Tuesday, April 06, 2010

U.K. election is on

A departure from the Canadian scene this morning, there's not much going on today in any event. For political junkies it will be a fun month or so as the much anticipated U.K. election has finally been called for May 6th. Yes, really, this should be a good one. If you're interested in politics, it'll be very tough to avert your eyes.

It's going to be a tight race, there is a strong possibility that a minority government will result and there has been much speculation about the role of the third party, the Liberal Democrats in that scenario. One of the latest polls throwing a wrench into the works is showing just a 4 point lead for the Conservatives while others have their lead at 10.

Why should Canadians be interested? There's a similar dynamic going on in Britain, in terms of the potential parliamentary minority government result. We are not alone, in other words, in terms of the fragmented national electorate phenomenon. The Conservatives are seeking a majority yet there's some lingering Thatcher era doubt about them even after years of Labour government. It's the old hidden agenda thing. So whether they're able to believably reach out and genuinely be perceived as more inclusive will be a big question. Their theme today in kicking off the campaign is fighting for "the great ignored." But the Conservatives hit a bump last week in terms of inclusiveness with a leading MP expressing anti-gay sentiment in a taped statement. There are also personal doubts about Conservative leader David Cameron, whether he's too "plastic," as Labour has taken to characterizing him. Watch Cameron speak, it's a great word for him.

The issues are not exactly translatable to Canada but there are the usual suspects. The economy is the biggest issue. The Conservatives are campaigning against Labour's "jobs tax," setting up a typical conservative/liberal tax fight. The Conservatives characterize Labour as big government, having put Britain in debt. Labour is running on "securing the recovery" and painting the Conservatives as reckless, unable to sustain it. You can hear echoes of the Canadian debate as all of these issues are bandied about.

It'll be interesting to see how the campaign unfolds. If Cameron is able to run a good campaign, with the change wind at his back, he's likely to win. Not that we, around here, are rooting for that result, of course. Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is making a good case of late with the issues he's presenting. Whether that will be enough and whether Brown will be able to personally convey the energy necessary to gain yet another Labour mandate is another question.

Other things to watch, the mechanics of the campaigns, how social media is used and what innovations we might see on that front and in the party media campaigns as well. The above poster - Step Outside Posh Boy - was an April Fool's spoof in the Guardian, playing up both Brown's recently reported temper issues and Cameron's posh upbringing, having been schooled at Eton, the elite British boarding school. The British seem to be big on these creative posters, much more than we are, and the recent Conservative ones were mocked mercilessly by clever spoofers. If such a dynamic recurs during the campaign, it could have an effect.

So hopefully, there will be some unpredictable twists and turns to make it all the more fun, and maybe instructive, for those of us with no stake in the result. A nice little spring warm-up for a coming Canadian campaign, why not?