Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sod it, I'm going to talk politics

I know I've got that self-imposed ban that I only break on rare occasions, but it's general election time, so I'll just get it all out of the way tonight and then go back to my usual drivel. But I've got to write something, just to remind you all that I've been voting Lib Dem since long before it was cool. I don't know, all you bandwagon-jumpers, I suppose it's my fault for being such a famous celebrity and role model for the people of Britain, but you don't really have to copy everything I do.

Also, I characterised this constituency on Wednesday as "going to be a fairly comfortable Conservative win with Labour second" (I wasn't breaking the no-politics-talk rule there, that was a blog entry about daleks), and of course a week is a long time in politics if there's a nationwide shift in public perception of the third party on the Thursday night, so I thought I'd better post something new in case my prediction turns out to be wildly wrong and everyone laughs at me.

Because I was in the barber's today, traditionally always the best place to pick up on the mood of the local populace, and the word on the street of Broxtowe is unquestionably "Be nice if the Lib Dems did win, be a change at least". And this excellent local-politics blog's (somewhat unscientific) poll is predicting an absolute landslide for David Watts, last week's popular-local-councillor-running-for-parliament-as-a-formality-in-a-constituency-the-Lib-Dems-never-get-many-votes-in, this week's MP-in-waiting. He seems to have taken all the "don't like Labour so I suppose I'll have to vote Tory" contingent, and (more impressively) reduced the ever-popular "a plague on them all" vote down to minimal levels! I think once all the silliness has settled down it's still the Conservative candidate's seat to lose, but it's probably fair to say that it's become a genuine three-horse race now, which is awesome. Last time round I was living in a safe Labour seat (it's not safe any more, thanks to Margaret Beckett's tireless work at shooting herself in the foot repeatedly over the last few years, but it was then), and before that I spent my formative years in eternally Conservative Lincolnshire, so I've never voted in a general election that was actually a contest before.

There's also the horrible possibility that I might vote for the candidate and/or party that wins the election - that's never happened to me before, and I'll feel terribly guilty when it inevitably all goes wrong. But I really do like the public mood at the moment - that "if only people believed the Lib Dems could win, they'd win two-thirds of the constituencies in the country" barrier they've been banging on about for years actually does seem to have been broken. Get Rupert Murdoch on board and Nick Clegg is the new PM. I hadn't realised the people whose opinions make the difference were quite so desperate for a new straw to clutch at, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

In the interests of keeping all my election-themed babblings safely confined in one blog post, here's the comment I threw into Sam's blog after Thursday's debate:

I thought it was excellent! A very British spin on the American tradition, with three confident, articulate party leaders putting across their points in a sensible way with only a minimum of squabbling. We all know really that they'd all make perfectly capable PMs, but it's good to see that actually come across for once. The non-applauding audience was an excellent idea, it raised the whole debate to a more calm and intellectual level.

Gordon Brown tried to play to the audience early on with his cracks about posters and Lord Ashcroft, but when he realised it wasn't going to work like that, he switched tracks very smoothly. Nick Clegg apparently was declared the winners in the insta-polls afterwards, which is no big surprise, but I would have marked him down for repeating himself more than the others did and for apparently struggling to remember Lib Dem policy on the care homes question ("I think we all need to work together on this one", followed by a confused mumble about what his party's ideas were). He did score the biggest victory of the night with the right for people to sack (or, as Brown carefully said every time, "recall") their MPs, reducing Gordon to unconvincingly whining "I support it..." at the end. David Cameron stood out less than the other two, somehow, he never seemed to get his message across convincingly.

The ending was probably Brown's biggest victory - I suspect the hand-shaking, baby-kissing with the audience was against the rules, but it really caught the others off-balance and left them looking like they were thinking "What, we're supposed to talk to the commoners now?"

I'm looking forward to the rest of the debates! I think Gordon and Dave will go after Nick more fiercely next time - Gordon had clearly prepared answers to all the Conservative policies but not the Lib Dem ones, and Dave tried to stick to the usual policy of acting as if there are only two parties, which isn't really going to work when there are three people on the stage given equal soapbox time...

And finally, since it's the 21st century, I thought I'd look and see what the candidates' websites look like. A website that makes a party or a person look like they know what they're doing wins a lot of votes nowadays.

Which is a bit unfortunate, because The Broxtowe Liberal Democrats website is awful! It looks like it was designed by a pair of twelve-year-olds as a school project. The site was designed back in the long-gone days of last week when the general election was of no real importance to the Lib Dems - the front page highlights their success in council elections, but you have to scroll down the page to find a picture of David Watts and a tiny-font note that he's the party's parliamentary candidate. Clicking around the site you can eventually find the link to his personal website, but that too hasn't been updated for a long time. His "blog" contains his "weekly news" from February 12th and a promise to post it every week from then on. His writing style is not good, there are typos and plenty of missing apostrophes. And you all know how I despise misused apostrophes.

So let's go to The Broxtowe Conservative website instead. Will the stereotype of Tories being better educated prevail over the stereotype of Tories being computer-illiterate? More or less, yes. A big picture of candidate Anna Soubry as soon as you click onto the website (she was a local TV news reporter in her younger days and still knows how to strike the pose) and the site looks smooth, polished and professional. Except for the phrase "After 13 years in power, Labours' legacy is...", right there on the home page. Aaaaaaaaargh. How difficult IS it to find someone who can write the English language and ask them to check these things? There's also a box saying "Anna's blog" with no clickable link. I can't find anything that could be described as a blog, anywhere on the website. But it does look stylish. And she promises to claim minimal expenses, which is an improvement on the one tatty leaflet I've had in the post from her, in which she basically asserted "I'm extremely wealthy, so I can be trusted" without making any specific promise about money.

By contrast, our sitting MP, Dr Nick Palmer, has sent out whole rainforests' worth of newsletters, spending vast fortunes on conveying the message that he hasn't got as much money as the Conservatives. Let's see what The Broxtowe Labour website looks like. The phrase that comes to mind is my dear departed father's "Looks like a bucket o' muck to me..." It's also awful, but in a different way to the Lib Dem one. That one looks amateurish and lazy, this one looks like it was created by people who don't really know what the internet is, or what you can do with it. It looks like the kind of website that people were creating in the mid-1990s. But at least all the punctuation is correct. And the latest blog update is as recent as last Thursday. The content is the Labour-spin-doctor-ordered line that he's been doggedly pursuing for months - I don't mind admitting that this man gets on my nerves something chronic, however much it damages the neutral tone I've been trying to hit throughout this blog. I think I'd better stop now. The end, all the politics out of my system, blog-wise, until election night. And even then I'll probably blog about Thundercats instead.


Master Fred Willard said...

What about Scottish Independence, I say again, what about Scottish Independence!??

I really can't understand why the UK just doesn't ask Angela Merkel to be your leader, after all you have a German monarch, and she, Merkel, looks better naked than Gordon Brown does, but then again who wouldn't?

Anonymous said...

i found your blog cuz i waz lookin up nude pics of GB but this blog has no pics i'm sadddddddd

Chris D. said...

As you are an avowed Lib Dem, I'm not going to waste my time to try to change your vote. I have voted Lib Dem in the past, but am inclined to vote Labour this time, on the "vote red, get a hung parliament in which the Lib Dems might be in a position to make a difference" principle. In truth, given a better voting system, I might well vote Green.

That said, I've got a lot of time for Dr. Palmer, and I can hope I can soften your opinion of him. I've seen you pop up on a couple of Broxtowe weblogs as well, so I hope you can accept that there are others out there who like him as well. I knew NP since very slightly before he became an MP; he was editor of a magazine about postal games called Flagship for which I used to write. He has played both chess and bridge for the House of Commons in their rather anachronistic annual fixture against the House of Lords, and has a long history in board war gaming. Frankly, I imagine he's more likely to be interested in othello than (just about?) any other MP out there.

Sorry to hear that Palmer gets up your nose! It seems to me to be quite a minor point in the greater scheme of things about how the candidates' web sites look. While Palmer does subscribe to a certain school of graphic design thought that applies for both offline and online communication, I would have thought it would be better to err on the side of being communicative rather than being silent.

The part that dismays me the most about your accusations is the line where you say that "The content is the Labour-spin-doctor-ordered line that he's been doggedly pursuing for months". I really think that's far from the case and part of the reason why I like NP so much is his willingness to deviate from partisan orthodoxy. (See also the "Conservatives for Palmer" and "Independents for Palmer" campaigns, passim.) Normally when he sends out dispatches, he's very clear about separating partisan material from non-partisan material - and when he's being non-partisan, he tries hard to present all parties' points of view. He's even keen to point out where he differs from the party line from time to time. It really is his content with his thoughts; while other MPs do blog, I don't know anyone who writes quite like Nick does - and Nick has been writing to his constituents for years, long before the concept of MP blogging became fashionable. (To be fair, Nick doesn't offer the public right to reply that is associated with blogging, so that's something of a substantiative difference.) Nick's archives are available and go back a considerable way, which permits you to see where he has changed his opinions over the years (e.g. his views on Iraq), which is a practice that is rare but surely to be encouraged.

Unrelatedly, I saw you also post a comment to a BBC blog about election material from last election, and I was very tempted to respond "Blimey! How can you remember minor details about election material from almost five years ago - are you the World Memory Champion or something?" but that would have been indulgent to excess.