The sealed train election

It’s been a strangely muted week. Outside Scotland there’s little energy. All vision seems to have been crushed by the narrow beancounting approach of the media, which has predictably fallen into the Tory/neoliberal trap of reducing politics to cost-benefit analysis.

Refusing to discuss their austerity policies or the precise nature of the further cuts they collectively plan, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband stumble on aimlessly towards the electoral horizon. Labour offers us a Tory manifesto; the Tories a Labour one. Cameron is one day in Cornwall promising countless thousands of jobs and apprenticeships and later in the same week he’s in Croydon promising countless thousands of jobs and apprenticeships. Clegg exists in a sepia-tinged retroworld where people still vote Liberal Democrat and indulges in increasingly bizarre and impossible promises as if to trigger some reaction from a soporific and sated electorate.

The whole tired leadership caravan rumbles on in its sealed train across the deserted and featureless election campaign landscape of neoliberalism. Cameron and Miliband refuse, for the first time since 1974, to do a BBC Radio 4 Election Call, Cameron avoids TV debates much as the landed classes avoided lepers in the 14th century. His team refuses to allow a candidate from the National Health Action Party to appear with him on the same hustings in Tory Oxfordshire. He in particular is ensconced inside a tight security cordon where potential naysayers are ruthlessly ejected. Unscripted encounters with real voters are as rare as snow in Cornwall.

Meanwhile, the lumpen masses gaze on at the spectacle passively and rather contentedly (at least those most likely to vote are contented, the others haven’t bothered to register). They’re determined to slumber on until polling day when the whole embarrassing charade thankfully ends. Some of course received their postal ballot this week and, unable to summon up enough energy to stagger down to the polling booth or otherwise suffering from voter fatigue – poor dears – have already voted. Actually, quite a lot may have. Up to a fifth perhaps in Cornwall, where the proportion of postal votes cast in the last election ranged from 16.6% in Truro to 25.7% in St Ives.

Tory view of the SNP
Tory view of the SNP

Not even the Tories’ attempts to don the cloak of English nationalism and paint the SNP as a more ferocious version of the wildlings from the frozen lands north of the Wall in George Martin’s Game of Thrones is unable to nudge the polls in their direction. Only something like a sudden Greek exit from the Euro when they fail to make their next IMF payment this coming Friday is likely to have much impact.

The polls are immobile. In the equivalent week of the 2010 election they shifted by 12.9%. This past week they’ve only budged by 1.3%. Unlike then, when they yo-yoed wildly up and down, this time they betray a solid stability, or should that be stolid indifference. The much touted most exciting election since 1886 is turning out to be a damp squib, crushed in the machine of control politics.

w/e April 26 w/e April 19 change
Conservatives 33.4% 33.4% nc
Labour 34.6% 34.9% -0.3%
Lib Dems 7.7% 7.9% -0.2%
Ukip 13.3% 13.3% nc
Greens 5.4% 5.1% +0.3%
SNP/PC 4.9% 4.6% +0.3%

If anything, it looks as if, over the past three weeks, the Westminster clique’s efforts to squeeze the challenger party vote has failed dismally. The combined vote for the three old parties is now two percentage points lower than it was at the beginning of the month, while that of Ukip, the Greens and the nats is two points higher. And in Scotland, Labour’s nemesis rolls ever closer as the SNP’s lead over them is now one point larger even than it was three weeks ago.


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