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Election 2010

April 6, 2010

So it’s official: the Prime Minister has seen the Queen, dissolved Parliament and called this year’s general election. It will take place on May 6, exactly a month from now.

I’m immoderately excited about this election for two reasons. Firstly, because it’ll be the first general election in which I get to vote – I was a whippersnapper of 15 back at the last one, i.e. old enough to follow what was going on and want to get involved, but not actually old enough to join in. This time, it’s poll time.

Secondly, because the elections of 2001 and 2005, the ones I remember clearly, were neither of them terrifically interesting. The 1997 one was, but being not-quite-eight means I only have dim memories of the night – a day off school, having things explained I didn’t understand, my parents being excited, and my dad nipping out after the polls had closed to steal one of the big Vote Labour signs. (I kid you not. It lived under my parents’ bed for years.)

This one, on the other hand, is shaping up to be a titanic struggle, and hopefully not in the ‘utter disaster’ sense of the word. The opinion polls are swinging around all over the place: YouGov and Opinium say the Tories have a 10-point lead, ICM puts it at only 4, and we’ve still got five weeks in which potentially anything could happen.

What is looking likely, for the first time in many years, is a hung parliament. The Tories are undoubtedly doing well, but they’d need to secure their biggest swing in decades to get a ruling majority, and so far their ability to do so doesn’t look convincing. There’s also the point that a significant proportion of people deeply disillusioned with Labour are from the left-hand end of the party’s support, pissed off about things like ID cards, pandering to religious lobbies, surveillance, and so on – who will likely switch to the Lib Dems.

What would actually happen in the event of a hung parliament is unclear. The obvious thing would be for one or the other main party to ally with the Lib Dems, but I can’t see them getting into bed with the Tories, and coalescing with the currently extremely unpopular Labour remnant – and possibly leaving Brown at the head of government – would hurt their popularity.

On the other hand, given how long the Lib Dems have been our third party, it’s even harder to imagine them refusing an opportunity to kind-of be in power.

From where I’m standing, a Labour/LD coalition looks like the least of several evils – the Libs can’t pull off an upset on the scale to govern on their own, but they can at least keep in check the worst civil-liberty-destroying excesses of the Labour remnant, assuming that a semi-elected Labour minority would even dare carry on with all the things that are currently biting them in the backside.

A Tory government would just be a thousand kinds of bad, a Tory/LD coalition would be nearly as bad and also destroy my faith in the Libs, and a Labour majority would be catastrophic at this point – it’d effectively be a mandate to carry on pissing around.

For what it’s worth, I live in a heavily student area, which translates to heavily left-leaning politics when people bother to vote at all; our Lib Dem MP is relatively safe, and I’m perfectly satisfied with that. (The dude is also a great MP – involved with the community, and lives and works here most of the time. He showed up to the communal meal our local mosque had at the end of Ramadan and talked to a bunch of people, supports the local rugby team, and is generally awesome.) So probably no seismic shifts specifically round here.

But I’ll still be casting my vote, being a firm believer in the principle that those who don’t vote don’t get to complain afterwards (the people who refuse to vote for anyone on principle should go and spoil their papers, thus acknowledging that yes, they care, and are abstaining on grounds of morality rather than laziness).

It’s also been drilled into me by my mother since I was very small that not-voting is not only abrogating your right to have a say in the running of the country, itself a stupid thing to do, but also devaluing the sacrifices of the people who died to secure the vote for women, people of colour, young adults and the poor.

The voting is only the start, though: after that comes the magnificent British television ritual that is the election night broadcast. We can’t do it on the same scale as the US presidential elections – having one-fifth the population and a much more sedate approach to politics will do that – but let nobody say we can’t still hand down nailbiting television. Brian Cathcart wrote a book chronicling the ’97 election coverage, Were You Still Up For Portillo?, which manages to capture the electric charge of an important election even 13 years and much disillusionment after the fact. I hope this one will be as gripping.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Spicer permalink
    April 6, 2010 4:06 pm

    I think this is going to be the first election where I actually care enough for any of the parties involved to actually vote. I certainly agree with you on the stupidity of not voting out of laziness, I just haven’t found any of the parties stands in previous elections to appeal to me.

    Perfectly honest, my main incentive with this election is just how much hatred I hold in my heart for one David Cameron and the Conservatives current line up, and would be more than happy with another labour goverment in preferance to the Tories getting in.

  2. Paul Skinner permalink
    April 6, 2010 10:59 pm

    The problem with this election is that so far every party has gone out of their way to make sure I don’t vote for them.
    This evening the Lib Dems annoyed me by:

    A. Having only 2 people turn up to the Digital Economy Bill second reading
    B. Not saying a damn thing on it
    C. Voting to go for a third reading

    If any one party came out against the bill they would get my vote almost instantaneously (providing they’re not an extremely right-wing party).

    The bill is of such importance to this country’s digital future that it’s a travesty that it’s being rushed through at the last minute.

    This, incidentally, is why I have no remaining faith in humanity as I proved in my last comment, which I’ll try to get back to soon.

  3. Paul Skinner permalink
    April 6, 2010 11:02 pm

    I actually live in hope that the Queen will decline to offer to whomever wins the chance to form a government in her name.

  4. wickedday permalink
    April 7, 2010 11:30 am

    It’s kind of worrying how the DE bill has managed to sneak in under the radar like this. I would have thought that, at the very least, it being Mandelson’s brainchild would have turned a lot of people automatically against it. (I swear half the country have forgotten that the Prince of Darkness is back in government.)

    And it seems to be a decent example of how governments hide these things and/or people don’t bother to find out about them. The provision for cutting off suspected pirates’ household Internet is a good one – could potentially affect anyone in the country, massive violation of civil liberties, fucking draconian to say the least – suspicion is not proof! – and yet nobody seems to know about it.

    On which point, it’s also almost certain to backfire: people tech-savvy enough to be pirating on a scale worth prosecuting are probably also clever enough to mask or otherwise obscure their IP. The only people this law will end up prosecuting are clueless mostly-innocents. (Another step in the centre/right demonisation of the teenager – and they wonder why the younger generation are pissed off.)

  5. knightofthedropdowntable permalink*
    April 7, 2010 12:34 pm

    Did the bill go through before Parliment was dissolved? I’m also disappointed that very few Lib Dems turned up for it, but I’m not surprised it’s been kept very quiet. On the internet people are yelling about it all over the place, but the rest of the UK media (especially newspapers) are probably very happy to let it go through – newspapers are apprently losing business through the internet, after all. That, and anyone who stands up for it will be probably be deemed a pirate by the major entertainment companies. It’s like protesting against stuff like ID cards and being told “if you’re not breaking the law you have nothing to hide, so there’s nothing wrong with it”…

  6. wickedday permalink
    April 7, 2010 12:42 pm

    “Did the bill go through before Parliment was dissolved?”

    It may or may not. (I imagine it will, but it still has a chance not to.) The second reading was last night, and the MPs present voted to take it to a third reading, which will be late this evening. Parliament breaks tomorrow.

    I’ve calmed down slightly, now – in hindsight, what with all the other things MPs are doing right about now, it makes sense to skip the second reading of a bill you’re fairly sure will go to a third reading. I suspect tonight’s session will be much fuller, and also see a better Lib Dem presence – especially given that

    The Liberal Democrats have said that they will vote against the DEB tonight if key amendments are not made to controversial clauses relating to website blocking, orphan works and peer-to-peer filesharing.”

    From here.

  7. Jack Spicer permalink
    April 7, 2010 1:38 pm

    From my reading, the bill isn’t on the suspision of piracy, but repeated incidents, after warnings from the ISP. I would imagine that in the case of innocent parties, they would recieve a warning from their internet service provider, and them probably stop what they were doing to get a more tech-savy person to help them, I’d imagine.

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