Friday, 17 April 2015

Three Weeks to Punishment Time

So far, it has to be said that it has been a good election campaign for Labour. This is good and steady as she goes, because the electorate is waiting to deliver its punishment.

Normally a campaign would make little difference: the public mood matters more. However, this election is so tight that the slightest benefit for one side or the other matters.

Ed Miliband has shaken off a lot of his negative image, that was never justified anyway. He seems to be very coherent and his obvious intelligence is showing well: the son of an academic and an academic himself.

I also consider he is the right man for the job. Consider if it was his brother David Miliband. David Miliband might have been ahead earlier, but by now things would be stale. He would have faced the shock, the difference, of Scotland a lot earlier too. At least the direction of an Ed Miliband government is such that the SNP would want to support it.

The other counterfactual is that with David Miliband we might be intervening in Syria in a mirror of Iraq. Syria and Iraq is a desperate situation, and we might indeed end up fighting there, to remove the dreadful Islamic State, but it's far better if the locals can sort it out and remove them with more indirect help. David Miliband might be having to justify a vote for Blair Mark II in more ways than one.

Natalie Bennett in the opposition debate on Thursday was right to pick up Miliband in his use of 'working people' and its exclusionary nature. This follows on from the Tory and Liberal Democrat government's agenda of victimising the unemployed and poor, with targets among staff for dishing out sanctions. The Liberal Democrats' talk of inclusion and equality is contradicted by the reality: and they signed up for it all. Take the Bedroom Tax. One year Danny Alexander says how people on benefits were protected; next year he and they defend and vote for - and vote for it again - the Bedroom Tax.

Labour sees itself forced to pander to the current political agenda that is anti-benefits. Labour can promise to remove the Bedroom Tax because it is seen as such an injustice, such a high price to pay by those who have nothing for a supposed housing redistribution that does not work.

In the same way Labour has had to follow the political agenda that is anti-immigrant. It will do enough - more than enough - to tackle this matter, given the free flow of people both ways around Europe. The real issue regarding immigration is a tragic one of Europe next to zones of conflict causing continued movements of people trying to get in, and when they get in being exploited. But it becomes important to turn this rhetoric around, that once there are some 'safeguards' and procedures in place regarding immigration, then the talk must be positive. Pity they can't do the same about those who are not working.

So far, then, a good campaign and a bit of hope for those who want this lot in government removed. And they are still in government. I'm sure to this day Ian Duncan-Smith is issuing orders to up the sanctions and reduce the unemployment count perhaps just before voting. He is still in office. They all are. They only go when the Queen invites someone else to become Prime Minister and he or she then chooses her other ministers. People forget that the Ministers are by Royal appointment and that they are sustained in the House of Commons but not when it is not sitting.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act also changes things. It can be removed by a simple majority, but it forces a two thirds vote to go to an election before time (staying on the statute book). This does mean that if Cameron after all gets most seats but not a majority, he may be asked first to form a government, but, if he cannot, a smaller party but with bigger minority support (e.g. Labour with SNP saying Cameron must go) can form a government. The SNP is right about this. The House of Commons can distribute itself around in forming government over a five year period - unless a majority of MPs can be persuaded to repeal the fixed term parliament act and go back to a position where the Queen's Prime Minister can dissolve the House of Commons.

At least we won't have an elected dictatorship - always the problem with our system - but yet a coalition as this one has been the worst government we have had in terms of victimisation. Thatcher's government was full of enemies and dragons to slay, but even it knew limits and considered (mostly) individuals to be upheld. This one hasn't: this has seen people sent to food banks.

So the electorate is very British. It queues. It waits. It waits patiently and grumbles, but does so because we will arrive at an election. Overdo it, something particular, and there are riots. But the general population waits. It's why the Scottish Referendum was a beacon of peace to the world - only marred by one Orange riot in Glasgow after Glasgow's yes vote. The public sits, waits and then strikes. This election is when the Liberal Democrats will receive its punishment and when the Tories will have it underlined that they are a party of privilege. In 2010 the majority vote was centre-left, and we got this lot - still in power for a few weeks more. So this election is punishment time, and a readjustment again, to get the left in, perhaps with the help of the Scots.

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