Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A very American election

It seems highly ironic that during a general election campaign Labour have continually refused to take part in a televised debate involving all party leaders but for a deputy leadership contest all are due to face Paxman in a Newnight special. Why ironic, well Labour membership figures last published indicated an all time low of 248,294, while union membership is lower that 30% of the working population but only 17 Unions (to find out which ones look here) out of a total of 213 Unions, though they are the largest they only represent around 2 million members, and of course the MPs, MEPs and Assembly members. So if we were to estimate that the maximum electorate for this contest is 2.5 million it is probably not far from the mark. So the rest of the population are expected to be excited by a contest, conducted in the US primary style, in which very few can participate. In the meantime Brown is still touring the country and Blair is on his farewell tour of the world.

Now all of this is fine if it were to engage with the public in some way, however the fact that neither 'tour' is gaining much media coverage, one has to question the purpose of either. Hence, there seems an element of truth in David Cameron's accusation that:

"There are urgent problems in our country, like the crisis in the NHS, that need to be sorted out now. Instead we have to put up with the farce of Labour's 'non-election campaign', with Gordon Brown wandering round the country with nothing to do and Tony Blair wandering around the world doing nothing but indulging his vanity."

There seems definitely to be a non-election campaign taking place, but one in which the general public is meant to get excited about given the extent of events designed to meet people, interact and engage; and one supposes by the end the public is supposed to have some attachment to Brown and his deputy. But it is questionable whether anyone is really interested; or why they should be in the end. Perhaps there should have been a general election after all, as the amount being spent on this non-election, by Labour and the tax payer, seems disproportionate and unprecedented within British politics (though it may well be 'the future for Britain' - sorry couldn't resist the pun). Maybe we should develop Stephen Coleman's argument and put the deputy candidates in the Big Brother house, at least the party could raise some revenue out of the phone calls.

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