A wee Italy-via-Eastleigh guest today from Scotland’s super-punter Ross McCafferty, who’s got previous here with us. Thanks Ross! Oh, and the picture choice isn’t his fault. Apologies to anyone scrubbing their eyes.
Britain is not Ireland. Nor is it Italy, but the respective hammerings of largely centrist Parties in austerity governments should terrify David Cameron. In the 2011 election to the Dail, Fianna Fail, who had dominated Irish politics since the inception of the Republic, were beaten into a distant third, going from over 40% of the vote to 17. In an onimous sign for Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems, the junior coalition partners, the Irish Green Party, saw their vote share halved and they lost all of their seats. In Italy, incumbent parties who saw themselves as the guarantors of belt tightening economic credibility fared little better. Technocrat Mario Monti’s austerity coalition was beaten into a distant 4th, to have little or no say in the future governance of the country.
Having staked their economic credibility to both the elimination of the deficit, the strength of the pound, and Britain’s international power, David Cameron’s Tories are in dire straits as we come to the halfway stage of this five year term. Indeed, as we get closer to the 2015 election than we are from the 2010 election, the “Last Labour government” line stops having any credence. Where Labour could move into landslide territory, for me, is two fold. 1) Sacking Ed Balls, a man with a reputation for being pure poison, not to mention being an unfortunate relic – despite his weepy conversion and revisionist approach to his own role in Blair/Brown conflicts – of a bygone era in Labour history. 2) Stepping up attacks on Tories. There was little between Labour and the Tories in macro economic terms in 97-2010. They should press Cameron on what money he wouldn’t have spent in the New Labour years he derides as being so profligate.
But, despite cruising in the polls, Ed’s appeal thus far has been limited. He came to Scotland plenty in 2011 to support Labour, and lent his voice to the AV campaign, both of which were soundly beaten. He lost battles in formerly fertile Labour ground in Bradford and the London mayoral election. His best hope in tomorrow’s Eastleigh by election is now a UKIP win, which would focus attention on the coalition parties, and divert comment and introspection away from his parties now seemingly inevitable distant fourth.
My central question is: does the UK have a Beppe Grillo? The satirist and comedians anti political rallies saw him propelled from non existence to 3rd place and the position of kingmaker. Could we see this in the UK? On the face of it, it doesn’t appear so, our two and occasionally three, and if you believe Farage barely 4 party system is pretty deeply embedded. But I bet if you asked Mario Monti who his main danger was halfway through his term, a wild haired comedian convicted of manslaughter would not feature on the list. That’s not to say such an insurgent campaign would be the preserve of the left in Britain. A free speech, Englishman’s home is his castle, wheelie bin hating Jeremy Clarkson esque figure is just as likely as a Charlie Booker (who has fictional form) or a David Mitchell.
Sadly, what might make this unlikely is that the British electorate have had their fingers burnt before. Before he was merely looking glum and slightly ill over David Cameron’s right hand shoulder, Nick Clegg was the new face of British Politics, reinvigorating the scene with his talk of breaking from the two main parties. Friends who used to roll their eyes when I mentioned politics declared they were voting for Clegg, someone who understood their disdain at the same old politics. Naturally, true to form, at the first sniff he sold out his principles and went back on everything he had said. One thing is for sure, the 2015 General Election result isn’t guaranteed.
P.S. It wouldn’t be a guest post from me without some betting tips. You can get any other party to win most seats at 113/1 with Betfair. Ukip to win the election is 200/1 with Coral. And the Government to be ‘other’ is 8/1 with William Hill.