Monday, May 04, 2015

Four Unusual Men & The UK Election

The Mayor waits patiently ...
The political fate of four men might be determined by this week’s UK general election. Two of the men have fluffed their campaigning in parts, while one man has a chance to rise, Lazarus-like, and change the rules of future elections; the fourth man is circling, with vulture-like feigned indifference, waiting for a chance to tear into the carrion-corpse of his party’s leader.

Cameron’s view of the importance of the election:

This week Prime Minister Cameron dropped a Freudian Slip when talking about the election:

After Mr. Cameron misspoke on Friday and called the election “career-defining” rather than “country-defining,” Mr. Miliband joked that Mr. Cameron has “finally found something he’s passionate about — it’s his own career.”

Labour’s Leader more cautious now:

Miliband used to wing it but now has had a makeover and uses a prompter:

Mr. Miliband, who fluffed a major speech to his party conference in September when he did it from a few notes, now uses a white lectern nearly everywhere he goes, with a teleprompter for speeches, to look more prime ministerial. He has worked on his voice and delivery with a debate coach and is wearing noticeably more expensive suits. And he only very rarely pairs them with a traditionally red Labour necktie, favoring midgray, blue and purple, just like Mr. Cameron…
If Mr. Cameron is too quick to decide, Mr. Miliband is said to be indecisive, getting down into the weeds of every policy. But during the campaign, he has tried to suppress his inner wonkiness, has stopped using phrases like “predatory capitalism” and even survived a Madonna-like stumble over a platform during a live television question-and-answer show.

Who’s on First right now?
The Mayor is not everyone's cup of tea ...

It seems that the new suit and the teleprompter might be working, after all:

Based on the latest polling, Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party is widely expected to win the most seats nationwide in Parliament, but fall well short of a majority. Mr. Miliband is expected to have the most options for cobbling together a coalition with smaller parties, and so may end up prime minister anyway, after a tricky dance with the Scottish nationalists.

The Price of Pandering:

The biggest sleeper in the whole election is Cameron’s promise to his deeply divided party to hold a referendum on continued EU membership if he is re-elected. Cameron made this promise when a big chunk of his MPs threatened to toss him out if he did not do something to set the clock back and remove the UK from the EU. Waffling a bit, Cameron finally punted the issue down the road, but this might have cost him his re-election, because it opened the road for a nutty party, the UKIPs:

If Mr. Miliband’s hopes for victory have been undermined by his party’s collapse in Scotland, Mr. Cameron’s have been damaged by the rise of the U.K. Independence Party, which wants to leave the European Union and put strict controls on immigration. UKIP will win only a few seats, but might come in second in many constituencies, which could deny victory to Tory candidates and re-election to Mr. Cameron.

So what happens later this week?

A recent change in election laws of the UK has given Labour a chance to form a government if Cameron cannot cobble one together:

The Mayor's favourite negotiation technique ...
Mr. Cameron’s party could well end up with the most votes (constitutionally irrelevant in Britain, as in the American presidential election) and the most seats in Parliament. He could certainly argue in that case that with the most seats, he has the moral right, at least, to try to form a government.
He also has a powerful platform from which to conduct his post-election wheeling and dealing: He remains prime minister until the new Parliament votes to throw him out or he chooses to resign.
In any case, there will be no formal vote on a new government until the queen’s speech on May 27.
So Cameron has time to do some frantic negotiating:
The British system is silent on which party gets to try to form a government first, and there are numerous examples of minority governments holding on, for a time, with deals of one kind or another with other parties on major legislation.
Under legislation passed in 2011, there can be no new election, even if a vote of no-confidence is passed by a majority of sitting legislators, until the opposition leader has had 14 days to form a government and have it approved by Parliament.
Two-thirds of Parliament can vote to dissolve it. But the prospect of a government replaced by one or more others in succession without a new election remains a possibility.
While Mayor Boris Johnson circles around, vulture-like, waiting for the chance to replace Cameron if he is ousted as PM:
As Prime Minister David Cameron campaigns to keep his job, Boris Johnson, the voluble mayor of London, lurks in the wings, professing loyalty — at least until Mr. Cameron fails.
“My chances of being P.M. are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive,’’ Mr. Johnson likes to say. But he has increased those chances by running for a safe Conservative seat in Parliament. By doing so, he broke a pledge to the voters of London, but in his blustery way, he now says he can do both jobs until the end of his mayoral term a year from now.
Unless, of course, he is reincarnated as head of the Conservative Party, which could happen by the fall if things go badly for Mr. Cameron.
The Mayor’s take on Labour’s Leader:

Not too positive, it seems:
Mr. Johnson told The Sunday Times of London, “People are looking at Ed Miliband and they’re getting bad visuals of him popping out of Alex Salmond’s sporran like a baffled baby kangaroo.’’
The Mayor’s take on Nick Clegg:
Also not too uplifting:
He compared Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, whose popularity has plummeted, to a slug that gets squashed in the garden. “You do feel a spasm when any creature reaches the end of its mortal span at your hand or foot,’’ Mr. Johnson said. “I have trodden on many slugs in my life. There’s a terrible pop if you do it in bare feet.’’
Clegg’s Second Chance:

There is now renewed talk that Clegg might cut a deal with Labour to prop up a minority Labour government, reduce Miliband’s need to rely on the surging nationalist party in Scotland.
The Lazarus-Man

Miliband is reticent to discuss any such cooperation talks right now, but the rumours indicate that Clegg has told Cameron that he is open to propping up Labour as well as the Tories.

This gives Clegg a chance to go down in history as the man who changed British politics for the good. He fluffed it last time, when he let the smooth-talking Cameron offer him a bowl of porridge rather than meaningful electoral reform.

This time around, Clegg might hold out for some form of proportional representation as the quid pro quo for supporting Miliband. This is probably Miliband’s last chance to become prime minister (his brother is still lurking around somewhere, and brotherly ambitions are not foreign to that merry  little island), and it is in the interests of the Labour Party to have proportional representation as well, given the stunning events in Scotland and Labour’s wipeout there.

Interesting times ahead for all of these men, and for us.

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