Elections bring out the worst in the people’s tribunes, writes Paul Finch
Election campaigns are a bonus because once you have stopped the sour laughing you can switch radio or TV channels for some real amusement. Shock-horror headlines can be funny, though a massive turn-off to voters in general, not least because they know they are watching a spectacle aimed at floating voters.
The funniest moment so far was the mock-horror about suggestions that Ed Miliband stabbed his brother in the back. Actually he stabbed him in the front, a Brownite assassin finishing off what was left of ‘New’ Labour. Hey ho.
You will have noticed that environmental matters haven’t had much of a look-in thus far. Labour has actually produced a good basic proposal on land and housing, courtesy of John Armitt, but it has scarcely been mentioned. This is probably because with 12 years in office and five in opposition, it seems a bit odd to be coming up with a miracle cure after such a long period of inaction. Ditto the Conservatives, whose London Land Commission provides evidence that the penny is finally dropping about the relationship between land (there is no shortage), housing delivery and affordability.
Unfortunately, the Tory interest in death duties mirrors the nutty Labour ‘mansion tax’ policy, suggesting that neither main party has much interest in housing supply, only using existing homes as the basis for policy prejudices that have bored us for generations. Ditto the other cranky policy of selling off housing association dwellings at a discount, a gimmick that has nothing to do with building the new homes we so desperately need.
The mixture of bribes and threats on offer does little to inspire confidence; it is reminiscent of the reason given by Scandinavian academics for the massive increases in the cost of public building projects across Europe compared with the original estimates: if the public were told what the true cost would be, the political opposition would ensure that the projects were abandoned.
The true projected cost of HS2 must be jumping by the minute, and certainly the early forecasts by propagandists were so hopelessly wrong that they approached the status of big fat (not to beat about the bush) lies.
Talking of which, it is disappointing to hear the Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps, pontificating about electoral manners shortly after being caught out telling a whopper about his weird alternative internet persona. If you can’t tell the truth about your own being, why should you be expected to do so about stuff which is really important?
If only the smaller parties offered anything better. The Lib Dems, an ethical busted flush since their refusal to countenance rational electoral boundary changes, appear to have no distinctive policies other than staying in the EU, which isn’t that distinctive since it is also the position of Tony Blair and the Labour Party (which is embarrassed by him – the failure who won them three elections).
The Greens could do with any sort of leader who could walk and chew gum at the same time, while the Respect party’s George Galloway is a reminder that Alex Salmond is not the only demagogue standing for election.
As for the various nationalist parties, whenever they begin their single-issue rants, I am reminded of that 60s slogan: ‘scratch a nationalist, find a fascist’. Please note the lower-case ‘f’ before you write in to complain.
But even worse than nationalists, who are after all standing for election, is the biggest bore of all: a toxic Brand. Russell subscribes to the once-witty anarchist adage: ‘Don’t vote, it only encourages ’em.’ Vote I will, but it is a struggle to know who for.