Democracy Rules?

2 05 2008

So the post mortem is underway in the Labour party. Following the worst results in local elections for forty years, the result in London is looking increasingly like Boris is going to come up trumps. I think these elections reflect the first public critique of Gordon Brown more than they reflect the merits of either the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat candidates in most areas. Whilst Brown has suffered at the hands of the media for various problems (the non-election last autumn and the recent 10p tax row are the two biggest), Cameron has, in all reality, failed to impress much more. An article in one of the Guardian supplements (left littered on our kitchen table) showed how the editor of the Evening Standard in London was encouraging people to not vote for Ken, which, he insisted is not the same as encouraging people to vote for Boris. Few remain convinced, this race has long been a two horse one, and whilst Paddick continues to talk the talk (I was impressed, to some extent, with him on QT last week) it really matters little.

Is this the problem then? Are the Conservatives and Lib Dems winning because of a backlash against Labour? I would certainly suggest so. Having had Brown now for roughly eight months, the relationship between him and the public has initially waned, and then broken down. He is not distrusted. More he is a figure of pity or of mockery. His indecisiveness has been seized upon by the ruthless media and impressions of him are getting worse. The 10p tax row did nothing to help this image (although I agree with the sentiment expressed on last weeks Have I Got News For You. Brown was very clearly in the middle of a rock and a hard place. He was damned for the initial problem, and criticised as weak following his backtracking), but the damage was quickly done. This came at just the wrong time for him and pretty much every other Labour candidate across the country.

An oft expressed sporting analogy is that one team did not win a match, but the other lost it. This notion can be applied to some extent here (this is not to say that the Tories or Lib Dems are completely incompetant, quite the contrary, they have done well to seize the initiative and run with it). The trouble is using the big picture of national politics to judge the regional level. Obviously the various candidates in the various regions have policies relevant to that area. But the big picture undoubtedly plays some part. Without, I feel, offering anything really substantial in terms of policy the Tories and the Lib Dems are capitalising well upon the failings of Labour, and this is reflected in the results.

I wish to leave British affairs, enough will be said on them (including numerous posts today on BULS), and instead look briefly at the other election that is rumbling on. In Zimbabwe the failure of either big party to gain the requisite 50% has meant that a second round of elections will take place. Which if you are Morgan Tsvangirai is bad news. The five week delay in annoucing the results has raised many eyebrows across the world, and the news that another round of elections will deepen fears that Mugabe will worm his way into power once more. Claims that there has been widespread intimidation and threatening actions undertaken by Mugabe’s militia are, whilst unproven, likely to founded in some degree of truth. The plight of Zimbabwe is one which is felt across the world I feel. Most people are sympathetic to the people of the country so ravaged by internal strife.

So it is I am trying to put this in perspective. I have heard the grumblings of many Labourites and non Labourites alike regarding Boris’ ability to run London in the build up to 2012. I am thankful. Despite his failings (of which he undoubtedly has some, but who doesn’t), the issues in Zimbabwe indicate that things could be a lot, lot, lot worse.

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