Friday, May 02, 2008

Crisis, what crisis

Labour suffered landslide losses in the local elections last night. It looks like the Prime Minister is in trouble. Well, it looked like Gordon Brown was in trouble before, but now there's some hard data.

For American readers, many folks in England elected some of their local councillors last night. Not the whole country, just some areas, and in some councils - just some councillors. (I know it's confusing). So you might say that it's not really a referendum on Gordo - but it is. And it is because in this country, local areas are where politicians traditionally have been grown - where a cadre of footsoldiers are what can win and lose you a general election.

And especially, when it looks like Labour may have been pushed into third place (behind the hopeless LibDems) and the Conservatives are winning seats in places where - as a BBC radio presenter put it - I didn't know there were any Tories there.

According to the beeb:

BBC research suggests the party has fallen into third place nationally with 24% of the vote, beaten by the Tories on 44% and Lib Dems on 25%.

So far they are the worst local poll results for Labour in 40 years.

But the party's chief whip Geoff Hoon told the BBC there was "no crisis" for Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the lead-up to the next general election.

Geoff Hoon says "no crisis" - what a loon, that Mr Hoon.

The Mayor of London

No return as yet. Fingers crossed that London follows the national trend.


An Anglophile Expat Mama in Bangkok said...

Interesting. You're hoping that London follows the national trend towards the Conservatives, and yet you support Clinton back home. I've heard that the Dems vs. Repubs dynamic doesn't exactly match that of Labour vs. Tories, so perhaps that explains this apparent contradiction -- ?

On the other hand, I'm relatively new to reading your (witty, well-written) blog, so the genesis of your stance on English politics probably was revealed in earlier posts that I've missed.

Vol-in-Law said...

Britain is very left wing compared to America. The current leadership of the British Conservative party would fit roughly in the Kerry/Clinton centre of the US Democratic party. Some US Democrats are well to the right of most UK Conservatives. Most of the Labour party is socialist, in a way it's hard for most Americans to understand. I always laugh at claims the Clintons are 'hard left', these claims come from people who clearly have no experience of the real Hard Left.

The Vol's direct experience of living in a social-democrat country here in the UK resulted in her supporting the Conservatives, without changing her opinion of the US Democrats & Republicans.

Vol-in-Law said...

Actually, I recall that the Vol supported the Conservatives even back in 1997 when she first came over here, and the Tories were very unpopular. She's never considered voting Labour. I guess there are Democrats in California and New England who are at home with the UK Labour Party, but to a small town Southern Democrat (whose grand daddy survived a Union bomb in his store) Labour are pretty alien.

Vol-in-Law said...

edit: supporting Labour not 'voting Labour' - Vol doesn't get to vote. :) Not even through me - she tried to get me to vote Tory back in 2005, I refused & voted for an independent who got about 120 votes.

Sam said...

The equation of the Conservatives to moderate Democrats always seemed right to me, which is what makes Boris look like such an outlier with the whole 'piccaninny' business and the gay marraige/bestiality thing. I read what he says and about how he acts and all I can see it the Monty Python Twit of the Year contest playing in my head.

Vol-in-Law said...

"which is what makes Boris look like such an outlier with the whole 'piccaninny' business and the gay marraige/bestiality thing" - That sounds like Labour black propaganda. If Johnson is anti gay marriage, aren't many US Democrats anti gay marriage also?

Johnson is certainly less Politically Correct in his speech than most Tory politicians, and he also gets cut a lot more slack by Cameron. Livingstone says genuinely nasty things though, which Johnson never has, IMO.

An Anglophile Expat Mama in Bangkok said...

Vol-in-Law, that was so kind of you to take the time to shed some light on where England's two biggest parties fall on the political spectrum, in comparison with the American ones. Now I get it! Earlier, when I first commented, and when I was still generally equating Repubs with Tories and Dems with Labour, I had wondered if maybe Vol was a Republican who was deviating from her usual views to support Clinton so we could finally see a woman in the White House (I have several female Repub friends who are doing that) -- but now I understand that moderate Dems aren't the same as Labour. I voted for Gore in 2000 and for Kerry in 2004, so I suppose I'm a Tory at heart, then, too.

Vol, I truly enjoy your blog! My husband was seconded to his company's London headquarters for six months last year, so I shuttled our offspring between London and Bangkok as much as school schedules allowed. The experience turned me into a slightly pathetic Anglophile, so until the firm moves us there permanently in a few years, I'm trying to stay abreast of all things London; I found your site after Googling "American expats London" or similar, and was immediately engaged by your wry observations and glimpses of London life.

As for school allegiances, I confess to being a Wahoo and my otherwise-very-nice husband is a...cough, cough...please forgive him...Blue Devil. The horror! :)

Vol-in-Law said...

"I had wondered if maybe Vol was a Republican who was deviating from her usual views..."

Heh heh, no, the Vol is a rock-ribbed Democrat - she thinks (Southern) Republicans are crazy! >:) She seems to tolerate my support for Ron Paul though, but I also support Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, so maybe it evens out.

Roughly speaking the right of the current Labour party would be on the centre-left of the US Democrat party and the left of the current Conservative party would be on the centre-right of the US Democrat party. Since currently those are the dominant factions in both parties, they both fit comfortably within the centre of the Democrats.

There are differences between US and UK politics beyond that - the British forgot about their Rights to Bear Arms (1688 Bill of Rights); we don't have official government mandated Affirmative Action, we have socialist universal health care (plus you can go private if you prefer), we don't have the death penalty (now banned by the EU).

Sam said...

ViL, you're certainly correct that many, if not most, Democratic politicians are opposed to gay marriage. I'd hazard that most of the opposition is more political than moral, but that is no more than my guess. That said, I'm not aware of any who don't see the difference between a couple of guys marrying and a guy marrying a dog. That perspective is genrally the purview of the Santorum/Huckabee wing of the Republican Party.

However, I think it's probably fair to say that Johnson's comments about gay marriage and Africans fall under the category of satire, which is a more sharply edged form of rhetoric in Britain than it is the U.S., so it may cut a bit deeper over here, especially in relation to skin color and sexual identity. The consensus seems to be "That's just Boris being Boris." I hope that's the case. But if it isn't, at least it proves to be an entertaining 4 years.

Of course, all I know about politics over there is what I read from the safety and comfort of my Texas perch over here, so I gladly defer to the wisdom and experience of you and the Vol regarding all things London. By the way, for folks like me who are so enamored of Britain and London in particular, y'all's perspectives are of inestimable value. Not just London stuff, but the parenting stuff, too. All in all, your blog is one of the best around.

Also, I like Webb an awful lot. He'll make Barack a great Vice President.

Vol Abroad said...

thanks y'all for the very kind comments.

I like Webb, too. Webb on the ticket would be about the only thing that would tempt me to vote for Obama right about now.

As for Boris, I won't even pretend to defend some of his more colorful comments. But on balance Ken Livingstone says stuff that's at least as prejudiced and nasty about Jews, Americans and anyone who criticises his cozying to some fairly unsavory Muslim clerics, including women and gay activists, is called an Islamophobe.

Vol-in-Law said...

"Also, I like Webb an awful lot. He'll make Barack a great Vice President."

We're hoping he'll make Clinton a great vice president. :)

You're right about satire - put it down to cultural differences. I know Boris was satirising Tony Blair's penchant for developing-country jaunts with one of his quips, but I have no idea about this 'marrying a dog' comment. Most of the Conservative men who regularly attend my local branch meetings are gay couples*, that seems common throughout the London Conservatives, and I strongly doubt that Boris is a raging homophobe. He'd never have got anywhere in London Conservative politics if he were.

*4 out of 6, by my count. Including me in the 2/6.

Sam said...

For what it's worth, he said: "if gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog."

In any event, congratulations on his victory. The Guardian says it's a fait accompli.

Sam said...

Finally, Boris gave a great acceptance speech and Ken's was humble. What a mature and civilized transfer of power. It was real pleasure to see.

Vol-in-Law said...

sam - as you quoted, Boris is unsure whether he supports gay marriage. :) Personally I disagree with Boris, I support state-recognised gay marriage while being against state-supported polygamy or bestiality, because I want to strengthen marriage as a means to strengthening monogamous & monoandrous relations. I think Boris tends towards the libertarian view of seeing all relations as equivalent.

The speeches were very civilised, at least until the walk-out on the BNP candidate. I disagreed with Boris' generous assessment of Livingstone, but it demonstrates how much of a centrist Boris is.