Fishy Tales

28 April 2005

It's not the economy, stupid!

Watched the Question Time Leaders Special earlier. Not bad; revealing, even. At least of Question Time audience views..

Charles Kennedy came across very well indeed. There was the merest hint of the kind of rebirth that came over the Labour Party/Blair all those years ago. Confident, caring, and above all principled.

Michael Howard did better than I'd expected, although he completely shot himself in the foot by saying he would have waged war on Iraq even knowing what we now know. Strict, no-nonsense, a touch nasty - a bit like an old-fashioned headmaster who believes in corporal punishment.

But Tony Blair? My, my. I've never seen him so badly damaged by an encounter with the public. He was wrong-footed several times (especially by how continuous monitoring and setting poorly thought-out targets was actually damaging the function of the health service) (and Iraq, needless to say) and his means of self-defence came across disturbingly close to Michael Howard's, i.e. "I have to make decisions and you may not agree with them; but hey, I'm man enough to take your disapproval [and ignore you when I want to]". Sweat just poured off him. He actually looked desperate, genuinely worried.

And, perhaps, so he should be..

Earlier today I found yet another website that echoed my feelings quite closely - check out the Tories are Terrorists! page on the Backing Blair site. But but but, these are Labour supporters who are calling for punishment against Blair by tactical voting, thereby hugely reducing the Labour majority. What's going on?

And why do I find myself so strongly supporting the Lib Dems when (as well as fielding a particularly good locally active MP in Norman Baker) they have several views that are distinctly Left of my own middle-class, married with 2 kids, professional, property-owning, moderately Eurosceptic preferences?

Political Compass answers it all. I found the site while trying to find reference to a statement by the Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams that the political lanscape was changing from the good old Left-Right to something relating to individual freedom vs state control. Political Compass describes this dimension as libertarian-authoritarian, which will do me. However, rather than this being a new single dimension to measure political preferences, it's treated as a second dimension that relates to social attitudes. The original Left-Right dimension is left to relate to economic attitudes alone. Hallelujah!

I took the test at Political Compass and found that, surprise, surprise I'm pretty strongly libertarian (social) and just a smidgeon Left (economic).

And there we have it. Crisis makes strange bedfellows, because the Backing Blair people see the libertarian trend as something that belongs to traditional Labour, as so well evinced by Brian Sedgemore. He defected to the Lib Dems, who, as it happens, carry the liberal (i.e. moderately libertarian) candle in this election.

Now, I would have thought the Tories would be natural libertarians in that they have in the past championed less state control, the power of the self-made individual etc. But that was then, and at present they are making far too little noise about individual rights. Quite the opposite, in fact: they would like to withdraw from some of the civil rights laws that do exist.

And here's the rub. In economic terms, all three parties are amazingly similar. Sure, the Tories promise to tax us a little less, the Lib Dems will tax many of us a little more (and so will Labour in all likelihood). But there's surprisingly little "clear blue water" between them on this front. All three parties will carry on forking out for public services, which means that not much can change.

So the vote is actually, in my humble opinion, likely to be based on perceptions of quality of service, as it is when you could buy the same product from several different outlets. And remember that occasionally we will spend more to maintain a relationship with our favourite shops and suppliers.

It's not the economy, stupid!


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