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Written on April 19, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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We are only 2 months from midsummer – the sun is hot, the blossom is filling the streets with sweet scents. Still it’s raining as well and I’m using shades underneath black and white clouds to kill the glare from the roads.

I have tricked myself into getting involved in local politics. It was a ruse designed to get me to write, but it was doing more than that. I was examining my conscience. Damn. This is a tall order for me, not something I enter into without a long sigh, and I have this stupid habit of challenging myself like this, so I am cursing right now. I am doing this to prove what, exactly?

For some reason I have decided to meet the people.

The people I have decided to meet are my local parliamentary candidates, a full list of which will be available in an hour or two. These guys want my vote. I want to address my political disengagement. It’s a marriage made in Islington.

Now I haven’t deserted the Blog of Funk, but I have channelled the majority of the politics into Five.

I said I would do is give Auslanders my Inlander’s view on UK Politics. Here it is. Take a deep breath, here goes:

UK Democracy relies on an old-fashioned first-past-the-post electoral system, with 646 elected Members of Parliament in Westminster serving local areas called constituencies. These constituencies divide (for example) the east side of Holloway Road from the west. Being on the west, my patch is Islington South and Finsbury. It’s roughly half of the London Borough of Islington. In the countryside, the geographic areas are much bigger, representing the population concentration differential.

Elected MPs sit in the House of Commons, the main debating chamber. Actually, when it’s full, they fight for a seat. Too many bums. If you ever hear the phrase, “sitting in Westminster’ it normally means, in Parliament.

Each party gets to elect its leader however and whenever it chooses. We don’t have a Presidential system here. You vote for the party. Having said that, the would-be national leader gets the same scrutiny as anyone in their position. Or not, depending on the football and Coronation Street.

We have a second chamber which has recently been reformed, the House of Lords. It’s a revising chamber, and can and does throw back badly formed laws to the “lower” chamber for further work. It is also the site of the highest court in the land, home of the Law Lords, the people who effectively determine and ratify the “unwritten” constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Blog of Funk Exclusive: These people are in fact the Time Lords of Britain, attempting to maintain it as an enduring factoid meme.

The UK is a United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all have their own assemblies with local Parties like Sinn Fein, Scottish and Welsh Nationalist, as well as the main UK Westminster Parliamentary parties. Suffice to say that even with devolution, and with parties fielding candidates for the European Parliament as well, being elected as a constituency MP to Westminster still represents being at the heart of British political power. In the EU, Britain retains more sovereignty than many other EU members, not the least being its own currency.

So a national election – called a general election – is for Westminster. Whichever party wins the most seats, normally gets to govern. Coalitions are rare in UK politics.

There are 3 main parties and thus contenders for Prime Minister. Tony Blair (Labour) Michael Howard (Conservative) and Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat). Labour have been in power for 8 years. The Conservatives were in power 18 years prior to that. This election is not expected to be the walk-over the last two were, however. At the moment Labour have 40%, Conservatives 31% and LibDems 21%.

Labour have run a fairly tight ship, but Our smiling Prime Minister lied about the Iraq war, and this played very badly for him both with his core vote and in the nation at large. So with the wear and tear Blair has suffered from 8 years in the job, he is not the strong young contender he once was. The Iraq war has tarnished his once-golden image, and he is often accused of autocracy. The UK media have made much play of the feud between Blair and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK “Finance Secretary”) Gordon Brown, Labour’s number 2. Nonetheless the UK economy has been good under Labour, prices stable, inflation low, and whatever the criticisms of media spin and King Blair, they have been in general effective managers. Will disenchantment with Labour and Blair’s public lies end King Tony’s reign? Probably not, though there are doubts undermining Blair’s grip on power. But there are also veiled reassurances, and heavyweight contenders for the role of National Leader waiting in the wings. Like Gordon Brown.

Michael Howard the Conservative leader was unpopular when he served as Home Secretary under Thatcher, and he has a sinister air about him that even loyal Conservatives such as Anne Widdecombe (left) have publicly mentioned, so his chances of getting in are slim. But, over a third of the UK identify with the right, and older voters tend to a. vote and b. vote conservative. With voter apathy (41% nationally don’t bother), the fact he is the most effective fighter the Conservatives have had in 8 years, and with a protest vote against the war anticipated, Howard’s chances are boosted. Howard must also be credited for stilling the dissent in the party and moving the contentious issue of Europe to page 27 of a 28 page manifesto. Still the chance of Conservative implosion is also there – if Howard’s strategy fails, the Conservatives could see their vote diminish still further and be replaced by the Liberal Democrats as Her Majesty’s Opposition.

Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats already present themselves as the real alternative but are hindered by the first-past-the-post voting system which in any other form of modern democracy would give them 21% of 646, far more representation than the few seats they usually have. Nonetheless the Liberals are a real presence in local government, and in Scotland where the voting system IS fairer, they play a key role. In many ways, the LibDems are further to the left than Labour, especially with regard to their stances on civil liberties, drug and tax reform, and as Labour support ebbs, they look to be doing well this time around. The LibDems are a spending party though and this is said to count against them. They state plainly that they will raise tax and the mantra is that no party since the war has been elected on a tax-raising platform. Generally speaking, LibDems take votes from Labour, not the Conservatives, so this is something else that worries the incumbents.

There are small parties around who are eroding the dominance of these three, the Green Party foremost among them, and independents make up a growing share of the vote. All this adds up to reduced power for Labour, if not an election defeat.

Chances are that a weakening economy will make voters cautious about handing power to politicians who have not had it for the best part of a decade, and it seems that Howard’s mad-eyed and rather shrill scare-mongering about immigration is falling on deaf ears. But Blair is finding this election a much tougher prospect than the previous two, and 5th May 2005, a Labour MP’s Westminster job is no longer quite such a secure one.

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This thing has 5 Comments

  1. Blog ho
    Posted 19 April, 2005 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    i am a better man for that, thank you.

  2. RuKsaK
    Posted 19 April, 2005 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I am very gently toying with the idea of moving back to the UK – if Howard gets in, the idea is off – totally off.

  3. Astrid
    Posted 20 April, 2005 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Haha .. who needs to go to Uni when you can learn everything at Blog of Funk!!! Excellent service, Deek!!! It will safe me quite an amount of money and time!

  4. Emma
    Posted 20 April, 2005 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    That was just what I always wanted to know but never dared ask for fear of loking like a complete plank.

  5. Laurie
    Posted 23 April, 2005 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Okay, I’m ready to move on now. Of course, now I have to re-read all of the other political stuff first.

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