Wednesday, 23 September 2009

What Makes You Vote For Who?

Party Conferences are the pinnacle of excitement for most Party Activists - a few days in a coastal resort geared for retiring couples listening to waffle after guff is the height of ecstasy, roundly marked by sore hands and a croaky throat at the end.

The Lib Dem Conference has been about as inspiring as a pound of wet tripe and yet bits caught my eye. It seems that both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are going for the youthful, energetic, almost uncontainable excited kid in a candy store look whereas Labour, having used that formula to formidable advantage in 1997, have the brow-beaten, haggard look of a man who cannot get out of the whole place fast enough.

It made me ponder - do looks have anything to do with how we vote?

Well ask John McCain whose retired diddyman look did nothing against the smart, debonair and refreshingly earnest, but with a smile, looks of Barack Obama. The awful attempt to 'put lipstick on the pig' by introducing a complete unknown, and as it turned out a liability, in Sarah Palin as running partner was a poor attempt to divert eyes from the aspiring but ageing president wannabe. Looking back on it, Obama's words sounded very compelling, prophetic even, and yet when you delved into the detail it was more in hope than with any kind of practical substance, which is very reminiscent of Tony Blair all those years ago. He rode in on a wave of 'Cool Britannia' and it lasted a long while having inherited as good an economy as any incoming PM could wish for and everything looked rosy for a good while as we all enjoyed prosperity.

But execution is the key to success - great plans are just great plans until they are acted upon with dedication and accuracy, making sure all issues that arise are dealt with. So many of the ill-thought policies of this Government have been put into place on the wave of popular opinion without any real substance to them and enacted by people who had no idea what they were doing. Obama may yet suffer the same fate. If people cannot share your dream to the nth degree then they will get the practical bit wrong - but maybe the dream had not been thought through to account for all the possible outcomes.

Yesterday I heard that idiot Lembit whatshisname on the radio who was having a great old time at conference. 'Lib Dem is all about outcomes,' was his little strapline and he claimed boldly that we should not force incoming migrants to learn English as that was imposing on their civil liberties. Then a lady came on the phone and slaughtered him within seconds homing in on the fact that we have 'bubbles' of unintegrated society as many migrants just talk amongst themselves and do not engage with the local population. When Lembit tried to argue the point, the lady pointed out in her superb English that she was an immigrant too and she saw it with her own eyes.

It exposed that fact that so many MPs engage in 'Thought Experiments' with Think Tanks or committees and try to dream up policy by homing in on the 'outcome' of their own choice to 'sell' to the nation as a soundbite. Lembit's next one was a classic on the point that we are a conservative society only because we are nanny-ed by the state and so we cannot see, as a for instance, that if we made legal Class A drugs like heroin or cocaine legal and available via the NHS, then we could reduce crime by half. It was a brilliant notion. In the same vain, we could produce an amnesty for all murderers and issue them free knives to kill people and then perhaps the fun will have gone so much that they won't kill so often. The logic that we should not only legalise high end drug taking but subsidise it by making it available on the NHS is pretty stupid, perhaps we should make alcohol or tobacco subsidised substances also. But the premise itself is abhorrent to most people - we want to tell young people drug taking is bad for them and therefore wrong, yet we legalise it. Further, Opik's premise that it would half crime was complete guess and theorises only that a great deal of crime is committed by drug addicts who commit crime to fund their habit. By legalising and subsidising drugs was his 'guess' that those people would no longer commit crimes. While it may be a fair assumption, in practice it may not be the case. Such guesswork, in attempting to prove its point, may actually have several unthought of and undesired effects, while the British public would have to swallow its feelings on having to subsidise the taking of hard drugs to satisfy the whim of a group of politicians who 'thought' it was a great idea.

It brings into stark clarity why the Lib Dems are unelectable, yet the earnest, youthful features of its leader may con us all into thinking he is progressive and forward thinking. A bright new, young future. It's all spoilt by the main spokesperson being Vince 'The Enforcer' Cable who looks like one of these sidekicks for a movie baddie.

And then there is David Cameron, epitomised by the Private Eye cartoon as an ex-Etonian, fresh-faced lad and toff full of ideas while also pointing the finger at the Government and shouting negative taunts. In the background lurks 'Chief Snitch', George Osbourne, who breached the rules of the workings of the super-rich by ratting on Peter Mandelson attending meetings on Oleg Deripaska's £80m yacht by stupidly forgetting he had to have been there himself to have witnessed it, casting equal suspicion on both - suspicion that was carefully swept under the carpet by both sides as the powerful Rothschild family members subtlety yet forcefully reminded everyone who keeps them in power.

Cameron has failed to make the impact he desperately wants despite his attempt to communicate with the youth by using hip and almost slang language. Again, much of the cerebral work has to be left to former heavyweights like Ken Clarke or the newly invigorated William Hague but the Conservatives are a long way off the pace of a decent opposition and they are only really so popular because the present Government has fouled up so royally.

But do youthful looks and attitudes actually win votes? Do we now value ideas and hip-language more than the voice and looks of experience? Do we take 'Thought Experiments' on ideas at face value? The fact is that many of the great 'Thought Experiments' by the Labour Government, particularly on spending on NHS, Education and transport has got us nowhere and their ideas on the economy have virtually ruined us as a nation. In 12 years in power, we have more unemployed than when they started and a budget deficit that is fast getting out of control. We are faced with drastic cuts to the services they heartily 'invested in', we partially or wholly own 5 High Street banks in order to save them, we have a green policy that is suspended while we sort out the mess and and we have a potential disaster on pensions only a short step around the corner as many on the cusp of retiring have seen their future wiped out and millions more will follow due to inept policies and lack of planning.

Britain is certainly on its knees - whether it will beat the count is yet to be seen. All bets at the moment are on preserving its status as a financial super centre - if the City of London loses that status then Britain could be all but finished. It started under the Conservatives but Labour somehow loved it, but manufacturing has been systematically dismantled in this country while the Finance industry has become more powerful.

Fresh faced ideas are vote winners on the whole. The smiling, confident face of Tony Blair guffawing at Hague's election stance on immigration and the like is a distant past yet how it has come back to haunt us in strange ways as our population rises to 61m and the net increases are mostly down to new arrivals, even this year as births by new arrivals played a huge part. But can Cameron do something special to rescue us? The policies he espouses certainly don't seem to have substance or detail backing them and seem as hit and hope as the Lib Dems. But we need a change from the complacency and hubris of the last 3 years at least.

It is easy to be cynical about politics, particularly after the extraordinary furore over expenses which we have not really flushed through as most MPs just did not seem to get the whole issue on breach of trust. Still today, many remain as MPs when ordinary people would have either resigned or been sacked and the simpering face of Hazel Blears ,as she held up the cheque she fiddled the HMRC on, epitomised the lack of accountability they all suffer with. She broke the law - it is very simple. The new furore surrounds another Labour darling, Baroness Scotland who, having concocted the laws on employing migrants, was found to have cut corners herself to get cheap labour and employed a migrant without properly checking. As with so many laws today, the onus is on the individual to do the Government's work and how gratifying it is to see how easy it is to become a 'criminal' in today's society for failing to think of everything. Should she go? Well, you live by the sword so you should die by it. But Baroness Scotland will not go - careful handling by the Spin Doctors will 'draw a line' under the affair while she will resolutely claim that an oversight caused the problem - but if only the law helped every citizen in the same way. If only bosses up and down the country allowed people to repay expenses with no punishment, if only the HMRC forgave the odd 'oversight' on taxes and let us carry on. If only being sacked twice would not appear on our CVs for dubious dealings as it does with Peter Mandelson.

That's the world of politics. Maybe fresh faced new guys are less blemished by the past but if Tony Blair's 'loans for peerages' and 'convicted felon of a financial adviser who bought them two flats' are indicators, so too are David Cameron's over-zealous wisteria cutting. The fact is, all politicians have to be a particularly thick-skinned and dubious types to actually want the job.

Fresh faced or not.

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