Thursday, 13 May 2010

Nick Clegg Plays Jazz Saxophone !

Yes, it`s true ! Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg plays jazz saxophone and has his own Charlie Parker tribute act. Other members include author Terry Pratchett, TV presenter Adrian Childs and a man called Barry who they met when he delivered a pizza to the rehearsal rooms they use in Dartford , Kent.

Actually, that`s not true at all, I made it up. Having got your attention, I`d like to return to the subject of the recent UK general election - the reason for that little trip to the outlands of my imagination was just to spice things up a bit.

More than any other recent general election, this one seemed to me to be all about disaffected Labour voters, particularly in the Midlands and the North.

 In a surprise move, the Tories seemed to target this group. Where I live, numerous advertising hoardings presented themselves to passers by with images of blue-collar workers accompanied by the slogan `I`ve Never Voted Tory Before, But...`. As I mentioned before, David Cameron seemed to distance himself from the legacy of Mrs Thatcher and speak the language of  unity and the common good, a message that some say displeased his backbenchers.

The Liberal Democrats, as we know, increased both the number of votes they received and the proportion of votes cast, though the number of seats they held fell. The reason for this, I suspect, is something else  I commented on before, that the non-Tory vote in traditional Labour strongholds divided itself between Lib and Lab. This was a big concern for Labour, as  illustrated in some of the leaflets that came through my door, one in particular carrying the slightly bizarre message "go to bed with Nick Clegg and you could wake up with David Cameron" !

Another thing that came over very strongly was the superficial worldview of many TV pundits, accustomed for so long to treating politics as a game of musical chairs played at Westminster. Again and again, pundit talked to politician and pundit talked to pundit, before (of course), turning back to the studio to see how the city was reacting.

This lack of depth revealed itself in other ways.

When David Cameron twice stressed that he numbered steel company Corus among his backers, no-one knew enough to challenge him about their appalling health and safety record (even though they acquired four further criminal convictions and fines totalling £355,000 during the run-up to the election and are currently under investigation following yet another death at one of their sites), or their boardroom instability (four senior managers having resigned in as many months), or their controversial `mothballing` of their plant at Redcar at a time when the overseas market for steel is bouyant.

When Liberal Democrats campaigning in the key marginal of Derby North boasted of their party having taken control of Derby City Council, no-one mentioned the unusual background (when Labour and Conservative Councillors entered into a pact to freeze out Lib Dem Councillors, Labour voters in a magnificent display of bloody-mindedness took ther votes way from Labour and voted Lib Dem instead) or the questions that have been asked as to whether some councillors are too close to waste contractor RRG, or the use of public funds to finance RRG`s appeal against their own Council Planning Committee.

No-one could say that Labour had a good campaign, but in truth it could have been worse. Had reporters sampled views in the increasingly resentful Labour heartlands, one feels a few home truths might have been spoken. Instead , reporters talked about such specious concepts as `Lambrini Ladies` and `Motorway Men`, oblivious to the fact the Labour`s support was draining away in cities and town centres.

Two big changes were noticeable.

One concerned immigration. At one time, when politicians spoke on this issue, they were usually `playing the race card`.  Now, you wouldn`t make that assumption - people`s concern tends to be over European immigrants and migrant workers, to be a matter of resources and not of race.

While it`s true that the BNP and UKIP weren`t able to make any political capital over the matter, there is something of a democratic deficit. As things stand, any voter of mainstream political views who feels we have given too much power to an insufficiently democratic European Union simply has nowhere to go. I was glad to see the Lib Dems switch their emphasis from being part of Europe to wanting to reform Europe, and also to hear recently that any further hand-over of power to Brussells will now be subject to a referendum (allegedly).

The other is manufacturing. Suddenly, all three main party leaders are enthusiastic supporters of  the UK`s manufacturing industry. In fairness, Nick Clegg is MP for Sheffield and so has a constituency interest in the matter, but the other two as far as I knew where apostles of globalisation and the `casino economy` of financial services. One suspects this change of heart has to do with having been brought face to face with the reality of  the roulette wheel of investment banking, as well as the need to win hearts and minds north of the Thames. Certainly it`s no bad thing. In my view we need more manufacturing, more green jobs and above all, safe jobs. I really do think we are going to lay down the law (probably literally) to companies like Corus and BP.

Anyway, that`s wot I fink about the election. Now that`s done, let me tell you about David Cameron`s secret life as an Elvis impersonator...

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