May Election in the UK

Electoral calculation will dominate politics for the next four months... in the UK. I've a greater question for the political readers in the blogosphere for now, than who's going to win, and that is, which are the political junkie blogs to follow in the UK leading up to the election?

All the conventional wisdom is that Labor is going to win, and it's just a matter of by how much:

If Labour gets back with another big majority - say about 100 seats compared with the current figure of 159 - Mr Blair has a decent chance of fulfilling his recent pledge to serve a full third term, implementing an ambitious policy agenda. But if Labour's margin of victory is 50 or less, Mr Blair may struggle to keep his job... Labour's private polling suggests it is looking at a majority of between 80 and 110. But it's the "apathy factor" that could undermine Blair and Labor, with a low turnout. If that's the case, the interesting question is, Could the Lib Dems replace the Tories as the main opposition party, or is this just a pipe dream? If the former, ...it is May 6, 2005, and a chirpy Charles Kennedy, his party having doubled its House of Commons seats to more than 100, is striding up Downing Street to demand at least four seats in a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition cabinet, and immediate legislation to introduce proportional representation.
But back to the CW:So it looks like Labour, with the Tories in second place. According to William Hill, the bookmakers, Labour is 1/6 to be the largest party -- more than a racing certainty -- with the Tories 7/2 and the Lib Dems rank outsiders at 40/1.

But how big a Labour majority? The website politicalbetting.com quotes the spread-betting exchange Spreadfair, which in a 646-seat House of Commons (down from the present 659 because of Scottish boundary changes) has Labour winning about 352 seats, a loss of more than 50. The Tories are seen as winning about 197, up more than 30, the Lib Dems 71, up 16. If this turns out to be right, Blair's majority would be 58; 100 down and close to the point where his Downing Street neighbour tells him his time is up.

It may not happen. December's opinion polls averaged out at Labour 37%, the Tories 32% and the Lib Dems 21%. According to Thrasher and Rallings that outcome at the election would give Labour 383, the Tories 172, the Lib Dems 59. others 32 and a government majority of 120, enough for Blair to tell Brown to go away. Between a big Labour victory and a small one, the course of the next few years and the prime minister's political future will lie.

Tags: Foreign Elections (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

Tories are a shambles
I lived in the UK from 1991-3 and 1998-2002. Also, from 1995-8 I listened to the BBC World Service for most of my news.

In 1992 I experienced the crushing Labour defeat and honestly thought that party would never win an election again. The Tories so totally discredited themselves in the subsequent five years, it was ridiculous.

Even more surprising has been the Tories' failure to capitalize on dislike for Tony Blair. Their 2001 election defeat was in that sense even worse--they made up almost no ground.

As much as I would love to see the Lib Dems become the main opposition party, I don't think it will happen, because there aren't enough districts where they are within striking distance of the Tories. A lot of "old Labour" people up north probably should vote Lib Dem, because the current Lib Dem platform calls for tax hikes and more money for public services, but when you talk to those old Labour types you realize that they have a visceral dislike for Lib Dems that I cannot fathom. It's real, though. So Blair is safe in the left-leaning districts.

by desmoinesdem 2005-01-03 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Tories are a shambles
Interesting take. I was just in Britain over Christmas. Talking to some of my smart relatives - my cousin's husband in particular - he thinks the Tory Party might cease to exist within two generations barring a miracle. The Tory party is dying - literally. I remember reading a stat that in the 2001 election, something like an astounding 2/3 of their voters were over 60. That is just horrible. The Tories lost their rationale for existence in modern Britain when Labour abolished Clause 4 and ceased to be a real socialist party.

British politics is really weird, in that the Liberals are really the natural governing party in a post-socialist world, but they no longer have any natural social base of support. To put it another way, one isn't "born" a Liberal Dem like one is born into a Labour or Tory tradition: people who support the LDs generally do so because they don't like the other two parties, not because they are naturally socialized as liberals.

So British politics will limp along in its sort of default third way labor setting. Until their is some kind of crisis, and then you might see a complete transformation of the British Party system, with probably 2 of the current 3 parties no longer being credible national vehicles.

by Ben P 2005-01-03 09:18PM | 0 recs
as for a blog to follow...I would recommend two
  1. http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news which is the offical blog the the Guardian newspaper (btw, they are working on getting a list of US blogs together...so linking to them might help connect us to our cousins across the sea).

  2. http://stuarthughes.blogspot.com is a reporter who lost his leg to a landmine while in Iraq. He has an excellent insiders view of what is going on in the UK as well as Iraq.....
by Nazgul35 2005-01-03 06:15PM | 0 recs
Blair Imitates Bush
It's likely to be sort of close to how Bush won in 2004. The Liberal Dems still have a bit of way to becoming a real threat to Labour. Blair himself could lose the title of Prime Minister if it's a very close election. However, just as Bush used the Iraq war to divide his opposition...so has Blair...and that means that the better issues for conservatives like the Euro are pushed off the main page. Figure Labour in a 55% victory nationwide. Lib  Dems might get about 7% and the Tories the rest.
by risenmessiah 2005-01-03 06:15PM | 0 recs
Lib Dems
can count on at least 15 percent of the vote nationwide--usually more in the 17-20 percent range.

They don't get as many seats because Britain has a first-past-the-post system (not proportional representation). So they may well end up with just 7 percent of the seats, but that doesn't reflect the true level of support.

by desmoinesdem 2005-01-03 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Blair Imitates Bush
I wouldn't assume Iraq is that big a factor in British politics. The war is not in the public conscience in Britain like it is the US. Its never a front page story. Its basically seen as an American mistake that Britain is unfortunately tied to, not a British mistake.

Britiain, like the US, has powerful internal politicial currents that guarantee a Labor victory in May that have very little to do with Iraq. Indeed, if Iraq were the isssue, Blair would lose.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-01-03 09:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Blair Imitates Bush
Iraq is not the central issue in the campaign, but it destabilizes the hawk-dove access and makes it hard to oppose Labour with alienating one side or the other. Iraq is constantly reinjected because Blair has several national security issues he likes to push and often his hecklers push back (at least when I am watching the House of Commons) about Iraq demonstrating that Blair's priorities are often backwards. If Blair didn't have to use the national security card, Iraq would be of lesser important than say, affordable housing.
by risenmessiah 2005-01-03 10:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Blair Imitates Bush
Iraq seems to me an issue, but not overriding. It's an issue in that its one of the reasons why there is apathy toward Blair, and it's an issue in that there's a reason why the LD polls have went from 13% to 21% since 2001, and Blair supporting Iraq is probably in that as a reason.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-04 06:01AM | 0 recs
Quick thoughts
I'll see what I can dig out for blogs, but in the mean time you should certainly subscribe to the Guardian's 'BackBencher' email here.

I was a candidate for the Lib Dems last time 'round, in an unwinnable seat where Labour is dominant. No longer involved - burnt out - but this is how I see things:

Blair has no goodwill left in country, even among hardcore Labour supporters, he is a liability.

Some traditional Labour areas (eg inner cities, university towns) will swing towards Lib Dems, but probably not enough to change hands.

Coastal areas / ports / fishing towns will continue to swing Tory / UKIP.

Ethnic Asian vote will drift towards the Lib Dems from Labour over Iraq.

Big question for the Lib Dems is this: most elections we put on about 6% simply because the media coverage ensures people remember we exist. Will that happen again this time, in which case we challenge the Tories, or are we doing well in the polls now because these people have already found us and therefore we'll get no election 'bounce'?

Labour and Tories will have problems motivating their activists (or even finding demotivated ones), the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Respect Coalition will be brimming with enthusiasm.

Dream result / good result / bad result / nightmare result:
Labour: Huge majority & Lib Dems tie Tories, both weak / Big majority / small majority / defeat
Tories: Victory / honourable defeat that builds for future / crushing defeat / collapse and get overtaken by UKIP
Lib Dems: Overtake Tories in number of seats / Overtake Tories in total votes cast / stay as we are / lose seats
UKIP: Win an MP / score 10% of vote / Score 2% of vote / collapse in random chaos, screaming at each other
Respect: score 5% of vote / be responsible for a couple of Labour MPs losing their seats / be ignored / be irrelevant
Green Party: score 5% of vote / get their agenda discussed seriously during election / be ignored / be irrelevant

And as for a Labour / Lib Dem coalition after the election - forget it. We hate them, they hate us, and Kennedy knows that if he even tries it we'd string him up by the neck at the next party conference. But he wouldn't try it - he's the one that dismantled the informal arrangement for cooperation that his predecessor, Paddy Ashdown, set up with Blair.

by Random 2005-01-03 09:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
"But sensible Labour planners, including Alan Milburn, know they have a real fight on their hands because apathy and general dissatisfaction is probably Mr Blair's biggest enemy. Charles Kennedy is a serious threat. He enters this election year on about 22% in most polls compared with 13% or 14% ahead of the 2001 election.

"Mr Kennedy has a few clear policies. There's something for everyone: cushioning for pensions, easing off the council tax, home care for the elderly, and an end to the New Deal and tuition fees. And he's going to pay for this by putting a 50% tax rate on people earning above GBP100,000 a year.

"Voters like it. That's why he's doing well. They respect his integrity in opposing the Iraq war - the only big party to do that. He hopes to pick up Tory votes in the south and lot of disaffected Labour votes in the north. Mr Blair isn't so complacent that he doesn't worry about what an unpredictable election we face."

I keep wondering why LD's are so inherently pessimistic about their chances, from the looks of it on the outside, a breakthrough looks entirely possible, afterall, Kennedy is the only one giving them a reason to vote.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-04 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: LDs
It seems like they should be able to overtake the Tories, but a lot of people don't seriously consider them as an alternative. I don't understand it myself--I certainly would vote for them if I were a UK citizen--but it's a real factor. We had a friend in England from a Tory family, works in finance, identifies as Tory, who took one of those surveys asking questions about all kinds of issues. He was shocked to learn that he matched most closely with the LibDems. But does he vote for them? No. I think he voted Green in the last London election, and we were surprised to learn that he is thinking about voting for his Labour MP, former actress Glenda Jackson, this year. Not that i have anything against Jackson, who I think was against the Iraq war from the beginning, but I don't get the reluctance to vote LibDem.

My graduate advisor is a classic old Labourite from Scotland, and although he dislikes the Tories, you should hear the things he says about the Liberals. It's bizarre, since the LibDems are the ones advocating more investment in public services.

The biggest problem that the Tories have is that they can draw their leadership only from the members of their parliamentary faction. After two landslide defeats, they have very few members of their parliamentary faction who are not discredited by either their participation in the Major government or their participation in the backbench that lost to Labour in the 2001 landslide. it's a very small deck of cards. It would be as if the Democrats could only nominate presidential candidates from within our US House delegation, and as if voters had already rejected all of the household names from within that delegation. The Tories can't just nominate some mayor no one ever heard of for prime minister.

by desmoinesdem 2005-01-04 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
We're pessimistic because there have been so many false dawns before, and because none of us will ever live down David Steel declaring "Go home to your constituencies and prepare for government".

We're pessimistic because the electoral system works against us, even when people vote for us - look at the percentage vote figures from the 1983 general election, and compare them with seats won. Labour took 27.6% and won 209 seats, we took 25.4% and 23 seats.

And we're pessimistic because we know we start the election so far behind the other parties.

One of the big realisations from Bush vs Kerry was that there are more conservatives out there than liberals. The way the campaign was fought, it seems people assumed Bush and Kerry started equal and whoever won the campaign would win the election. In fact, it turned out Bush had an inbuilt lead and Kerry had to outperform him simply to start catching up.

Well, in British politics, whatever the opinion polls are saying, the three parties don't start equal. The Tories have a natural constituency sufficient to win every time, so long as they don't self-destruct (as they have done) and aren't attacked by a talented, ruthless, popular opponent (as they have been). Labour have enough natural support to be a good second, and can win when they broaden their appeal, as Blair has done. We start a long way back. Most of our seats are won by charismatic individuals who spend a decade flogging their guts out before winning locally - the neighbouring seats will probably be wastelands as they have poured their resources into helping the winnable one. We are doing well in the polls at the moment because of the weaknesses of the others.

It's a bubble, and we're praying it doesn't burst before election day.

by Random 2005-01-04 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
I find it odd that you can draw much at all from the US election. There are more conservatives than liberals in the US, but I don't think this is the case at all in Britain.

First off, cultural conservatism doesn't exist in Britain. The country is largely secular, certainly when compared to the US - this is a huge difference between the two countries. Issues like abortion and even gay issues are simply not on the agenda - there is no significant anti-gay or anti-abortion constituency in Britain. Secondly, the way in which issues like terrorism are viewed in Britain is very different. The Iraq War is much less popular in Britain. I could go on. Blair's idea that British politics mirrors American trends is just wrong and shows how little he understands the US.

As to your claim that the Conservatives are natural governing party in Britain, I don't think this is true anymore in a post-socialist society. I don't think you can attribute Labour's ascendance simply to Tory errors or Blair's charisma. I think the changes in British society are more structural and deep-rooted. The Tory Party is an old party. I read somewhere that something like an astounding 2/3 of Tory voters in 1997(?) were over 65. Now this could well be wrong, but I've been told by others in Britain that these trends are real. And really, what appeal does the Tory Party have to young Britain? The one real card the Tories have is an anti-EU populism, but I don't know how effective a long-term tool this will be for the party, as "Euro-skeptics" will always have to contend with the imperatives of British business and the British consumer. Thus, hardcore oppostion to the EU can never really take over a party that aspires to actually governing.

I'd like to here your take, because you said you've run for Parliament, so I'll defer to your knowledge. But honestly, I can't see the Tories ever recapturing the kind of position Thatcher occupied in the mid-80s, for a variety of reasons, some of which I mention above.

by Ben P 2005-01-04 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
I agree - in post Thatcher & Major Britain, Labour are the natural party of Government, not the Tories.

The Tories have a big enough coalition of economic right-wingers and bigots to keep them in second place, despite the defection of many of the bigots to UKIP in the recent local and european elections.

Labour are suffering for two reasons -

  1. Widespread anger about Iraq, which is aimed squarely at Blair and not his party as a whole

  2. Concern amongst core labour supporters (economic left-wingers) about the Blair government's centrist policies, particularly tuition fees for students and PPPs (semi-privately funded services)

Neither one of the above amounts to a popular movement on a scale that could turn the Lib Dems into genuine challengers. I think some of the Americans posting here have latched on to the word "liberal" and misjudged the significance of the current Lib Dem surge in the polls.

The facts are:

  1. Liberalism is not an issue like in the US - we already have a fairly liberal society

  2. The Liberal Democrats are still regarded as a "third" party in the public mind - and in the current climate they have less of a base than ever before

  3. Conservative voters are not going to just start voting Lib Dem in large numbers. At the moment the two parties are at opposite ends of the spectrum both socially and economically

--
My blog Things I Don't Have Time For
by daveholden 2005-01-04 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
Agree completely that liberalism isn't the issue that it is in the States, also that the Lib Dems are branded as the third party in most people's minds.

But I don't see how you can say their base is at its weakest ever? That seems to defy the evidence of our own eyes in polls and elections.

There is a huge gap politically between the Tories and the Lib Dems, but equally there is a huge gap between Labour and the Lib Dems. I think ID cards will be a massive issue once it starts to bite - it will become Labour's Poll Tax. And libertarian Tories will support the Lib Dems over it because we're the only major party opposed to it.

Similarly if the Peel Group start to influence party policy (which I don't think they will under Kennedy particularly) then economically the gap with the Tories will close quite a bit.

I don't see mass defections from the Tories to the Lib Dems - I do see them from Labour to the Lib Dems, Greens and Respect, and from the Tories to UKIP. Should make for interesting times!

by Random 2005-01-04 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
I wasn't drawing ideological parallels between British and American conservatives, although I can see how it looked like I was from the way I phrased it. What I was getting at was simply the mathmatics of it - the idea that not all campaigns start equal.

But I do believe that Thatcher and Blair are abberations who have warped the shape of British politics in the way no-one since Churchill did. I'll grant you that one or the other has been PM for all but five of the years since 1979, which is a pretty all-encompassing abberation, but nevertheless I think it's the case.

I don't think the British public were driven particularly by a fear of socialism / communism, so there's no particular reason why a 'post-socialist' Britain should be different politically from how it was when the Labour Party actually stood for some sort of ideology. I just think that left to themselves and not swayed by a dynamic leader of the Churchill / Thatcher / Blair mould, Britain would vote for a non-scary, easy-going, slightly right wing, economically sound government led by a safe pair of hands. And that usually means the Tories.

And yes, the Tories' current demographic is dying off, but there's always a new generation who will come through to take a different view from the prevailing one. The bright young things of New Labour were a reaction to Thatcher, at a time when many people believed the Labour party was doomed beyond redemption. At the moment, a lot of the young, pushy ambitious types who you might expect to form the next generation of Tories have actually popped up in the Lib Dems, which to me is a huge sign that maybe this time our advance will be sustained. But sooner or later it will be cool for the ambitious young to be Tories again, as a reaction to the Labour / liberal consensus.

And when that happens, they'll remake the party in their own shape and it will be electable again.

by Random 2005-01-04 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
Good points.

I would arue that Labour, under Blair, is exactly what you say the British public would vote for. Thatcher was, actually, terrible for the Conservative Party over the long term as she made the Tories too ideological to be what the Tories once were - i.e. "one nation," consensus-builders like MacMillan and Heath - ceding the political center to New Labour. As such, I think they are really screwed for the short term future, because there aren't many MacMillan/Heath type figures in the Tory party as it is currently constituted.

Indeed, I think the Liberal Dems could become the next party to take power if they moved to the right economically. In some ways, a more free market oriented Lib Dem party is ideologically pitched perfectly for a secular, post-socialist, post-imperial Britain. Whether or not they can overcome the structural impediments blocking such a triumph is far from certain, though.

As to "fear of socialism," I guess what I mean is that "old" Labour was always seen by too many voters as too heavily tied to trade unions and their interests and thus they were not capable of managing the economy effectively. This was reinforced strongly and especially during the 1970s, when Callaghan had the misfortune of leading a Labour government during a period of global economic recession and structural change.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-01-04 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
"Coastal areas / ports / fishing towns will continue to swing Tory / UKIP." -

can you explain why this is so? An immediate answer doesn't come to mind. Does it have something to do with trade and how it will be effected by EU entry?

by Ben P 2005-01-04 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
Three principal reasons:

  1.  Racism, pure and simple.  These areas are disporportionately affected by immigration.

  2.  Coastal towns are where people go to retire, so disproportionately elderly.

  3.  Economically, coastal areas have it rough as the fishing industry has collapsed and in a small(ish) island country, any business that requires physical distribution doesn't base itself at the coasts.
by cjc32 2005-01-04 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Quick thoughts
Couldn't have put it better myself, particularly point three.
by Random 2005-01-04 10:59AM | 0 recs
Incumbency
I do find it quite interesting that, even with a first-past-the-post system, there usually seems to be the possibility of a large number of seats changing hands in the British Parliament in any given election. Why is it that incumbency doesn't seem to be quite the lock there that it is here?
by DavidNYC 2005-01-03 11:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Incumbency
There are a number of reasons -

  1. There are a larger number of constituencies involved - 646 compared to the 50 states in the US.

  2. There are three main parties rather than two (plus Welsh, Scottish & Irish nationalists) so there is much greater scope for close contests.

  3. Voters do not directly elect the Prime Minister - they are voting for local MPs to sit in the House of Commons, the main legislative chamber. This means that local issues have a greater effect on seats changing hands.

---
my blog Things I Don't Have Time For
by daveholden 2005-01-04 03:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Incumbency
Also, we have more structured political parties where individual candidates look like cogs in a bigger machine instead of being major figures in their locality. If an incumbent looks interchangeable, and if (as is the case) they can be strong-armed out by their party, then they'll have a weaker personal following than an American-style incumbent who is effectively the big cheese in their area. If US parties ever get more like British ones, with an elected leader and national spokespeople and what-have-you, then state-based politicians (even members of Congress) will seem weaker by comparison.
by Random 2005-01-04 04:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Incumbency
One of the BIGGEST reasons is the law on electoral spending.  The total one party can spend is £15m (say $27m) on the WHOLE election-- total spending by all parties in 2001 was less than $75m, compared to $1.3bn (House Senate Presidency) in the US not including s527s.  So about $1.20 per resident in the UK, about $4.30 in the US.

The total spending in an individual MP's constituency (say 60000 actual votes in a general election) is £8,000 (some exceptions for the few large rural constituencies).  There is no paid television advertising allowed!  Incumbency locks are partly driven by $$$$ and you can't buy an election (or frighten off a challenger) in the UK.

by cjc32 2005-01-04 11:45AM | 0 recs
Some links
Here's a handy electoral calculator
And a UK Political Blog Aggregator
And here's a Nick Barlow, a Lib Dem blogger

My own views on the election can be found in a comment here.

---
my blog Things I Don't Have Time For

by daveholden 2005-01-04 03:52AM | 0 recs
Re: LDs
I lived in the UK for about a year in the mid-1990's, doing research on unions and local politics - I was also struck by the hostility toward the LibDems among Labour supporters. I was puzzled by it at the time, and I guess I still am, but I have a few ideas about why Labour supporters loath the LibDems:
  1. The origins of the LibDems: This party formed as a merger of the old Liberal Party with the Social Democrats late 1980s/early 1990s. The SDs had split from Labour in 1982, and this was an enormously embittering event. The initial splitters included a number of popular former Labour ministers, including former Chancellor Roy Jenkins and former Foreign Secretary David Owen. Their decision to leave Labour was promted by the Labour left's sucessful campaign to increase the power of local activists within the party's governing bodies, wheras previously MPs (such as those above) could effectively control the party infrastructure.  It was this split (or, if you want, betrayal) that more or less ensured that Labour would spend most the 1980's flailing rather helplessly against Thatcher.

  2. Political Geography: This has been alluded to elsewhere, but in the UK there are many districts that are all but entirely safe for the incumbent party. After the 1982 split, the SDP tended to draw support away from Labour in Tory-dominated districts, and away from the Tories in Labour-dominated districts. This pattern held true especially in local politics, where (again, in the 1980's) the Tories were all but wiped out in big cities and coal country, while Labour was all but non-existent in the suburbs. Nowadays the patterns  have shifted, and there are more districts where Labour and the Tories compete directly against one and other, but for a long time now, and for a lot of Labour supporters, the Tories were something of a theoretical opponent, while the SDP/Liberals/LibDems were the opponent-on-the-ground.

  3. Class: Stereotypically, the LibDems draw support from well educated, affluent, but socially "liberal" yuppie-types. While there are now plenty of Labour supporters who might seem to fit this bill, Labour supporters more generally tend to be working class. Interestingly, "culture war" attitudes are at least as prevelant among UK workers as among US workers, and while the Tories have sought to exploit such attitudes, they have had a harder time pinning this tail on Labour. Labour has always had a culturally authoritarian streak, and (more importantly) a defining identity that doesn't have much of anything to do with social tolearance, cosmopolitanism, or libertine mores. The effective attacks the Tories made against Labour were always to the effect that they were a bunch of union-dominated socialists who can't be trusted with the economy. All of this is a long-winded way to say that the "social liberalism" that has for some time been the defining feature of the US Democrats is much more characteristic of the Liberals/SDP [not so much them, really]/LibDems. Combine all this with the UK's much more class conscious political culture, and you get Labour supporters who are predisposed to be hostile toward and mistrustful of the LibDems.

It is very intersting that, despite having a charasmatic leader, a well thought through platform, and a consistent record of being right about all sorts of things, the LibDems have not been able to shake off the hostile attitude so many working class Labour voters have of them. I'm reminded of an old saw of British politics: Angry Conservatives vote Liberal, but angry Labour voters vote Tory.
by Rich III 2005-01-04 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: LDs
Good analysis on point 3 in particular. I think that is especially the reason. Labour is not really a "liberal" party in the sense the Democrats are. Note that Blair hasn't been especially badly hurt by the Iraq War in a way a similarly positioned American President would be (i.e. if he strongly supported a war most of the country strongly opposed) because the war is not a that significant issue to many of Labour's core voters. Either they are Sun-reading laddish types who distrust anti-war activism (even if they may be opposed to the war themselves) or they are poor and working class people who have benefitted from a Labour government to whom the Iraq War is not an issue. After all, as I said above, the Iraq War simply is not as prominent an  issue in Britain as it is here. People don't, at the end of the day, really view it as a British war.

As an interesting illustration of the above point, the big story of the first week of my recent stay in Britain was Jack Blunkett's resignation as home secretary. First, it really illustrated to me the way in which British politics does not operate in an Iraq-centric way, as during this week, there was virtually no news of the Iraq War. Secondly, Blunkett's popularity levels were quite high - 60%+ - even in wake of the allegations about his decision to use his authority as home secretary to fast track his nanny's visa. And despite a serious of Patriotic-Act style reforms that the British liberals who post at sites like DKos strongly oppose. But the thing is, as Rich Ill states, is that these kind of "law and order" measures are popular with many Labour voters.

The thing to remember is that even though it is not so strong as it once was, British political parties are in many ways direct reflections of class. Class, but not ideology. Labour is really still a working class party and the Liberals aren't, and this is why the Liberals will struggle to overtake Labour even as they peel off disaffected middle-class Labour voters, ethnic minorities, and ex-Tories who now feel it is "safe" to vote Liberal now that Labour is no longer socialist.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-01-04 10:51AM | 0 recs
From a disillusioned voter.
Hi, I am a British voter who is depressed by the choices facing me in the next election, let me describe the dilema facing me and many of my friends and colleagues.

I live in vaguely gentrified but still socially mixed part of London, work helping to manage a hedge fund but also own my neigbourhood bar. My parent came from poor Irish catholic backgrounds but through state education became irredeemably middle class and saw it as a badge of honour to vote Tory. I got a good state education moved to London and would probably describe myself as socially liberal but fiscally conservative, not in the American sense though I have no problem with social prorammes, don't mind paying higher taxes for them but am scared by the debt the government ( and public ) are running up.

If Ken Clarke was running the Tories I could probably vote for them but the complete weirdos they have scare the shit out of me. I voted for new labour but the spin, downright lying, Iraq, massive off-balance sheet borrowing ( PFI = more dishonesty which is going to cost us dear one day) has totally put me off. I wouldn't piss on Bliar if he was on fire! And as for his christianity that drives me mad, give me a God to honest aeteist every time.

I actually like Charles Kennedy ( although many people find him a bit of a genial lightweight) and rumours of heavy drinking endear me. Did you know Bliar is teetotal (what is it with leaders who don't drink? Bush, Hitler & Bliar vs Churchill (total pisshead but cool as fuck)). Many of their policies are attractive, Vince Cable is a credible Chancellor, like their enviroment, drugs, education policy etc. On the other hand the way the system is stacked makes it hard to see them winning. I feel totally disenfranchised at a national level ( local politics is different we have good councillors from both Lib-Dems and Tories ). What am I to do? All comment appreciated.

by London Calling 2005-01-05 04:06AM | 0 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads