Saturday, 12 January 2008

I thought Eton Rifles was by the Jam?

It seems David "call me Dave" Cameron has decided the best way to the hearts of us Northern folk is to say he likes the music. A swift endorsement of the Smiths and the economic and social evisceration of the country north of Watford will be forgotten. Now far be it from me to imply that this is a cynical move in the Conservative leader's ongoing attempts to prove that one is an ordinary chap. He may very well like the song. Morrissey is after all one of the few people with a comparable ego to a Tory MP, and many of them share the view that a rush and a push and the land that we stand on is ours. However if he wants to win (and not have the Manchester ringroad become the new Scottish border) Cameron knows he has to start getting seats in Northern cities. His old pal Boris hasn't exactly made that easy with his comments about Liverpool, and a single yellow swallow does not make a summer. So expect plenty more state visits, and never a mention of the dark times, of the ashes from which some have risen, and in which some still languish. Like 1997, the Tories seem to hope that if they ignore the past it will go away. I wonder if Dave remembers this track...

"Top ten idol, king of your age
Who do you turn to when you're backstage ?
Don't you remember you once knew a girl
You loved her more than the world..."

Friday, 4 January 2008

The bigger they are...

In American politics, money talks. If that's true then silence is golden. In the Iowa caucus yesterday Barack Obama triumphed over the Clintonian machine. Even more intruiging however, so did John Edwards, the man outspent 6:1 and the only major candidate to have signed up for federally limited funding. His powerful and moving speech in Iowa last night spoke of a man determined to break the cosy consensus between Washington and corporate America. Cynics will point out that we've heard it all before. Further, signing up for federal funding was a political masterstroke for a candidate who was never going to attract the big money, principles aside. All true, but as Iowans reject the woman who voted for the war and is the biggest recipient of health insurance company kickbacks, we perhaps see a taster of the two biggest issues of this election.

On the Republican side, the Southern Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, outspent 15:1 by the Romney team, smashed his opponent by a colossal 10 points. In deeply religious territory, where 60% of Republican caucus goers describe themselves as born-again christians, it seems Romney's Mormon heresy was a step too far. The socially libertarian Guilliani didn't even bother, pouring all his energy into Florida.

This is not the end, or even the begininning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning. Huckabee will struggle in those states where Republicans keep Ayn Rand rather than the Gospels on their bedside table, where Guilliani need only present his legacy as major of New York. Senator Clinton has lost that aura of inevitability, but her husband lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and still won the nomination. She remains ahead in the national polls. Obama has scored a massive victory that will doubtless boost his chances, but success also has its downsides. The guns of the GOP reserved for Hilary may now turn on him. And what of Edwards? He seems to have learnt the lesson of the fiery Howard Dean, whose passion got the better of him. If he can walk the line between the giants of Hilary and Obama, he might just slip through the middle, and ride his "tidal wave of change" all the way to the White House.

There is a certain irony, that the most progressive and revolutionary of the democratic front runners is a white man.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Red Dawn

Despite the Vichy-esque tendencies of certain Cabinet members past and present, the new year seems to have given Labour a clean break. The latest poll sees the Tory lead collapse to 5 points, and even the Lib-Dems managed to claw a point back. Of course this may have been mere confusion between David Clegg and Nick Cameron, but never look a gift horse in the mouth.

The fact remains though, the vast majority of people in this country have no clue what they actually want, or where their political allegiance lies. Never is this more apparent than in the polls which consistently show two facts, understandable on their own but truly bizarre in conjunction. That people want tougher controls on immigration, and that they want to emigrate. Apparently no-one sees a lack of coherence here. These are presumably the same people who complain about the demise of the high street and shop at Tesco, say the police deserve their pay rise and lambast them for incompetence, and claim they want a referendum on the EU treaty despite having never read it.

Which is why, come election time, the result will be anyone's guess. Because bloggers, pundits and the rest of us political junkies are the minority. We're like professional gamblers. We study form, pedigree, past success and training. And everyone else just picks their favourite colour or the one with the funny name.

To those of you who think I'm being needlessly cynical I say only this...

Boris Johnson has odds of 7/4 to end up Mayor of London