth and last budget before the general election; as with all budgets, the immediate responses online, in the media and from politicians could have been written before the speech was given. Indeed, the main response, from the Leader of the Opposition, seemed, from what I’ve read, to have been written in the main based upon what they believed the Chancellor would say, rather than what he did say. But in this, Ed Miliband was just following a long parliamentary tradition when the response is an attack not on the budget but on the entire economic policy and practices of the government.

It’s similarly a tradition that the budget response is delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. The Shadow Chancellor gets his opportunity to respond to the Autum Statement (a kind of interim-budget). And the traditions continue. Because the budget is what’s known as a “money bill”, the House of Commons transforms itself into a grand committee of the whole house. And parliamentary tradition dictates that when it’s a money bill, also known as a supply bill, it’s not the Speaker of the House who presides, but a deputy speaker. That ‘supply’, by the way, is the supply of money to the Exchequer, and is the ‘supply’ bit of the ‘supply and confidence’ phrase that you’ll hear a lot more about if, as we expect, there’ll be a hung parliament resulting from the general election. 

  

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Comments
  1. Of course it wasn’t that we didn’t like the Liberals but rather because that nice and charismatic Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe was allegedly involved in hiring a hitman to kill his purported gay lover.

    The good old 1974 – 1979 Parliament was, in part, a minority administration with a Lib-Lab pact that kept the Labour Government in place. Votes frequently involved bringing in MPs from hospital in ambulances to keep things running. With echoes of a future pivotal role for the SNP, they voted ‘no confidence’ in Labour, which triggered the 1979 General Election. The Parliament could have run until October of that year. Labour lost by 1 vote in the ‘no confidence’ vote.

    The constitutional question today could be what effect does a ‘fixed’ Parliament have. The old system caused a second General Election in 1974 when Wilson realised he needed a majority he went back to the people. That isn’t possible with a ‘fixed’ Parliament. Do we go through a series of ‘no confidence’ votes with several Prime Ministers depending on the fluctuating alliances of a Parliament with no formal coalition.

    If the SNP actually win a lot of seats they will both become important and irrelevant simultaneously.

    If Labour lose a lot of seats in Scotland they will have to win more in England. The power to lose seats in Scotland is a one-off nuclear weapon. Once used a new political map is drawn and Labour will have to rely on English votes.

    The election will throw up some interesting stuff for political anoraks. As usual the big questions of the constitution and parliament are missing from the media trivia based on personality politics and almost all political journalism is celebrity.

  2. […] I started this daily election blog countdown with GE2015 minus 50: voting, and elections… and me, I wondered how I’d fill 50 entries’ worth with my views on the election. Now fair […]

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