Rusty Rockets, Delia & Doing Deals

You will be pleased to know the 2015 election is now entering the final days and hours. I have tried to keep up this daily blog as a response to the questions I am often asked either on social media or when I am out and about. Of course I have also thrown in a few of my favourite things from the last 24 hours that have happened on the Campaign trail.I am hoping it has been of some use to my friends. I look forward to getting back to the day to day work of after May 7th but it has been fun!

The main campaign themes from the parties took a familiar feel again today – all mainly returning to their key messages of The economy (tories) the NHS (labour) sitting in the middle (Lib Dems). I am very conscious that you all know their scripts off by heart by now so I won’t repeat any of this press coverage. it does mean that the press are bored by the staged campaign messages and are therefore looking for alternative stories. Of course the political parties all want the journalists to stick with their main messages but then try to ensure they ask their opponents all the tough questions they would like answering to knock them off their main themes. And so the game goes round and round. It does mean however that in this last week I believe the main issues are not those the parties want us to be talking about. So today I have been observing the following.

Rusty Rockets, Delia & Steve Coogan all announced for Labour today. A nice contrast to the Tory celebrity endorser Kate Hopkins!. As I have blogged previously I am not sure endorsers turn many votes, but in the case of Rusty Rockets I am convinced he is different. Of course when I say Rusty Rockets I am of course referring to the @rustyrockets tiwtter handle of the star Russell Brand. With 10m twitter followers and 1m young people visiting his Youtube interview with Miliband I can see why the risk was taken. Many of his followers are inspired by his political thoughts and an endorsement (+ an endorsement of Green Caroline Lucas) can have a significant impact if just a few thousand young people in key marginals went and voted Labour as a consequence. It is this group he is speaking to, and so all my friends who are not big fans of Brand are missing the point. We are not his target audience!

Post election maths and the deals seems to be all the media has obsessed about for the last 24 hours. The lines take by our politicians don’t really help here. Yes we know you are working for a majority, that is a given. But I do think it is legitimate for us to know broadly what each party will do in a small number of scenarios. Once again the website has been great at running the numbers and it still looks tight. 

Basically there are about 40-60 of the key marginals which will decide who is the largest party and therefore given about 50 SNP, 25 Lib Dems and a variety of minor parties which leader can play the coalition and constitution game best after Friday. Given the number crunching I htink it gets even tighter. In about 10-15 of the most marginal of seats the whole campaign could be decided by a handful of votes. This is squeaky bum time! 

Once the seats are in the real fun starts. Our unwritten constitution means there is quite a bit of flexibility about how the next week and then months pan out. As I have written before the new Fixed Term Parliament Act has changed things quite significantly but there are still plenty of scenarios that could happen. Minority government or broad formal coalition? Given all that has been said doing a deal after weeks of promising ‘not doing a deal’ would undermine trust from the public. Of course there will be lots of talks but I suspect a much looser deal this time if Labour is able to build a progressive alliance to win a theoretical majority. If there are no ‘deals’ however informal it will make governing a nightmare and I suspect Labour would be punished for weak government. I suspect the same is true of the Tories, Lib Dems and DUP coalition that looks as though it would still be short of a majority. I can’t see the Tory MPs voting for another formal coalition. I am mystified that all Lib Dems will want to be in a Tory government again, but I guess those that survive will feel if they did well in 2010 they were rewarded for their stance of taking part in the coalition in 2010. I fear Labour lacked a dose of feedback from key marginals like mine in Loughborough once we had gone. Parties to do get into groupthink and not having the voices of the losers and why they lost doesn’t help!

So we are in for an interesting time and much of it depends on who has the most seats, most votes and gets the first shot at putting together a government.

But It has started – the questioning of the legitimacy of a smaller party governing with support of a majority of MPs. In a desperate last throw of the dice, realising their magic breakthrough is not happening, the right wing media, commentators and Tories are already undermining the legitimacy of a coalition of anybody but the Tories. It has been a part of their anti-SNP attacks, to create 2nd class MPs out of anybody north of the Border.

Whilst we are talking about the SNP & Scotland I have to admit that I am finding politics north of the border pretty ugly and distasteful. I first started to the see the trolling and abuse friends were getting on twitter from ‘cybernats’ but it appears today that these abusers are happy to take to the streets too. The cries of traitor and shouting down opponents has no place in our democracy. I know my friend Jim Murphy can look after himself but there are many more put off and scared by these bullies.

Is this now a good time to talk about an end to the First Past the Post electoral system? It seems the Electoral Reform Society thinks so.

I know we had a referendum in the middle of the last parliament which rejected a replacement PR system but surely we must all revisit the current system. Those who defend FPTP claim it returns ‘strong’ government. (that assumes it’s a good thing in itself), but surely that can no longer be a claim when it looks obvious we will have another hung parliament on Thursday. Whilst it would be difficult for the main parties to give up the advantage of getting large numbers of MPs off about 33% of the national vote it must be about what is good for the country and democracy above the needs of any of the political parties. I have always supported PR knowing it would reduce the power of Labour in the short term. In a sense I think the electorate has managed to work out how to use the FPTP system to create a hung parliament, but not in the proportions it would like to see. The fact that the Greens will probably end up with 1 MP compared to about 25 for the Lib Dems on about the same national share of the vote increasingly looks indefencible. Although I despise all that UKIP stand for their 12% of the poll surely deserves more than the 1 MP they are likely to have on Friday morning. If we are to have a parliament that represents the complex nation we have become, it will need the rich variety of regional, national and political parties to be represented. But until we know the result this weekend it is probably a debate for another day.

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