GE2015 minus 45: something blander than aodyne

Posted: 23 March 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

I’ve mentioned before my favourite question around election times that politicians will perform any number of verbal gymnastics to avoid answering: “if you don’t win the election, what do you think will be the reason why?” Of course, the simple and correct answer is : the other person got more votes, but that’s not what I mean, and everyone knows it. But were politicians seeking your vote to answer the question honestly, I think that everyone would be better off. 

While listening to The Westminster Hour (or as I quite correctly refer to it: the ‘Westminster 35 Minutes‘) on Radio 4 last night, it struck me that almost uniquely – if you can have such a thing – the prospective parliamentary candidates are getting their excuses in early this time. You can hear it in the ever-so-slight pause every candidate takes before answering any questions at all. Part of this reticence is, by its nature inevitable, as none of the manifestos have been published yet and candidates are petrified of saying anything that will later be held against them.

“You said last week that children should be put up chimneys, but in your party’s manifesto, it says that you’ll bring in legislation to ban it. What’s the true story?”

However, there’s also a definite air of “oh, hell – what do I say when I know we’re not going to get a working majority but I can’t admit it… now what’s the party line? Oh yeah… ‘I think we’re going to get a working majority.'”

It’s perfectly understandable; the moment a politician says that they’d enter a coaltion with this party or that, or even rely upon a smaller party for confidence and supply votes, you give voters the excuse to vote for those parties. And no-one wants that.

Well, the smaller parties want that, of course, which is why their candidates do everything in their power to suggest otherwise… until one of their lot is honest and says they’ll want something in exchange for their support. 

And that’s the thing. We’re back to the deals behind closed doors, which all parties profess to loathing, but all know that they’re leap upon with all the eagerness of a young child let loose in a teddy bear factory.

A corollary to the ‘we’re working towards a working majority’ for the big two parties is the necessity to take pot shots at their likely future partners. In 2010, both main parties took personal and political aim at the Lib Dems, landing punches that – once the votes were counted – had to be rolled back on the grounds that “people understand”. That same excuse was perhaps more prosaically put by former New York governor Mario Cumo: “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” The same thing is applying now, even before the main platforms of the parties are sealed and delivered to the electorate.

Some might call this hypocrisy, but given the levels of hypocrisy inherent in British politics, I’m not sure such a ubiquitous word fits. The candidates at the moment, those who are new to the game and those who are already sitting as an MP for the next week or so, seem to be saying one of two kinds of statement:

(a) Something anodyne, entirely unsurprising and of such blandness that you could read out a statement and you’d get the same effect; and

(b) something so outrageous that they’re finished before the campaign officially starts.

The fake-campaigns have been running since the turn of the year. The real thing starts next week. I look forward to candidates who want your vote telling you why you should vote for them. Not why you should vote for their party, not why should shouldn’t vote for the other lot, but why you should vote for them. I look forward to people asking the question and getting a proper answer.

I say I look forward to it. That’s not quite true. The truth is that I’d be astonished if any of the candidates even understood the question. 

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