Monday, 27 July 2009

Slow going

It's been pretty slow here, I'm afraid. There are two basic, and possibly related reasons for this. The first is that as a new dad I find spending time with a drooling, incoherent poo-machine is both a higher priority and more fun than blogging*. The second is that there's not much going on in politics that seems worth talking about. Or rather, what people are talking about doesn't seem worth it.

Oh, there are big issues at stake. Huge issues. But (for example) the whole painful issue of the economy, the pace of recovery, bank supervision and the tackling of government debt seems to boil down to the Tories saying "we'll make big cuts, but don't worry, not in anything lovely" and Labour saying "Tory cuts, Tory cuts, fear them, fear them". Whoop-de-do. What am I meant to do with that? What's anyone supposed to do?

Well, the obvious answer is that they're meant to either run fleeing from the Tories crudely-wielded axe or cast a last, scornful glare over their shoulder at Brown as they side with the men on a mission. Stretching my optimism to breaking point, I'm kind of hoping that's not what's happening. Ignoring the many, many confounding factors for a fallacious minute, Labour's vote loss in Norwich North showed that simply shouting about cuts isn't enough to get out their vote. Meanwhile, the Tories limited gain in vote share suggests that they aren't firmly established as the natural party of government just yet.

The big question about the next election isn't "Who?" it's "How much?" Thinking back to the 1997 landslide, we had a nation fed up with a discredited, sleaze-bespattered government. So far, so tediously obvious historic parallel. We also had a reformed opposition led by a charismatic, media-savvy reformer. But I think that parallel is tenuous: New Labour had publicly fought some fairly major internal battles in a way that Cameron has not; more importantly there were some fairly clearly articulated policies as well. The "5 pledges" card may have been a gimmick - but what would today's Tory version look like?

The Conservatives' ability to articulate what they're actually going to do in government is going to make the difference between a victory and landslide. Similarly, Labour's ability to properly criticise the Tories will make the difference between a loss and a pasting. More importantly, either of these approaches will make the prospect of following the news something other than aggravatingly depressing.

*See? There's a perfectly good "drooling, incoherent poo machine"/bloggertarian/the other one's a baby gag there, but I just can't be arsed.

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