Posts Tagged ‘UK politics’

15241400_10154227620278869_1594286058828515718_nUnder the pressure from the relentless pro-Brexit propagandists (which we view with some concern given the American Presidential election experience where literally hundreds of pro-Trump websites were set up by the Russians, and when countless anti-Clinton memes were generated from “invisible” overseas sites that might very well be funded by Putin as well, or by his big money backers in the extreme right in America, both of whom would love to weaken the EC) we have been giving some thought to the concept of a mandate in politics.

And it is simply this.

If a mandate is gained through what can clearly be shown to be a deliberate and oft-repeated lie – in other words, a deliberate con – is it actually a mandate at all? In a world where we blindly talk about “post truth” politics, is the concept of a mandate obsolete as well?

In deciding such a question, it is surely instructive to look at some of the other “estates” of the modern democratic society, and see how they deal with lying.

In the courts, for example, being caught lying brings with it swingeing penalties, even jail time.

In the media, uncovered lying can result in civil damages, or worse.

Yet suddenly we seem not only prepared to countenance a world where politicians are held to (much lower) standards, but where when their calumnies are discovered, no one seems to really care.

“Ah well, all politicians lie!” is the stock response, as in “You can’t trust any of them, so give it up.” As if this is somehow an adequate substitute for holding them to account and demanding they treat us with the minimal respect due to anyone whose support they are demanding, that is, to tell us the truth.

We are not naive. We know that all politicians have lied from time to time. But that is a world of difference from a situation where any attempt top tell the truth is overwhelmed by deliberate falsehoods, often promulgated through social media, which become part of the zeitgeist before any official denial or rebuttal can be issued.

brexit-busThe most egregious example of this in the UK during the Brexit campaign was the so-called Brexit bus, promising to return to the UK the funds that it devotes to the EU budget.

Only two things were wrong with this very prominent promise, which was repeated in tens of thousands (at least) of targeted leaflets issued in official-looking jargonese immediately prior to the Leave-Remain poll.

One, it was a barefaced lie. It virtually doubled the amount the UK donates to the European project.

Two, it was a barefaced lie. As conceded by arch-Brexit campaigner the very day after the Brexit vote, such a compact (to devote the money to the NHS instead) was unworkable, a fact confirmed by others like fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson, and later the incoming Prime Minister, Mrs May.

If there is one sentence that explains the referendum result, though, it’s this one from the website of the Advertising Standards Agency. “For reasons of freedom of speech, we do not have remit over non-broadcast ads where the purpose of the ad is to persuade voters in a local, national or international electoral referendum.” In other words, political advertising is exempt from the regulation that would otherwise bar false claims and outrageous promises. You can’t claim that a herbal diet drink will make customers thinner, but you can claim that £350m a week will go to the NHS instead of the European Union.

The money was “an extrapolation . . . never total”, said Iain Duncan Smith on the BBC. It was merely part of a “series of possibilities of what you could do”.

Does that picture look like “a series of possibilities” or a simple, cast-iron commitment, to you?

brexitMore (slightly more nuanced) rubbish has been pouring out of the Brexit camp which has been trying to tell people that they can keep access to a single market without agreeing to the EU’s freedom of movement. That there is not the slightest possibility of such a deal being agreed to by Junkers, Merkel, Hollande and all the rest is clear and has been stated repeatedly by the Europeans – the impossibility of such an outcome is perfetly obvious to Blind Freddie. Yet the Brexiteers continue to repeat it, albeit increasingly desperately.

And what about the Turkey lie? The fact that staying in the EU means Britain will be flooded with Turkish migrants when that country accedes to the EU. Apart from the again certain fact that accession to the EU by Turkey looks increasingly like a pipe dream, and a decade or more off at the very earliest, on leaving the EU, we, of course, have no vote as to whether Turkey becomes part of it.

The very next day after the Brexit vote, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan told Newsnight that “taking back control” of immigration didn’t necessarily mean cutting it. That would come as something of a shock to millions who voted for Brexit egged on by spurious talk of “taking back control” of Britain’s borders, clear code for “cut immigration”. He also advocated joining the single market: meaning that if Turkey does join the EU, Britain will be obliged to accept freedom of movement for its citizens anyway.

When Britain leaves the EU, it will also lose automatic access to the scheme by which failed asylum-seekers are returned to the country in which they first claimed sanctuary.

All this monument of untruths is not lying on the scale of a few convenient fibs or quibbles over minor details, of being “economical with the truth”. There is a reason that calling someone a “liar” in the House of Commons is forbidden. It is that Members of the House are considered to have reached the pinnacle of social advancement, to be honourable people, dedicated to “doing the right thing”, on a par with judges, bishops, captains of industry, and others. To accept a British Parliament that is “post truth” is to throw away any semblance of what Britain and its parliament represent.

Brexiteers argue that the incredibly narrow advisory referendum win for Leave mandates the British Parliament to support “the will of the people”, and implement withdrawal from the EU post-haste. But leaving aside that this assertion is based on the highly morally dubious conduct of the Leave campaign – reason enough on its own to ignore it in our opinion – this argument fails to understand the British constitution in any way or shape at all. It is another entirely despicable lie that is intended to stick through being continually repeated.

Firstly, let us be crystal clear, the referendum was never, and never could be, legally binding on Parliament. In the British constitution, Parliament is sovereign. It is entirely up to a vote in Parliament as to whether any negotiation on Brexit should be agreed to. There is no way round this very obvious fact, recently confirmed by the High Court in a damningly unanimous decision.

“Ah!” cry the Brexiteers, “but Parliament is morally obliged to follow the will of the people! You are anti-democratic!”

Not so. If we are to debate on the basis of morality, let us consider (a) the vote was never legally binding – this is not an opinion, it is undisputed fact and presenting it as otherwise is another lie (b) the victory was secured by lying on a scale never seen before, (c) the outcome was very close, and in a previous speech Nigel Farage has argued that a 52-48 vote in favour of staying in the EU should trigger a second referendum – but not, perhaps, when the vote goes his way? –  (d) in other democratic exercises such as elections there will be OTHER elections coming along down the line when a decision can be reversed, if desired – but that opportunity does not exist in this situation, hence the vital need for both Houses of Parliament to consider their next step with great care. As what looks like a “once and for all decision”, Parliament is morally obliged to consider the timing and terms of any Brexit extremely carefully. Quite apart from the also oft-measured and very obvious – if inconvenient – fact that the mood in Britain has now swung badly against the Leave camp.

Let us now, though, consider the single biggest argument in favour of Parliament retaining a perfect right to vote against the terms of Brexit, or of Brexit itself, if it so wishes.

One might have to be a member of the derided “intellectual liberal elite” to understand this incredibly simple point, but Parliament is sovereign, and in Britain at least, the Westminster system is that of a Representative democracy, not a Delegated one.

The difference being that our system allows – nay, demands – that our MPs vote according to their best deliberations, and not merely at the whim of how they perceive the electorate’s bidding, however that bidding is delivered to them.

For centuries, our MPs have been held to a higher standard.

As Edmund Burke put it back on the 1700s, in the “trustee model” of democracy, Burke argued that his behaviour in Parliament should be informed by his knowledge and experience, allowing him to serve the public interest above all. Of an MP he said that in giving “his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living … Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion“.

Essentially, in the British model of democracy, a trustee considers an issue and, after hearing all sides of the debate, exercises their own judgment in making decisions about what should be done. He added, “You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament“. (Burke, 1774). Burke made these statements immediately after being elected in Bristol, and after his colleague had spoken in favour of coercive instructions being given to representatives.

J.S. Mill also championed this model. He stated that while all individuals have a right to be represented, not all political opinions are of equal value.

This is why, for example, Britain has no death penalty, despite it frequently receiving 80% or more support amongst the population.  It is why homosexuality was de-criminalised long before the public would have voted for it, ditto the legalisation of abortion. In short, MPs think they know better. And sometimes, frankly, they do. Pointing this out enrages members of the public who cynically choose to denigrate all politicians. Nevertheless, it is true. This principle lies at the very heart of British democracy. If we discard it, we discard the entire box and dice.

It’s this simple: despite what rabble rousers and Brexit-bots sound off endlessly about, the referendum result does not have equal value to the will of Parliament. That is why MPs, of any party, are not obliged to slavishly follow the referendum result, and are, in fact, quite to contrary, obliged to consider the matter on its merit.

Opposing a blind Brexit with closer consideration is not, in any sense, anti-democratic. In fact, it is the epitome of British democracy.

sarah-olney-for-rp-600-300x157

In what will be rightly reported as a massive rejection of Brexit by the voters, we predict that Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney will deliver the Lib Dems’ first by-election win in 10 years, beating a famously anti-European candidate, and not in recount territory either.

This will quite rightly be seen as the latest green shoots in a Lib Dem revival, a disastrous result for Labour (who should never have run a candidate here but did so out of sheer mulish stubbornness), a disastrous result for UKIP who very volubly backed the dilletante right winger Zac Goldsmith, and will support many Parliamentarians’ calls for a second referendum to be held on the terms of any “Brexit” before it is approved.

48We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the pound firm overnight. And we look forward breathlessly to all the excuses from Farage, Johnson, May, Rees-Mogg and the rest of the Brexit rabble, who, of course, will blithly deny it has anything to do with Brexit at all.

We estimate a Lib Dem majority of between two and four thousand, a massive swing in itself.

If Brexit never happens, its demise will be tracked back to this day.

 

RESULT:

Sarah Olney (LD) 20,510 (49.68%, +30.41%)

Zac Goldsmith (Independent former Tory) 18,638 (45.15%)

Christian Wolmar (Lab) 1,515 (3.67%, -8.68%)

Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 184 (0.45%)

Fiona Syms (Ind) 173 (0.42%)

Dominic Stockford (CPA) 164 (0.40%)

Maharaja Jammu and Kashmir (Love) 67 (0.16%)

David Powell (ND) 32 (0.08%)

LD maj 1,872 (4.53%)

Electorate 77,243; Turnout 41,283 (53.45%, -23.01%)

Well we got one right, fractionally under-estimating the Lib Dem majority with overturned a previous Conservative Party 20,000 majority for Goldsmith, breaking our string of ducks recently.

Sarah Olney’s victory speech was gracious and historic. After the shock Conservative victory in 2015 and collapse of the Lib Dems, the lie-riddled farce of the Brexit advisory referendum, the weak-kneed response by the Conservative Party, and the ludicrous election of Donald Trump, it makes cheering reading. And as for all those who have gleefully predicted the demise of the “liberal elite”, this is what a fightback looks like … We know you’ll just rush to your keyboards to agree.

Here is an extract.

A year and a half ago I was not involved in politics, I was not a member of a political party, I had never been involved in a political campaign, I had never thought about being a politician. But I knew I was a liberal. I believed in openness, tolerance, compassion, working with our neigbours around the world.

When I saw what happened at the general election last year I felt I had ot get involved.

I think a lot of people in this community had the same feeling after the referendum. Richmond Park is full of people like me who felt something was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division were on the rise, that the liberal tolerant values we took for granted were under threat. We perceived the Ukip vision of Britain in the ascendancy, intolerant, backward-looking, divisive, just as we see it in America and across Europe.

Well, today we have said no. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain we believe in. The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government and our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit, we do not want to be pulled out of the single market and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.

 

… boldly and fearlessly predicted, as we always do, well in advance.

This was the election result last time in Oldham West and Royton, a seat in England’s north which has a crucial by-election today.

General Election 2015 results

Electorate: 72,341
Turnout: 59.63%
Result: Lab hold
Swing: 4.03% swing Lab to UKIP
Party 2010 2015 Change
Lab 45.45% 54.78% 9.33%
UK Independence Party (Ukip) 20.61%
Cons 23.66% 18.98% -4.68%
Lib Dem 19.09% 3.68% -15.41%
Green 1.94%

 

This is absolutely rock solid Labour Party territory. Oldham West has voted Labour at every general election since 1950 (though the Tories did win a 1968 by-election).

The MP for much of that time was the veteran (and well-respected) left winger Michael Meacher, who with 45 years of interrupted service would have been in line to become Father of the House, had not Gerald Kaufman been sworn in first in 1970 because he was late for a party.

For the Labour Party to lose Meacher’s seat, or even to nearly lose it, would be an almost unparalleled political earthquake, regardless of the efforts of the Party’s leadership and local activists to “talk down” their likely result in advance, as they have been doing with ever-more-frantic determination as the by-election has gone on.

Whatever the precise nature of the result, we predict the following outcomes:

The result will be bad enough that the Parliamentary Labour Party will turn on their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, thus putting themselves further at odds with their own membership. Despite his recent elevation to the top job Corbyn is probably already fatally wounded by his obvious inability to translate his popularity with the party’s members (and key unions) into any rise in his personal popularity in the country as a whole. Indeed, it’s worse than that. His approval levels have gone backwards. He already looks like a dead man walking.

Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn

But the Labour Party has used up most of its eligible more centrist leadership contenders who all got thoroughly thrashed by Corbyn. So if anyone is to replace him, we are guessing they will need to come from the left of the party, or at least from an impeccable left heritage. That might be, for example, Hilary Benn, son of the redoubtable now-deceased Labour legend Tony Benn, although Benn the Younger now finds himself in an interesting position. His speech in favour of British military action in Syria has been widely praised, and it brands him “a realist” as well as a left winger, thus making him more acceptable to the Parliamentary party as a whole. However his support for bombing will also make him instantly toxic with many of the party’s rank and file. How he squares that circle will determine his future success.

Whoever steps up to the plate, Labour are undoubtedly in an unholy mess.

UKIP are going to do very, very well. Anti-immigration, anti-EU sentiment still runs very high – including with white, working class voters that could normally be relied upon to back Labour, all things being equal – and recent events in Paris have done nothing to reassure people. UKIP may well win the seat or come within a few hundred votes of doing so.

Everything will depend on turnout. If the Labour vote turns out – and especially if its immigrant (mainly Bangladeshi) supporters turn out – then UKIP will not win. But they will do very well nevertheless. If the turnout falls into the low 40%s or even lower then look out.

What’s more, the momentum is with UKIP. A recent online poll on a story on the by election had two-thirds of people thinking they would win the seat. Now such polls are not scientific in any sense, of course, but they are nevertheless often indicative. And the indication is that Labour are on the nose.

The position of the Lib Dems is interesting, too, for those who hold an affection for the minority party that took such a shallacking at the last election after their Coalition with the Conservatives saw their support tumble.

They have thrown a lot of effort into the campaign, and need to see an up-tick in their fortunes to indicate that they are not a completely busted flush as far as British parliamentary politics is concerned. In the relatively recent past this would have been a seat that the Lib Dems would have eyed with some relish – indeed, they viewed any by-election opportunity with relish – but their recent by-election performances have been largely forgettable, and their vote collapse at the last general election in this seat was near-terminal.

In the new, cold, harsh world that faces them, Lib Dem activists would be mildly comforted by a result that saw them hold their deposit (anything above 5%) and have been bullishly talking about maybe hitting a 10% mark. That 10% would cause near rejoicing to break out amongst the Lib Dem members, with their bright new leader and plenty of new members, is a perfect weathervane as to how truly disastrous their plight has actually become.

Natural supporters of the Liberal Democrats – and especially their activists – are deeply divided over their party’s general support for the action in Syria. The dispute between their remaining parliamentary rump and their core supporters could hardly have come at a worse moment for both party worker morale or the morale of those left-wing, tertiary-educated voters who have clung to their unique strand of liberalism in the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives are also running a candidate, and are doing well in national polls. They fell behind UKIP last time, and right wing voters may well defect to UKIP this time perceiving them having a better chance of unseating Labour. But our guess is actually that something more subtle will happen.

The parliament’s debate on bombing Syria has polarised opinion in the country in a variety of ways. The Conservatives have largely looked strong on foreign affairs, and that never hurts a sitting right wing government. Their polling actually has them up a couple of percentage points in recent weeks. Ironically, this may persuade some of their natural supporters to stay true to them, which will, in turn, hurt UKIP’s chances.

Public opinion has been moving against intervention in Syria, for sure, but there’s not a sign of it helping Jeremy Corbyn with the wider public, or of it hurting Conservative support. As we have said, while Cameron’s Tories see their support steady or rising, Corbyn’s own ratings are down – 24% of people now think he is doing well as leader, down from 30% last week; 65% think he is doing badly.

In general terms, YouGov suggests that current voting intention figures are CON 41%, LAB 30%, LIB DEM 6%, and UKIP 16%.

It will escape no psephologists attention that the broadacre Lib Dem vote at the last General Election was 7.9% so they have actually gone backwards since May, but then again their Oldham vote was even lower. Nor will it escape anyone’s attention that UKIP on 16% are higher than they were at the last GE on 12.7%.

What does it all mean? Well, our predictions for the election are as follows:

Labour will do badly, but largely through abstentions from a disinterested electorate who are unimpressed with Corbyn. They will hold the seat – just. It also won’t help – yes, we’re serious – that it’s going to rain. Look for a Labour winning margin of 2-3%.

UKIP will take votes from the Lib Dems and the Greens, and from some disaffected Labour voters, and from some canny tactical-voting Tories, but will fall short. We might be wrong – they might do even better than we predict, but we genuinely doubt it. For one thing, very little smart money is flowing onto them at the various bookmakers, and betting is a hugely accurate view of likely electoral outcomes.

The Lib Dems may gain a point or two over their abysmal May result but will lose their deposit, again, which will be hard on a hard-working and attractive candidate, and harder still on the new party leadership, and their party will be cast into gloom. And with good reason.

This is why we opined, publicly, that they should have kept their powder dry – pick and choose their fights, in other words – and to focus on building up activists and resources in seats they absolutely need to re-take in 2020.

Many of their membership will be in denial after this by-election turns into a fiasco, but the simple fact is that even if they might not have expected to win a by-election here in the past they would have expected to see their renowned by-election fighting machine deliver them a substantial uplift. That simply will not happen.

They will beat the Greens though, and probably the Monster Raving Loony Party. But not definitely.

The Conservatives will do creditably well.

We’ll know soon enough if our crystal ball was right.

British leaders debate

Yes, well that’s pretty clear, then.

So seven leaders line up to give the country their vision for the future of the UK. Except that’s the UK without Northern Ireland, who weren’t given a guernsey because – er, well, who knows? Especially as Northern Ireland MPs could very possibly form part of the Government of the country after the May election, propping up a winning – but insufficiently winning – David Cameron.

Anyhow, this debate, and the public reaction to it as measured by innumerable polls, gave almost no insights into any of the leaders or their parties, and showed once more why the Nationalists are now so popular in Wales and Scotland. Their leaders were articulate and focused, and the English were mainly waffly and uninspiring. Cameron and Milliband could be bosom buddies – one could hardly get a sheet of paper between their positions on just about anything, and Clegg was just plain woeful, realising, perhaps belatedly, that he’s leading his party to an historic shellacking that is almost entirely his fault. The Greens were insubstantial and Farage of UKIP was just folksy and occasionally horrid.

In other words, as you were. And we’re heading to the closest election in British political history, with outcomes so multiple and impossible to predict that it is quite fascinating, although also worrying, as a country that has no confidence in its leadership is a country with problems.

Our prediction? Keep your eyes on the blog over the coming weeks, and we will give our fearless before-the-day forecast as always. But not just yet, thank you. One major gaffe either way could tip it. What is sad is that it is very unlikely, on this showing, to be one major burst of innovation and inspiration.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg may face a challenge.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg may face a challenge.

Most of the coverage of last night’s Newark by-election will focus on the failure of UKIP to win the seat from the Conservatives and what that says, or doesn’t say, about the fortunes of the newly successful right-wing party.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink political desk we happen to believe that the UKIP protest vote has peaked and will now steadily decline, mostly to the advantage of the Labour Party which is gradually regaining credibility, but we could be wrong, and if a week is a long time in politics then the more than a year before the next General Election is a positive aeon.

UKIP will certainly be trying to paint the by-election result as a great success, although they should pause and consider that on the basis of recent local election results this was a seat they “won” two weeks ago, and also that the low (just over 50% turnout) betokens both a weariness in the community and points to a lack of election-fighting capacity in the new party.

The Liberal Democrats too have seen a dramatic change in their political fortunes, although much less favourable than UKIP.

They won a fifth of all votes in the Newark seat four years ago but on Thursday their support was all but wiped out, with their candidate coming sixth behind both an independent and the Green Party, and losing their deposit in the process. For a party which is notable for being the by-election experts of the British political scene, with huge by-election fighting capacity in the past, the result could hardly have been more depressing.

It is the latest in a run of bad results for the beleaguered party and will do nothing to bolster support for its leader, Nick Clegg, who in an appalling display of political cowardice failed to make even a single appearance in Newark during the short campaign.

Granted, this may not be a Lib Dem target seat – and when it comes to the general election they will focus effort where they have already got support on the ground – but the fact they were not even in this race shows just how much work they have to do nationally. A nascent movement to remove the leader (who currently shows no signs of resigning) continues to gather pace in this most polite and middle-class party where such nastiness would generally be avoided. But the run of terrible results for the Lib Dems may tip some who would otherwise be horrified at a leadership spill into the activist “something must be done” camp.

If for not other reason that another 1,000+ LD Councillors are up for re-election next May, and as things stands currently the vast majority of them will be ex-Councillors in short order.

And for the record, we have been in favour of Mr Clegg either upping his game dramatically or moving aside for more than two years now. The fact that so many now agree with us brings us no joy. It would be heartily better if the running sore of his incompetent leadership was lanced immediately.

Lib Dem members who feel a change of Leader is inevitable can voice their opinion at libdems4change.org.

Froth and bubble: the UK is engaged in a double election. But what do the results mean?

Froth and bubble: the UK is engaged in a double election. But what do the results mean?

The Local Council elections in the UK can be seen, pretty much, as an excellent opinion poll for the state of the major parties in the UK. But that comment must also be taken with a whoppingly large pinch of salt. They are historically much better at showing trends rather than accurately forecasting a future general election.

For one think, local factors can and do count. In a Borough like Eastleigh, for example, where the Liberal Democrat “machine” is well established, the Lib Dems just held all their seats and even gained one from an Independent. That result for that party is, however, very unlikely to be repeated elsewhere. They have lost control of Kingston upon Thames, for example, a “flagship” authority for them.

Various results are in and many more are not, but as at about 5 am it appears that certain matters are clearly becoming obvious, even if the analysis is still very much “broad brushstroke”, and subject to change.

Um. Er. Well. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg faces an uncomfortable future.

Um. Er. Well. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg faces an uncomfortable future.

Labour is doing moderately well, although not as well as it needed to, to look like a convincing alternative Government, hoovering up seats from the Lib Dems in particular.

The Conservatives are doing moderately badly, leaking seats to UKIP. But UKIP are also picking up seats (and missing many others narrowly) in all sorts of strange places against all the parties, including Labour.

The Lib Dems are currently looking to lose about a third of their Councillors, not quite as bad as the half that we predicted, but still a very poor result.

Which will do nothing to lessen the pressure on their embattled leader Nick Clegg. Who may well go down in history as “embattled Nick Clegg”, the phrase is being used so often now. Anyhow, here are the current standings:

 

Councils Seats
Party Total Change+/- Total Change+/-
Labour 20 -1 429 +54
Conservative 14 -7 374 -87
Liberal Democrat 1 0 96 -57
United Kingdom Independence Party 0 0 84 +83
Independent 0 0 30 +7

 

Euro election results will not be released until Sunday, and here again they are a good “opinion poll”, but will be skewed by the very nature of the body being elected. Thus we expect UKIP to do even better than they have done in the local elections, because of the particular focus their party places on Europe, and the widespread disapproval of much of the EU’s behaviour in recent years.

More news as it comes to hand for those political tragics, like us, who find much to ponder in these things. And if our early call ends up looking inaccurate, we will issue a new bulletin. We would also be delighted to hear “war stories” from the front line from any candidates or campaigners in the UK.

Tony_Abbott_-_2010And just as an aside, Dear Reader, the Washington Post has just christened Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the most unpopular leader in the free world, after a swingeing “austerity budget” delivered a week ago, which is sitting somewhat uncomfortably on the shoulders of the population of the richest country in the Western world which is not at all sure it needs an austerity budget at all, thank you very much.

There’s now even an irreverent hashtag #MorePopularThanAbbott, which suggests that both toilet paper and flat tires are more popular than the conservative prime minister. Our favourite #MorePopularThanAbbott so far as been “the HIV virus”. #onetermtony is also trending well. This for a Government elected less than a year ago on a wave of enthusiasm.

Electorates are getting much more fickle. As Harold Wilson once remarked, “a week is a long time in politics”.

And those crowing at the moment in the UK might also carer to consider that other favourite aphorism: “Today’s rooster, tomorrow’s feather duster.”

 

It’s an important day today (well, tomorrow, over there, as we post this from Melbourne), for UK voters.

The furore over the rise and rise of the extraordinarily right wing and virulently anti-EU UK Independence Party – and its charismatic but somewhat questionable leader Nigel Farage – has kept us both mildly horrified, fascinated and occasionally amused.

As you know, Dear Reader, we like to be helpful, so we supply this very helpful chart from Huffpost UK to all those uncertain whether they should place their “X” against UKIP in the Euro and Local elections. Very funny, and thank you to them.

 

Image

 

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, we are the “pick and stick” types. We are on record (for nearly forty years now) as supporting the most pro-European party, the Liberal Democrats, and we have often written pro-EU columns (and then ducked and run for cover as the brickbats inevitably come flying from an electorate thoroughly sick of some of the nonsense that admittedly goes on in Brussels). We are, frankly, old enough to remember – if not the war itself – then the ripple effects of the war, and we profoundly believe in the “European project” as a matter of principle.

UK voting

Nick Clegg, this is going to be ugly.

But we are also on record as being of the opinion that the Lib Dems are heading for an absolute shellacking under the woeful current party leadership and especially that of Nick Clegg, the Leader himself.

We strongly suspect the party we love and believe in (still) will go close to being wiped out in some areas, perhaps many areas – and we bitterly regret what will be the unwarranted loss of many hard-working Lib Dem Councillors who have done nothing wrong and much right in faithfully representing their local wards – and that they will also endure a thoroughly humiliating performance in the EU elections.

So although results will be patchy, and the leadership will talk up all Lib Dem successes for all they are worth – and although we are fervently not hoping for a bad result for the LDs, just expecting it – we are sure we will be proven right.

And we expect a leadership spill with Nick Clegg “tapped on the shoulder” soon after, too. You heard it here first.

Incidentally, one serious word of advice to all intending UKIP voters.

Remember, any decision to leave the EU cannot be taken in Brussels, it must be taken in Westminster. So voting UKIP in the EU elections will achieve, er, precisely nothing, if you are in the “get out at all costs” brigade.

Except, of course, to give a bloody nose to the major parties. Which, as many have pointed out, is probably precisely what you are intending to do. And probably why, precisely, you will return to voting Labour and Conservative at the next General Election, and to a lesser extent Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and Scots Nats, despite all the “gosh wow look what happens if we extrapolate that vote to a Westminster election” coverage that UKIPs successes will lead to tomorrow.

And you heard that here first, too.