Thursday, 29 April 2010

All things bright and bigoted

I don't think it is overstating yesterday's events to say that this might be the key point of the campaign thus far.  Sure, Nick Clegg's performance in the first Leaders' Debate earned him his place at the top table and spiked the Lib Dems poll numbers to make this a genuine 3-way tussle (and a genuine 4-way in Scotland).  But "Gordon's Gaffe", as it will be known for generations to come, is probably the point at which Labour's opportunity to turn the poll figures around ended for good.

Of course it was a private thought spoken aloud to an aide in a private moment. Of course no one was supposed to hear it.  And of course anyone can make a mistake, and I think the public does have some sympathy with that.  But the media storm that has ensued, the PM's reaction - on camera - when he heard what he'd said, his multiple apologies (45 minutes in Mrs Duffy's house!) and the fact that what the woman asked wasn't the least bit bigoted, merely a question that plenty of voters would like an answer to have turned this from private mistake to catastrophe for the PM.

Giving Gordon Brown his credit - he did appear absolutely mortified about what he'd said and the upset that he had caused.  And you can take into account the situation - a tough campaign trail, tough questions (though what appeared a pleasant conversation) and what he thought was a private moment.  But, ultimately, for a man who wants to return as PM, this was Bush league.  I'm not saying he shouldn't be allowed to have thoughts like this about voters.  Actually, maybe I am.  The politician who discounts what the electorate thinks of an issue as unimportant or bigoted... well, he doesn't deserve to represent the people who he claims to champion.  And - according to Iain Dale - Brown has refused to meet the people in his own constituency, ignoring EIGHT hustings invitations.  Perhaps this new "meet the people" strategy doesn't stretch to getting himself re-elected.

So - probably the best day of the campaign for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and they really didn't do much at all.  They certainly got very little coverage for it anyway - and they'll be happy enough with that.  My problem though, and its one I've had for a long time, is that candidates are not doing enough to convince people to vote for them.  Brown's gaffe yesterday underlines this point in more ways than one.  In engaging with the public in the way he has, all he has done is give the electorate one more reason not to vote for his party... or not to vote at all.  And many more are leaning towards the latter.

4 comments:

Doug Daniel 29 April 2010 at 12:42  

This got me wondering if a backlash in his constituency could possibly see Labour winning the election, but Gordon losing his seat. We'd be left with a scenario where not only would we need balanced parliament negotiations, but a new Labour leadership election as well, probably before the balanced parliament negotiations as the Lib Dems would want to know who they'll be dealing with first. What about the press, who cried foul over Gordon Brown becoming PM without the public giving him the go ahead (even though we all knew Blair was going to hand the chalice over to him long before the 2005 election)? What would they make of another "unelected" PM, this time from the very outset of the election?

I've put some musings on a blog I've recently started if anyone is interested.

Bill 29 April 2010 at 21:44  

I've enjoyed reading your personal debate about how you might vote; it's a refreshing attitude, although I'm not clear just how much doubt there is in your mind about whom to vote for should you decide to vote.

As for Brown and his mortification, I'm afraid I put that down to his having been caught out, not because the comments he made don't reflect what he thinks. As you know, I am no supporter of Labour, but I could not ever imagine Neil Kinnock or Michael Foot thinking (to take a couple of former labour leaders), far less voicing, what Mr Brown said yesterday. Harold Wilson might possibly have had such thoughts (although I tend to doubt it), but he was far too wily a political operator to have been caught out in the way Brown was. Most politicians, however venal they have come to be seen as by many, are basically decent people who think as well of others as cirumstances permit. Some politicians aren't like that, however, and I have believed for a while that Brown is one of this type - yesterday's events have strengthened that view. There are a few such people in all the political parties; this is not just a partisan view, even though I make no pretence that my views on politics in general are not partisan.

Malc 4 May 2010 at 11:35  

Doug,

Good point. I'm not convinced Brown will lose his seat, though he may lose a substantial chunk of his majority. Even if Labour do "win" the election (most seats) he won't be PM.

Malc 4 May 2010 at 11:38  

Bill,

You can believe me, or not believe me. But my dilemma is genuine, and I, genuinely, had not decided how to vote. I emailed many friends the same post I put on my blog, and received much advice - most of it contradictory if I'm honest! But there was genuine indecision.

With 2 days to go, I think I've settled on a candidate and a party. I'm not delighted with my choice, but my vote might make a difference on several fronts... and that's why I've decided how I have.

I was going to email you with a response, but I couldn't find an email address.

Best,
Malc

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