This headline from the Telegraph was quite widely trailed on Twitter today : Pound falls after Nick Clegg’s election debate success
Now admit it – looking at that, I’ll bet you thought that the currency markets had gone into free-fall, worried at the prospect of a Lib-Dem dominated hung parliament.
There might be the odd one of you that thought, hey Nick’s a nice guy, but if it’s going to send the City into turmoil, then I’ll stick with the Tories.
Well that’s just what the Telegraph wanted you to think.
Have a scout around and you’ll find that Nick Clegg’s apparent triumph (and actually I did think he came off best), and any fall in the value of the pound are in fact totally unrelated incidents.
How can I be so sure ?
Well mainly because the pound hasn’t nose-dived through the floor. Hasn’t lost all that much ground. In fact it’s been on an upward trend against the dollar since approximately the 25th March. Today’s fall of around 0.6% (representing less than 1 cent against the dollar, doesn’t really affect that trend. BBC NEWS | Business | Market Data | Currencies | Sterling GBP v US Dollar USD and in fact, at the time the Telegraph report was being read on-line by millions this afternoon, the pound was actually increasing in value against the Euro – although it finished the day slightly lower.
So all in all it’s been a relatively uneventful day for the pound – and whether it had gone up or down, it would have been nothing to do with Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.
Remember that the world doesn’t really revolve around financial traders, and never forget that democracy will always be far more important than a good day’s profit in the City.
So to the general public I say – Ignore the Telegraph’s silly scare stories – and vote for the candidate you think will do the best job.
And to the Telegraph, could I suggest you change your headline to “Millwall Crash against Huddersfield, after Cameron fails in Leaders debate” – it has after all got exactly the same cause and effect relationship as your original article, and a little bit more truth about it.
So Gordon named the big day today, and we’re on with the campaign.
All went pretty much as expected – all according to the plans, everyone saying the things we expected them to say.
Or did they ?
Well – not quite – the press release for David Cameron’s speech said that he’d be talking about the people who he called “the great ignored” - “Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight.” (Armchair election: The great ignored – Financial Times Blog) and he duly did his “without notes speech” trying his damnedest to upstage Gordon Brown before he’d even announced the election, speaking outside the old GLC building over Westminster Bridge, and he certainly did talk about “the great ignored”.
Only he missed a bit out – He ignored his own planned reference to “gay, straight” people. Which only leaves us to wonder why. Especially coming hot on the heels, as it does, of shadow home secretary Chris Grayling’s reported comments this past weekends, in which he apparently defended the actions of Bed & Breakfast owners who had turned away an openly gay couple.
This was very quickly picked up on, and so we had the first “incident” of the election campaign.
I could tell it was making the news because when I turned on Radio 2 in the car (partly in an attempt to avoid the tedious repetition of the lack of election news on 5 Live), I was surprised to find the issue being discussed between the music – Jeremy Vine taking the issue up with Gavin Hayes from the left leaning Labour group Compass; and arguing the case against, was Telegraph columnist Charles Moore (he is actually a former editor of the Telegraph- and the Spectator, and is currently chair of the Right Wing think tank ‘Policy Exchange – which the BBC failed to mention. I think it’s fair to say he’s a Tory !)
Hayes promptly pounced on Cameron’s remarks, and brought up again Chris Grayling’s weekend comments citing them as evidence that the party had not changed, and that it was the same old Tories. A solid if fairly predictable response.
His opponent, for his part, did probably less well, choosing to focus only on the issues of Chris Grayling’s comments and taking pretty much the line of “An English man’s home is his castle, and I’ll be buggered if I’ll have sodomy going on under my roof”.
There followed a bit of to-ing & fro-ing, in which each protagonist re-iterated their position. End of skirmish.
One – Nil to Labour eh ?
Well I’m not too sure. I agreed with Gavin Haye’s arguments, and profoundly disagreed with the line taken by Charles Moore.
When all said and done though, my vote doesn’t have to be fought for – I’m voting Labour anyway.
That’s not the case for the votes of millions (well at least thousands) of listeners to Radio 2 this afternoon though. The casual listener, who hadn’t been following recent events could well have been forgiven for thinking that the right to exclude gay couples from B&Bs was a cornerstone of Conservative Party policy.
Which left them with an apparent choice between a party wanting equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation; and a party wanting to give business owners the right to exclude gay couples.
Now whilst the latter option is particularly odious to me, the sad truth is that there are many people who sympathise with that position. They also have a vote – and right now, the important thing is not to change their way of thinking – we have the rest of eternity to do that. No – the priority is in 30 days to get them to cast their votes for Labour.
So if you’re involved in this debate at some time over the next couple of days – don’t get suck into arguing about whether B&B owners should be able to exercise their prejudices. Point out instead the real choice that is available.
Point out that Chris Grayling voted in parliament to make it illegal for B&B owners to discriminate, point out that he’s said that he has no wish to change the law back, and point out that he’s happy to say and write and commit himself to one thing in front of the learned intelligentsia – but peddles something entirely different when he thinks he’s not going to be called to task.
Point out that David Cameron’s quite happy to write things down saying that his party’s changed, and that he’s not going to discriminate against gay people when he’s trying to demonstrate that his party has changed – but just like Grayling, he can’t be courageous enough to commit to the same thing in a live speech, that he knows will be seen by Sun reading potential tory voters, who might be a little anti-gay.
So point out the real choice, between a party that says that it is in favour of equality, and that takes steps to ensure that it really is; and a party that says it’s in favour of equality, but sometimes does something else – and whether you’re a homophobe or an egalitarian, you’ve no way of knowing what they’re really going to do.
My guess is this – what they’ll actually do is whatever they think it takes to gain them power – not because they believe it or want it, but precisely because they want that power. My feeling is that the reason the Conservatives find it so hard to say what their principles really are is because they really don’t have any – unless you count narrow self interest, and the pursuit of power and money.
Finally, I did think it was rather interesting, after having debated the issue of exactly who is or is not, on David Cameron’s list of “The Great Ignored” on BBC Radio this afternoon, that the BBC should then choose to not mention any of them on their website’s reporting of David Cameron’s speech. Cameron launches Tory campaign with ‘hope’ message
“And let’s win this election for the good of the country that we love.”
Mr Cameron said he was fighting the election for “the great ignored”. [ <-- OOPS ! THEY MISSED A BIT HERE - northernheckler !! ]
“They work hard, they set up businesses, they work in factories, they teach our children, they keep our streets safe, they obey the law and they their pay taxes,” he said.
Truly there are some things that are great, and are ignored.
I read this piece on the Tory Radio blog last night : Labour giving up on being able to form a majority , produced in response to what editor Jonathon Sheppard (I’m assuming it’s him) called a “Labour reaction of glee” to the news that the newly published ComRes Poll in the Sunday Mirror : POLL EXCLUSIVE: David Cameron’s down again , was predicted to lead to a hung parliament, with the Conservatives 5 seats shy of a majority, in the next general election (Predictions from polls are hit & miss affairs by the way – but lots of fun – try Electoral Calculus to have a play around with some figures).
Well although I found the tone of the article to be childish and sneering, one does have to ask – why get so excited about the prospect of scraping a near draw ?
I feel that there are two reasons – and I look to the example of Tory ex-Prime Minister John Major for both.
John fought two general elections as Prime Minister. Let’s take the later one – the one where he was defeated – first. Major’s position before and as a result of that election, represents the doomsday scenario for any political party. Unpopular as his government had become, as the election loomed it became more and more difficult to salvage anything for his party. Like an aeroplane in free-fall, there came a point where it was impossible to pull out of the dive, and all that he could do was wait for the crash. When it came it provided Labour with possibly their most staggering victory ever – winning seats in places which had hitherto been considered untouchable.
Back last year at the time of the European elections, that was a scenario being painted by many for Labour – in third place in many areas, losing ground to fringe parties as well as established ones with cabinet ministers bickering in the wings trying to unseat the leader.
There’s another lesson from John Major though – from the 1992 election – which he won.
John Major’s Government was also unpopular then, and he was facing a slick election campaign from Labour’s Prime Minister in waiting Neil Kinnock. Neil Kinnock you may remember even managed to have the celebration before he’d won the election so sure was he of the forthcoming victory
There’s so many things in that short clip that provide echos of today’s situation – the Opposition cheered by the opinion polls, sure that the Government can’t win, but not yet sure that they can – according to the polls – but brimming with confidence, and sure that the Prime Minister is a “Box Office Disaster” to use John Smith’s words.
We know what happened – Kinnock blew the election – or was it the other way round ? I actually felt that John Major won it – he did his homework, he worked hard, and although even most of the Conservative Party didn’t really believe him until the votes were counted, he successfully delivered the goods – much to my own disappointment ( “At least he’s not Margaret Thatcher !” was my dejected thought the morning after ).
So which will it be for Labour ? Major’s 1997 Meltdown, or Major’s 1992 Rope-a-Dope ?
Back last Spring, the harbingers of doom were fairly sure of the Meltdown – but since then things have changed. In council by elections for instance there’s been no big evaporation of the Labour position. Gordon Brown, has become more vociferous and successful in his spoken comments – making Cameron look a charlie in many of the recent PMQ’s for instance.
There’ve also been a few embarrassments for the Tories as well – Cameron’s handling (or lack of handling) of anti-nhs extreme right wingers in his party such as Daniel Hannan has not gone down well publicly.
The traditional Tory press for some reason, also seem to take a delight in having a side-swipe at David Cameron, even whilst trying to rally the troops : see this in the Telegraph earlier this week David Cameron’s Tories are a one-man band that’s playing out of tune
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that there aren’t still big, big difficiculties for Labour – just that the crash landing is not inevitable – we seem to have pulled out of the dive.
Admittedly Labour could have done without Hoon & Hewitt’s shennanigins regarding leadership challenges – but the episode does seem to have galvanised unity within the party – for the time being at any rate.
So this opinion poll shows that yes there could be a hung parliament. Margins of error taken into account it probably also shows that the Tories could have a very small majority, or that their simple majority might be even smaller. When all’s said and done it’s just another poll – and they can be misleading as we know.
It does though, suggest that the total meltdown isn’t happening. Which suggests to me that Gordon Brown’s election may well be more similar to John Major’s more successful campaign in 1992 than to his disaster in 1997.
I think it’s this that the Labour faithful are taking heart with – because the poll hints at lessons from history which show that there is all to fight for in this election and that a Labour majority is by no means out of the question.
When you look at those airbrushed posters of David Cameron smugly looking out at you – who does it remind you of ? Tony Blair ? Margaret Thatcher ? No – for me it’s Neil Kinnock – having his party early – just as Cameron is.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over , and I’m Voting Labour !
The Telegraph is usually a pretty pro-Tory paper right ?
Well what about this one ? : Tories study plans for 20pc VAT which ‘reveals’ that “The Conservatives are studying plans to increase VAT to 20 per cent if they win power at the next election”
Well that will go down brilliantly won’t it ? It will just turn voters on to the Tories by the thousand. Businesses will really enjoy changing VAT in May or June, after probably changing it in February as well, and it will really boost consumer confidence and make them want to go and spend money in the shops.
It will also proportionately tax the less well off more than wealthy as well – which is sure to go down well with the “Middle Britain” voters that the Tories are so keen to represent. Actually no it probably won’t go down so well with them. This remember from the party that usually says that it prefers minimal intervention from Government and a reduction in taxation. In fact I’d guess that this news would make quite a few people think twice about whether to vote Tory.
So who on earth in the Conservative party has thought up this little gift to Labour ? Well the telegraph says that “The proposal is being “very actively considered” at the highest level, according to senior shadow ministerial sources.”
Ah – so it’s not been officially discussed, and it’s not any body in particular – it’s sources - someone who knows someone, who knows someone, what said something about you-know-what, to you-know-who !
Most of the rest of the article is predictable anti-Government rhetoric – trying, as I highlighted in my blog last week Bailing out the banks & unemployment. to ride two horses at once. Blaming the Government for both raised unemployment, and for the borrowing which has helped avoid higher unemployment, (which if Friday’s headlines are to be trusted appears to be assisting the country towards an earlier than expected recovery from the recession).
However there’s some more odd bits towards the end :
We’re told that “The Conservative leader has also admitted that the introduction of road tolls and an end to tax credits for households earning more than £50,000 a year were among policies being considered” – so just to remind us who will lose out under a Tory government. Yep – it’s that Middle Britain group again. I’m not sure when he admitted that or who to – but presumably he did. Or maybe I am being too presumptuous because right at the end we’re told :
Last night, a Conservative spokesman said: “There are no plans for a VAT increase and there have been no discussions about it.”
Right. So panic over then. They’re not doing it at all. Not planning to. Not even talking about planning to. No.
So just how exactly does this little article help the Conservatives ?
It does make you think though : if this is how they treat their friends, how do they treat their enemies ?
Update : Thanks to @labourmatters for this video of David Cameron and Gordon Brown discussing this very issue :