… of preventing the Conservatives winning the next election? Every time the Labour government half-convinces the electorate that the problem is with the ‘global economy’, it finds a way of putting its foot in its mouth, its finger in its eye, and its elbow in its ear-hole (it does have the appearance of a contortionist at present). But there is something hopelessly charmless about the opposition, which consists of self-conscious codgers like Ken Clarke, and grinners like George Osborne.
It wasn’t the global economy, of course, it was (assumes Thatcherite tone) living beyond our means. I used to whistle with incredulity at the sums of cash that credit card companies were perpetually offering me, and I was determined not to fall for it. (I did, as a matter of fact, get up to about seven of them at one point, so that I could get the free gifts they were using as inducements, before cutting them all up. In one case, I took advantage of a £4000, three-month loan, since that was exactly the sum I needed for those three months when changing homes, but it was back in their piggy-bank before they could charge me.)
Still, it is depressing to hear that it will be a decade or more before we are back where we started (even I will have ‘retired’ by then, if, as my mother would have added, I am spared). And I suspect that this depression, in every sense, is what it is driving people towards the Tories. Stop! Come back! But what else is on offer?
The trouble with politicians is that they are so hard to judge. And besides, the ones I like – with the exception of the Liberals’ Vincent Cable, who is universally applauded, admired, and would win a Presidential contest if we had one – appeal to me on partly irrational grounds, and are not what you might call popular with other people (many are cordially loathed). The ones I like are Margaret Beckett and Hazel Blears and Sarah Teather and Yvette Cooper. Beckett just strikes me as ruthlessly competent (I can’t think of any chaos she has ever caused, and she is practically prehistoric, in that she had a junior post in the Wilson government, let alone the Callaghan one). Hazel Blears is increasingly less prone to jargon, and also has a combative streak, which is something I also like about the Liberals’ Sarah Teather. Yvette Cooper… I don’t know… perhaps she just looks as if she is doing her level best. Perhaps it’s just that she’s polite.
There, that’s it. Five politicians I trust! Not a Conservative among them. They are cannily keeping quiet about what they would do, and Buggins’ turn (or is it Buggin’s turn?) will probably see them home and very, very dry. They won’t dare to change the 50% tax rate on those who earn more than £150,000. But why only 50%? Why is anyone earning that much? A trick was missed. Labour has got to stop looking as if it doesn’t want to upset Daily Mail readers, who have already decided against Labour, anyway.
People keep saying it’s like the 1970s. False analogy. It is much worse behind the scenes, but much calmer on the streets. The lights are still on every day. Rationing has not been introduced, although perhaps it should be.
I will vote Liberal again. I have no choice, where I live (I am a committed believer in proportional representation). About the one hope we have is that there will be a Liberal surge, caused by the outpouring of love for Vincent Cable, whose canonisation must be imminent. He gets my soul, I mean, vote.