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1) I actually cooked tonight: seared tuna steak, organic couscous with pesto, baby green cabbage and some kind of outrageously expensive Spanish red peppers that taste heavenly. I feel so accomplished, given that toast is usually as far as my culinary adventures extend.

2) I have just taken my first swig of over-the-counter, laden-with-codeiney-goodness cough syrup and I plan to be cheerfully bombed on it all weekend. I won't be able to drive but I won't be coughing either. Huzzah! I plan to listen to the footie on Radio 5, call people up to wig them out with my lovely Harvey Fierstein voice and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition while playing the "Oh!My!Gosh!" drinking game. And read a lot.

3) I flipped past American Idol while I was eating dinner. America, as arrogant, arse-chinned and truly dreadful as Constantine was when he tried to pull a Chad Kroeger, I can't believe you preferred to boot him out rather than the smug, wall-eyed, god-bothering serial killer-in-waiting that is Scott Thingywotsit. If he's genuinely humble then I'm a teapot called Eric.

4) Some time ago leadensky said I was getting the impression that all the polls were running a 15 to 20 point difference, favor Labor (or whatever Blair's party is) and that nobody was taking odds for the Tories, much less anyone one else. Is there some reason to expect a Spain-style upset?

There's not much reason to expect a Spain-style upset because the parties are not *that* close in the polls that something like the Madrid bombing and the subsequent festival of lying, panicking and misdirection engaged in by the Aznar government could tip the vote the other way.

As in Spain, the involvement in Iraq is, barring something dreadful happening next week, an issue which impacts in different ways across the electorate. I don't know whether this has been reported at all in the media outside Britain, but the secret advice on the legality of the war which was given by the attorney general has been slowly leaked over the course of the election campaign. It proves that contrary to what Blair advised parliament, the case for war was not cut and dried and it is likely that Britain engaged in a war which was illegal according to international law. This actually matters in Britain, which is a signatory to a number of treaties on the subject and, in general, has historically been a proponent of creating a useful framework of international law.

For most people it's way down the priority list compared to say, issues of healthcare, education, taxation and immigration (the main areas of argument this election)

But for others, hardcore Labourites, Iraq was one break of faith too far from Blair, who is a centre-right social democrat when most of his party span the spectrum from social democrat to socialist. They despised him for other reasons of policy but the Iraq war is what convinced them that the compromise under which leftwingers united behind and supported someone from the right of their party because he was electable was not worth it. (Labour was out of power for 18 years before Blair, and it was scarred by the experience) Iraq was the issue that broke that particular devil's covenant for them.

However, the main opposition party, the Conservatives (AKA, the Tories), also supported the war in Iraq, so there's no leverage for them in that issue. It is led by Michael Howard, a former home secretary of frighteningly rightwing, illiberal views, who is now trying to come across as Mr Everyman. Michael Howard is the lawyer son of immigrants from Romania who fled the Nazis, and in that respect, a huge success story. However, he has chosen to run on a very tricksy platform in which the issue of stopping immigration is heavily foregrounded in a way which plays to the basest, most racist impulses of the electorate. Most hardcore Labour voters would rather drown themselves in a bowl of lentil stew than vote for him.

The voting situation is further complicated by a third main party, the Liberal Democrats. They were a midpoint between the Conservatives and Labour but now stand slightly to the left and side of Labour, supporting higher taxes to be ploughed into education and healthcare and an ethical foreign policy which would have permitted, say, the intervention in Bosnia but not the intervention in Iraq.

There are also a number of smaller parties, mostly operating on single issue tickets, the most odious of which are
(1) Veritas, a party which exists only for a permatanned former talk show host to parade his anti-Muslim and anti-European integration views;

(2) UKIP, The UK independence party, which is anti-European integration and would pull Britain out of its European alliances in favour of transatlanticism. This party took a huge bite out of the rightwing vote in the previous election but is now in disarray because Europe is no longer a live issue (this is because the French referendum on the EU constitution on May 29 appears likely to reject its adoption, and oh my god will that put the cat among the pigeons);

(3) The British National Party. Like Aryan Nation, only a wee bit brighter and in suits. They target poor wards and constituencies with large minority ethnic populations and target the white working class vote by playing on their fears. Words cannot express how much I despise these people. Unfortunately, they will probably make gains this election.

The UK has a majoritarian system of government that works like this: the country is divided into constituencies, some 646-odd of them, each of which returns an MP -- the person who has the most votes even if they've won by only 33 votes (which is the smallest majority in the country at present). The party with the most MPs at the end of Thursday night forms the government and the leader of that party is prime minister. Winner takes all, everyone else has to sit down and shut up.

The third party means that tactical voting assumes a large importance in the UK whereas it does not in the US, which also has a majoritarian system of government and bicameral legislature but elects them much more directly.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997, when the electorate administered an unheard of spanking to the loathed Tories. This was accomplished by tactical voting: hardcore Labour voters switching allegiance to the Liberal Democrats in seats which Labour could not possibly win and Liberal Democrats voting for Labour where their candidate could not possibly win.

In 2001, UKIP split the Tory vote and delivered a 167 seat majority to Blair, which allowed him to push through as much legislation as he liked without having to negotiate a huge amount of opposition, except on issues like Iraq and university fees.

The real battlegrounds are probably fewer than 200 constituencies where the vote is close. These marginals are where the parties pour most of their money and where tactical voting makes the contest the most volatile.

It would take a huge swing for the Conservatives to retake the seats they lost in 1997 and that requires a huge swing away from Labour. While Blair's numbers show that he is both distrusted and disliked, they also say that the country thinks he is doing a reasonably good job as PM. The Conservatives cannot win this election, barring a miracle or a terrorist disaster, because Labour has (though it pains me to admit it) been a fairly good government in many areas. And the electorate is content and apathetic.

Yet the Conservative vote is very strong this year, with up to 80% of those who identify as Tories likely to vote while only 64% of those who identify as Labour voters are likely to actually turn out on Thursday.

Therefore the twin-pronged Conservative strategy is this: (1) you depress the Labour turnout by admitting that the election looks lost. This means that weak Labour supporters won't bother voting because they don't think the Conservatives could possibly win.

(2) You tell the furious Labour voters who hate Blair to send a message by voting *against* Labour as a vote against Blair, weakening his position in the party and possibly forcing him to stand down at some point in the next term.

This has the side effect of encouraging slackness of allegiance and discouraging anti-Tory tactical voting. In a tight race, the Green party supporter, for example, might vote for Labour as the least-worst option, but when he/she believes Labour are sure to win, that person will vote with their conscience and go Green. In 2001 this slackness of allegiance hurt the Conservatives -- their voters were sure they would not win and so voted for UKIP to express their anger at the European policy of the main parties.

This differential turnout is hard to calculate in polling data and means that while the official lead for Labour in most polls is 5-8 points, when you count only the responses of those who are certain to vote, it drops to around 2 points, a very manageable swing.

And this is why electoral volatility should have made this an exciting election. Somehow, though, it hasn't been. I'm hoping for a lot of surprise victories for the Liberal Democrats and a much-reduced majority for the Labour party. It's not healthy for one party to have a majority in parliament of more than 100. It encourages dictatorial government.

My tribal loyalty is to Labour but not so much that I won't vote for someone else (who is not a bloody Tory)

Questions? Comments? Yawns?


matociquala may be interested in this article from today's Grauniad about 'Ryanair-style'-publishing in which the author receives no advance and bears all costs of professional editing. Looks like there's a division between those hoping it gets more people published and a large number who are appalled at authors getting an ever-smaller sliver of the pie.



May. 2nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC)
I think probably the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals view government as a service entity - it's there to do stuff for the citizens that they don't have the resources to do individually.

No. The difference is that liberals think that someone else should pay for the stuff I want but don't need.

They also have exaggerated ideas of what a person "needs", *and* think that the best person to decide what a person needs is some bureaucrat up in HUD and not the person themselves. Liberals also don't want people to make their own choices - they want to make choices for everyone.

That is prohibitively costly for more than 50% of the population, for example, like healthcare and pensions.

ANYTHING that 50% of the population can't afford IS TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE. And check your stats - a majority of Americans do have some form of health care and some form of a pension. And we could afford more if we weren't paying as much in taxes.

Further more, the problem with healthcare is not that it is prohibitively costly, it's just got a lower return than people want to spend on it. People don't see it as worth the investment. And the kind that pays for doctor visits isn't. Catastrophic healthcare is affordable for nearly everyone. It's the kind that pays for every time you run to the doc that's expensive.

Because, let's face it, there are still a LOT of people in any country who never make enough money to save. There are surely stupid assholes who are wasteful consumers, but there are a LOT of people who don't have two cents to rub together and just barely make enough to live on all their working lives.

Not in my town, honey. And not in my family, which is a lot closer to "poverty level" than you'll ever be.

This is the thing I don't think you get. I have been "poor" all my life, until I got out of college. So has most of my family, except for the ones who were engineers, and they were never better than lower middle class.

I have seen the corners cut and the decisions made and I've seen my parents waste money and time and make bad choices. And I've made them too. And that's my right and responsibility as a free adult, to make those kinds of choices and live with the after effects, not go running for a handout 'cause life deals you a bad set of cards.

Life deals *everyone* a bad hand. You roll with the punches, and get back up again. The pendulum will swing back again. You don't sit there in the dirt bawling that you got hit, like it was some great tragedy that never happened to anyone else before.

Conservatives basically seem to believe everything should be done individually. That collective effort toward a common goal is inherently evil and wrong unless it has to do with war or law enforcement.

No, fiscal conservatives have just seen, over and over again, that as soon as you tell people they're "entitled" to something, it starts being a right instead of something they should work for. It's not the collective part that bugs us, it's the lack of "effort" put forward.

And every time some starts saying "well, we should just tax the rich more because I can't afford to get what I want on my own" it only confirms it.

Liberals, on the other hand, are just fine with "collective effort" - unless it's a church organizing the effort, which they won't allow. 'Cause that's evil.

what would you do with all the starving poor people with no health care and old people in the street you'd suddenly have on your hands?

For starters, you're hitting emotional buttons with your apocalypse notions again. Secondly, if you make the changes slowly, people adjust. Just look at what happened with welfare - tell people the free milk ain't coming any more, and they start pitching hay for that cow pretty quick.

And, seriously, I will laugh at the idea that religious charities will pick up all the slack.

Considering your loathing for and disinvolvment with any organized religion, I'm not surprised this is your response. Lucky for a lot of people out there, there are folks who are willing to put effort into organizations like that, even the imperfect ones.

- hossgal