Monday, 24 May 2010
Temperatures are rising at my house...not because of this unexpected dalliance with summer, but because the nation's press has got its collective knickers in a twist about the new Lib-Con coalition plans to allow rape defendants anonymity in court before conviction. Listening to the collective handwringing over this piece of legislation is causing me some angst.
Wednesday, 12 May 2010
After a year of speculation about an election, a month of actual campaigning, one night of results and five days of coalition talks, Britain finally has a new government...and it's one very few people were expecting!
David Cameron's Conservative Party failed to get an overall majority, so they have entered into a coalition with the unlikely bedfellows of Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats. This is the political equivalent of one those cute animal stories where a lion adopts an orphaned owl and they snuggle together adoringly across the species.
In fact watching Dave n' Nick's press conference from the rose garden at Downing Street earlier, I wouldn't have been surprised if they started snuggling up in front of the cameras themselves. It was like the conclusion of one of those rom coms where the protagonists 'hate' each other until they admit they just can't keep their hands off each other. Two former political foes billing and cooing at each other amid the mid-May birdsong.
For someone who has been pretty much glued to the rolling news since polls closed on at 10pm on the 6th, following each crazy twist and turn like a political junkie on a rollercoaster, this giggle-fest was almost the last straw for my weary soul. It took a lot of willpower not to reach for a stiff drink at 2pm to make it all go away.
As someone who has consistently voted for the Lib Dems since 2001 in all elections, even the last London Mayoral Election when they stood the weirdest candidate they could find, I am feeling somewhat discombobulated. My vote for a pro-European party that opposes Trident and supports financial breaks for poorer people had got an old Etonian elected as PM. But it had also allowed the usually sidelined third party to have five Cabinet seats and force a referendum on electoral reform. My feelings on the subject cannot keep up with the pace of change.
Vince Cable finally gets a shot at bringing level-headedness and foresight to the Treasury. This almost makes up for the man child George Osborne getting Chancellor. Cameron also creates a Cabinet almost entirely of elected politicians rather than the large numbers of unelected representatives from the House of Lords Labour had. The Lib Dems manage to get the Tories to agree to increased tax thresholds and Capital Gains tax along with that aforementioned referendum. Maybe this LibCon love in isn't so bad?
And then you realise that Cameron's Cabinet has one solitary woman onboard and she's holding three positions at once. Yes, Theresa May confirms stereotypes of multi-tasking and takes on Home Secretary, Minister for Women and Minister for Equality. This wouldn't be so bad if she didn't have a record as long as her arm for voting against measures of equality, especially on abortion limits and reproductive rights for gays and lesbians. It would seem that the sole woman in the Cabinet hates women.
I hardly have enough political ire left for the fact that certifiable right wing nut job Liam Fox will be Secretary for Defence while William Hague brings his brand of narrow mindedness to being Foreign Secretary. The fact that social conservative Iain Duncan Smith, a man who can barely open a milk carton according to those in the know, will be in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions makes me fear that I will soon be blogging (and begging) from the poorhouse.
I like to think that once the political furore dies down and news specials no longer replace Eastenders at the last minute as political correspondents look shell shocked, I will be able to get my head around all the political upheaval of the past week. I might even been able to consider the whole coalition rationally rather than feeling like I've been punched in the chest politically each time I realise what has just happened. I just wonder if I'll be able to do it before the coalition is over in five years time?
ETA: about 30 seconds after I posted this, Baroness Warsi became the first British Muslim woman to hold a Cabinet position....see what I mean about non stop?
Thursday, 6 May 2010
Well, I've done my civic duty, put my Xs in the boxes earlier today and voted in the most important General Election for a decade. Voting ends in a couple hours, so it's more or less over bar the shouting and my apprehension is turning to excitement...
You see, I am a (not so) secret political geek and I enjoy few things more than sitting up all night watching election coverage. It's long been a source of disappointment to me that thanks to the late advent of rolling news coverage I missed out on watching the 2000 George Bush debacle unfold in the wee hours. I've made up for it by watching every bit of election coverage possible since then, even local council results. The latest US Presidential race will be a hard night to beat as I watched it at home while talking to a multitude of interested parties around the world thanks to the internet.
Tonight however I shall be going old school and watching the results in the comfort of my own home with my brother who just happens to be the only person I know who is even more of a political geek than me. We both did A Level politics at the same school in Belfast, taught by a man called Mr Foster who had such an all-encompassing love for the subject that he used to get up at 4am to record specific programmes from the World Service onto cassette tape. His first wife may have left him for such things, but his pupils loved him for it. Classes were hours of debate and involvement that even the sulkiest teen couldn't help but enjoy.
I'll be thinking of Mr Foster tonight as my brother and I open another beer and try not to start a politically charged argument around 2am. But not til I've finished watching Come Dine With Me...
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Tomorrow is the Big Day. Britain is finally going to the polls for a General Election after what seems like the longest campaign in the history of the world. Normally I feel a sense of relief at this point because even as a political junkie there is only so much election talk I can take. This time however I am alternating between butterflies in my stomach and a sinking sensation...
This is because both the Conservatives and Labour have a real chance of getting into power and I can't quite decide which is a scarier prospect. A party that ruined the country irreparably in the 80s or a party that ruined the country irreparably in the 00s? A Prime Minister who has only the interests of the rich at heart or a Prime Minister who kow-tows to the bankers no matter what? The horns of this dilemma are big enough to be hung on the wall and shown off.
It may not surprise you to hear that I will be voting for the Lib Dems. I've been voting for them for a while now thanks to a dislike of the Tories that comes from growing up in the 80s and a lingering resentment of Labour's actions over the Iraq War. This time though I'm one of the cool kids thanks to the recent outbreak of Clegg-mania rather than a political oddball.
I'm not sure the Lib Dems are any better than the Tories or Labour in some ways, but they are different and a change is as good as a rest. I don't expect them to be perfect, but I also think they might manage not to destroy our economy, make the rich even richer and embroil us in an illegal war. I'm willing to give that a go.
None of the parties have spoken to me as a young woman. Especially a single, childless, unemployed woman with health concerns and a feminist mind set. Every policy concerning women concentrates on them being mothers above all else. Tough shit if like all the women in this country you happen to be multi-faceted and capable of more than one thing at once. You don't matter in 2010 in the UK (but then neither do single childless men so maybe I should chalk that one up to equality?)
Women politicians have been all but invisible in this campaign. Admittedly I'm happy to see a less of Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman toeing the party line every time they open their mouth, but it would also be good to have seen women represented by more than Diane Abbott larking about on This Week or Sarah Teather discussing political theme tunes on Newsnight. Although compared to the terrifying lack of black and ethnic minority candidates or representatives, I'm being churlish to complain.
Despite the sudden burst of national enthusiasm for the Lib Dems, I think the rest of the tone of the election campaign sets the scene for the next Parliament. No matter who gets in, there will be much more obfuscating about issues the electorate actually want to discuss, more reliance on how politicians look on TV than how they work with their constituents, 1950s style focus on the leaders' wives, a total lack of discussion about crime and a lot of dithering about electoral reform without any solid policies.
It's a depressing outlook to have on the country you live in, but it's even more depressing to think that it might all get worse come Friday. So make sure you all use your vote tomorrow no matter what and even if we can't salvage the situation, you're at least entitled to bitch about it for the next five years!