A letter from the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition! Aren’t I a lucky girl!?
Well no, not really, for it was yet more postal propaganda rubbish – although I’m not yet entirely sure whether it’s better or worse than receiving a (similar) letter from David Cameron, as I did during the general election campaign last year…
I don’t belong to any political party or trade union – I’m actually strictly politically non-partisan (in that I despise all the major – and most of the minor – political parties equally), but I have also long been fascinated by the various factions and their increasingly desperate attempts to drum up support over the last few years by swamping our letterboxes with junk mail propaganda.
In my case, I get crap personally addressed to me from all of them (via the electoral register?), but the Labour Party is especially guilty of sending me a deluge of junk mail – probably a side effect of a number of years of persistent letter writing to my old Labour MP (her team seems to have added me to an extra super-annoying mailshot database somewhere along the line – without my permission, I might add!).
I guess we’d all like to think our dying words will be something as witty and pithy as those attributed to Oscar Wilde, who, on his Parisian death bed, is supposed to have commented:
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do
However, some people don’t seem to get this final moment of mordant wit quite right. A classic example of this is the final words allegedly spoken by Pancho Villa (the Mexican revolutionary); seemingly on the very subject of final words – or the lack of them in his case:
Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
But some people manage to get it gleefully, wonderfully right – which is why I had to smile this morning while reading the many obituaries published in tribute to the nurse, newspaper agony aunt and NHS campaigner Claire Rayner, who has died at the age of 79. The BBC report on her death says:
She told her relatives she wanted her last words to be: “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”
And I should bloody think so too! Considering that this country is still paying the price for the last Tory government’s ‘reforms’ of the NHS (let alone what the last Labour government did to it…), further Conservative fiddling with the health service should strike fear into the hearts of patients and NHS staff alike – and the ghost of Claire Rayner should strike fear into Tory hearts everywhere!
I’d love to think she’ll be as good as her word – so, if reports start filtering out of Downing Street of poltergeist activity and sightings of the ghostly figure of a grey-haired, kind-hearted, slightly bossy nurse-type lady around David Cameron’s office, I think we can safely conclude not only that there is life after death but also (and more importantly!) that Claire Rayner has returned and she’s not very happy with this government….
They (whoever they are) say that a week is a long time in politics. And this last week or so has indeed been both long and eventful – as far as the general election campaign is concerned anyway. Thursday night saw the second of three televised leaders’ debates, this time on foreign policy issues. To this observer at least, the debate seemed to be more fiery and bad-tempered than that of the week before.
Voices were raised, impatient interruptions were made, very little of any actual substance was said, and there was much less agreeing with Nick this time – David Cameron publicly accused a sneery Gordon Brown of scaremongering and being an out-and-out liar, and they both laid into Nick Clegg in a seemingly pointless effort to flatten ‘Cleggmania’ before it can become truly politically dangerous.
It is interesting to see Brown and Cameron (as well as certain parts of the media) so obviously threatened by a man previously as politically anonymous as Nick Clegg. Both Labour and the Tories always knew that this was going to be a close-run election campaign, but the (perhaps not entirely unexpected) emergence of the Liberal Democrats has got them rattled now – the fact that the old two-party system is now being blown wide open can easily be read as further proof that the electorate is heartily sick and tired of the current, broken political system.
Well, that’s ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and in some ways the perceived outcome was surprising (to me – a bit – anyway). This, the first televised debate of its kind in the UK, appears to have been some sort of attempt to engage the electorate in their own homes, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a large proportion of the ITV-watching population simply reached for the remote at 8.30pm. I didn’t – for my sins – and this is what I thought…
Gordon Brown fared better than I expected, although I thought he looked worried and old – and his attempts at joking his way out of a hole fell a little flat to my ears. He handled the question on the economy with more knowledge and grace than David Cameron (all those years in the Treasury waiting for Tony Blair to begone are paying off now, eh Gordon?), but his weird little attempts at deferring to Nick Clegg were noticeable and rather amusing – “I agree with Nick” being the catchphrase of the night from Gordy. I get the impression that Downing Street may well be preparing for a hung parliament and are thus rather clumsily grooming Clegg because they suspect that he may end up in an important position in any resulting coalition government.
So it’s May 6th then. Now there’s a surprise.
In exactly a month’s time, the polling booths will be open and the British people will be casting their vote for a new/old government, but, finally, today Her Madge gave her consent to Gordon Brown dissolving Parliament – which means the election campaign really, actually, finally, officially starts now (despite the fact that some candidates have been at it for months already).
And what an exciting morning it’s been for all us armchair election followers!
I’m not entirely sure what was most (least?) thrilling about this morning’s frankly mindless media coverage. Forced by Freeview to choose between Sky or the BBC, the telly ended up being muted when my brain started dripping out of my ears. I did catch Gordon Brown’s thoroughly tedious speech – although I was slightly distracted by the phrase ‘as dull as ditchwater’ bouncing round what little brain I had left by this point.
Other media lowlights included David Cameron’s unpleasantly smug speech to the rapt party faithful, complete with its mysterious (hmm) omission of the same two words (“gay” and “straight”) which were so heavily emphasised in the draft version revealed yesterday.
Now we’re a month into it, I suspect that it’s still too much to hope (perhaps) that 2010 will be a better year politically than the last. I suspect things will pick up where they left off at the end of last year and we’ll get another twelve months of bitching and moaning – but very little action on behalf of our elected ‘representatives’ in Westminster. Quelle surprise.
I can’t help being so cynical. I used to be a full-blown idealist (and I still hold firm to an arguably idealistic belief in the necessity of peace, equality and fairness, despite everything), but the more I learned about and the more I understood the way the political system in this country works, the less convinced I was by its weasel words (ie, not at all), and the less I believed in the possibility of it being an agent for and a necessary force in creating positive change.
Cynicism comes naturally after that.
2009 did little to disabuse me of this belief. All in all, it was a pretty sorry year, politically speaking – although no matter how much you despise the government of the day (and no matter how enjoyable the schadenfreude), it is never comfortable viewing to watch them dig themselves deeper and deeper into a pit of infamy; that same pit of infamy which Tony Blair played such a prominent role in originally (re) opening up back in 1997.
I’m wondering if it is really true. I’m wondering if this really is victory – because no-one seems quite sure either way yet.
After all the campaigning and letter-writing and protesting, and after the government’s controversial decision on the matter, the ‘announcement’ that BAA will not be submitting plans for the third runway at Heathrow before the 2010 general election slipped out with barely a whimper last week in an article in The Sunday Times.
As one of the thousands of people who live under the Heathrow flightpath and who have been involved in the various local campaigns against the third runway, I should be dancing in the streets and cracking open the cooking champagne as a result of this apparently new decision, but, if anything, it’s left me feeling even more confused than before.
The final decision on the third runway was always going to be a complex and controversial one. Any financial and economic benefits of its development had to be weighed against the impact of a new runway on the lives of the communities in the immediate vicinity and under the wider flightpath of the airport. Or at least that was the theory, anyway.
Of course, when major projects like this are in the planning stages, the agencies involved (whether of big business, government, or – in this case – both) will always make lots of colourful and seemingly sincere noise about how they intend to listen to and take on board the views of ordinary people, particularly those who live locally to the development, and about how this type of consultation is an essential aspect of their decision-making process.