Sunday, 25 April 2010

Cameron's two bad propositions

I don't need to write the piece I was planning about David Cameron's latest gimmick: a general election after six months if a prime minister is replaced while in office. Richard Baum has already written clearly why this further attempt to Americanise our system of government is wrong. I would only add that the Great British Public is not keen on too many elections, as turnout figures since 1997 show. Only when there is obviously a great change in the offing, as in this year, is there great enthusiasm for voting. Therefore, a ballot on a replacement prime minister is unlikely to give a firm endorsement.

His (and those of Osborne and, sadly, Ken Clarke) more potentially dangerous utterances concerned a "hung" parliament. For reasons I have already laid out, this outcome of the general election is almost certain. That logic applied even before the boost given to my party by the TV debates. Therefore, to say that the international economic community will inevitably downgrade the UK's standing if Westminster goes to "No Overall Control" is irresponsible. The Conservatives were quick to accuse the then Labour opposition of "talking the country down" in 1994 when the economic situation is not as fraught as it is now, so they should have more sense. Thankfully, the markets, which are usually quick to factor in political developments, are not unduly perturbed.

Besides, this implicit attack on the Liberal Democrats may have an unwished for effect, that of strengthening Labour. If voters took it seriously, they may opt for the certainty of what they know, which in the majority of seats would mean returning a Labour member, rather than change.

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