GE2015 minus 30: for and against…? no, just against.

Posted: 7 April 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

I wrote the other day about how the parties seem to be waiting for that small shift in the polls that indicate a larger one is on the way, and how it’s not happening. What’s striking to me is that almost no-one else is. Although this election seems to be engaging people more than the last, it’s notable that thus far at least, people who want one party or another to win, form part of the next government, or at least support whatever government we end up with… don’t appear to be expecting ‘their’ party to do anything new.  

Now, ok, we’re only just over a week into the election campaign, but nobody – ouside the parties themselves – seems to be anticipating a break point where the electorate will swing behind one party or another. Not only are people now used to the idea of a minority or coalition government, but they’re so expecting it that it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. I don’t know anyone who’s genuinely expecting a majority government of a single party to emerge after 7th May. Which means the game becomes not persuading people who might vote for someone else, but not losing people who right now say ‘I’ll vote for you’. And that puts the parties – and particularly their activists – in a lousy position: if playing safe isn’t going to get you substantially more votes and seats, are you sure that it would even ensure you keep the votes you ‘should’ keep?

The Labour party is torn between pushing their left-wing beliefs and policies, and consequently being attacked on all sides: by other left-wing parties for not going far enough, and the newspapers and the Tory Party for going too far. But aiming for the middle ground…? Well, since the sainted Tony left office, no-one in the Labour party seems to know how to do that effectively. And, one might ask, why should they? Shouldn’t they be proud of their `left-wing roots, their left-wing beliefs, and potential left-wing policies? Problem with that is that over the past twenty years, Labour has done ‘best’ in national elections when they have ostensibly spurned their left-wing roots, their left-wing beliefs, and their left-wing policies? One could argue that the playing field has changed, that the global financial crisis and five years of Conservative-LibDem government has shown the electorate that more inclusive, more caring, more left-wing policies and practices are needed. One could argue that, but I think you’d lose the argument. Although poll after poll has showed that when explained, some of the excesses – some, not all – of the incumbent government are heartily disliked by the public, all that shows, I venture to suggest, is that the electorate don’t want a heavy right-wing government. And that’s a far cry from wanting a left-wing government.

One consequence of Cameron et al hammering on about their ‘long term economic plan’ is that it allows the Tories to remind the public that the senior echelons of Labour have not ‘apologised’ for ‘crashing the economy’. Now, whether or not you think they should apologise is an entirely different matter. By setting it up this way, the Tories have left Labour in a no-win position on the econcomy. If Labour don’t apologise (and I think the last thing the Conservative Party want is an full, honest and open apology), then the Conservatives get to keep mentioning it. But if they did apologise, then the Tory campaign get to use their “see, even they think they fucked it up; why would you trust them again? WHY?” strategy.

I’m genuinely puzzled why Labour haven’t been hammering on a similar message; there have been any number of things this government has screwed up, from the truly disastrous on the one hand to the relatively trivial but politically toxic on the other. Why haven’t Labour been calling for the Conservatives to apologise to the public for their own screw ups? 

While they’re running their own campaign, instead of always being on the backfoot, responding to Labour’s charges, one might think that the Conservative Party should have it easy in this regard. But they appear so terrified that UKIP are going to take votes the Tories regard as ‘rightfully’ theirs that their campaign is as torn as Labour’s, not helped by the inconvenient fact that many of them have never liked Cameron in the first place. If they go harder to the right, the Conservatives will be attacked for pandering to UKIP. If they ease to what they regard as the centre ground… well, why vote Tory and get a government comprising backbenchers who’ll regard the manifesto as an entry visa: useful when needed, and then a waste of paper later.

The theme of this election campaign so far, and I suspect with a leaden heart the remainder as well, will be ‘don’t rock the boat’. Everyone knows who they want to vote for them, and everyone knows who the other lot want to vote for them. And rarely do many of the voters overlap.

But here’s the thing. There are millions of people who could vote who, right now, don’t know who they’re going to vote for. (I’m one of them, but that’s for a very different reason, an issue with ‘local’ vs ‘national’ elections). All the parties are offering are policies to the people that almost without exception are going to vote for them anyway, and the same old policies that will scare away… people who’d never vote for them anyway.

15.9m people didn’t vote in 2010. 15,900,000 people. Now, there may have been some people who were unable for some reason or other, to vote. And some of those people would have voted for the person who won their constituency anyway. But some of those people must have thought “there’s nothing to vote for.

What scares me is that this time around, those people will have convinced their friends to do the same. 

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