The Conservatives’ Thoroughly Bizarre Campaign

david cameronI’m not a fan of the Tories.  I thoroughly hate them if I’m being honest.  I can’t understand why anybody would vote for them, unless they are among the most fabulously wealthy and don’t happen to care about anybody else.

However, I can usually I can understand the thinking behind a Conservative Party General Election Campaign.  They’re usually extremely adept at them; they naturally appeal to people’s greed, need to feel superior to others and the general fear the British people have of everybody else.  They also highly attuned to Little England and its fundamental loathe of change and the unknown.  All of this is because these are kinds of people in the Conservative Party itself and they usually the ones running it, or at least know how to access the right people to run its advertising division.

This current campaign is a weird one and it’s coming unglued very rapidly.  I think this is for numerous reasons:

1) The Conservative Party is extremely spiteful.  I should back up that statement just in case you think I’m saying it purely out of my biased point of view but just check out how the Coalition’s cuts hit Labour-run councils the hardest, resulting in greater job losses. The party’s nasty streak has been even more visible since the Labour Party elected Ed Miliband as its leader; he has been portrayed by the Tories and their media cronies as ‘weird’, ‘red Ed’, not being able to speak properly, looking like a cartoon character, looking awkward and – most bizarrely – as being unable to eat a bacon-sandwich correctly.  Some of the remarks have even come across as vaguely anti-Semitic.  However, this is now resulting in a backlash; as people have got to know Ed Miliband better they have started to realise much of this derision was undeserved and that it was tantamount to bullying.  The Tories made the fateful error of not only underestimating Miliband but also lowering people’s expectations to the point that if he didn’t come across as some sort of alien life-form they’d feel the urge to be impressed.

2) The Leaders’ Debates were something David Cameron made a great deal out of during the General Election of 2010, trumpeting that they had a vital role to play in British democracy.  However, this time he not only seems to have changed his mind but developed a physical aversion to them.  He put his foot down and said that he would only attend one on the condition that all of the party leaders were present and would definitely not be willing to do a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband.  He backed himself into a corner by insisting on this, since if he was persuaded to change his mind he would appear indecisive, but by refusing he would come across as cowardly, stubborn and unable to defend his record.  Cameron did one debate with the other party leaders and found himself outnumbered by all of them accusing his government of going too far with the cuts, too soon.  We have been used to witnessing Cameron’s bully-boy tactics during Prime Minister’s Questions but there was no way that such an approach was going to win him any admiration in this kind of forum, but he resorted to them anyway.

3) Some of the Tories’ campaign has been almost beyond parody.  This week they made an attempt to rebrand themselves as the party of working-class people in the Northern England.  This is the same North that fell prey to Margaret Thatcher’s epic industrial savagery during the 1980s, consequent inter-generational unemployment and been prey to greater cuts and austerity during the current coalition.  Oddly the people of the North proved resistant to this idea. Did the Tories imagine that they could get away with this rebranding? Maybe they thought that it would cause some form of cognitive dissonance and people would get confused by it?  Who knows?  It doesn’t look like it has worked though.

4) Cameron’s refusal to take part in the Leader’s Debates has had another unexpected effect.  The media, who would have benefitted from the PM appearing on them, seems to have become royally pissed off with him.  His interviews ever since the whole debacle have become noticeable tougher and Cameron has been unable to deal with the situation, becoming petulant and childish when asked an awkward question.  This is not really the sort of performance that people want from their Prime Minister – certainly not one who likes to pretend he is an Alpha Male anyway.

5) For some reason the Conservative Party have brought back John Major.  I think we can all agree that isn’t a great idea.  As Labour’s John Smith said back when John Major was PM, Major was so unpopular that if he was an undertaker people would stop dying.

6)  The Conservative appear to have developed an obsession with the SNP.  Their current line is that if one votes Labour, one will get the SNP in charge instead.  It’s difficult to understand the thinking that underpins this; do they imagine that a vote for Labour will result in angry, face-painted Scots invading England to force-feed us all deep-fried Mars Bars, or is it just more of that patented Tory xenophobia we’re all used to hearing?  Either way it all appears very silly, particularly coming from a man with the surname Cameron.

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Leaders’ Debates

There is something decidedly strange about the Leaders’ Debates. 

Firstly, they’re not really debates, I do not really recall anything being actually debated during Thursday night’s infotainment; there was a lot of sound and fury, but little of anything resembling genuine discussion.  This is partly owing to the adversarial nature of politics, it is clear that the three participants rightly viewed the event as a competition; indeed I have heard many lazy journalists  compare the Leaders’ Debates to Pop Idol numerous times, each of them believing that they were the first to say it.  Politicians, even more than the entrants to Pop Idol, seem to be peculiarly attention-seeking, one only has to watch the BBC’s Question Times for confirmation of this, and unlike many would-be celebrities most of them are not exactly blessed with good looks or genuine charisma, which perhaps explains their need for approval.

Secondly, there is a slightly alien feel to the Leaders’ Debates.  Of course, the USA does this kind of thing very well, but it fits into their culture, which was founded on consumerism and advertising.  This was evidenced prior to the Leaders’ Debate when the BBC showed a clip of Ronald Reagan delivering a witty quip during a Presidents Debate, but it seemed so rehearsed, false and clunky that I could not imagine it working in a cynical society like the UK.  Presidents are all about appearance, and although that factor is becoming increasingly important in the UK, it is not yet decisive.  Furthermore, US Presidents have nothing resembling the amount of power that UK Prime Ministers have; the President is a figure-head with little ability to truly influence policy (witness Obama’s problems in regard to delivering Healthcare), whereas Prime Ministers can hire and fire, and Blair was well-known for his ‘sofa politics’ whereby he met with aides and Blairite MPs in private to avoid having cabinet meetings.

Thirdly, the conclusion of the debates would have us believe that Nick Clegg is PM material.  Anybody with any knowledge of politics can tell you that the Liberal Democrats historically promise the earth to the electorate, knowing that they won’t have deliver on their promises.  If they won the election it would be diarrhoea-time for them.  The irony is that the Liberal Democrats politics now resemble what Labour ought to be advocating; a fairer income tax system, withdrawal of the troops, and so on.  Nevertheless, we all know that Clegg will not be elected PM, irrespective of how well he is doing in the polls.