Saturday, 1 May 2010

Political Parrying

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few months, living only off accumulated slime and the occasional insect, you could hardly have not noticed the upcoming election. In the wake of an expenses scandal, a recession, and a new wave of military controversies, parliament has been dissolved and the leaders of the three main parties have decided to slog it out on a broadcasted TV show.
This is what has interested me most about this election. For one who cannot vote, a full blown manifesto (of at least a hundred pages each) from each party is a considerable read. I also read the Mirror, an unashamedly Labour newspaper, and so my view on things tends to skew to an anti-Conservative stance. The Leaders Debate allowed me to see the at least the leaders of the parties in the flesh, seeing how they react without a planned speech or an auto cue. It was there to help me make up my mind for the person I would vote for if I could (and considering that many of the plans affect my age group, why can’t I?)
First we have Gordon Brown, who I’ve always viewed as the ‘honest scot’. Whereas Clegg and Cameron are the typical, slick politicians, Brown is haggard, speaks with an old Scottish accent and has a disability. People (and posters) which pin the blame of the recession on him are unjustified; it was a worldwide recession. He did a very good job in helping us recover. But in the Leader’s Debates my trust in him has eroded slowly. For one, he and Cameron seem to engage in political mudslinging at every chance, and he seems ever more to be less the ‘honest scot’, and more a ‘bumbling old man’. It is perhaps too harsh on the man who managed to drag us out of a recession to base my decision on a field that he himself admits he is bad at; Public Relations.
Then we have Cameron, the slick, public relations maestro. They managed rough up his Eton voice so he was more relatable, even messed up his hair a little. And you’ve got to give to him; the man can talk. The first debate he seemed nervous and very much behind both Clegg and Brown. But he managed to pick it up, and by the final one on the BBC he gave a very convincing show. He also managed to keep his policies stable, and parry most insults thrown at him by Brown over the three debates. He even managed to turn Brown’s genuine concerns into a ‘scare mongering’ slur. The problem was that although his policies remained constant, they are not really to my liking. For one, he doesn’t want to reform our embarrassing political system. A 10% slash on the House of Lords is still less than Labour’s 50% slash. Mostly because Conservatives will always have ties with Hereditary peers, which constitute a large number of the House of Lords, but also because of the Conservatives opposition to a reform. The clue is in the party name, and Cameron is having to bend to the will of the public whilst still keeping his ‘old chums’ happy.
Nick Clegg reigned supreme in the first election, proving that the Liberal Democrats are not a minority party scrapping at the heels of Labour and Conservatives, but a genuine opponent. Perhaps it was underdog syndrome, but he simply crushed the other two first time round. He also managed to fend off a Tory inspired newspaper libel attack, and clarify in the second debate ‘that it is all lies’. His performance seemed to go downhill, and some of his policies magically changed part way through. That said, he seems to know a proper way to handle immigration (by using something that has been proven to work) and abolition of university fees; that speaks for itself considering that I am 16 years old and looking to such a future. His performance was still good regardless, even if his attention changed slightly from policies to political mudslinging, which made him harder to take seriously. That said, he undercut the other two very well.
So where does my non-existent vote go? The Conservatives have a new face, but behind it the party member remain Thatcherites and Etonians. George Osbourne is also impossible to see as a responsible chancellor, being beaten by Vince Cable during the Chancellors debate. The Chancellor is as much an important part of a party as the prime minister, and he undermines Cameron’s valiant attempts to reform the Tories.
The main problem with Labour is that for all they promise, they’ve had 13 years to do it. Admittedly Gordon Brown has only had leadership for two of them, but like the Conservatives, it’s as much about the party behind him as it is about the leader. They haven’t changed so much, so can we really trust them to change anything?
So that leaves the Liberal Democrats (unless you want to waste a vote on the Greens, or encourage race hate with the BNP or UKIP). Clegg is a solid leader, who can speak confidently and intelligently. His policies appeal to a teenager such as myself, and Vince Cable seems more than able to take the position of Chancellor. My only fear is their sketchy plans for Trident. Leading the way in nuclear disarmament is necessary, but it is important to leave enough for a useful nuclear deterrent. I would vote for Clegg, but I sure hope he knows what he is doing in regards to Trident.