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I suspect I need to unsub from a list or two. When you have almost 200 messages in your inbox and the only one you can be arsed to look at is Popbitch, then it's time to wave bye.

Popbitch, as ever, offers a wealth of appalling in one handy email. Where else could you learn of David Hasselhoff's drinking habits (legendary) or that Netflix has experienced a 1,100% increase in demand for the films of Ronald Reagan since his death?

I think film is possibly the best way to experience Ronald Reagan, as I was very unfond of his policies as a politician.

But I will not dissect the reign of Mr Reagan at length, as I would be immensely surprised if anyone gave a flying toss what I think -- I can barely outwake the torpor myself.

The one thing that the centre-left fails to understand is that for many Americans and specifically the Republicans, Reagan was a brilliant president.

He was charming, folksy, led by conviction yet was perfectly happy to let his rather grubbier and more ideologically hardline backroom staff actually govern. He was the frontman.

He gave huge tax breaks to the well-off while cutting programmes for the poorest sections of society, and managed to so alter the political discourse of the country that he took tax-and-spend off the agenda.

He talked a great game of fiscal responsibility while ramping up the deficit to such an extent that it hamstrung the presidents who followed him, who were unable to work any monetary room to manoeuvre (most specifically Clinton.)

He shifted the goalposts entirely and proved that if you are a man who can project a patina of charm and understand your heartland, you can get away with *anything* abroad providing you can, in the words of an army friend of mine, "get in, get out, no fucking about".

Does this remind you of anyone in particular?

One thing about the funeral though: I was amazed by how much I still loathe Margaret Thatcher, to the point where the very sight of her makes me want to snarl. For long periods of time, it lies buried in my heart, along with the memory of pedal pushers, Rubik's cubes and the early singles of Depeche Mode, then *vwoom* there she is and it's like I'm 15 years old and wishing someone would push her under a bus again. It's a visceral reaction.

We went to the polls in Britain yesterday for the local council elections. Because of the boundary changes, the European super-election (which goes on until Sunday across the 26 member states of the EU) and the London mayoral elections, it was more important than usual.

We have a general election coming up soon, which meant it was also a dry-run for the parties to see how the vote will divide generally and what the ruling party have to be worried about.

On this evidence, a great deal.

For the first time ever, the ruling party came third in its share of the vote. The Tories won but the Liberal Democrats took second place and Labour lost control of councils where it could previously have won without breaking a sweat. It lost heartlands such as Newcastle to the Lib Dems.

Obviously, a lot of that is a protest vote, as it always is in mid-term elections. The UK Independence Party bit a chunk out of the vote for the two largest parties, surprisingly a fair bit of it from Labour in the cities. But the UKIP is a single-issue organisation, based on protests against the ongoing federalisation plans of the European Union, and that's not usually the sort of issue which decides general elections.

However, I think that more was at play than the traditional obstreperousness over Europe, and I am basing this on anecdotal evidence: G, at work, is standing as a LibDem for the local council in a Labour stronghold and did not expect to win. It was his experience in canvassing that a lot of people are angry not at the Labour Party in general but at Tony Blair *specifically* and the issue that has them riled is the Iraq war, which they see as having been expensive for the country in terms of lives, money and, above all, prestige.

This may be a delusion but it's a collective one across the globe: our country is a place where fairness and doing the right thing matters, and if our leaders take us into a war which we do not support and this lowers our standing in the world, then we are shamed.

The electoral evidence would seem to point to the fact that a substantial majority of voters despise George Bush and blame Tony Blair for allying himself so closely to the US president that you couldn't get a fag paper between the two of them. While there was widespread, if grudging support for the Afghanistan campaign, Iraq was a different matter. They distrust Bush's motives, which means they question Blair's judgment.

From having been his party's greatest electoral weapon, Blair may now be its greatest liability.

The one thing that has kept him in power at No 10 is the party's belief that he is a vote-winner. Many in the Labour party despise the fact that he rules presidentially, with a coterie of advisors and think-tanks, that he skews right and cosies up to big business, that he is dictatorial and has gone into Iraq out of some kind of messianic conviction. If they believe he is no longer an asset at poll time, they'll have him out.

One of the delights of the British electoral system is that you can't predict exactly when the elections will be, as the prime minister calls the timing. Or rather, he goes to the Queen, asks permission to dissolve parliament, and calls the election. He has a rough term limit but that is all.

I think I once read that the tightest possible turnaround from dissolution of parliament to election day is 28 days, which is a pleasingly short number. When I was younger, I thought that the US system was way better because you always knew when the election would be and the government knew the marks it had to hit.

These days, I rather like the wily unpredictability of our system, with its snap elections and *short* campaigning season. That means we only have to put up with those nauseating fascist fuckers from the British National Party on our streets and TV screens a limited number of times.

Back in the dying months of the 1980s, Thatcher was also bowling towards her fourth election (no term limits in Britain). She was first elected in 1979, promising a new broom to sweep away the cobwebs, fought a khaki election following the Falklands War, then, on the back of a rather shaky boom, she fought another election in 1987 and won with a cripplingly huge majority born of the fact that the country was utterly divided.

It was after this that Thatcher launched her most treasured policy initiative, one which sprang from her own ideological convictions rather than any electoral calculation. She would replace a rackety old progressive tax with a new flat-rate property tax. And she would try it out first in Scotland, where no one ever voted for her anyway because they loathed her (I have always liked the Scots)

It proved hugely unpopular and the protests about it turned many ordinary people into criminals. Her trusted lieutenants tried to persuade her to abandon the experiment or at least modify her actions. She took little notice, as this was a matter of messianic conviction. Her party loathed the way she governed presidentially, listening to a small coterie of advisers, who skewed way right. Her popularity plummeted.

Does this remind you of anyone in particular?

If we take the Thatcher lesson as a model, Thatcher faced a stalking horse candidate first, who tested the level of support within the party, then a serious challenger. She won the confidence vote but not by enough and her support drifted away.

She went into a rather bitter exile in November 1990, which for my generation is one of our JFK moments. I was in a class on European economic history and when the teacher told us, we thought he was taking the piss until we went outside and the Socialist Workers were doing the conga up and down the union steps and singing with joy.

Blair will be harder to shift. Before his obsession with Iraq, he was a rather protean politician, liable to say what we wanted to hear. His eloquence and intelligence were often persuasive but these days they seem to produce a reaction of weariness in part of the electorate and outright loathing for many, particularly those on the left. And in case Mr Blair has forgotten, the Labour party *is* a party of the left, founded on good socialist principles.

We live in interesting times.

* * *

England play France on Sunday. Big match. Beautiful football.

Goodnight.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC)
I've never read 1066 and All That. Is this a terrible admission?
timesink
Jun. 11th, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC)
We live in interesting times.

That is a stone cold fact.

Go rent "Kings Row." We saw it on TV on Reagan's first Inaugural Day, and we just wept with laughter at "Where's the rest of me?"
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:31 pm (UTC)
Go rent "Kings Row." We saw it on TV on Reagan's first Inaugural Day, and we just wept with laughter at "Where's the rest of me?"

I've never seen the film but I've heard of the line *g*

I don't believe I've ever watched a Ronald Reagan film.
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:35 pm (UTC)
Joan Collins is entertaining. I swear her wig creeps further forward every time I see her. These days she has moved in the public consciousness from "Dynasty slapper" to "national treasure". She could come out with any old bollocks and we'd be all "Oh Joan, you're still fabulous! Bless!"

If it gets shown anywhere on your TV, watch the Anthony Seldon portrait of Tony Blair. The first half hour isn't much cop but the last bit really seems to get under his skin. And makes me a little scared of him, because he's motivated by religion *way* more than I suspected.
hobbituk
Jun. 11th, 2004 11:09 pm (UTC)
I work on the premise that all politicians are fundamentally corruptible liars and cheats, looking out for themselves first, then their friends, family and anyone who pays them. If I am proved wrong, I am pleasantly surprised. Oh yes. It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government gets in and are up and running and ready to shaft you.

Hee. You know the way you feel about Maggie T? I feel like that about President Blaah. Not so much his policies, as him. I have a chemical reaction to that cheesy grinning face and want to hit it with something heavy. And his wife. Who (IMO) pokes her nose into government business far more than she has a right to - who elected her???

Don't get me wrong, the other lot were no better. Except that as a single person living alone, the poll tax seemed fair to me... but I know I am probably in a minority here!

infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:43 pm (UTC)
I work on the premise that all politicians are fundamentally corruptible liars and cheats, looking out for themselves first, then their friends, family and anyone who pays them. If I am proved wrong, I am pleasantly surprised. Oh yes. It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government gets in and are up and running and ready to shaft you.

Well, that's a very pessimistic view of the nature of democracy, yes *g*

I don't know that you're necessarily wrong though. I think that Maggie destroyed the idea that public service meant actually *helping* the *public*. The notions of duty and of acting for the good of the community came to be seen as laughably naive in the 80s and I lay the blame for that squarely at her door.

Hee. You know the way you feel about Maggie T? I feel like that about President Blaah. Not so much his policies, as him. I have a chemical reaction to that cheesy grinning face and want to hit it with something heavy.

I dislike his style of government and I don't trust him and I turn off his speeches because all those sentence fragments irritate the hell out of me, but I don't feel the chemical reaction *g*

My ma, on the other hand, *loathes* him. She's just irrational on the subject, much as I am with Mrs T.

Don't get me wrong, the other lot were no better. Except that as a single person living alone, the poll tax seemed fair to me... but I know I am probably in a minority here!

Well, people bring up the case that a little old lady living in a draughty mansion was paying as much in rates as a big family would and that seemed fundamentally unfair. Which, in some cases it was. However, I think there's some kind of rational middle ground to be found in which the hypothetical little old lady wouldn't get shafted but some multimillionaire in a mansion wouldn't be paying the same property taxes as me in a wee terraced house.

OTOH, boy, do you get spanked on the council tax when you live alone. Ouch.
hobbituk
Jun. 13th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC)
I work with local politicians on a daily basis. Say no more! Arsewipes.

I couldn't articulate my dislike for Tone and Chereeee. I just can't bear them, to the extent that if either face appears on the tv I have to turn it over. Just looking at his cheesy grin and her letterbox mouth just really wind me up.

You know what is really funny? The way your ma feels about Tone, hobbitmum feels about Mrs T. Hatred. Virulent, blinding, hatred.

Funny old world, isn't it?
solo
Jun. 12th, 2004 12:13 am (UTC)
She went into a rather bitter exile in November 1990, which for my generation is one of our JFK moments. I was in a class on European economic history and when the teacher told us, we thought he was taking the piss until we went outside and the Socialist Workers were doing the conga up and down the union steps and singing with joy.

That mirrors my experience almost exactly. I was at uni, too, in class, and suddenly there was this noise from tape players and party crackers and lots of people shouting and singing on the main street just a lane across from the building. Only, this being Aberdeen, it wasn't just the Socialist Workers doing the conga, it was everybody. Lecturers, too.

infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:47 pm (UTC)
I was in Manchester. The joy was fairly universal there too. The Student's Union gave out free wine. People ran around yelling "Is it true? Is it true?" as if they were afraid they'd just dreamed it. It was like the end of the White Witch in the Narnia books ...

I bet Aberdeen was better though.Much more riotous. It was my impression that when it came to loathing Thatcher, the Scots were the true professionals.
muridae_x
Jun. 12th, 2004 02:04 am (UTC)
I was amazed by how much I still loathe Margaret Thatcher, to the point where the very sight of her makes me want to snarl.

Oh, me too. I have this near-Pavlovian reaction, where every time she pops up again strains of Elvis Costello's "Tramp The Dirt Down" start running through my head. A wonderfully insiduous little piece of bitter vitriol, it sums my feels on the woman up nicely.

I got electorally disenfranchised by the post office this week, which I'm still majorly ticked off about. I never got my voter registration card - although I did get every single one for the house next door. I reposted those through the correct letterbox, but no one reciprocated for me. :-(

Fine, I thought. I'll just ring up the local council and see whether I'm still on the electoral roll. So far so good. Yes, they had me registered, no problem to just go along on the day, here's your voting reference. What they didn't tell me was that my polling station had changed. So I went along to where it had always been previously, and nada. And since that was late evening, it was then too late to try and find out where it had moved to. Bah.

Seriously, if any party wants to make reform of the currently extremely crappy postal service part of their platform for the next General Election, I'd be more than half tempted to jump political allegiance on the strength of it.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:52 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing with the post doesn't at all surprise me.
My sympathies on the disenfranchisement. They really are rubbish.

I didn't get to vote either. I found the polling station okay but hit the rocks when I got there.

My flatmate was on the register but I wasn't, even though I own the house and I *know* I filled out the form and sent it off, because I did it in the midst of a (thankfully now solved) credit report -induced panic. Not to mention the fact that I filled out the flatmate's name on *the same form* as mine.

At least I know I'm registered now.
xsabx
Jun. 12th, 2004 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: Perspective
Yesterday, whilst trying to knock off the pounds, I caught a glimpse of the Funeral. I saw Gorbachev, undeniably elegant in his old age, stand by the coffin with what to the world looked like respect, before putting his hand on the flag. Part of me, in the dark recesses of my mind, still whipped by the fears of 'Threads' and the images of 'Protect and Survive' hoped he was quietly pleased that he outlived the man who joked about bombing his country to bits.

I can't ever mourn a man who embodied everything that still haunts me in the wee small hours.

We *really* need PR in this country.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 06:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Perspective
You too, eh? I spent my teenage years learning everything I could about ICBMs and so on. At one point I had almost all of a book on the potential effects of nuclear weaponry memorised, I think, and I remember being almost in tears of rage when Thatcher allowed our soil to be used in the attack on Libya.

Did you get to see Threads when it was repeated on BBC4 earlier this year.

My *God* that film is still terrifying. I swear my stomach contents curdled and I had a nightmare after watching it again -- just as I did when I first saw it as a young teenager.

I don't know about PR though. I hate to think that the BNP could get a national foothold. If the price of that is the retention of the majoritarian voting system, it might just be worth it. I don't know.
xsabx
Jun. 13th, 2004 12:32 am (UTC)
Re: Perspective
I don't know about PR though.

Of course, you're right, and it's an unfortunate consequence of the last 20 years of history that the BNP can survive at all. But they do, even to the point of me getting a postal mailer from them this time around...
veejane
Jun. 12th, 2004 05:59 am (UTC)
But I will not dissect the reign of Mr Reagan at length, as I would be immensely surprised if anyone gave a flying toss what I think -- I can barely outwake the torpor myself.

I was going to say, until I read further, that you're so floridly venomous on Thatcher that your thoughts on Reagan must needs be a command performance. And then you go venomous on Thatcher! It was an encore of magnificent proportions.

Reagan was the president the US deserved, because voters weren't smart enough to see past the "nice". Thatcher was, well, actually, I was going to say she was a demon infestation. I don't know what explains her.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 12th, 2004 07:01 pm (UTC)
Reagan was the president the US deserved, because voters weren't smart enough to see past the "nice". Thatcher was, well, actually, I was going to say she was a demon infestation. I don't know what explains her.

Given that you have an election coming up, and seeing who is the incumbent, that first sentence scares me.

As for Thatcher, there is still something about her that brings out the invective in all vaguely lefty Brits of a certain age. I'd like to put her success down to some W&H-style deal with evil but perhaps it had more to do with the repressed southern English male dredging up fond albeit disturbingly fetishistic memories of "nanny will *smack*!"-style tellings-off and desiring to repeat the experience with a political leader delivering the admonitions this time.

They all wear basques underneath their business suits and pay for spankings, those people *g*
cofax7
Jun. 16th, 2004 09:53 pm (UTC)
Given that you have an election coming up, and seeing who is the incumbent, that first sentence scares me.

eeee! Wonky new posting box!

Um, yes. Terrifying. Fucking terrifying.

Mwah.
fialka
Jun. 13th, 2004 06:08 pm (UTC)
You are evile and you must be enjoyed.

Hugs, me.
fialka
Jun. 13th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, and because I'm a dolt and hit 'post' too fast, I must comment on my comment -- remember the headlines when Mrs T got the oust -- 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead'? Can't remember which paper it was now, but it followed me through about five moves of house, till it finally fell to bits.

Hmm. "Ding Dong the Prick is Dead"? (Apologies to those who feel Reagan is worth mourning, but my issues with his policies both at home and abroad would fill more gigabytes than LJ has.)

I no longer have the Annals of America that came with the Encyclopaedia Brittanica back in the early 80s or so, but I distinctly remember that one US senator, with reference to the proposed stepping up of activities in Vietnam, was quoted as saying, "If we do this, we might as well elect Ronald Reagan president and throw foreign policy to the winds." (Ron was then still only creating havoc in California. And if anyone's got the Annals, would love to know who that was.)

As someone with a foot in both countries, the 80s was a time of Janus-headed outrage for me. Shame and fury no matter which way I turned my head.

Gee. Not a lot different now, is it?
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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