Will the poodle lose his kennel?
September 26, 2004 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Blair on the slide. Charles Kennedy's dreams may come true next spring, it seems [UKfilter].
posted by dash_slot- (38 comments total)
As an outsider, I think this is fantastic. Hopefully they slip far enough that Blair (and any other future leaders of his party) stop themselves from committing such egregious errors in the future. I'd hate to see them slip far enough that a conservative party would wrest control of the government away, but much like this year's Canadian election, it would be nice to see a reality check for the somewhat progressive party in power.
posted by The God Complex at 12:58 AM on September 26, 2004

Looks more like a minor case of mid-term blues.

A government can be 10 to 20 points behind mid-term, and still expect to come back and win. According to these polls, Blair's mid-term blues have him only 1 to 5 percent behind. Pretty favourable.

For non-UKians, the state of the parties is that Charles Kennedy's Lib Dems have 55 seats, the opposition Conservatives have 163, Blair's ruling Labour party has 406.

Not sure what Kennedy's dream is. If it's winning outright, it's incredibly unlikely. If it's doing better in the election, it's likely to help Blair by splitting the protest vote. Analogous headline for the US : "Bush on the slide: Ralph Nader's dreams may come true next Fall."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:54 AM on September 26, 2004

Well, the Lib Dems aren't really rank outsiders like Nader. They tend to do well in local government, and like you say, they do have quite a few parliamentary seats. What's Nader ever won?

I have to say, just about everyone I know who describes themselves as left-wing is either planning to vote for the Lib Dems, or not vote at all (but then I am a student -- apparently students are way more likely to vote Lib Dem). Few people are in much of a mood to vote Labour, anyway, except perhaps out of fear of the Tories.

Of course, if Blair stepped down and let Gordon Brown take charge...
posted by reklaw at 2:11 AM on September 26, 2004

The Liberal Democrats repeatedly advise that they don't assume they will be forming the next government. In fact I think C.K. has previously even used the phrase 'baby steps'. At most they probably expect a hung parliament or if the wind is in the right direction, second party status. 400 or so Labour seats is a huge mountain to climb. People are inherently silly. They'll bitch and moan about a party like Labour, how awful they are and how they wouldn't dream of voting for them, but the minute they get in the booth, the fear of the unknown kicks in and they put an 'x' in that box.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:49 AM on September 26, 2004

1. Mid-term polls much like mid-term elections always crucify the party in power.

2. The next election will see Labour clinch a third term. It would be amazing if Labour's majority wasn't massively diminished this time around.

3. We like the idea of Liberal Democrats doing well because may of us would like to see a truly left-leaning government. But what's this? At the party conference they announced community's taking a role in serving out justice to local small-time criminals, including the looming menace of - ooooooh - graffiti writers. At last a policy that doesn't make me yawn, but for heaven's sake, this is the sort of thing the tories come up with every time there's a headline with crime in it, just to pinch a few votes. The Lib Dems have a long long way to go.

Crime is down under labour, unemployment is at an all time low. Education and health are receiving unprecedented levels of investment. So we don't trust him since the Iraq War? The difference is we don't trust him to not tell us lies, but we do trust him with running the country. The tories and libdems are nowhere.

None of this is news.
posted by nthdegx at 4:00 AM on September 26, 2004

The way the Liberal Democrats have failed to capitalise on their position is terrible. They'll be getting my vote, but it won't be enough.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:01 AM on September 26, 2004

Well, you know this is not exactly mid terms: UK parliaments can last 5 years, but even the most common 4 year Parliament gives a midterm span ending a year off the expected election. If Blair goes to the polls in May 2005, as most think he will, that's only about 9 months away. Were I PM, I'd like more of a poll lead than 2-3 points at this stage of the electoral cycle, let alone - as some poll says - actually behind.

Crime is down under labour, unemployment is at an all time low. Education and health are receiving unprecedented levels of investment.
- and their showing is still this bad??!? Well, it may be on trust that Blair gets hammered, but to be in so rosy a spot whilst plunging in popularity is remarkable: Mossis Thatcher and John Major, in 1989 & 1992 respectively, would have offered up their first-born for such a pole position [well, alright, not their first-born: yours, for sure, tho']

There's great hopes of more chaos and embarrassment this week at the Labour Party Conference, with fox-hunters, peaceniks and pensioners all up in arms. It's gonna be like a siege mentality, and most enjoyable for me to watch. Not to mention more from Tony & Gordon, doing their 'My Wife Next Door' sitcom -
TB: "Gordon's a major part of the team!"
GB: "I do my job, he does his..."

I should declare that although my sympathies lie with the LibDems, I don't think even Good Time Charlie has delusions of forming gov'ts: he'd be happy with an increase in seats to the 70-80 mark, but my prediction is even higher than that. They may not form the 2nd largest party, they may not even support a coalition - but their showing will, I reckon, make a few more people sit up & take notice.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:22 AM on September 26, 2004

Indeed, and I wrote Mr. Kennedy a frustrated letter telling him the so.
posted by nthdegx at 4:23 AM on September 26, 2004

Indeed, and I wrote Mr. Kennedy a frustrated letter telling him the so.

That was in response to PG...

dash_slot, sorry, I used the term mid-term loosely - I simply meant between elections. Such polls are notoriously wildly inaccurate. Everyone wants to register their disconent with the government because we want the to do better. It's in the national psyche.

and their showing is still this bad??!?

They could have put a man on mars... think of these stories as the nation going "tsk". Everyone will still vote Labour on the day.
posted by nthdegx at 4:29 AM on September 26, 2004

The biggest problem in British politics at the moment is that the Labour party is not kept in check. Blair's biggest oppostion is within his own party but even when they vote with the Tories and Lib Dems they still struggle to defeat him.

This next election is not about defeating Labour (because that simply isn't going to happen) but about creating an effective opposition. I'll be voting Lib Dem because they better reflect my views than the Blair leadership does or the Tories. If they increase their number of seats they can be much more influential on policy and I would welcome that. We could easily see a three way split between the parties.

It's worth noting that many of the things that people are giving credit to Labour for in those polls are largely the work of Gordon Brown. I think it may be too late for Brown to take up the reigns now but I wonder if the electorate is making the connection and would prefer to see him as leader.
posted by dodgygeezer at 4:34 AM on September 26, 2004

And another thing...

Anyone noticed how few friends Blair has in his own party? That can be the only explanation for seeing the same faces again and again. Estelle Morris goes and then she comes back, Milburn goes and then he comes back, Mandelson goes and then he comes back and then he goes and then he comes back. There's even a rumour that Alistair Campbell is looking to stand as an MP in the next election. Yuk!
posted by dodgygeezer at 4:39 AM on September 26, 2004

Blair interviewed by David Frost this morning - even this meek interviewer can score hit after hit as a clearly rattled Blair tries to bluster his way through the interview. Interesting viewing, and more than slightly disturbing.
posted by quarsan at 5:01 AM on September 26, 2004

Thanks for that, quarsan. I missed that this morning. Blair on Kerry:

"People say all sorts of things during an election campaign".
posted by nthdegx at 5:33 AM on September 26, 2004

I think Blair's appearance and performance on the Frost programme was interesting in relation to the discussion above, as it is an obviously mid-term interview. The polls and Blair's popularity are going to be strongly affected by what happens in Iraq in the next 6 months. Unlike Bush, Blair has the flexibility to call the next election after the proposed Iraqi elections in January (or later if necessary). Anything that looks like democracy in Iraq early next year could boost the Labour majority well back above 100.
posted by daveg at 5:37 AM on September 26, 2004

"I haven't actually studied in detail what Kofi said"
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:52 AM on September 26, 2004

interview transcript
posted by quarsan at 5:52 AM on September 26, 2004

posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:54 AM on September 26, 2004

apologies, but this is in the interview, but not in the video file i posted, and i think it's a tiny snapshot of life on Planet Blair:

DAVID FROST: By the way, why didn't you vote on that hunting thing this week? Apparently your team were very upset that you didn't vote on hunting this week.

TONY BLAIR: I mean, for reasons I've just pointed out. I mean there was a compromise proposal last year and that was the one I backed.

DAVID FROST: So you would have backed the compromise. But you don't back the version that's going ahead now?

TONY BLAIR: I mean, I am trying to make sure that we can resolve the issue. That's what I am trying to do.

DAVID FROST: So you would comprise.

TONY BLAIR: No I've always said if you can't get a compromise. No if you can't find a compromise I mean I've always spoken in favour of a ban so there it is. So we'll just have to see what happens.
posted by quarsan at 5:57 AM on September 26, 2004

I thought the way he spoke of 'Kofi' - as in "my mate, Kofi", was weird. Do you ever hear him talk of 'George', or 'Gerhard', or 'Jacques'? Mind you, he does try to pretend those pesky dissenting euroblighters don't exist, but still... kind of indicative of contempt, I thought.

{btw, quarsan - you're email is bouncing. I was inviting you to look in over here... and all you other guys have invites in your inboxes too.}
posted by dash_slot- at 6:17 AM on September 26, 2004

quarsan - what a car crash - I love it.

I thought the way he spoke of 'Kofi' - as in "my mate, Kofi"

dash_slot - I'm interested that you say that, because I interpreted "I haven't actually studied in detail what Kofi said" as something of an insult. Are you saying that referring to him on first name terms is dissrespectful and a way of diminishing Kofi Annan's importance in the eyes of the British public? If so, I absolutely agree.
posted by nthdegx at 6:33 AM on September 26, 2004

Yeah, that's exactly it. I think he's turning into even more of a mini-Bush, with all the arrogance and egoism, but with the [probably painful, for him] added ingredient of self-conscious intelligence: he knows he's a prick, whereas it's conceivable that Bush is not aware that he is.

I never actually liked the man [and am glad I never got suckered in 1997], but now I'm really beginning to strongly dislike him. He's a liar and a patriarchal berk.

Let's get rid of him.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2004

it's the bit before Kofi that is interesting:
DAVID FROST: One brief PS to that, what did you think when you read that Kofi Annan had confirmed that your actions and the actions of the United States were contrary to the UN Charter and illegal?

TONY BLAIR: Well of course we don't accept that their actions were illegal for the reasons that we gave at the time.

surely he should have said:
Well of course we don't accept that our actions were illegal for the reasons that we gave at the time.
posted by quarsan at 6:47 AM on September 26, 2004

The problem that the Lib Dems have is that they aren't really a unified party in policy terms. The fox hunting issue is a good example - almost universally rural LDs voted against it, whilst urban LDs voted for it. LDs are in many respsects an opportunistic party (no bad thing) and use their federal structure to say very different things in different parts of the country - to be right wing in Tory areas and left in Labour

This works very well so long as they don't get too much national scrutiny and press coverage, which at the moment they don't, in comparison to the 2 other major parties. However, if they achieve their stated goal and become the party of opposition this would very rapidly be exposed.

However, I don't think this is either very likely or their real goal. If I were CK at the moment I'd be hoping to be in a position whereby Labour didn't win an overall majority and were forced into coalition with the LDs as happens in many local councils across the country. Then the LDs could entrench their position with things like local propotional representaion etc. However even this looks unlikely at the moment.
[Disclaimer - I am a filthy Tory in matters political]
posted by prentiz at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2004

I'll overlook your shameful confeession - in small print, I note - to say that that's an interesting way of seeing things. It's like they are coming in under the radar... which sounds exciting.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:53 AM on September 26, 2004

Couldn't Brown stage an internal coup or something? Wouldn't you guys be happier voting Labor but not for Blair?
posted by amberglow at 8:35 AM on September 26, 2004

Yeah - but I can't vote for either Labour or Tory. They both revolt me [Tories most, but anyway]. Green or LibDem for me!
posted by dash_slot- at 9:42 AM on September 26, 2004

well, i have always voted, and i've always voted Labour.

but not this time. apart from Blair's Neo-Thatcherite policies, the colossal mistake and allied deception of the iraq war, mean i just can't. it's not just Blair, it's Straw, Blunkett and most of the cabinet.

i'm going lib-dem, but not with any real conviction.
posted by quarsan at 9:47 AM on September 26, 2004

well, theres a lot to say for them: principled oppostion to the war from the beginning, constitutional reform [so we never ge a thatcher again?], redistrubution thru taxes...

pro- europe and pro-minorities.

What's not to like?
posted by dash_slot- at 10:04 AM on September 26, 2004

Well, I will probably vote Plaid as I am back home, unless Teflon stands aside for Brown (follwed by Blunkett, Straw and Milburn being taken out back and shot).

I caught the interview on News 24 and there was almost a wonderful Freudian slip which doesn't come across in the transcript

TONY BLAIR: Well that is not Alan's job. Alan's job is to co-ordinate policy against [pause] around government

The "against" was a milisecond away from being followed by "Brown"
posted by fullerine at 10:24 AM on September 26, 2004

if only....
posted by quarsan at 10:35 AM on September 26, 2004

After weaselling out of their early-mid 1990s committment to proportional representation (following their first resounding electoral victory), Labour deserves to be booted out due to a relatively small percentage swing in support. Britain is one of the few countries that, like the US, uses easily manipulated single-seat tiny constituencies with first-past-the-post voting. Of course, the UK uses this system only for the national elections - each of the devolved regional governments uses some form of representational voting. But anyway, you have a swing of 5-10% and it's enough to give a huge majority to the leading party... or to take it away again. Every ruling party in the UK has made a deal with the devil, accepting this precarious, unrepresentative polling to boost their majorities while hoping to avoid slipping into the ignoble and fatally under-represented third-place come general election time.
posted by meehawl at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2004

Hahahahaha! Really - do you think so, fullerine? Wow, what a dysfunctional family. Sheesh.

You know, I may have voted Labour if Smith hadn't died on us, he had real principles [I know thats a cliche, but...]
posted by dash_slot- at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2004

And of course one weird thing about the UK's Prime Minister is that their executive position as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury is gained through appointment, not popular election. For USians, it's as if the majority leader of the Congress was running the country in place of the President, and the party could de-select the majority leader and appoint another in their place without congressional elections.

A ruling party can decide to jettison a Prime Minister judged a liability before (or after) a general election. This is why changes in Prime Minister sometimes seem to come from out of the blue to people not in the UK and familiar with the goings on. I still meet USians who confess to being baffled exactly why Thatcher was fired by the Tories despite not losing an election. Blair doesn't have to lose the next election to get the boot, enough people in his party just have to think that they might stand a better chance with someone else...
posted by meehawl at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2004

Oh dear, let's hope the Lib Dems don't get in. They were looking pretty liberal a few years ago, but now they're going all lefty on us with 50% taxes, removing university fees, and what not. They have one good idea though, replacing council tax with a local income tax.. but one policy does not a party make.

I fear a Lib Dem win would turn the UK from a superpower into a European outpost with their plans to scale back the Army, scale down nuclear weapons plans, and so forth. Sure, there's nothing wrong with this in and of itself.. but if we want to keep this tiny island in the top 5 richest countries in the world, we need our influence to be felt worldwide.

I think Blair and Labour have done an amazing job since 1997, and I'm certainly feeling the benefits of what they've done. They're not left or right wing, they seem to take the best ideas from both sides to form a well balanced government. Frankly, I couldn't care about the whole Iraq thing.. but sadly that seems to be the main issue in what people think about an otherwise amazing PM.
posted by wackybrit at 1:04 PM on September 26, 2004

wackybrit: there was an interesting guardian article a while back suggesting that Europe and Iraq aren't considered very important topics by the voters, in spite of the attention the media and politics junkies give.

OT UK: I get the impression that Metafilter is more US-dominated than most English-language discussion sites, maybe because of the long period when you could only get sign-ups at a certain time of day, most convenient to US residents...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:35 PM on September 26, 2004

Apart from his usual meanderings, one of the most disturbing snippets of glob was his passing comment that he doesn't read newspapers or doesn't get 'bad' articles referred on to him.
Surely the clearest signs yet of galloping megalomania.

(posted by your token Conservative mefi representative)
posted by apocalypse miaow at 4:20 PM on September 26, 2004

Yay! A token conservative who's gonna be a viewropan! Check your email, apocalypse miaow! And don't worry - from this thread, I'd say the bastage was reviled by Ukers from all parts of the political perspective.

Any europeans* reading this thread who hasn't noticed the gestation of a new *filter, check out these links and consider yourself invited:
Any UK/EU mefites interested in starting a community weblog?

The resultant Wiki

If you use IRC, we're having a chat over here on Wednesday at 9.30 GMT. Please come along if you are interested.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:14 PM on September 26, 2004

Thanks dash. Email received. I'm a sort of Conservative/Anarchist hybrid. It's very confusing...
posted by apocalypse miaow at 5:31 PM on September 26, 2004

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