Friday, 19 March 2010

Would a hung parliament be so bad?

It’s official, well as official as anything depending on the inexact science behind opinion polls ever can be; Britain is heading for a hung parliament after the coming general election. Leaving aside the tired saloon bar joke about the best thing to do with politicians being to hang the lot of them would that really be such a bad thing?

It would be a very bad thing if you happen to believe that what Britain needs more than anything else as the economy stumbles and the deficit rises ever higher is the ‘smack of firm government.’

You know the sort of thing, firm leadership from someone who didn’t believe in changing their mind and thought the cabinet and parliament itself were there only to ask ‘please sir how high?’ whenever the great leader bellowed ‘Jump!’ That was what we had in the halcyon days of the eighties when Mrs T was in Downing Street and all was well with the world.

The trouble with people who feel nostalgic for the eighties is they are either on the payroll of Tory Central Office or too young to remember what they were actually like.

Tough leadership of the type we are all supposed to long for tends to create more problems that it solves. Decades of social and economic decline cannot be halted by telling the nation to pull its socks up or else and the refusal to change their mind shown by leaders in the Thatcher mould is more often than not symptomatic of a fear of appearing weak than any real sense of purpose.

In this sense a hung parliament would be a good thing because it would reintroduce to British politics something that has been considered a dirty word for the past quarter century; consensus.

Whoever wins the election will be unable to use the force of their personality, Thatcher, or a thumping majority, Blair, to ride roughshod over parliament and public opinion. After years of being a supine talking shop parliament will rediscover its power to hold the executive to account and sensible compromise, long a feature of British life outside the Westminster bubble will once again become the order of the day.

A hung parliament might also be the catalyst for finally encouraging Britain to stop worrying and learn to lover proportional representation. If that were to happen our political life would be freed at a stroke from the dead hand of the three main parties, all of whom have largely lost touch with their core vote and fallen for the blandishments of focus groups and marketing gurus instead. New voices and ideas would enter the debate and for the first time in decades politics would really mean something.

None of this may come to pass of course, opinion polls are notoriously inaccurate, public rage against New Labour, who ironically look very old indeed these days, might yet sweep David Cameron’s Tories into power; but what if it doesn’t? What if something fundamental has changed, before long we might find ourselves in interesting times where every vote counts and policies matter more than marketing.

And another thing:

David leaves clothes lying on the bedroom floor and can’t be trusted with the remote, Gordon is messy and noisy but loves to help people and as for Nick; he’s a little tinker who, allegedly, likes to play kiss chase.

Does any of the above matter, does knowing the foibles of the three party leaders as described by their adoring wives make them appear more ‘human’? Maybe, but it also makes them sound like lovably naughty six year olds.

Anna Arrowsmith, an award winning director of, ahem, ‘art’ films; you know the sort where the actors don’t wear much more than a smile, has put herself forward to be a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats, cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the chattering classes.

I don’t think its so much the mucky movies she makes, in, I’m sure the best possible taste, that they dislike as the fact that she’s, scandalously, had a proper job before deciding to enter politics.

I laughed out loud and then shuddered at the story about three Royal Navy officers being brought before a court marital this week for crashing their submarine into a forty foot rock formation. Doubtless like male drivers the world over they failed to notice the rocks in question, which were marked on the map, because real men don’t look at maps.

I don’t know what effect it has on Britain’s enemies, but the though t of dunderheads like that sailing the world’s oceans in a nuclear armed submarine scares the c*** out of me.

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