Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Epilogue: "Your powers are weak, old man".

This will be the final post of the Hal Berstram Blog in its electoral incarnation, although it's been such good clean fun that I'm hoping to persuade Chris B. to let me carry on a (probably less frequent) general political blog elsewhere in the Turtle pages.

I'd like to say that the 6-day gap between the election results and this last post was due to a meticulous and exhaustive analysis of the election results by my good self, which I am now ready to share with you. Instead it is due to the usual combination of laziness, alcohol and overwork. Never mind... I got one of my predictions right, which was that Labour's share of the vote was 36%. But I overestimated the Tory comeback; they only got 33%, which is a 1% rise on last time. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems got 23% and a net gain of 10 seats, which is certainly very welcome for them, and yet they'll be left feeling that they could have done even better, given the hype in the last few days of the campaign, and the way that Iraq was being bandied around as the final big issue.

What this means is that Tony Blair has secured a very workable majority on a share of the vote that is only a sliver larger than Neil Kinnock's in 1992. New Labour is scarcely more popular, 8 years on, than Old Labour... so has it all been for nothing? Certainly not... Tony Blair has done the country a great service as a warm-up act for Gordon Brown, and I'm sure when school kids in the 22nd century pause to listen to/watch/imbibe their history 'books' they will note the marginal figure of Blair, who served in a mickey-mouse 'faux Tory' adminstration for 10 years at the turn of the 20th/21st century before giving way to the 25 year premiership of Gordon Brown. Brown put the 'our' back in Labour, and took it out of the 'Lab'.... none of this experimentation with wrecking the public services by parcelling them out to private sector sharks, an end to cronyism (who mourns for Adonis?), no more jacking off on these crazy wars overseas (apart from the ill-tempered struggle with Jersey over tax revenues, but that's gunboat diplomacy for you - and it paid for most of the tax increases of his fourth term). With Ed Balls taking care of business at No 11, Gordon was free to abolish the monarchy (who wanted to run their own wine export business anyway), and get on with the bsuiness of softly dismantling the neoliberal capitalist apparatus. 24/7 partying on the streets of Dunfermline...

OK, this may be a slightly rose-tinted picture, but Tony Blair's star is fading fast (hence the title of this post - although it could also apply to Michael Howard) and whilst Prime Minister Brown may be far from ideal, he just has to be better than the incumbent. There is an argument for letting Blair stay for most of this term, soaking up public dismay over the difficult decisions that have to be made (largely tax rises), before letting Brown, who is always popular in the opinion polls, take over, and like Kruschev in '56, lay all the blame at the feet of his predecessor... the resulting slingshot effect should be enough to get Brown over the hump even in the event of adverse economic conditions. Anyone remember John Major and 1992? I had a haircut from 1972 and a car from 1982, driving round Chelmsford with a Labour sticker on the back. For all the good it did...

Meanwhile, what next for the Tories? Maybe Roman Abramovitch can help out. There certainly seemed to be thin pickings in the shadow front bench reshuffle announced today. The 'dynamic duo' of David Cameron and George Osbourne look like identikit chinless wondertoffs to me. I know Blair is public school educated but maaan.... just look at these cats. Then when you get your state school kid, like David Davis, he's a die-cast Norman Tebbit clone whose strategy will be to win by stealing the UKIP and Veritas vote. Actually, don't laugh... if those two partoids hadn't stood and their vote had crossed over completely to the Tories then Labour would have been down to a majority of 30. I'm not denying that there are circumstances in which the Tories could win with a swing to the Right, but if they transpire then the election result would be irrelevant as it would be time to call up my old mate Colin and arm the workers... "yes, sir, we have a stash of AK47s in the Baltic bar on Blackfriars road. Those Central and Eastern Europeans, you see... it was David Davis who alerted me to the dangers of organised arms trafficking by immigrant groups".

The only sensible platform for Tory reinvention I read recently was by John Bercow in yesterday's Independent, but Bercow is verging so far to the left he will be calling up Roy Hattersley for a shot at a coalition government. The Tories as the most left-wing of the major parties would seem like the natural end of British politics... New Labour become old Tories, New Tories become old Labour, New Lib Dems most unbecoming. But I think the Conservatives are more likely to track to the right on the grounds that it worked for Maggie T in the late 70s. If Gordon Brown turns out to be a Jim Callaghan figure that will work; but it is a mighty long shot. That said, there is much that is unclear about what New Labour will look like with a 66 majority and a lame duck PM... so much so, in fact, that if I can get clearance from Chris to continue a more permanent blog fixture, I'll discuss it next time. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who read and contributed to this blog... and hope you enjoyed drinking 5 or 6 beers on election night as much as I did.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Signing off

This will be the last post of the night due to a combination of tiredness and overindulgence. Surprise gain for the Lib Dems from the Tories in Solihull was nice, and I was also very heartened by Green showings in West Ham (19%), Brighton Pavilion (22%), Deptford (12%) and Norwich South (7.5%). Also the Lib Dems have held Brent East. Just waiting for the Michael Howard result... God, the returning officer here is cheesy. He sounds like he's about to drop dead. Lib Dems got about 15,000... that's probably not enough. "Peace and Progress" got 22... that's almost as bad as the 'Renaissance Democrat' who got 7 (seven) votes in 1997. Michael Howard got 26,000 votes - HOW? Who voted for this schmuck? Labour about 6,000. So there we are... Michael Howard will survive and given the fact that he has cut the Labour majority by about 100, he will almost certainly be carrying on to the next election (health permitting...) and given that according to the pollsters, he was seen as too old this time round, how the hell is he going to cut it next time round? Michael is delivering his speech, saying 'if Mr Blair does deliver... he will have my support'. Is this an overture for the National Government? Maybe Tony Blair will be the Ramsay McDonald of the 2010s. And on that note, it's time to sign off, drink up the whiskey, and think about how the hell I will get up tomorrow to post an 'epitaph' to this blog. That may have to wait until Saturday... but thanks a lot to everybody who's stuck with reading this, and thanks for all the comments. And I hope you've enjoyed the campaign and this blog.

Braintree

Results in for Braintree, where Alan Hurst (Labour) has been defeated by the Tory. The Greens were up to 2.5%, which I'm pleased about, but... bollocks. This means that if I'm making a complant about the abysmal rail service to my station (which I do on a very regular basis) I'm doing it to a Tory. Why can't we have multi-member constituencies like in the Euro elections? On the upside, the result in Erewash has just been announced, and Robert Kilroy Silk has 'probably lost his deposit'. Ho ho ho.

Verdict on the pollsters

We are now getting towards the final post for Hal Berstram of this election night, as alcohol intake has been pretty high and most of the results have come in. I'd just like to say something abotu the match-up between the polls and the final results. Labout seems to have come in with something like 37% of the popular vote and the Tories with about 34%. This is closest to what the YouGov polling was predicting, and it may well be that the result vindicates the YouGov strategy - even though I still can't understand how an internet polling service can deliver accurate results, given that a large percentage of the population is still not on the internet. My prediction that the polls were overestimating the Labour lead has turned out to be pretty much correct. We should be able to tell pretty much what the Labour majority is in the next hour or so.

Interview with the Ed Balls

Looks like the result tonight will probably be a good result for Ed Balls, who has just been elected MP for Normanton... it's unlikely that Blair will be able to last more than a couple of years with the severely reduced majority which has occurred. (Just hearing some pretty weird distortion on Tony Blair's voice as they're broadcasting his speech from "Trimdon Labour Club"... I love the technical hitches which will always occur in this big a media operation, no matter how sophisticated the technology.) Balls could be on to a real winner and the only question, really, is whether Blair resigns before he's got himself into a position to be Chancellor in a Brown govt by the time Blair steps down, or after. But there will be plenty of time to analyse this in the near future... I'm going to try to stick with the results for now... for as long as I can before I either become completely paralytic, or fall asleep.

Viciousness in the South East

Just shading 3pm now, out of real ale, even out of lager... hell, we're into the whiskey now. A clear regional pattern seems to be emerging, in that the greater South East (including London) is swinging viciously to the Tories. Putney, Enfield, Peterborough, Newbury... all gained by the Tories on massive swings... are we heading towards an 80s-style South East, where there was an abundance of loud, vicious Tories? Will we have to cut the South East away from the rest of the country? This doesn't bode well for my home constituency of Braintree, in Essex, which hasn't declared yet, but if Labour's Alan Hurst manages to hold on I will eat my beer glass. After it's been ground down to filings. As in the eighties I'm going to be feeling like a stranger in my own county. Bollocks.

Galloway - the big play

The word on the street is that Oona King has lost to George Galloway in Bethnal Green... although Galloway is duff in many respects (no pun intended) it will be good to have him in parliament as a voice against a lot of the more bullshit policies that are being carried out by New Labour, so I can't say I'm particularly disappointed. Also the Bethnal Green result proves that Iraq was not a mere side issue, but a pretty fundamental sticking point for a key proportion of the Labour vote in many of their heartland constituencies. Stephen Twigg's result is about to come in in Enfield Southgate and it looks like he's lost it... 'were you still up for Twigg'? Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

The Sedgfield count

Dunno if you saw the Sedgefield count... it's a bloody football team up there. Veritas got 218 and I'd like to personally meet every one of those voters. And the 57 Loony voters.

Labour majority creeping up

The BBC prediction for the Labour majority is now creeping up into the 70s... interesting that the BBC commentators are saying 'this is not a landslide', whereas the 1979 Thatcher victory, which only a majority of 43, is usually described as a landslide. Still very hard to suss out how the exact numbers will pan out as the swings are all over the place in different regions. One of the most interesting results was the huge independent Labour majority in Blaenau Gwent.

Crazy paving

At almost 2 am, very difficult to call the final result at all... swings have been wildly all over the place. Peter Snow is having a first shot at a prediction of the overall result with those bizarre CGI avatars I was talking about earlier... they reckon it's going to be a majority of 68 for Labour. I reckon it'll be a bit tighter than that... maybe about 40. Either way, it's a damn sight tighter than people were talking about a few days ago. A bit disappointed that the Workers Revolutionary Party only got 34 votes in Birmingham Northfield.

Carnage in Peterborough

Savage swing towards the Tories in Peterborough... Labour was down by 10%, the Tories picked up about 6%, the Lib Dems got about 3%. If this pattern is repeated across the marginals Labour will not be able to get an overall majority, let alone push through controversial legislation. The Lib Dems have just lost Newbury but held on to Cheadle. This is starting to look pretty mental.. way closer than even my initial prediction. There is some pretty weird stuff going on out there and in particular, the Lib Dem/Tory marginals are very hard to call. Nobody really knows what the hell is going on at this stage... which is one reason for me to stay up, at least.

Could Hal's even be a pessimistic prediction?

Into the St Peters Winter Ale now... this looks like it could be a f***ing bad result for Labour. The overall exit poll swing prediction looks reasonably accurate but in some of the key marginals (either Lab-Con or Lab-Lib Dem) it's quite possible that Labour will be knocked out... e.g. Chris Pond in Gravesham, Bob Marshall-Andrews in Thanet. Blair might not even have a working majority at the end of the night. This could be a blessing in disguise if it leads to the double-quick departure of Tony Blair from Downing St... but just how low will the majority be? Watch on.

Simulated 'party leaders walking up Downing Street' graphics

Is it just me, or do the simulacra of party leaders in Peter Snow's virtual-reality representation of party leaders 'walking up to Downing Street' look nothing like the actual people they are supposed to represent? Millions of pounds spent on the coverage and this is the best they can come up with.

Veritas in Southport... a total failure.

Count from Southport... Veritas scored 200-and-something. Even the guy for 'Your Party' (whatever that may be) did better. Bloody hell.

Big swing to Lib Dems?

Initial results seem to be showing swings of between 4% and 9% to the Lib Dems, but don't place too much store in this because:

a) it's all in safe Labour seats - what will happen in a Tory seat?

b) there are very few Lab-Lib Dem marginals - so in HOC representation terms it's going to make v little difference.

And here comes the Putney result (the old David Mellor seat...) The Tories have won it. What this seems to indicate is that the swing to the Lib Dem is happening to an extent in the Lab-Tory marginals as well, but there may be a big swing to the Tories in the key marginals as well - or indeed a 'double swing' from Lab to Lib Dems and Tories. This could really hit Labour hard and we could be looking at something tighter than a Lab majority of 66...

Eyewash in Erewash

Not much of a story here but couldn't resist the title... Bobby Kilroy-Silk's campaign for Veritas sounds like it's not going that well in Erewash, Derbyshire, although apparently "turnup is up" - of trousers?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Where tactical voting can get you

Bernard Crick interviewing people in a pub on Upper St in Islington. One woman said: "I thought about voting Lib Dem but then decided to vote Labour as a protest vote against the Tories, who I thought were going to win." ???? This is where tactical voting can get you. The other thing to note is that many of the people in the pub looked too young to drink, or indeed vote.

Boris Johnson wades in

Boris has turned up with a pretty messed up hairdo and has proceeded to hail the election as a triumph for the Tories on the grounds that it marks "the slow political extinction of Tony Blair". Well, given that Tony has said he'll stand down sometime in the next term, that's right in one sense, but...??? The conversation then turned into a shouting match over the merits of postal voting between Johnson, Jeremy Paxman, Charlie Falconer, Ian Hislop and Shirley Williams, who I must say is doing very well on the panel despite being approximately twice the age and half the size of everyone else.

Total incoherence

David Dimbleby has been rambling on in the absence of any further results information: 'here we see Iain Duncan Smith voting in Chingford... he of course never got to fight an election... he was congratulated on his brief period as Prime Minister after Michael Howard took over from him 2 years ago." ???? Sunderland North has now declared, but doesn't tell us anything more than Sunderland South. Quite big swings, but these are very safe seats. The Lib Dems seem to be doing better than the exit poll predicted but who knows how this will translate across the country? Peter Snow's 'swingometer' seems to have sampled the sounds from a coffee machine to accompany the sounds of Labour MPs falling. It's a terrible sonic let-down to the brilliant visuals.

Result #1

Sunderland South result in - Anthony King, doing the analysis on the BBC, reckons that if this result had gone exactly according to a uniform swing from the exit poll, Chris Mullin would have got 19,500 votes - he got less than 18,000. But really, one can tell bugger all from this result as it was one of the least marginal seats in the country. I'm a bit peeved that the Raving Loony candidate (that's the guys being honest and calling themselves Loonies, not the candidates for the other parties who are nuts but won't admit it) only got 149 votes. He had a nice outfit and was conducting himself with considerable elan. More when we have something else to talk about. Currently into the lemon & ginger ale - alcoholic washing up liquid, but very nice with it!

Exit poll - Hal gets it (fairly) right?

Exit poll just published by BBC - Lab majority of 66. These guys are really trying to play it up... Andrew Marr: "I think we'll see some seats which were predicted to fall which won't, and we'll see some predicted not to fall which will." Absolutely groundbreaking stuff - pointing out that the swing might be uniform. But with all the money spent on the coverage they had try to make this sound exciting didn't they?

If the results do come out at a Lab majority of 66, that will be fairly close to the Hal Berstram prediction of a majority of 42 - but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The counters are wetting themselves in Sunderland South trying to declare the election within 17 minutes, or whatever. We're off to the fridge... stay sharp.

OK punks, let's kick this one off

Oxford, 9.57pm: we've got a full crate of St Peter's ale and we're ready to rock. Walking through Oxford I saw just one poster in an obvious student residence - it was Tory. What's happened to these people? I'm not expecting that to be a barometer of the election, though. More when we hear from Sunderland South...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

It's high time to vote different

This will be the last post of the campaign, although I will be spending election night in the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency with some close friends, and we are hoping to get some wireless connectivity going with a laptop while we are sitting round the TV drinking St Peters Ale (if the bastards deliver the crates, ordered two weeks ago, to the house in time.)

For all its delivery problems, the St Peter's Brewery, an eccentric operation run out of Suffolk but with one pub in Farringdon (central London) hits the nail on the head with its advertising phrase, "it's high time to drink different". Damn right, and it's high time to vote different, too. I finally got round to reading the Green Party manifesto today and found I agreed with a good 80% of it. For some people that might not be enough - for others it might be too much (the old "Groucho Marxist" worry about not wanting to join any party that would have one as a member, etc.) but it's a damn sight more than I agreed with any of the other parties - and I seem to remember that back in the good old days, before tactical voting, before we had fancy stuff like the Strategic Voter site, that was the idea? The upshot for me is, it has to be the Greens (as it is for Raj, and hopefully we're not the only two punks on the block who feel this way.)

Many voters who are contemptuous of Tony Blair and sceptical of the whole New Labour project will nonetheless fail to put an X anywhere else than against Labour, because they've swallowed the utter bilge that 'the Tories could win the election if 1 in 10 Labour voters switch to the Lib Dems'. Remember that the shares of the vote last time were: Labour 41%, Tories 32, Lib Dems 18%. Even if this 4% of the electorate who are the defecting Labour voters were precisely located in the most vulnerable Labour marginals, there is no conceivable distribution of the popular vote according to the percentage shares: Labour 37%, Tories 32%, Lib Dems 22% which can secure a Tory overall majority. I believe that the sheer nonsense that Blair and Milburn have been trying to foist on Labour voters in the latter stages of this campaign may backfire, in that people are not in general pleased at being taken for fools, and may be tempted to play havoc with the New Labour arithmetic via somewhat bizarre and unpredictable voting choices. (So if you see the English Democrats running at 20% or so tomorrow night, and you're not on mescaline, you know what's happened...)

Having said that, the onward Labour march in at least some of the polls (or the Tory retreat, if you prefer) makes my prediction of a Labour majority of 42 look somewhat conservative (no pun intended). I am sticking with it though, as I can't be bothered to recalculate. If anything I think the Lib Dems will do even better than I initially thought, at least in terms of vote share - 25% is not impossible, and maybe 80 seats. If the Tories do very badly then British politics would start to look like a three party system but with two third parties, if you see what I mean. Alternatively, if the Tories do better than expected - say cutting Labour down to 36 or 37% of the popular vote - but Labour still has a huge majority it will raise very grave questions of political legitimacy. Boundary changes will occur before the general election in 2009/10 which will redress the imbalances in the system somewhat, but the plain truth is that questions need to be asked about any system where there is this much discrepancy between share of the vote and number of seats. It is really surprising that the Tories have not been campaigning for Proportional Representation; there were serious noises from them on this issue in the mid 70s when Labour had a majority government (just) with 39% of the vote, but even with Blair poised for a much more workable majority with less of the vote, we haven't heard a peep out of them. Maybe they will recommend that elections be abolished altogether and be replaced by a 'Private Politics Initiative' where leading businessmen make the decisions in partnership with professional politicians. (Don't mention that one to Kilroy Silk - it will go into the next Veritas manifesto).

So in campaign terms I guess this is me signing off - any further posting will occur after the polls have closed. Also, I hope to round off with some final thoughts on Labour (probably) in the 3rd term once the dust has settled and the alcohol is out of the system (probably Sunday, then). But for now....

Monday, May 02, 2005

Some more interesting policies

The campaign managed to get duller than ever today - OK, so it was a Bank Holiday and quite sunny so most of us were probably quite grateful for the good weather (showers aside) and the chance to get away from those pesky canvassers (of whom there haven't been many round here in any case.) The 87th British soldier killed in Iraq dominated the headlines today, but I did find a scrap of good humour in a BBC news item on unusual election pledges by minor parties. Some of these small parties are really pretty good - for example the guy from the Church of the Militant Elvis whose plan is to go to the Antarctic and shout at the icebergs to stop melting - "it's more than Bush and Blair are doing". But Bush would probably send Donald Rumsfeld to do it instead.

Meanwhile, the Dungeons, Death and Taxes party offers a glimpse of what the Tory - or perhaps the New New Labour - manifesto on law and order might look like in 2020 or so. Hanging reintroduced 'but only for minor offences such as writing graffiti and dropping litter'. "Murderers and those guilty of improper txt msg abbreviations will be disembowelled. Occupation and annexation of France, and tax rates of 90% (probably popular with professional economists as long as it's a 'flat tax').

The Millennium Bean Party, standing in Cardiff Central, promises a knighthood for 1970s Welsh rugby ace Gareth Edwards - I can't believe the guy hasn't been knighted already. He would have been if he were English.

And Telepathic Partnership, standing in Wokingham, are planning to attempt to make the first recorded contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence by saying 'hello' to sitting MP John Redwood at the count. (Sadly this is not official party policy yet, but surely it would boost their vote by at least 700%. )

For my part I'm currently devising a manifesto for my friend Juniper Sandhurst who is hoping to stand in Oxford West (or wherever he's living by then) in the 2009(?) election. I've lobbied very hard for his pitch to the electorate to contain blatant concessions to sectional interests such as subsidies for micro-brewers and tranquiliser dart guns (or worse) to be fitted on the outside of trains to try to catch the bastards who are chucking bricks at the evening commuter trains as they chug past Witham, Essex. He'll also have his favourite policies in, such as transferable tax allowances, which I have severe reservations about. But overall it promises to be a potent package and it should be relatively easy to shake up a complacent and apathetic political scene, rather like punk managed to do to the music scene in 1976. I have a feeling that 2009 will be the Year Of The Calm Lunatic, and Juniper will be on his way to Westminster - whether it be as an MP or the latest casualty on the Jubilee Line Extension pub crawl (latest figures on disappearances on the line: 47% Bermondsey, 30% Canning Town, 22% West Ham and 1 person abducted by aliens at Canary Wharf).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The broken sauna

Apologies for the 4-day gap between posts but the campaign feels like it's been running out of steam (not that it had much in the first place), and so do I. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems seem to be stuck in a holding pattern of laying into Tony Blair on Iraq and hoping that this will reduce Labour's support, or its turnout, by enough to wipe out the Labour majority. This is a long shot strategy and if the polls are anything to go by, the effects are inconclusive. There has probably been a small shift to the Lib Dems in the last few days and if their supporters turn out in greater numbers than Labour they could win a few dozen more seats, although this will mainly be at the expense of the Tories rather than Labour.

Whilst the Lib Dems are playing Iraq as the one real policy (apart from electoral reform) where they have an obvious and clear difference from the other parties, for the Tories this is their last hope (provided the polls are not catastrophically wrong) and as pure a piece of opportunism as you would expect from a party that seemed to build up all its momentum just before the campaign started, only to look progressively weaker as it has dragged on. Michael Howard is hoping that voters will forget that Tony Blair is something pretty close to a lame duck now, even if Labour's majority does hold up well on May 5th. Labour is no longer synonymous with Blair in the public mind, and as we move through the third term he will be looking more and more like he is keeping the seat warm for Gordon. In the event of rapid economic collapse (an unlikely but possible scenario given the US administration's propensity for fiscal recklessness) Brown may suddenly find the rug pulled from beneath him, but this is very much an outside shot.

In these circumstances it may well be that many key players in the Labour camp are quite happy for the news stories to continue to focus on Iraq as their hope is that this will continue to sour the reputation of Blair whilst diverting the public's attention from any of the actual election issues where Labour might be vulnerable (migration, public service reform, etc.) If the 'Vote Blair, Get Brown' posters which the Tories had printed but didn't use are still in a warehouse somewhere, they might think about flogging them off to the Brownites. As Labour posters they would be a good way of keeping the vote up in key constituencies.

I have been tempted to revise my predictions of a 36%-36% tie in terms of vote share between Labour and the Tories, with a Labour majority of 42, but I am going to stick with them for two main reasons:

1) I still don't think that the problem of the Tories scoring lower in the polls relative to the actual election has been ironed out, whatever the pollsters say.

2) I think turnout is going to be low - lower than in 2001. We'll probably see very high turnout in a few key marginals but outside of that no-one can be bothered. To give an example, I went for a drive today round the Chelmsford East and Maldon consituency - safe Essex Tory country. Back in 1987, when it was even safer Tory country, there were nonetheless a lot of posters up in windows - mainly Tory, but they were there all the same. Ten years later, in 1997, there were still quite a few. This time - almost none. One landowner had put John Whittingdale (Tory) posters all over his farm, but no-one had any on their homes. Even in Braintree, which is a Labour marginal, there are a lot less posters than there were in 2001. Now just because the posters aren't there doesn't necessarily mean less people are voting, but I'll wager that there is a rough link. I think 55% is a reasonable assumption for the turnout figure this time round.

The other problem that springs to mind is that the campaign is too long. Not just because I've been having to post on this damn thing for 4 weeks, but because most of the interesting policy discussions took place in the first couple of weeks, and since then all we've had is "Tony Blair is a liar over Iraq" - which, if true (or even if not true), has been a strong suspicion of many of us for at least 2 years anyway. This degree of repetition and scraping the bottom of the barrel can't help but turn people off the whole campaign in droves. And if you've made it this far into the blog without giving up... congratulations!!!! Your reward is tomorrow's Daily Express headline. Maybe we should get all the comment contributors together for a beer when this bloody thing is all over...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Even fuel protesters are apathetic this time round

Very thin pickings in the campaign news today... Airbus's new A380 'superjumbo' was the highlight of the day - the double-decker twin track to environmental disaster. Meanwhile, the attempts at a 5th anniversary fuel protest appears to lack the strength in numbers of the autumn 2000 effort. Even the legendary David Handley, of Farmers for Action, seemed unable to produce a good media soundbite to rally the troops this time round. (But dig the Union Jack plate and moving bull icon on FFA's website!)

I'm sure if I was hired as the farmer's election campaign disruption strategist (a Lynton Crosby in a Land Rover, if you will) I could have produced much more disruption than the farmers have managed to this time round. In fact an Agricultural Revolution would have already taken place. Handley would have installed a chicken run at No. 10. Birmingham's Bull Ring would have been given back to the bulls, and all London pubs would sell farm cider, at 7.4% ABV. And milk, at a fair price of £6.50 a pint.

So this is a call to Farmers For Action - guys, please live up to your name. Please give us some excitement in the last few days of this campaign. And a few days off, for those of us who drive to work (or a few days in the office, depending on where you get stuck when the fuel runs out.) It's also environmentally friendly - we sure do use less petrol in those fuel protests. As Jimmy Carter once said, "let's talk better mileage". And as he didn't say but should have done, "show me a Sports Utility Vehicle and I'll show you a rocket launcher. "