Thursday 23 May 2024

Election: early thoughts


Given the terrible cards he has been dealt (some of them by himself) I think poor Rishi Sunak puts on a pretty good show.  He took on the premiership after twelve years of Conservative  rule with very little positive to crow about, other than, perhaps, equal marriage; followed the two most scurrilous and disastrous prime ministers in our history; and with only one of the five pledges for his own time in office (bringing down inflation, the one over which he had least control) having any measure of success.  

In such circumstances it takes considerable chutzpah to be optimistic.   His courage reminds me of Comical Ali, the Iraqi Minister of Information who continued  to assure the news media  that Sadam Hussain’s forces were triumphing even as the sound of the Allied guns drew nearer and nearer.

In his opening salvo Sunak described himself the Chancellor who had nursed us though the Covid pandemic with his generous Furlough scheme. There was  no mention of his subsidy to those who could afford to “Eat Out” whose “helping out” probably helped to spread the virus; the billions wasted on “Test and Trace” and procurement via the VIP line; and the 10 Downing Street partying at which be connived. On the basis of his record the future would be safe in his hands.

 The grounds for this he based on the Tories’ reputation for economic competence, for which the evidence is negative, and our security from external perils, for which the evidence is slight.

His bid to remain in office  is based, therefore, on one false premise and one imponderable.

Sunak claims that the alternative, Labour, has no plan, which is a bit rich since  Sir Keir Starmer has  only this week  expanded his five point “Mission” to a six point set of “First Steps.”  They are not very good ones (see previous post) but they do indeed constitute a plan.

Starmer’s riposte is to emphasise the past 14 years of chaos and issue as few hostages to fortune (ie policies for the future) as possible.  This as a good plan and I hope he sticks to it. It is easy to be blown off course during an election campaign, as Theresa May found out with her “brave” (and necessary) plan to finance the care of the elderly.

 So for the next six weeks the politicians will done Hi-Viz jackets and helmets and  will say as little of substance as possible, spin doctors on all sides will take over and most people become bored to death.  That incudes me: for the first time in my life I sympathise with those with the means and ability to  take themselves abroad until the shouting is over.

The wild card which could change the likelihood of a substantial Labour victory is if the Reform Party decides to imitate its predecessor, Nigel Farage’s UKIP/Brexit Party and withdraw from contesting Conservative-held seats.  We shall see. 

My hope is that we Liberal Democrats will gain enough seats to re-establish ourselves as the third party in the Commons. Since we were booted out of that position by the Scot-Nats poor Sir Ed Davey has had great difficulty in gaining any attention (instead of a Question and comeback  every week at PMQ he’s been getting just one question every month or so), the party’s MPs don’t get their share of Question Time panels on the media and we don’t get the references we need in the news bulletins.  However, there are many seats  where we have a genuine chance of winning, the SNP are on the back foot, so here’s hoping.

The Liberal Democrats will have a candidate in all, or almost all, seats.  I hope that, in those where our support is only around the present derisory 10% we don’t waste the literature and door-stepping on trying to promote  candidates with little connection with the place as a doughty fighter who, if elected, will campaign hard for such popular  local projects as the re-gilding of the hands of the town-hall clock.  Rather we should use the opportunity to promote the party’s values. 

Liberal Democracy, which Fukuyama assumed had prevailed at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and thus brought “the end of history” is now in grave danger, in this country (the demise of the “good chap theory of government” under Johnson), in  Europe (eg Hungary,) and most frightening of all, in the US, with a win for Donald Trump an almost inconceivable  possibility. 

We need to use this election to attract activists to come out and fight for its preservation.*

*for those interested I hope a post on this topic here.

 With any luck someone at LDHQ will have read it and prepared accordingly.







  1. I hear that Jo Swinson is confident that she has a good chance of becoming Prime Minister after this election.

  2. Yes, she seems to have been cut from the same mould as Liz Truss