Friday, 16 April 2010

A Shift?

Thursday night and Drama in the Community hit the streets of Ham to leaflet in preparation for next month's show. We coordinated our strategy in The Royal Oak, dividing up the publicity material and allocating streets, before heading off in pairs to cover the village. Two and a half hours later we'd posted to 2,000 addresses. Job well done!

Bry and Carolina even managed to bump into our MP Lib Dem Susan Kramer out on the early evening stump. She knew all about the birthday party and providing she's still representing the constituency has promised to be there.

Retired to Patsy's to watch the first of the live debates between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. It was a fascinating hour and a half job interview and seems to have blown the election wide open. The debates have been almost universally welcomed, but the downside for me is that they confuse a party political system with a presidential election. Only 50,000 or so people in Sheffield or Kirkcaldy or Witney will get the chance to vote for one of these three and although of course they each represent a body of political opinion the media have obsessed over making it a personality contest. It's very confusing. Are we voting for a leader or a government?

It became clear from very early on that, on a personal level, the real winner on the night was Clegg. Both of the others might need to cut a deal with him in three weeks time and so rather pulled their punches, allowing him to look as though he were setting the agenda. It'll be fascinating to see whether this is the pivotal moment where we move from a two to a three party system or whether as the Liberal manifesto is opened up to scrutiny the electorate gravitate back to one of the two parties who've held power for the last sixty five years. Either way the next debate has been complicated by that expectation that the Liberal Democrats have become a genuine threat. Interestingly their manifesto seems every bit as 'soft' as Labour's 1983 document - which has gone down in legend as 'the longest suicide note in history.' Both Cameron and Brown will, undoubtedly, rough it up a bit next time in an attempt to portray the Liberals as loony, ban the bomb, hippies!

The real loser seemed to be Cameron, who may be moving too fast for his own good. His enthusiastic manifesto calling for a big society is a huge gamble, simply for the fact that beyond the initial radicalism there doesn't seem to be much contingency. Of the three leaders he seemed the one least able to manoeuvre his way through the minefield of an unbriefed ninety minutes and once his idea had been voiced it was ignored by the others, leaving him seeming a little lost.

Despite the predicted gains they made last night, the present system makes it nearly impossible for the Lib Dems to hold over 100 seats, even if they become the most popular party, but strengthening of their support does make it harder for the Tories to capture enough of the Labour seats to win the overall majority. It's all become excitingly unpredictable.

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