When the general election comes - and Tony Blair would be lacking
any judgement if he went to the polls on 3 May while the foot-and-mouth
epidemic is broadcasting his government's incompetence by the hour - it
will become known as the 'empty election'. As I have indicated in my
previous two columns, New Labour is owt for tuppence, as they say in
Hebden Bridge. Loosely translated, it means it will do anything for
votes. The Tories have failed to tell us what they stand for, assuming
they know while the new touchy-feely Michael Portillo is anywhere near
to helm. And as for the Liberal Democrats... ye Gods!
They aren't liberal. They stand to the left of Labour on taxation, which
is a curious definition of liberal, free market economics. And they most
certainly are not democratic. Their dearest wish is to secure
proportional representation. Indeed, their pursuit of this Holy Grail
has put them so in thrall to Labour that they have abandoned any chance
of convincing the people by use of the PR which normally preoccupies us
in the magazine that they are different. So why vote Lib Dem? In fact,
they are so pathetically subservient to Labour that Mr Blair plays with
them like a cat with a mouse. He offers them their PR lifeline - then
only a review of it - only if and when he thinks he is going to lose
This explains why proportional representation is a denial of democracy.
In ensuring a mathematical relationship between votes and seats, it
would rule out any prospect of getting rid of a bad government. By its
proliferation of parties, it would ensure for all time that we, the
voters, could never completely ditch a lousy cabinet. All we could hope
for is a reshuffling of the rascals. Look at what happens in Europe.
This is why I maintain the next election will be dubbed the 'empty' one.
If ideology - a belief in something - is not yet dead, it is hibernating
and shows no sign of rising from its slumbers in time to invigorate the
election. The result is a reliance on spin which, as Labour demonstrates
daily, is useless when 500,000 animals go up in smoke before our very
eyes - or more likely don't because of the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food's hamfistedness.
In a curious way, the Lib Dems under Charles Kennedy, their lovely,
laid-back Celt, tell us what British politics has become: a shoddy
manoeuvre for office and to hell with principles. Indeed, it's worse
than that. So long as Keith Vaz remains in politics, Clinton's Law
prevails: it's not what you do, but what you can get away with. One
thing is for sure, politics as it stands today is beyond the help of our
PR. It is unsellable. Instead of an election, we should put the whole
damned lot of them on trial for denying us real choice and polluting