04 May 2010

Tightening polls... frightening trolls... army of Noels... etc.

Sorry kids, this is a really long one... Once again, in lieu of any real excitement in the last days of the campaign, I'm resorting to SOC (stream-of-consciousness) to try to make these posts interesting.

Apparently Gordon Brown delivered a barnstormer of a speech to London Citizens last night. Pity it wasn't televised. The Big Speech is, of course, Mr Brown's forte. Who can forget the great Labour Party Conference Blair/Brown double act with Mr Brown pretending to be "real Labour" on the Monday, followed by Mr Blair pretending to be a Tory (or did he even need to pretend?) on Tuesday. Good speeches are useful for energising the party workers but whether they cut it with floaters is another matter. Although Labour's 1983 campaign was marked by an incredible series of gaffes and a general feeling that the coordinator was one Mr Frank Spencer (e.g. Michael Foot sitting down at a trestle table to give the morning press conference, at which point said table promptly collapsed), it also featured a masterclass in rousing oratory from the late great Mr Foot. And the result was: Labour with 28 per cent of the vote. Remember that figure kids, because it's not clear whether Labour can exceed it this time.

But I hope they can, because "worst election result since 1983" sounds a whole lot better than "worst election result since 1922" or whatever: and there is some sign of a slow recovery in the polls for Labour. For example, Opinium, Comres and YouGov all have Labour at 28-29% now - level pegging or ahead of the Lib Dems, who are gradually slipping back after reaching the mid-30s in some polls in the wake of that first debate.

Nonetheless, the increase in the Tory vote into the high 30s which many conservative (actually Conservative) commentators had expected this weekend has simply not happened in most polls. I still think they will get 34% or so, with Labour and the Lib Dems on about 28% each.

I still get post-traumatic stress disorder when I think about the final poll movements in the 1992 campaign - a kind of gigantic bowel movement by the British collective. Kinnock's Labour party (affectionately referred to by the long-gone USA Today newspaper as the "Labor party" was around 2-3% points in front for the whole campaign, bar the odd rogue poll; then, the day before polling day, it started to shift to level pegging. Even so, I still thought that a hung parliament with "Labor" as the largest single party was the very worst we could hope for.

I remember the election night party at a fortified compound in a small Essex village on the Dengie peninsula; the newspapers stacked high for safety, despite being labelled a "fire hazard" by one particularly uncouth visitor. A small, elderly Jack Russell terrier, named Fizzypop, almost dead but holding out hope for this greatest socialist victory. Waiting for the election special, watching "The Big One", featuring large US comedian Mike McShane, with a can of "Jaguar" lager (approximately 30p a can from Asda, or something - rancid stuff) in hand. And then the excitement of the exit poll, showing Labour as the largest party in a hung parliament.

And then the Basildon result - David Amess, still 4 years from Brasseye and the cake incident, his smug face saying "you've lost, old sport".

My life Amess from that moment onwards - or at least for the 48 hours it took to get out of bed after that shocker. "Wave after wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream"... although Pink Floyd's Roger Waters wrote that in 1977, it never really applied until 15 years later.

This time I'm a wiser, more decrepit head, and I'm Ready. If the Tories win on Thursday... water off a duck's back. It's like they said at the end of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica: "what do we do now?" "Fight them until we can't". I don't mean literally - although the militia group option remains open until further notice - but after fighting the faux Tories in New Labour for so long, it will be nice to have the real deal back. Genuine wankers that you don't need to hold back from criticising - that smarmy cheap punk Gove, for instance. And "Gideon" Osborne - the Trust Fund Kid. In a way, I love these guys. They make being a socialist easy.

So why not a psychological depression on the scale of 1992? Context, friends. The difference this time is that I expected a Labour wipeout, not a close win - so a small Tory majority, while annoying, wouldn't actually be that bad.

If the Tories don't even get a majority and have to undertake a minority govt - that could be the best outcome of all. Deeply vulnerable to a No Confidence Vote and having to push through huge cuts to satisfy the markets. It's unlikely to end well for them.

In some ways, a shock Labour victory - if they emerge clearly ahead of the Tories seats - may be the most dangerous result of all. Because Labour (and the Lib Dems, if in coalition) would then be having to make the savage cuts with the Tories lying in wait for them. Probably very few readers will remember 1931, but it's exactly this kind of dangerous situation that destroyed Labour as an electoral force for 15 years. And also, a Labour victory (or "victory", really, as there's no way these guys are gonna come out first in terms of vote share) would mean Brown stayed on. Can we really face that? Is this guy really going to lead a spectacular recovery in the Labour vote?

No, I think I'd prefer the Tories in a minority govt - but with as few seats as possible. If they came out, like, one or two seats ahead of Labour - that would be the real deal.

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