The bookies have stopped taking bets on the General Election being held on 6 May, I hear. Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, could yet surprise us, but it does look as though General will be held on the same day as the local elections in London (and elsewhere).
I always expected the national opinion polls to narrow as the General Election got closer, but the speed with which they have narrowed is astonishing. A Tory percentage lead of somewhere in the teens a couple of months ago, has shrunk to maybe 3 or 4 points. A succession of gaffs by the Tories has no doubt helped, but it may just be that unpopular as Gordon Brown and Labour have become, the voters are beginning to think, ‘better the devil you know’. Who would you want making the promised deep cuts in public spending, inevitably leading to cuts in frontline services? Many people will remember the last Conservative government and their hatred of anything publicly owned. As Peter Mandleson said ‘they are foaming at the mouth over the prospect of slashing public spending’.
There appears to be the best chance of a ‘hung parliament’ since 1974, with no party having an absolute majority in the Commons, and the prospect of some kind of coalition government. Maybe, a few Green MP’s could extract some proper action on climate change and other concessions, as the price for supporting a minority government?
More likely, I think, is a minority Tory government supported by the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems are talking an even tougher game on cutting public spending than the Tories, so they wouldn’t be such strange bed fellows. I couldn’t really have seen this happening when Charlie Kennedy was Lib Dem leader, but Nick Clegg, oh yes. He recently spouted his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, and the way that she destroyed the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980’s. What better right wing credentials are there than that?
Of course, we’re all getting excited about the local elections here in Haringey, where we think we have a great chance of winning our first council seats in Stroud Green ward. Certainly canvassing returns look to be encouraging, and there is still a mood of protest amongst the voters over the bigger party’s involvement in the Westminster expenses scandal. This could play very well for us, as it did in last year’s European Parliament elections.
But more of the local elections later.