Sunday, March 01, 2015

How David Cameron could win the general election but not the keys to No 10 - Double Yawn

I love it when UK political pundits take their own wishful thinking and present it as scientific analysis. Let me have a shot. Actually using figures provided by the Labour-leaning quality newspaper in the article here.

First, voting intentions have not been stable in the UK since last November. At that time, with the UKIP bubble still at its height, Labour were recording an average 3% lead. I've checked. I could find only one acknowledged Tory poll lead, and that was for 1%.

Since then, the landscape has quite steadily moved in the direction of the Tories. Currently, leaving out wombat pollsters like Survation, the average Tory lead is about 1%.

But then you start looking at the narrative, and the situation becomes really interesting.

The last couple of weeks, on the face of it, have been quite dreadful for the Tories. Billionaire Tory donors, merrily skipping to elite fund-raising balls, and doing the tax-dodging fandango with drug-money banks and simpering toff Tory Cabinet Ministers from Eton.

Immigration out of control. Pledges broken. The NHS in about the same condition as most of its patients. Weakness on Syria. Weakness on Ukraine. And to top it all, Malcolm Rifkind.

In 1997, John Major had a booming economy, and yet he lost in a landslide, 'cos a couple of his MP's couldn't keep their trousers on.

And yet, in the past ten days, three separate polls, two of them in left-wing newspapers, have shown a 2% Tory lead, for like the first time in three years. Not to mention the analysis in the newspaper article linked to, which oh so casually, sniff, just happens to mention that, well, the Tories just might, kick cat, be the largest party in May.

This isn't scientific evidence of stability. This is a begrudging admission of defeat, three months before the Election itself.

And no-one wants to admit the rather uncomfortable reasoning behind the recognition of defeat.

Deep down, at some point in the past two to three weeks, folks have actually started to become scared of Labour.

This is the difference between Major and Cameron, notwithstanding all the recent bad headlines for the Tories. People weren't scared of Blair in 1997.

For sure, folks in the UK have no love for toffs, squires and billionaires. We invented the Peasants' Revolt. But right now, those scumbags know how to make money, that money makes jobs, it supports the Tories, and the Tories know how to run an economy which also makes jobs.

Trade unions don't make jobs. Trade unions support Labour. And Labour don't seem to be able to announce an economic measure that doesn't include a tax rise. Heck, even that nice man Vince Cable calls Labour "economically illiterate."

For a while, people were buying the line about Labour being better for the NHS. But again, there seems to have been a palpable shift in the past month. Folks suddenly, quietly get that you can only fix the NHS with a healthy economy.

As for immigration, whether it is due to UKIP, Cameron or Merkel, people have finally got that message, too. The immigration fiasco is due to Europe. And the only party in a position to do anything about Europe is the Conservative Party.

There are some other bits and pieces. But, the bottom line is, people are finally, begrudgingly, buying the Tory brand.

The author of this analysis keeps on weighing matters in terms of the rising and falling fortunes of the minor parties. But he and others are 'missing' the most important factor: folks are finally giving up on Labour for this election cycle.

And it gets worse. This is only what is visible. I wasn't expecting a regular Tory lead of 1% until the end of March.

If it is appearing this soon, who knows how many people out there feel the same way, but can't yet bring themselves to admit it to a pollster?

Then we come to the chatter about what will happen if the Tories are the largest party. Sigh. For here we come up against woeful ignorance of the constitutional rules.

Those rules, or conventions, changed after the last General Election, in 2010, as we advanced towards the formation of the LibCon Coalition Government.

It used to be that the sitting Prime Minister called the shots, even if he or she were no longer the head of the largest party in Parliament.

If they felt they could not command the confidence of the House of Commons, either they could choose to step aside in favor of the party with the most seats, or they could call a second election.

After 2010, especially with the passage of the Fixed-Terms Parliaments Act in 2011, that all changed. After the results are finalized, the Cabinet Secretary now automatically calls on the leader of the largest party to attempt to form a government.

Now. We could descend into a deliciously geeky discussion about whether or not this is actually the new rule. But the bottom line is this: as a consequence of what happened in 2010, which became the de facto new norm, a sitting Prime Minister, who no longer heads the largest party, might squirm for a week, but eventually, he or she would have to concede to the leader of the new largest party.

If the latter remains the Tories, they ain't going to waste time trying to form a Coalition. They don't have to. Under the terms of the Fixed-Terms Parliaments Act, they have only to follow the new procedures.

There is automatically a fixed term of five years for the new Parliament. The Tories will forge ahead in minority.

They could choose to do next to nothing in Parliament. Continue to preside over an ever-improving economy. While allowing all of the legislative reforms of this past Parliament to take hold. And just wait out the five year fixed term.

They could supplement this with a Presidential style of government out of 10 Downing St. Using Orders-in-Council, the UK equivalent of US Presidential Executive Orders. Who needs coalition?

If the other parties sought to derail them with regular votes of no confidence in Parliament (the only trigger for an election, bypassing the five year fixed term), the Tories would go back to the country with the line that all the other parties were conspiring to upset the wishes of the electorate and the attendant, continuing economic recovery.

Or, the Tories could quite boldly force an immediate second election by simply presenting to Parliament a comprehensive program the other parties would have to defeat.

It is generally agreed this strategy would seriously disadvantage the Labour Party, which simply wouldn't have the funds to fight a second election so soon.

Bottom line: the truly striking aspect of this analysis is that the UK's leading left-wing quality newspaper is so openly discussing the prospect of a Tory victory three months before the General Election. All the rest is so much embarrassed shoe-shuffling.