As the election approaches I find myself reflecting on the way I have been involved in politics and influenced by it throughout my life.
I was born into a strongly Labour voting family, and considered myself a Labour supporter from quite an early age. When I lived in East Anglia, it was (as it is now) strong Conservative territory, and Labour supporters were a novelty. We had to get the Guardian sent by post in those days (around 1963-4) since the local newsagents didn’t stock it (in those days it was still a Labour paper (: )!
The first election I voted in was in 1979, by which time I was living in London, in the (then) St Pancras North constituency. We all know what happened in that election, and throughout most of my PhD, my postdoc contracts and the early part of my career, the Conservatives were in power.
When Labour were elected with a landslide in 1997, it almost seemed too good to be true. I had joined the Party that year, so I really felt part of something new and exciting. Throughout the time that followed, right up to the present day, I have supported the actions the government took, including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I would have preferred Tony to have remained leader; Gordon was an excellent ‘prudent’ Chancellor, and possibly lacks something as party leader. Nevertheless, I have been a strong supporter of him since he became leader.
So, what of now? The worldwide financial crisis would impact badly on whoever was in power, and the MP expenses scandal has had a bad effect. Apparently some people want something ‘new’; whether they will still like it after a few years of David Cameron remains to be seen!
I don’t blame the Liberal Democrats for making the most of their apparent surge in popularity, but they must realise that with the current electoral system, they will come third, and have little influence unless they go into a coalition with one of the other parties. As for electoral reform, I’m against PR, as it will inevitably lead to a profusion of smaller parties, and resulting difficulty in decision making and a lack of strong government.
I was astonished by the breathtaking naivity of the Guardian newspaper in announcing yesterday their support for the Liberal Democrats. Don’t they understand how our political system works? Who will they support if the Conservatives are elected, and Labour are the official opposition party? They say that they discussed it among staff and readers, but I heard nothing of such a consultation. It will inevitably lead to loss of readership, and I am sorry for this once great socialist newspaper.
So, as Thursday approaches, my feeling of impending doom increases. My predicted outcome follows the recent polls: the Conservatives will have the most seats but not enough for an absolute majority, and Labour will come second. I don’t think the Liberal Democrats will do as well as they hope or expect, but they may be in a position to form a coalition with the Conservatives, assuming they are prepared to forget any principles they might have had at one time (in the days of Joe Grimond, for example). We will have to see what happens. To misquote a Chinese proverb, we certainly live in interesting times!