Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How many more anniversaries will there be?

Today is the first anniversary of David Cameron becoming Prime Minister and tomorrow is the first anniversary of the Coalition's formation - as I have said before, the first few hours of David Cameron's premiership were as the head of a minority Conservative government as the Liberal Democrats only approved going into the Coalition in the early hours of 12 May.

In any case, today is an important day but the question many political commentators are asking is how long can the Coalition continue?

The election results were bad for the Coalition for an unlikely reason. The Lib Dems did badly, losing MSPs, AMs, thousands of councillors and - of course - the AV referendum. Although this was bad, it was also expected. The real damage came from the Conservatives doing rather well - increasing their number of councillors and winning the AV referendum.

Ironically, it would have been better for the Coalition if both of the governing parties had done badly in the elections as now the Lib Dems feel singled out - acting as the political equivalent of a human shield for the government's unpopular austerity measures.

I think the Liberal Democrats will remain in the Coalition if only because they would be wiped out in the general election which would immediately follow the break-up of the Coalition.

Incidentally, today is the 199th anniversary of Spencer Perceval's assassination (Perceval is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated). If the Coalition lasts to the 200th anniversary of Perceval's death, I can imagine laboured newspaper headlines linking Little P's sad end to the health of the Coalition.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

How will tomorrow change the Coalition?

Tomorrow there will be elections across the UK, but it is the AV referendum which will probably have the greatest effect on the Coalition.

The Conservatives support the No campaign and the Liberal Democrats support the Yes campaign. This means that however the votes goes tomorrow, one of the Coalition parties is going to be very disappointed with the result. This alone perhaps wouldn't be a great problem for the Coalition, but the tone of the campaign over the last few weeks has become increasingly bitter.

I don't think we are about to witness the imminent collapse of the Coalition (although I might be wrong), but I do think the previously convivial relationship between the two parties will change. I expect David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be working hard in the next few days to convince the country and their respective parties of the strength of the government.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Beyond Blighty: Where are all the Republicans?

No, I'm not talking about the Royal Wedding.

By this date in 2007 all the main contenders for the 2008 Presidential election had declared their intention to run. Two weeks ago President Obama announced that he would run for re-election and lunched his campaign, but where are his Republican rivals? Currently only five people have declared their intention to run for the Republican nomination for President, none of them have held public office before and none are likely to get the nomination. The people who have the best chance of getting it (Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin...) seem strangely quite.

Campaigning for the 2008 election did start earlier than any other in US history, but even so, the reluctance of major Republicans to declare is interesting. Pres. Obama has looked vulnerable in recent months, but it's clear his potential opponents for next year's election are rightly wary of his campaigning skills.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tactical voting in Oldham East and Saddleworth

Conservative supporters don't normally vote tactically. Instead, in constituencies where it's a close contest between Labour and the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats in a distance third, the Lib Dem supporters vote Labour to keep out the Conservatives. Similarly, in constituencies where it's a close contest between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, with Labour in a distance third, the Labour supporters vote Lib Dem - again to keep out the Conservatives. With the exception of the odd protest vote for UKIP, Conservatives supporters don't normally indulged in such tactics, but the Coalition has changed this conventional wisdom.

In Oldham East and Saddleworth, Conservative voters are apparently planning to vote Liberal Democrat in the by-election to keep out Labour. It will be a very difficult task as many disaffected Labour voters who supported the Liberal Democrats at the general election will surely return home for the by-election. When the result comes in, it will be interesting to see the dip in Conservative votes.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Beyond Blighty: Violence and politics

It's often said that the US is a politically divided country. There is a clear split between the progressive left and the ultra-conservative right, but today both sides are united in their condemnation of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and seventeen others, six of which were killed.

It was especially shocking for me as I briefly met Congresswoman Giffords in Texas, eight years ago when she was a State Senator.

In many ways, there has always been some form of divide in US politics. It has been intense in the last few years but there has been little violence compared to the past. In the 1960s, often relating to the issue of segregation, there were many political assassinations in the US, most notably President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King.

Hopefully Congresswoman Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic party, will recover and the shooting will be a tragic but isolated attack. However, as was seen in the UK after the attack on Stephen Timms last year, it does endanger a fundamental part of a democratic society, which is the right of the people to have access to their elected representatives.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

What does 2011 offer for political nerds?

On 13 January there will be a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth to fill the seat left by Labour's Phil Woolas. Like every by-election, it is a key test for the three main parties and their leaders, but Ed Miliband and the Nick Clegg have the most to gain - and lose.

Then on 5 May there are so many elections and referendums, political commentators will find it difficult to keep up. There are elections for councils across the UK, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are all up for election on that date as well, and there is also a referendum in Wales on whether to give the Assembly law-making powers.

Of course, the main attraction on 5 May will be the referendum on changing the voting system in the House of Commons to AV. The vote (only the second UK-wide referendum in British history) will be a somewhat bizarre as most Conservative MPs are opposed to AV, while most Liberal Democrats will support the change. The result will have lasting repercussions for the Coalition, but also for the future of British politics. If the people support the change, there may never be a majority government again.

More inner conflicts in the Coalition are bound to appear over the next year, it will be interesting to see how the two parties hold together, if they do at all. If the Coalition does fall apart it will mean a general election, which none of the main parties want at the moment. 2011 will probably be a troubled year for the Euro and a difficult time for those who experience the government cuts.

Beyond Blighty and across the pond, the candidates for the 2012 Presidential election will declare their intention to run in the next few months. Most will be Republicans, but given President Obama's recent difficulties, a few Democrats might emerge - though they are unlikely to be notable or successful. As for the Republicans, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are the ones to watch, but American politics has a tendency to bring up surprise candidates. The first presidential primaries are just 13 months away - they'll be here before we know it!