The exception was February 1974. On the final weekend the papers were seriously looking at the the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe as Prime Minister and speculating as to who would be in the Liberal Cabinet. This was a much more startling "turn-up for the books" than today's "Cleggmania" since, at the time, we Liberals had far fewer parliamentary seats and a much smaller local government base. Alas the surge faded in the final few days, Labour emerged as the largest party and the opportunity for a genuine change in the quality of our politics was lost.
There are many reasons why I desperately hope that the present Conservative lead will similarly fade in the next few days, but the most important three are:
- Their economic policy is just plain crazy. To cut public expenditure before the recovery is assured is totally unnecessary and risks returning to recession. It ignores the teachings of Keynes and the experience of the 1930s. If anything public expenditure should be increased and taxes cut.
- They clearly have a deal to cut back the broadcasting functions of the BBC and permit the Murdoch empire to fill the gap, leading to even less balanced news and views than at the moment.
- Cameron has set his face against electoral reform. Given that voting intentions are now split roughly three ways and are likely to remain so it is simply ridiculous to stick with a system that could easily give unrestrained power to the major party with the fewest votes.With a turnout of 70% (which may well not be achieved) and a share of the vote of 33%, that would mean that barely one in five of those entitled to vote had supported the party forming the government. The case for electoral reform has been obvious to all fair-minded people for at least half a century: it is now imperative.
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