Monday, May 10, 2010

Is this the election nobody wanted to win?

Halfway through the football season it became a pundit's commonplace to remark that this was the Premiership title that nobody wanted to win. If they wanted it, the argument ran, the main contenders wouldn't be losing so many games.

I feel the same about the election. The three main parties would probably prefer it if this weekend's negotiations could go on and on: Brown because that's his only hope of avoiding oblivion, Clegg because he suddenly has to decide what his party stands for (which will come as unpleasant surprise for at least half the people who voted for them) and Cameron because he knows that Mervyn King wasn't joking when he predicted that whoever forms the next government is doomed to stay out of office for a generation.

Although "the public", whoever they are, make noises about wanting the politicians to come to some agreement in the name of the national interest, they may also wish this cup to pass from them for as long as possible because they appear united in saying what they don't want (Andrew Rawnsley wrote an excellent piece pointing out that "there is both an anti-Conservative majority and an anti-Labour majority in Britain") and rather less willing to face an immediate future which is going to be tougher than anyone reading this blog has ever known.

We've already seen what Greece thinks of it all. This morning on the radio someone was saying that Spain's government is spending double what it takes in on tax revenue. And one poll before the election said that 75% of the British public thought our nearly two hundred billion deficit could be made up on efficiency savings. I wouldn't want to be the person who had to tell them just how wrong they are. Don't be surprised if the politicians keep talking.


  1. Spot on. "Quantative Easing" will come back and haunt us as the euphemism of the decade for "printing money".

  2. Personally I wouldn't want to win as it's like your previous comments about The Wire and the bowls of shit - but this time the bowl of shit are a tsunami of turds and nobody will be able to gobble them quick enough.

    However I think the Tories really really wanted it but blew their campaign by not updating it.

    The nice guy Cameron approach was pitched at a 2005 world where Blair was still in power and the economy hadn't fallen over yet.

    Then the world changed but they kept the campaign the same as they were scared to rock the boat.

    I think if they'd campaigned with a different leader under more old school Tory values, "the economy is bankrupt and we're going to dismantle benefit culture" they'd be on a huge majority right now.

    However I'm hoping that we might get an functional government out of this - huge Tory cuts but the pro Europe Lib Dems curbing the Tory plans to flick Vs at Europe. And gosh - anything to keep George Osborne out of the treasury. Vince Cable / Ken Clarke please.

  3. Clegg has a remarkably difficult choice - real influence (and possibly even power) with the Tories, or a chance at an electoral system that will give them PR with Labour. I think in either case in the short term the LDs are going to get stuffed.

  4. At the risk of complacency I'd like to just point out that we are not Greece. Nor are we Spain, Italy, Portugal. Our public sector has its flaws but endemic corruption is not not among them. Also, turns out that all those much-derided Euro-sceptics were probably, er, bang on the money. I therefore predict that we will experience something short of the apacalyptic meltdown that the likes of Will Hutton are darkly prophesying. Once this phony phase is over we'll know soon enough anyway.

  5. The clever thing would be for the tories to "fail" to agree with the LD's. Leaving Lab to have their go.
    This would ensure that Cons would get a large majority next time. Why would they want power now? They'll be out of government again in 30 month (My guess) and wont return for ten years.
    Then we come to Lab - Why would any of the Leadership contenders want to Lead this thing? Sanity suggests that GB be left to run if for a bit (More than four months) so that he can run the treasury from No 10 (as he will, and as circumstance require). His resignation should be part of the deal BUT take place in 30 months (my guess?) allowing the stink (some of it) to leave the stage with him.
    But Politicians are probably not very strategic when they can smell the power ... maybe anything now is better ...
    I'm not a politician ...

  6. It is extraordinary how people have been taken in by this nonsense about the national debt.

    By historic standards, or those of other G20 countries, the debt is not huge. It is the ability to service the debt that is crucial, not the debt itself. Every major industrial country operates in debt. The problems faced by Greece are to do with not being able to honour their payments on the debt and that is not a situation that currently applies to the UK.

    The irony is that the one thing that might make this a reality is if the economy goes back into deep recession which is far more likely to happen if the Tories slash public spending than if Labour continues to borrow to fund public spending.

    Why, you might ask, did the Tories campaign on a policy (reducing the debt immediately) that will be likely to make them deeply unpopular during the course of the next parliament (assuming they get in) and which won't actually improve the economic state of the country (may even make it worse)?

    The answer seems partly to be that it gave them some 'clear blue water' in the election campaign - Tory and Labour manifestos weren't actually that different if you took out the economic policies. But also some sense that the British public feels debt to be somehow 'wrong' and that if you're in debt you should do your best to pay it back.

    In international finance terms this is complete nonsense. But I can see how it would play well with some parts of 'middle England'.

    If the Tories do now get in and unless the Liberals can restrain them from the worst of the cuts, the wrong-headedness of our attitude towards the national debt may become all too apparent.

  7. I take it you saw this article: