I returned to London a few days ago, hoping to come and enjoy the spring weather and the 2010 general elections campaign, but more importantly, to vote for a new government that will govern my adopted home for the next five years. Well I must tell you that just like Washington DC, the weather conditions here in London has been splendid and everything is as good as any mortal man can desire.
I do hope and also trust that all is well with you too, my dear friends. If I did not trust as well as hope that all is well, I should be unhappy. I cannot doubt but that things are rightly ruled in my Mother’s country, and I want to fall in more and more, and take my place in the ranks of the obedient, you see, I am getting old and tired of talking about what is wrong with my Mother’s land.
I am sure my friends; you all have been following the news about the British general election campaign which is in its second week now. Last night we had the first historic televised debate between the three main political parties but its early days to really talk about the after-effect of this debate. I will tell you more next week.
This week before the debate last night, all the political parties launched their manifesto telling the British voting public how they intend to govern and take UK plc back to profit and prosperity for all. This is a very important election because after many years of a strong, steady growth, UK Plc almost went bankrupt in 2007.
Today, UK Plc is no longer facing bankruptcy, but there is plenty of work to be done to revive the British precarious economy. The new government that will take office on the 7th May 2010 faces serious challenges that the country has not experienced since the election of 1979 that brought Margaret Thatcher to power.
But unlike the election of 1979 that swept Margaret Thatcher to power after she bashed the unions and called for the privatisations of state industries, the leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservatives Party today are having serious problems talking about the future.
Yes, every one including the political leaders has agreed that the May 6th election matters more than most. But listening to them this week, it was all about the past, all three main political parties have been very busy blaming each other for what went wrong in recent years. Then there is this issue of an increase in National Insurance contribution to be introduced next year if the Labour Party wins the 6th May election, but the Conservatives have been shouting out like mad bulls, guarded by some prominent business men in the country, that the increase will kill jobs, and prevent an early recovery.
Two weeks into the campaign, both the Labour Party and the Conservatives are claiming victory. How, you may ask? Well, the Conservatives are claiming that because they have the backing of some of the most prominent businessmen in the country condemning the Labour Party National Insurance increase, they are right about what needs to be done with the British Economy. While the Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown has claimed-with some justification- that the Conservatives figures and calculations does not add up. However, what worries many observers here is whether, in the wake of the recent financial crash, voters will judge the public support of wealthy business men to be a political bonus for the Conservatives Party.
The most important challenge facing the new government is getting the public finance under control without killing the recovery and/or the devaluation of the British Pound. The Prime Minster who was Finance Minster for many years under Tony Blair argues that he brought Britain through recession, and that the risk of relapse is great enough that no change of government, or early wielding of the fiscal axe, can safely be contemplated. The Conservatives leader, Mr David Cameron blames Mr Brown for much of the present fiscal mess, which he says he will deal with quickly but more effectively. Meanwhile, the Party that everyone is hoping to be the power brokers if we do end up with a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats have promised to wait until the British economy is in a recovery mood like the Labour Party before any big cuts in public Services.
But guess what, the only people who are foolishly excited about all of these arguments are the Journalists and the die-hard party supporters. The public are not interested. On the train the other day, I tried to engage a fellow-passenger on my way home from the Labour Party Manifesto launching ceremony; the man, whom I suspect to be working in the technical profession was not interested in what I had to say. In fact, at one point he thought I was a politician, because of my suit and the documents I was carrying. When I told him that I am in fact a Journalist, he looked at me with disgust and said “you are all the same”.
Honestly, I can’t argue with that; many journalists, including myself, when we go to work in Westminster, we begin to think of ourselves as participants in the political process instead of as glorified stenographers. You see, we are seduced by the proximity to power. But let’s leave that for another time and place.
The question is why is the electorate so angry with politicians? Simple answer. They are all the same these days in Britain. There are no big, deep thinking and radicalism. But some will also argue that crucially, most of the leaders today are light-weight and too afraid to challenge the public or tell the truth as to what needs to be done to bring about a better society.
Others will argue that it is unfair to say that there are no big, deep thinking and radicalism these days. That is if you subscribe to the Labour position which is that the government has a major role to play in your life, whilst the Conservatives are saying that the government has no business controlling your life. Of course, there are many shades of colours in these arguments from both sides to justify their way of thinking.
Today, listening to voters’ disillusionment with politicians is like looking on the bright side of any catastrophe. When you quite looking on the bright side, the catastrophe is still there; after a week of campaigning the polls are exactly where they started, undecided voters remain undecided and boredom is setting in. As the comedian David Mitchell noted recently, the unpredictability of this election is supposedly what makes it exciting. But in fact, the closeness and immobility of the polling public indicate how little the country cares who wins on May 6th.
According to recent reports about voter’s confusion over the policies of the various political parties, four out of eight key pledges are attributed to the wrong party by voters. The findings indicated deep public disenchantment with the campaign so far.
The poll, undertaken on Monday and Tuesday of this week shows that Voters are confused about the parties manifesto pledges. There is a strong demand for change, but more voters hope for a hung Parliament than a Conservative or a Labour majority.
Many people are very worried about a hung parliament. They say that it breeds instability and indecision. But another school of thought argues that a hung parliament often proves as stable as a single-party government-with the added bonus that they are more representative of voters’ opinion. Then there are those who are saying that at this time when the country is crying for honesty and tough decisions that will be painful to get the country on the move again, a hung parliament would be an opportunity rather than a catastrophe.
Political observers are saying that the three live televised debates between the three main political parties could change Britain forever. As I write, I am looking at my invitation to go and watch the debate at the London School of Economics. Much of the attention has focused on the battle to be prime minister between Mr Gordon Brown of the Labour Party and Mr David Cameron of the Conservatives. But with many voters undecided, and some even thinking of not voting on May 6th, the equal footing given to Mr Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats will make the three 90-minutes debates very different to the televised presidential contest which began in the United States some 50 years ago. By Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay