Tag Archives: 2010 general election

Strange bedfellows: on the prospect of a Con-Lib pact

By the time tomorrow dawns, the Conservative Party may well wake to find itself curled up in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Gradually, having caught up on that lost sleep — can anyone remind me why it seemed at good idea to stay up in order to watch Ed Balls being charmless yet again? — the Tory commentariat has begun to acclimatize itself to the realities of a hung parliament, at least to the extent of organising itself into semi-predictable factions.

Both Guido and Iain Dale, for instance, are four-square behind full entanglement, rebranded as something called the Change Coalition. In Guido’s case, this involves making common cause with the more libertarian adepts of the Orange Book in order both to ‘open up politics and government, to roll back an authoritarian state’, but also ‘to destroy the Labour Party as a party of government forever’. Quite why the Labour party would somehow be ‘destroyed’ by the opportunity to select a new leader, to sit out what will inevitably be a period of deeply unpopular spending cuts and public sector contraction and to establish itself anew as the only credible left-of-centre party on offer, remains unclear to me. Iain Dale, in contrast, substitutes for argument the lapidary assertion that ‘it’s no good following Norman Tebbit’s logic and sticking your head in the ground like an ostrich and ignoring the realpolitik of the situation’ — which at least is quite funny, what with the implication that e.g. Oliver Letwin, one of Cameron’s key coalition negotiators, is a more reliable practitioner of realpolitik than Lord Tebbit — Continue reading

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On David Cameron and the Big Society

There is one feature of David Cameron which, it occurred to me while watching the television coverage of the speech he gave in Kennington today, bothers me more than any other.

No, it isn’t Mr Cameron’s allegiance to George Osborne, although for the record, the Ugly Bridesmaid syndrome isn’t exactly improved by transposition to the long-aisled nave of general election politics. It isn’t his distinctly unreliable grammar, disappointing though this must be in the context of what passes these days for a classical education. Nor is it even the weirdly hectoring, bad-tempered tone he invariably adopts in public discourse, although I find this distracting enough, as it always makes me wonder what he’d sound like if — and, admittedly, it’s a counterfactural one struggles to entertain for any length of time — he wasn’t talking down to someone he didn’t much admire in the first place.

No, the worst thing about David Cameron is the way in which he’s always threatening to ‘give’ things to people.

Admittedly, the gift of the moment varies. On some days, Mr Cameron is going to give ‘power’ to us. On other occasions, in contrast, we are to be given ‘opportunities’, or sometimes even ‘rights’. The precise choice of gift, needless to say, is up to Mr Cameron and the clique, err, circle of wise, disinterested, all-but-omniscient folk who advise him. Continue reading

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That debate again: picking over what’s left

Good news. As of Monday morning, the ravens had not yet deserted the Tower of London. They were, in fact, on notably frisky form, hopping and cawing and picking combatively at long-dead scraps of meaty-looking detritus as only ravens can.

Their slightly ghoulish cheerfulness seems to match the public mood, or at very least my own. Having recently despaired of the present general election as tiresome beyond words — see here — I’ve now decided that it’s actually quite entertaining.

The thing that changed my mind was, of course, last Thursday’s debate, to which my responses were uncharacteristically mainstream. Which is to say, once I’d stopped distracting myself by trying to figure out which shade of Farrow & Ball Estate® Emulsion most closely matched the strangely immobile surface of David Cameron’s face — in the end I plumped for Ointment Pink®, although admittedly this is a point upon which reasonable bloggers might, with honour, differ — I fell in with the general view that Gordon Brown looked old and tired, Cameron stiff and anxious, while Nick Clegg — hands in his pockets, eye-contact firmly established, making at least some of us wish that we were called ‘Jacqueline’ — positively shone, at least in relative terms.

Of course, television is an intrinsically stupid medium. Televised debates are, at best, an acceptable test of how well someone performs in a televised debate — nothing more. Most people who are really good on television couldn’t be trusted to run to the shops for a pint of milk, let alone tasked with negotiating the trackless and hazardous landscape of coalition government. So to that extent, the debate shouldn’t have mattered much at all.

And yet it’s transformed the mood of campaign. Where once there was the joyless run-up to a cheerless coronation, now, at least as far as CCHQ is concerned, we must surely be enjoying the beginnings of a bloodbath. Continue reading

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On the 2010 General Election

Inscribed strip and mounts (image courtesy of the excellent Staffordshire Hoard website at http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/ )

Now that spring is here — dark winter mornings driven away by dawns deafening with birdsong, that bout of pneumonia more or less gone, spindly primroses making a stalwart effort to flourish in unreliable sunshine, the 2010 general election finally underway — my son’s school holidays find us, with a degree of inevitability, spending yet another day exploring the British Museum.

The visit, it turns out, is more worthwhile than ever. At present, a handful of artifacts from the Staffordshire Hoard is on show at the British Museum (until 17 April 2010), after which they’ll return to the Midlands, following a successful appeal to retain these treasures, legacy of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, near the fields in which they were found last year. There’s also a handsome little booklet — £1 of the modest £4.99 purchase price goes to fund the appeal — setting out what little is known thusfar about this recent, remarkable discovery.

There’s something terribly moving about these tiny golden objects, the intricate intertwined forms and cloisonné settings still caked with the clay of their Staffordshire fields, blood-red garnets smeared with mud, crushed outlines not yet smoothed or rationalised — a riddle of riches and violence with its mystery still intact. How, one wonders, did more than 1,600 individual items, some of them absolute masterpieces of metalwork, come to be buried and found together? In truth, although ideas abound, no one is quite certain.

That there’s a provisional quality, however, to the presentation of this treasure does nothing to detract from its fascination. In mediating with impeccable professionalism between tidied-up past and infinitely messy present, museum displays can have the effect of making history look finished — literally done and dusted — reposing slightly outside our own experience. Whereas, the present display of the Staffordshire Hoard implies instead that under every nondescript field, scruffy building-site or suburban garden might lie something unsuspected, surprising, ancient, important, perhaps even staggeringly beautiful. The legacy of the past, in other words, may turn out to be closer than we think.

And indeed, this encouraging message could hardly have turned up at a better time, since the present is, at least at the level of public policy, under-performing to quite a remarkable degree. Is it just me, or is the 2010 general election coverage thusfar literally unwatchable? Continue reading

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