This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Three dull political parties ?

With Spring Conference 2007 Ming Campbell completed his first year leader of the Liberal Democrats. I'm sure many have commented on this already, but am I unreasonably out-of-kilter in feeling uninspired 12 months on ? Frankly the difference in policy terms [where the Tories have or have signalled them] between the three main parties I believe is leaving the electorate feeling as bored as I am. Frankly if I'm bored as someone traditionally politically active, then what of those less engaged ?

Yes, maybe we have been more 'up front' and ideologically committed to the environment via Green Taxes, but all parties will offer up something on this issue at the next election. On crime our position is divergent and more nuanced than the authoritarianism of the other two parties, but hardly the stuff of political imagination to excite electoral passions. On Trident, conference went with the 'support Ming' position, as if supporting the leader is the raison d'etre of a democratic party.

Admittedly I didn't go to Conference as I'd pre-arranged to visit the East Midlands. The combination of a Forest home game [and 5-1 win] and the prospect of seeing US classic rock giants Journey in Nottingham sounded a far more exciting prospect. The latter, especially Neal Schon's incredible guitar work and new frontman Jeff Scott Soto's stage presence I lapped up. What I saw of Ming's speech was as always, worthy but unremarkable. As with his set-piece TV interviews, he came across as 'wooden' and lacking personal 'warmth'. Like it or not in a televisual age and focus on party leaders this does matter to the electorate, if not party political activists.

Sadly it could be that the lack of radicalism and the arguing at the narrow margins of policy difference makes the turgid and bigoted [and in parts still fascist influenced] BNP look like the 'radical alternative' to the ill-informed seeking easy answers. A scary thought.

Does no-one else see the poll tallies for 'others' rise and not wonder if / why the main parties, LD included, are failing to strike a chord with the electorate ? My crystal ball suggests that UKIP, Greens, BNP and alleged independents may all do quite well in local elections in England.

Of course, it could be that I'm just moody, difficult and a political 'contrarian' ! Oh well, I'd better turn my attentions to Torbay again. Locally the chasm in policy, attitudes and priorities between the Tories and LD's are reason enough to get 'stuck in' politically once more. Having suffered ill health, redundancy and experienced sub-standard housing in 2007 I have not offered much to the party in the local election campaign thus far. I apologise for that, but it is something I'll be striving to change over the coming weeks !

SNP - A Centre-left social democratic party ?

Hmm...the SNP like to portray themselves, especially in urban Scotland as a progressive alternative to Labour, but how does this fit their acceptance of a massive donation from Brian Souter, the chief of that predatory monopolist-minded 'Stagecoach' company ?

Whilst Alex Salmond is a good media performer he has the problem of trying to keep on board both the independence fundamentalists and the pragmatists in his party. Likewise there is the contradiction of the moderate party portrayed in rural Scotland standing against the supposedly more left-leaning party challenging Labour in the central belt. And, people accuse the LD's of being all things to all people !

I'm looking forward to seeing / hearing Salmond sell / spin this donation to those of us who abhor the anti trade union and homophobic attitudes of Mr Souter. Further his muscular brand of evangelical Christianity may not endear him to the large traditional 'Catholic' vote that Labour has traditionally harvested. Let the fun begin ?!

As for Stagecoach I remember only too well how he acquired his monopoly position in Darlington when I lived there. 'Free' buses were put on. This drove the municipal transport operator into the ground and having attained a stranglehold on public transport in the town the end result was the usual cocktail of poor services, high travel costs and anti trade unionism that (in my view) typifies his company.

True, services are better here in Torquay, but travel costs are ludicrously high. How can it cost £4 for a daysaver covering a small Devon borough whilst you can travel the breadth of Greater London on the same terms for £3.50 ? Crazy !

Lib Dems and Scotland

I may be missing something here but I don't really get the Lib Dems attachment to the union. Surely the Scottish Lib Denm position ought to be more fluid and not take such a rigid Unionist position. Surely it is a matter for the people of Scotland and we should be happy to reflect the will of the people and make their preferred constitutional settlement work, whatever that may be. Instinctively we are for powers being devolved to the lowest practicable level so outright opposition to independence doesn't seem apt.

Mind you, being (very much) south of the border it is none of my business, but I am curious as the what party members / supporters feel in Scotland. Any feedback would be most interesting !

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