How the British public finally woke up

The power of the media in this election campaign – or at least, it’s attempt to exert it – is really rather terrifying.

Let’s just summarise what we’ve got so far: a campaign which was looking like a two-and-a-half horse race, much like the last few elections, in which our terrible and anti-democratic electoral system would give absolute power to parties with about 35-40% of the vote.

Our only hope of changing this system lay in Labour and the Tories not quite making the magic number needed for an overall majority, and having to look to the LibDems for support, which would surely come at the cost of electoral reform.  But would the LibDems have the power to make such a demand, if they didn’t increase their strength in parliament?

Then, a game-changer.  The first TV debate, when the three main party leaders stood alongside each other, the media forced to acknowledge the LibDems as an equal, credible candidate for government.  The polls swung like a magnet at the North Pole, and the main parties and their media supporters got in a terrible tizz, as things looked like they were going to be unpredictable.  Voters were actually choosing change.  Things might actually be different.

Now, be clear that I am not colossal fan of the LibDems.  But their insistence on electoral reform is one of their assets, and in England they are the only major alternative to the horrendous right of centre consensus provided by Labour and the Conservatives, who really only argue over power rather than major ideological or practical differences.  Thank goodness for the SNP up here.

With the apparent strengthening of the LibDems’ support, the right-of-centre media is caught on the hoof, and bites back.  See this compelling and brilliant article for more on how the knives are now out for Clegg and the LibDems, and this article on how the Murdoch press is slowly and gloriously panicking.  Predictably, the Daily Mail is a shoddy offender too, doctoring their website’s opinion polls to do down the LibDems.  Nick Clegg has been called a Nazi, anti-American and all sorts of other things.  You’ve got to love the resultant trend on Twitter for things that are equally implausibly #nickcleggsfault.

The idea that only the Conservatives or Labour have a divine right to govern, and that the pendulum must only swing between them, is Orwellian, dirty and undemocratic.  The Conservatives say that only they represent change, and to vote for anyone other than them would risk five more years of Labour.  Meanwhile, Labour says that they are the natural progressive choice and to vote for anyone other than them would split the progressive vote and let the Tories in, as in this Guardian article.

Such arrogance.  Especially given that there is nothing “change” about the Conservatives, and nothing “progressive” about Labour.  Vote for either of those parties, and you get the bland, right-of-centre consensus we’ve had for the last 15 years or so.

It’s a shame it took something as simple and as late in the day as a leaders’ debate to let people see there is realistic change on offer – at least in England, where they don’t have the privilege of being able to vote for the SNP.  But see it they have.  If all goes well, there will be enough LibDems and others in the new parliament to prevent anyone gaining five years of bloated power, thus ensuring a fair voting system for the future.

And before I sign off, how about the magnificent poster by the SNP, spoofing the Labour manifesto?  Scary but true.  Read all about it in the Caledonian Mercury, one of the few decent newspapers around.

I cannot wait for results night.  Fingers crossed we get the real, proper change the Tories and Labour are terrified of.

One thought on “How the British public finally woke up

  1. To be fair to the Guardian, very few articles have taken Polly Toynbee’s line. They look very likely to officially support the Lib Dems in this election.

    I’ve been quite impressed with the Independent’s approach.

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