You may not have noticed that there's an election coming. They've been keeping rather quiet about it.
A number of people have said that this year's election is "too close to call" or "too complicated" but I think that, even this far out, the results are pretty obvious.
The Liberal Democrats will come fourth in vote share with probably about 16% and win two-hundred and nine five-way marginals. Nick Clegg will become Leader of the Opposition as Al Murray is swept into Downing Street, made Prime Minister as leader of the Stop Farrago Alliance of Labour, Tory and SNP.
Okay, maybe it won't QUITE happen like that. It might be two-hundred and EIGHT – get down to Hornsey and Wood Green because we CAN win there and help keep Lynne Featherstone as MP for Awesome.
Okay, okay, maybe not two-hundred and eight either. But there are reasons for OPTIMISM. Maybe not quite as much optimism as Auntie Caron managed to muster in telling the Westminster Hour we could hold all fifty-seven of our current seats, though you've got to admire her for saying it with a straight face.
I think we can hold at least half, probably somewhere in the mid-thirties, and maybe a gain or two as well.
The reasons for this are, of course, complicated, but come down to the weakness of Mr Milipede's Hard Labour and the split vote on the right.
We only HAVE about 15 seats facing challengers from Hard Labour or Nasty Nationalists – well, we have a couple more than that, but no one is taking Charlie Kennedy or Alistair Carmichael's seat without Viking Longboats. Most of our seats are a fight with our so-called partners in Coalition the Conservatories.
In order to counter the PERCEIVED threat from the Party they REALLY want to be in bed with, the Kippers, Mr Balloon has been not so much tacking to the right as galloping for the starboard flank as fast as Master Gideon's little legs and Theresa May's kitten heels can carry him. Policies like deep cuts in benefits, targeted at the young and the fatshamed; the obsession with cutting spending deeper and harder than necessary – while promising vast and unfunded give-away tax cuts, not to mention remaining highly dubious in their attitude to possible tax evasion especially by their rich supporters; their increasing security paranoia, with Civil Liberties infringements verging back towards New Labour era; above all the frothing venom over Europe and immigration… all these are painting them as the Nastier-than-Ever Party.
It makes it all the more desperately important than ever that Liberal Democrats hold the centre ground, not because we're wishy-washy and moderate, but because we're the Party with a radical social conscience and grounded, practical, old-fashioned British COMMON SENSE.
Fortunately for Britain (not to mention us!), Mr Milipede's cohorts appear to have decided that he's already lost. They have wasted the last five years conspicuously failing to come up with an alternative plan to Osborneomics-lite while ostentatiously avoiding any engagement with apology for the catastrophe that overwhelmed them in office. In much the same way as Mr Vague's disastrous 2001 election odyssey descended into "Save the Pound! Save My Job!", they are reduced to pitiful wails of "Save the NHS! Save the Milipede!"
It isn't that they don't have any policies. It's just that they don't have any policies that would make anything BETTER.
Take the latest mini-spat over TUITION FEES. It's clearly ALL about the POSITIONING. They want to be able to play the Nick Clegg card AGAIN, so they want to wave a policy that LOOKS totemic (but isn't) so that they can wave Lib Dem pledge cards around (please no one notice Labour pledges). Except first it means pissing two-billion quid up the wall and Mr Balls can't find the cash, and second, more importantly, it's a give-away to the RICHEST students, and doesn't actually HELP people who need it. Whereas the as-good-as Graduate Tax that the Liberal Democrats negotiated has ACTUALLY helped a huge increase in the numbers of people from the least well off backgrounds making it to University.
(The man responsible, Tristram Hunt – surely that's a silly nickname? – is clearly a total liability, whether it's announcing that he's PRIVATISING SURE START – which I remain astounded has not received more coverage; though not at the total lack of synthetic outrage from Pollyanna Toytown – or insulting all NUNS. That's no doubt why he's convinced himself he's got a shot at Mr Milipede's job.
Though to get it, he'll have to get past Mr Woodchuck Umunna, whose face can currently be found next to the Wikipedia definition of "ambition".)
Meanwhile Mr Balls, while remaining the man who most people blame for the crash, has recently managed to forget the names of Labour's business backers and suggest that every window-cleaner needs a paper audit trail. Bill Somebody and get a Receipt, you might say. Mr Ball's position is, er, erratic to say the least, oscillating between occasional adherence to the terrifying splurges of Modern Money Theory (or Magic Money Tree economics) and back to flat out austerity and refusing any of his colleagues the cash to fund their endless lists of not-quite-pledges.
So the rest of the Shadow Cabinet are all "on manoeuvres" rather than campaigning to win. They expected to inherit the Coalition's position on the green benches, but if they can't do that they'll settle for inheriting Milipede's seat instead.
That's where the Liberal Democrats need to press hard that we remain the ONLY Party that stands between the country and a terrifying Tory majority. Hard Labour just aren't up to the job. The last five years have shown that Liberal Democrat ministers and back-benchers have got the guts and determination to hold the line against the Tories.
One response to Mr Milipede's shambles has been the Green Surge. No, I don't mean BARFING.
The Greens would be more admirable if their one MP hadn't been more loyal to the Labour Line than many of Mr Milipede's own alleged colleagues. (Apparently the Green Party's own slang is "Watermelon" – Green on the Outside, Red on the Inside – but this is probably RACIST to watermelons.) Seeking to capitalise on Labour's weakness and to outflank them on the left they are standing as a Syriza-like anti-austerity ticket, though that might not play out so well now that the real Syriza have apparently capitulated to European Union demands to stick with the austerity programme.
(Thus probably saving Greece, but SELFISHLY denying us the service of demonstrating the Farrago Folly by proving that dropping out of the Euro actually COULD make things extremely very much WORSE.)
What I REALLY object to, though, is how much of an Ed Balls Up the Greens are making of selling the policy of a Citizens' Income, a policy that apparently I, a stuffed elephant, understand better than the Green Leader Ms Notaclue Bennett.
There are many positives to be gained from providing a basic flat rate cash stipend to every single person in the country, potentially saving a lot of bureaucracy, protecting people from abusive employers, rewarding carers and housewives/husbands for their contribution, and greatly simplifying and maybe even SAVING some people's lives. But it's neither cheap nor simple to get there and it needs a good, strong PLAN that you can lay out to get to all the upsides. What you absolutely cannot do is KEEP going on the radio and the tellybox and waving your fluffy feet in the air saying "read the website, I don't remember this bit!"
The OTHER response to the Great Miliflop is the rise of the tide of nationalist parties. "Blame-the-other-people" parties always do well in difficult times, and the economic times we've been through have hardly been difficulter.
And after five solid years of Labour supporters screaming blue murder about the Liberal Democrats for working with the Conservatories, it is quite a BITTER IRONY that they find the exact same tactic being turned upon them by the Scots Nats for supporting the Conservatories and other pro-Union Parties in the Referendum Campaign.
There could hardly be a better demonstration of the FLAWS of our First Pass the Port electoral rules (and how STUPID our journalists are) than what is happening in Scotland. The press appear ASTONISHED that the LOSING side in the referendum seems to be doing so well in the prospects for Parliament. But it's simple MATHS.
Under ANY system of alternative voting, the pro-Union votes transfer to block the minority Nasties. Which is what happened in the Referendum.
But under First Pass the Port, the LARGEST LOSER WINS.
Because there are SEVERAL Parties that want to keep the United Kingdom, the winning side is DIVIDED; because the Scots Nasties are ISOLATED, they hoover up all the anti-votes. Ironically, this is the tactic of MARGARET THATCHER, who they hate.
Hilarious as it is that the Nasties are probably going to deprive Mr Milipede of any chance of an outright majority, the worse outlook is that they might ALSO deprive him of enough seats to form a Coalition with the remaining Liberal Democrats.
Channel Four's mockumentary "UKIP: The First 100 Days" has received record numbers of complaints. Mainly because that's what Kippers do best: complain. In fact, it's difficult to know if they do anything else. Except make on-camera racist remarks.
Though also, it was RUBBISH.
There was almost no sting to the satire, no ring of dangerous truth to the warnings. Police snatch-squads and brutalisation of innocent minorities were treated much more DAD'S ARMY than SECRET ARMY. Economic implosion didn't seem to affect anyone's standard of living, in spite of all the factories closing. And the nice lady UKIP parliamentarian turned out to be nice in the end, so that was all right. We didn't get to see the follow-up scene where it's explained that she's "had a breakdown" and she's carted off to Broadmoor in one of those coats that ties up the back while her family are on a one-way flight to Karachi.
No, if anyone should be complaining it's the OTHER PARTIES for this far too nice portrayal, that seems to imply we could get away with electing a bunch of RACISTS without it all going Nuremberg on us.
Of course, the last thing Farrago wants is to actually WIN. Winning means having to do something other than complain. Worse, it means being the one who is complained ABOUT. No, he likes his nice cushy Euro-job where he gets paid a fortune and doesn't have to show any results. Or even show up!
Still, lucky for Nigel our electoral system is so horlicksed that he probably won't have to face his nightmare scenario of being everyone else's nightmare scenario.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GOVERNMENT
The PLAN for the Liberal Democrats has always been to show that Coalition WORKS, and that we can be TRUSTED in Government. We've certainly shown that a Coalition CAN last five years. Remember, almost EVERY SINGLE commentator in 2010 expected a second election within six months. We've proven them wrong once already. Whether we can be TRUSTED is… a slightly other matter, unfortunately.
It's difficult to see how we can continue in Coalition with the Tories. We've largely used up the areas of policy overlap, not to mention the GOODWILL, between our Parties. Equally though, many people have suggested that a period in Opposition, licking our wounds, might serve the Party well.
Maybe it would, but would it serve our Country well?
I still believe that the purpose of political parties is to be in Government, getting things done.
(Not the Labour Party's urgent desire to be in Government just to be in Government; not the Conservatories belief that they are entitled to be in Government because they are entitled.)
A Labour/Liberal Coalition, with Vince Cable as Chancellor (finally!), would be a better outcome for the Country (AND demonstrate that Coalition can remain stable even if the larger partner transitions) than a feeble minority Labour administration, with Scots Nats and Green demonstrating the real meaning of "propping up" (where they can take ALL the blame and get no policies at all enacted). And another Liberal/Tory Coalition, could one be bodged together in the wake of the election tearing strips out of each other (probably around an agreement that WE will run the country while Mr Balloon plays Euro-referendum) would STILL be better than letting the nutters run the asylum on their own (with the Farragistas not so much propping up as pushing to topple over).
But the real choice belongs, quite rightly to the British people.
And we've only just begun.