Election Dissection: the political circus this week

What’s new this week in Britain’s favourite unpopularity contest?

It’s a mere 2,136 hours until the general election. Or 89 days, if you prefer.

It’s not long.

But you almost can’t tell there’s an election coming at all. If it wasn’t for the scandal-hungry media and articles like this telling you all about it, then maybe no-one would work it out, and it would all just go away.

It’s as though the air of political alienation, animosity and disenfranchisement the public has developed towards politics and politicians is being channelled by the parties themselves. Are they that bothered? They all seem jumpy and nervous like badly trained ponies.

And perhaps that’s fair enough. Who’d really want to win an unpopularity contest? In this game, the winning, the taking part and the losing are all going to lead to further unpleasantness for all concerned.

Of course, there’s no “winning an election” these days anyway. It’s a battle to win the right to a further fight over what the next coalition arrangement will include.

You would almost pity the people involved if they hadn’t brought it all upon themselves.

Let’s see what kind of ghastly shambles they’ve made of things over the last working week.

Begin the slow hand clap:

Monday

Things began with a kick in the shins for Labour. Stefano Pessina, the chief executive of high street apothecary Boots, said in a Telegraph interview that a Labour government would be “a catastrophe.” This annoyed Labour.

As these shenanigans were unfolding, Labour’s Douglas Alexander refused to rule out a coalition with the SNP after the election. Which with the way things are going is fair enough really.

Tuesday

Labour Leader Ed Miliband went on TV to try and do the impossible – to argue against the Boots chief exec’s “catastrophe” remark, and raise his party’s popularity. After pointing out that Pessina didn’t pay tax in the UK, and that he’d moved Boots’ HQ to Switzerland as an alleged tax avoidance move, Labour had seriously irritated a few big wigs.

In an article for the Daily Mail, former chief of M&S, Stuart Rose, branded the Labour party a “70s throwback” - a claim that’s perhaps a bit close to the bone from the retail boss, but one that struck a chord with other business people. The CBI’s Katja Hall also jumped onto the bandwagon, saying it is “important that businesses feel able to speak out about what is good for jobs and growth.”

Over in the blue corner, nearly-retired Tory MP William Hague made a fairly bold claim – that he’d solved the “West Lothian question” over Scottish MPs voting on English laws. But of course, he hadn’t really – proved by the fact that politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, and both sides of the border, were not satisfied.

Meanwhile, UKIP severed ties with a group called “Christian Soldiers of UKIP”, after the group distributed leaflets describing homosexuals as “depraved sodomites” who can be converted.

Wednesday

Wednesday was funny, mad and wonderful; in that specific order. Joke candidate Al Murray, who is standing for his party FUKP in Thanet against Nigel Farage’s UKIP party, kicked off his election campaign in the wrong constituency. Did he do it on purpose? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is he’s doing a surprisingly good job of lampooning the modern election campaign, and making it all a bit more interesting for all concerned.

Elsewhere, the real UKIP was embroiled in its umpteenth racism row. The party’s candidate for Newport East, Donald Grewer, resigned after praising a BNP article which described homosexuals as “fascist perverts” and “paedophiles”, and he also voiced support for the English Defence League on his Facebook page. He stepped down after admitting breaking party rules, but issued no apology. A classy act.

In London, Boris Johnson vanquished all opposition to new segregated cycle lanes, to much rejoicing from hundreds of businesses and cyclists, and anger from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and Canary Wharf Group. This was perhaps the only victory for common sense all week.

Thursday

Is spending money on acquiring Facebook “likes” money well spent? Do “likes” equal votes? The Conservative Party must believe there’s something in it, as it emerged on Thursday that they are spending over £100,000 a month on the social network.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown lashed out at the government’s English votes for English laws plan spearheaded on Tuesday by William Hague. Brown said that if David Cameron went ahead with the plan, it could be the “lit fuse which blows the union apart.” Strong stuff.

The increasingly irrelevant party, AKA the Liberal Democrats, did something this week too. Their leader Nick Clegg proposed an £8bn increase in taxes for the wealthy alongside a programme of cuts that would save £16bn. Nice one Nick.

Friday

And so this damp squib of a week is drawing to a close. Our society has never been less equal, and people have never had so little faith in politicians.

This is relevant, as it emerged on Friday that 33% of the current parliament are privately educated, compared with 7% of the population as a whole. Interestingly, 19% of potential Labour candidates at the coming election come from private schools, representing an increase of 10% from its current representation. Meanwhile, the Tories have gone slightly the other way, with 49% of candidates having attended private school compared to 52% of the incumbents, the BBC reports.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband, can perhaps end his week on a higher note than he began, as the latest Populus poll shows that he is leading David Cameron in the race to Number 10, and currently has a two in three chance of becoming the next British Prime Minister. This is despite the estimate that the Tories will gain more seats. Labour are thought to have more wriggle room for negotiation with smaller parties than the Conservatives, and that is thought to be enough to propel Miliband to the premiership. Just imagine that.

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