Skip

The Liberal Moment has Come
April 30, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Since 1945 the proprietor-free Guardian has supported all 3 major parties, and after an editorial meeting last week, they have declared for the Liberal Democrats. The Economist yesterday published their support for the conservatives: Who Should Govern Britain?, which only really leaves The Independent with any question over who they'll back.

(Table at the bottom of this article shows newspapers' allegances since 1945.)
posted by gregjones (48 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Guardian supported either the Alliance or the conservatives in 1983? I am surprised.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 11:47 AM on April 30, 2010


Do newspaper endorsements carry a lot of weight in the UK? I recall reading somewhere---in 2004, I think---that such endorsements are having less and less of an effect in the US.
posted by Bromius at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2010


Reading about the election has been interesting, it doesn't seem to be getting that much play in the U.S, other then Andrew Sullivan's blog, of course.

It's interesting that Clegg is such a big backer of the euro. Paul Krugman has been talking about (2) how the Greece situation underscores how problematic it is for all those countries to use the same currency when economic problems aren't spread evenly. The fact that the UK has it's own currency today is really helping out.

the other big news is the whole "biggoted woman" gaffe where Brown called a woman he'd just talked to a 'bigot' on a live mic while driving away. You can see her reaction here
posted by delmoi at 11:52 AM on April 30, 2010


The Guardian supported either the Alliance or the conservatives in 1983? I am surprised.

Apparently they went for the Alliance. Labour made is as difficult as possible for anyone with a brain in their head to support them that year.
posted by Dasein at 11:58 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Sigh) Even though I'd vote for the LibDems (if I hadn't been disenfranchised), wouldn't it be better for newspapers to be impartial and just report the news? Why do they have to take sides?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:04 PM on April 30, 2010


Reading about the election has been interesting, it doesn't seem to be getting that much play in the U.S, other then Andrew Sullivan's blog, of course.

BBC World News America has been featuring the UK election for the top 10-20 minutes of each weeknight's hour-long broadcast. It's been great to watch someone else's election process from the outside, like I'm sure most of the world must watch the US elections.

Jon Stewart and The Daily Show did a pretty extensive piece about the UK elections last night, too. For some strange reason, having Michael Caine as a guest also sparked Charlie Rose to devote a good portion of his hour to the topic.
posted by hippybear at 12:12 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we assume that we will have a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party, what is the likelihood that the Lib Dems and Labour would govern in a coalition? Or would the Lib Dems be more likely to form an alliance with the Conservatives?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:28 PM on April 30, 2010


That prediction is from FiveThirtyEight, by the way.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:29 PM on April 30, 2010


Reading about the election has been interesting, it doesn't seem to be getting that much play in the U.S, other then Andrew Sullivan's blog, of course.

Gordon Brown's microphone gaffe was covered by just about everyone.
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on April 30, 2010


In other media news, the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and Sky TV consulted widely with anyone first name starting with R ending in T, surname starting with M rhymes with burdock, in order to be told exactly who they would all support in this election.

"It's a victory for editorial independence," one unnamed editor confided today. "We all independently agreed that we didn't want to lose our jobs and would do exactly as Rupert requested in order to further his dark and satanic designs."
posted by reynir at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94, Clegg has said that he won't support Brown in a coalition if he gets the fewest number of popular votes. So that bodes poorly for Labour retaining power (even if they get the most seats, it almost certainly won't be a result of getting the most votes).

That said, the idea has been raised that Labour could kick Brown out in an attempt to get Clegg on board in a coalition.

So, in conclusion, we'll know more when the vote counting's done, but we won't necessarily know who won...
posted by saturday_morning at 12:41 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gordon Brown's microphone gaffe was covered by just about everyone.
posted by zarq


Including us. (Also previously, previously, previously.)
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:43 PM on April 30, 2010


UK General Election election voting is even more borked than the US. Only those parties with relatively dense, regional support blocks get the plurality borough seats. Parties like the Lib Dems, with broad-based but less regionally concentrated support get shafted, with representation way, way below its share of the vote:

2005 GE:
Labour 37%, Seats 356
Tories 33%, Seats 198
Lib Dems 22%, Seats 62

2001 GE:
Labour 41%, Seats 413
Tories 32%, Seats 166
Lib Dems 18%, Seats 52

1997 GE:
Labour 43%, Seats 418
Tories 31%, Seats 165
Lib Dems 17%, Seats 46

The current polling puts the vote share at:
Tories 34%
Labour 28%
Lib Dems 28%

In any truly representative democracy, the Lib Dems and Labour would have roughly comparative seats. I don't expect that to happen.
posted by meehawl at 12:47 PM on April 30, 2010


I think that under the current system, prioritizing the popular vote is a bit disingenuous. People are voting for their local MP, not for Prime Minister, and many of them will be voting tactically depending on which parties are competitive in their seat.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:56 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


meehawl, that's why it will be really interesting if the Lib Dems get a chance to go into a coalition and really push for serious moves on proportional representation in return.

This really could be a 'turning point' in UK politics, real PR would go a long way to locking the Conservatives out of power (which is why I suspect we'll get a watered down version that doesn't...).
posted by knapah at 12:57 PM on April 30, 2010


It's not surprising to see that Andrew Sullivan is still supporting Thatcherism. Never mind that Thatcher and the Conservative Party outlawed the promotion of homosexuality under Section 28 of the Local Government Act in 1986.

That's right... they made it a crime to publish books geared towards kids who were being raised by homosexual parents. Never mind that many of the same MPs who voted for it are still in the highest echelon of the Conservative Party.

Perhaps Sullivan loves Thatcher because she secretly approved huge loans to prop up a bankrupt Saddam Hussein government, while covertly shipping them Chieftain tank hulls, to help Saddam with his unprovoked invasion of Iran? Or maybe it was her support for a British firm in building a chemical weapons plant in Iraq, even as her government knew that the Iraqis were using chemical weapons to gas Iranian troops by the tens of thousands?
posted by markkraft at 1:08 PM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


This really could be a 'turning point' in UK politics, real PR would go a long way to locking the Conservatives out of power

This election doesn't offer much in the way of hope, but if there is one thing that could come out of it, it's the fact that an outcome which might force electoral reform has more chance of happening than since I've been able to vote. Playing the long game, whatever else this election brings, that has the potential to change politics in the UK forever, and it's desperately needed. Turning point indeed.

(Except of course it won't happen, the polls will be wrong and the Tories will get in with a narrow absolute majority, but one still large enough for them to gut the poorest communities in the UK that are barely back on their feet after the last time, and PR won't happen, and Labour will implode and the next election will go to the Tories as well because Labour will be in no state and the Lib Dems helpless without a fair electoral system. Not that I'm a pessimist or anything).
posted by reynir at 1:15 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The current polling puts the vote share at:
Tories 34%
Labour 28%
Lib Dems 28%


I just wonder what this really means in the UK's first-past-the-post system.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2010


> which only really leaves The Independent with any question over who they'll back.

No one cares what the Times thinks any more? O tempora, O mores! Is that just because of Murdoch?
posted by jfuller at 1:19 PM on April 30, 2010


wouldn't it be better for newspapers to be impartial and just report the news? Why do they have to take sides?

I'm pretty sure it's a matter of course for different newspapers in Europe to support different parties and ideologies.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:20 PM on April 30, 2010


The current polling puts the vote share at:
Tories 34%
Labour 28%
Lib Dems 28%

I just wonder what this really means in the UK's first-past-the-post system.


The BBC election seat calculator unscientifically claims:

Tories - 268
Labour - 269
Lib Dems - 84

Ouch.
posted by knapah at 1:26 PM on April 30, 2010


The cuts forced on us by our creditors will be so harsh that whoever wins the election will then be so unpopular, they will be unelectable for a generation, according to the ex Bank of England governor

... so perhaps Labour will be happy to lose this one.
posted by memebake at 1:27 PM on April 30, 2010


Do newspaper endorsements carry a lot of weight in the UK?

I think the newspaper market here is more competitive, and the endorsements are more advertising for the paper than the party. Everyone knows where the affiliations of each paper already lies, and generally buy them to either see analysis broadly in line with their own world view, or at least not offensive to it. That or the tabloid that attacks the right targets.

There is a long standing idea in British elections that The Sun has a huge say in who wins. It's a Murdoch paper. I think they have more of a talent for seeing which way the prevailing winds are blowing amongst their readers than actually deciding it.
posted by vbfg at 1:32 PM on April 30, 2010


which only really leaves The Independent with any question over who they'll back.

Is there any real possibility of the Indy not endorsing the Lib Dems?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:36 PM on April 30, 2010


That's right... they made it a crime to publish books geared towards kids who were being raised by homosexual parents.

That's a bit of an exaggeration. The section is here. Local authorities were the only bodies affected by it. No criminal sanctions were involved.

I mean, it's terrible legislation, but let's not misrepresent it.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 1:39 PM on April 30, 2010


knapah: Tories - 268 Labour - 269 Lib Dems - 84

That BBC seat calculator is based on the Uniform National Swing model, which seems a bit over-simplistic in its assumption that every single constituency will see the same shifts in voting patterns as the opinion polls suggest at a national level.

Over on 538, Nate Silver has come up with an alternative model which attempts to take account of the situation in each seat and the likelihood of voters switching between specific parties. No guarantees that this is accurate either, but it seems a bit more robust. At present, it's spitting out Con 299, Lab 199, LD 120. Horrible news for Labour, if it's true.
posted by him at 1:49 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one cares what the Times thinks any more? O tempora, O mores! Is that just because of Murdoch?

The Times is essentially a tabloid now; it just says when Murdoch tells it to.

Mostly.
posted by motty at 1:52 PM on April 30, 2010


Ah, I see now that East Manitoba etc. already linked to that above. Apologies.
posted by him at 1:52 PM on April 30, 2010


I think they have more of a talent for seeing which way the prevailing winds are blowing amongst their readers than actually deciding it.

Which is why the LibDem surge rattled them so deeply -- Murdoch sr had to be persuaded to back the Tories, and it looked like that was going to backfire quite badly. So they've been going all-out to win it for the Tories this time. Hell, Murdoch Jr and Rebekah Wade visited the offices of The Independent just to shout at its editor for a campaign that said voting for Cameron was voting for Murdoch.

However: I'm swinging around to thinking that they do have a big influence. My feeling from last night's debate was that Cameron *is* making a comeback, and watching the comments online and elsewhere you see a lot of them going "oh but Clegg's posh", which is the party line the pro-Tory papers have been pushing. (It's a really fucking bizarre line to take, too: the Tories are the poshest of the posh; that's the point of Tories. Perhaps Clegg's the wrong kind of posh).

On top of that they're running opinion polls and YouGov surveys which are laughably at odds with actual surveys done by unbiased pollsters and also by the evidence on the TV screen. They say that Cameron has huge leads, when it reality it's neck-and-neck at best. It shouldn't matter, but this is actually insidiously powerful, since a few polls have suggested that LibDem support could be as high as 49% if voters actually believed they could win. If papers can convince their readers that the LibDems actually have no hope, that will quickly become self-fulfilling.

So, yes, I think the papers have an influence on their readers. Not so much by their "Vote Tory" leaders or the like, just by their terrible journalism poisoning the discourse and weighting the result. People won't be told what to think, but when the information they base their decisions on is incomplete at best and actively misleading at worst, they don't have to be.

(Bigot-gate shows this in effect too: Her question was really just tabloid-party-line spouting. Excellent piece on that aspect here.)
posted by bonaldi at 2:02 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


No one cares what the Times thinks any more?

The Times has since come out for the tories, and I don't think anyone will have been surprised by that.
posted by gregjones at 2:04 PM on April 30, 2010


On top of that they're running opinion polls and YouGov surveys which are laughably at odds with actual surveys done by unbiased pollsters and also by the evidence on the TV screen.

And commissioning YouGov polls and then not running them when those polls don't give the result that they want.
posted by reynir at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2010


I don't think I've ever seen someone who so fit my mental image of "lickspittle" as Cameron. What's the soonest you can have another election, Brits?
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: What's the soonest you can have another election, Brits?

Well, if they don't sort out a workable coalition, potentially within the year. Hopefully under proportional representation.
posted by him at 2:23 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've ever seen someone who so fit my mental image of "lickspittle" as Cameron. What's the soonest you can have another election, Brits?

Almost immediately if desired by whoever the new PM is.
posted by knapah at 2:24 PM on April 30, 2010


For a while when I was dinking with the swingometer I kept running into the same problem over and over -- if the Lib Dems won a majority of the votes, they wouldn't win a majority of seats, Labour would. The BBC has changed that now so I can force a Lib Dem majority on just 40% of the vote going their way.

Another interesting thing was the current YouGov poll (34% Con, 28% Lab, 27% LD) returns from the swingometer a 270-270 split between the Tories and Labor, in which case the Lib Dems will be in their best position, ever.

Thing is, though, the Lib Dems will actually win seats. Had Ross Perot fielded Congressional candidates in 1992, Reform might have had a handful of seats in the House, despite having over 20% of the vote.
posted by dw at 2:51 PM on April 30, 2010



I guess I considered newspapers endorsing candidates was a recent thing but I guess I was wrong.

At first I thought, "screw that, media is supposed to at least attempt to be impartial and should strive for such non-allignment," but then I thought that, seeing as most already have their ideological spin to everything, maybe they should do more to show who's flag their waving. Perhaps more overt measures would help.

Like, maybe there should be a label on every newspaper similar to a surgeon general warning that lists what percentage of which party's candidates they've endorsed in the past on the front page (A rating that looks sorta like "C-124 L-24 I-1", or something).

TV stations and radio, too. More conservative stations have to put their broadcasts in red letterboxing and progressive stations blue, and we add white in accordance to their proximity to the moderate perspective (a sky blue for CNN, and Fox News's red will have to be downgraded because an R value of 255 in RGB bleeds like a mother in NTSC)*. When radio stations do station identification they have to add "...political index of 45 on the conservative slant."

Perhaps it is far more nefarious when they operate under the guise of impartiality. Maybe if this is labeled and acknowledged, media consumers won't be under the blissful ignorance that their favorite news station is presenting objective facts, and media producers will finally throw off the chains of feigning objectivity.

Maybe, only after it is acknowledged that no such objectivity exists, we'll finally be able to establish a more balanced evaluation of reported events.

[/head in the clouds]

*Orange for Al Jazeera just to fuck with them a bit.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:55 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Almost immediately if desired by whoever the new PM is."

I guess I really meant feasible or realistic, since the new PM will likely want to hold onto their position as long as possible. But hopefully, you'll get a coalition, Brown'll get shunted somehow so that Labour can have a better shot, and they'll return with a stronger slate and win.

As long as we're dreaming, some sort of Labour, LibDem and Green joint government and Cameron retires to jamming toffees up his nose.
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


With regards to the endorsement - this really isn't all that surprising, as the Guardian has had a noted left-wing slant for as long as I can remember, and Labour has been moving steadily to the right. (Note that this slant isn't necessarily a bad thing - the quality of journalism at the Guardian is high and it's always an interesting read, and it's nice to have a counterbalance to the heavily right-slanted Dailies Telegraph, Mail and Express.)

The outcome of the election is going to be really interesting. If, as seems likely, the Lib Dems come second in the popular vote but a distant third in seat numbers, they will have a massive piece of evidence in favour of electoral reform. That will leave the Conservatives having to choose between taking a massive hit in the long term by accepting reform and going into coalition now, or remaining in opposition (or minority government) and taking a short-term hit but keeping first-past-the-post.

There is the possibility of a Lab-Lib coalition, but the problem here is Gordon Brown. If Labour come third in the popular vote, his position as PM becomes pretty much untenable, but if he resigns then his replacement (whoever it turns out to be) won't be able to govern either, not least because Parliament probably isn't going to accept another PM who hasn't faced a General Election as the leader of his party.

That leaves us with, I think, two options. Either Clegg forces Labour to become the junior partner in a coalition and enters No. 10 himself (unlikely if he's come third in terms of seats), or he pulls out of all coalitions and lets the Conservatives struggle on alone for a few months, unable to pass anything, while Labour get themselves a new leader. Then he forces a vote of no confidence against the government to trigger a second election (hoping desperately that the change of leader brings about a bounce in Labour's poll numbers), and goes into coalition with Labour with their new leader as PM, promising to bring about electoral reform.

Either way, this is going to be the most fascinating election for decades. Really, really glad to be able to vote in it!
posted by ZsigE at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh? Does this have something to do with that horrible British Kraftwerk tribute band that was on C-SPAN yesterday?
posted by schmod at 6:17 PM on April 30, 2010


Paul Krugman has been talking about (2) how the Greece situation underscores how problematic it is for all those countries to use the same currency when economic problems aren't spread evenly. The fact that the UK has it's own currency today is really helping out.

Going on the Euro was the best possible thing for Greece. They have a hugely bloated public sector, and very simply are unwilling to live within their means. Removing their ability to print money means they have to deal with reality, and have to either make spending cuts or increase taxes, no matter how horrifically unpopular they may be. Over the short term, it feels like an emergency, but over the long term, they'll be in far better shape.

When you have that kind of fundamental structural problem, the longer you take to deal with it, the more painful it becomes. If they were able to print money, they would be able to simply ignore the problems until they were truly life-threatening, instead of merely very painful.

There's a big lesson in Greece for anyone who watches government finances.... it is truly astonishing to see the lengths to which societies and governments will go to avoid admitting they can't afford what they want to have.

Another good example is California... look at the ridiculous contortions that state has been going through, for damn near a decade now, to avoid admitting that they don't have enough money to provide all the services they want to provide. Imagine just how deep a hole they could dig, and how absolutely impossible it would be to fix anything in that state, if they could just print money to cover their spending needs.

In general, you can't fix economic problems with currency manipulation, you can only hide them and refuse to deal with them, leaving them to fester. This causes all kinds of weird long-term structural problems, like severe trade deficits, excessive debt burdens, and inflation. It causes a slow and steady erosion of living standards. When your economy is really growing, every year should be just a little bit better for everyone. What happens instead is slow and steady decline, where living standards drop and drop, especially for the poorest in society. But people seem to have a hell of a time figuring out what the problem is, why things are getting so expensive, and why there's never enough money to fix the roads.

Listening to the BBC talking about British finances was instructive... they talked about how they're probably going to have to shut down a good chunk of their fleet, because "it's so much more expensive to run those ships than it used to be." No, it costs roughly the same as it ever did, assuming that you've been maintaining them properly. The problem is that your currency isn't worth as much as it was, and your economy is getting distorted from that constant debt issuance from the government. It's reorienting itself to serve the people generating wealth tokens, instead of the people generating wealth.

And they wonder aloud, "if Britain still punches above its weight on the international stage", and of course it doesn't, because it's made itself weak through lack of fiscal discipline. Every year becomes more of a struggle just to keep your collective heads above water.... every year gets harder instead of easier. Every year you have less and less power to influence the world around you, because you consume more and more wealth at home, paying for the consumption of prior years. You're simply not living within your means, and your insistence on living in fantasy is hollowing you out and making you irrelevant.

Real wealth is energy, stuff, and knowledge... if you spend more energy and stuff than you take in for a long enough period of time, unless you've used it to make things to generate new energy, stuff, and knowledge, you'll reduce your standard of living. Printing money doesn't change that. It just obscures the real problem, makes it hard to diagnose or understand, and transfers the payment burden to the people least able to pay it. The wealthy can protect themselves, even profit from currency problems, but the poor just get screwed. They neither understand the problem, nor have the liquid assets to shelter themselves from the systemic wealth destruction.

tl;dr version: screwing with the currency benefits people who work with currency, and having currency to spend, they can trumpet to the four winds what a great idea this is. The people working with their hands, down digging out the coal or building your cars, get reamed. But it happens slowly enough that they don't understand that A led to B.
posted by Malor at 3:27 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


they talked about how they're probably going to have to shut down a good chunk of their fleet, because "it's so much more expensive to run those ships than it used to be." No, it costs roughly the same as it ever did, assuming that you've been maintaining them properly.

Don't follow this. Surely if, say, the cost of extracting (North Sea) oil went up hugely because of geological changes, then, cet. par., the cost of running the fleet would go up.
posted by bonaldi at 4:02 PM on May 1, 2010




Republican Conservative high-flyer Philippa Stroud founded a church that tried to 'cure' homosexuals by driving out their 'demons.
posted by adamvasco at 4:38 AM on May 2, 2010


Republican Conservative high-flyer Philippa Stroud founded a church that tried to 'cure' homosexuals by driving out their 'demons.

Showing their true colours once again.

Not sure how the party of Section 28 could ever be considered to be gay-friendly.
posted by knapah at 4:44 AM on May 2, 2010


cet. par.

Yes, the price of the Parisbus would go up too.
posted by Wolof at 6:46 AM on May 2, 2010


Labour supporters should vote Lib Dem in some marginals, signals senior minister Ed Balls.
posted by adamvasco at 9:12 AM on May 3, 2010




Simon Schama: The British could be on the brink of ushering in something that looks suspiciously like democratic rebirth…

Sigh.

Lib Dems:British Politics::Scotland:football
posted by dw at 5:00 PM on May 7, 2010


« Older Joshua Slocum   |   I'm a great believer in the force of will. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post