05 July 2007

Did the British People Lie? Or Were They Just Wrong About Brown's WMC (Wholly Missing Charisma)?

The opinion polls were very clear - with Brown as leader the Tory lead could extend to as much as 15%. Now the change has happened however, they give Labour a 4% lead. Why the discrepancy?...

I think this demonstrates how careful you have to be when interpreting these polls/surveys. Of course the more intelligent pollsters knew long ago that these polls were not going to be a reliable indicator of what would really happen.

I am still worried about Brown as leader - his lack of charisma and his shaky performance in the commons the other day are going to be a problem. It might all boil down to how cleverly his 'lack of spin' can be spun as a positive.

I think Brown does well when he lets his policies do the talking (like his talk of constitutional reform) - this is going to be difficult when the press are at their most hostile - but the current lead in the polls is encouraging.

For me, Brown got it wrong over the Euro. Blair was willing to be brave and take the press on over this but without his chancellor he knew it was a no-hoper. With Brown on board in the reasonably early days of Labour popularity - despite the opinion polls against the Euro, I think a referendum could have been won. Of course now it would be very difficult, these things can change quite quickly though. Most opposition to the Euro is 'soft' relying as it does on ignorance of the issues and the tabloid agenda. Confronted with a strong positive case from the leaders of all the political parties (including the most popular Tories, Helseltine and Clarke) except the Eurosceptic Cameron Tories and fringe Greens and BNP - it could still be close.

So rightly no referendum on the European constitution and no leeway on the West Lothian question? Who knows?

This was always going to be difficult territory for Brown. I am however very pleased the way he has led debate on reforming the constitution. A lot of his 12 points about the executive sound impressive but are actually quite minor - like parliament dissolution, declaration of war. All this will be decided by his MPs rather than the PM, but given how MPs both Tory and Labour voted for the Iraq war - I don't think this will make much difference (it always annoys me that people forget Tory MPs were more gung-ho about Iraq invasion and support for George Bush).

I am more pleased he has raised the prospect of votes for 16 year olds. There is strong evidence that voting earlier in life can be a lifetime forming habit. We only have to look at the 2001 turnout amongst those who got a general election vote at 18 (65%) compared to those who had to wait till they were 23 (49%).

"A turnout of only 49% was recorded in the 2001 election amongst the then 27 year olds who were 17 in 1992 and therefore had to wait until 1997 when they could finally vote in a general election at the age of 23. Amongst those who had just
turned 18 in 1992, 65% bothered to vote in 2001. How many other simple factors
can be shown to affect turnout by such a large [margin]?
This ‘birth effect’ cannot be put down to a mysterious accident in 1992 as similar
findings hold for last year’s election. In 2001 the oldest first-time voters at 22 had a turnout 14% lower than those voting within a year of turning 18."

It seems what Religion, McDonalds and the tobacco companies have learned about maximising revenue, is also true about maximising voters - 'start them young'. Even then, votes at 16 will still mean some voters will have to wait until they are 21 to vote in a GE!

As for weekend voting that is unlikely to increase turnout by much and has it's own problems (thanks to the religious amongst us, we could not hold the election on one day). There is also the objection that more people might be on holiday.

In terms of a referendum on Europe - I would like to see one. I think Brown should take on the tabloid press (we cannot continue to be governed by Murdoch, Rothermere and co. - it just ain't democracy).

In fact I would like to see four referenda - one on entry to the Euro, one on a new UK Constitution that includes electing the upper house and sorts out the West Lothian argument with devolved power to the lowest possible level of government, one on a proportional electoral system for the Commons, and one about our place in Europe (what all this constitution argument is really about is whether we stay in the EU or not). The Eurosceptics know they would lose that argument so they try to chip away at our membership of the EU in other ways.

I doubt all these referenda could be held at the same time, but it would once and for all let the people decide who governs the UK - the press and a dysfunctional electoral system or a majority elected government.


  1. Vote YES to Free Europe Constitution at www.FreeEurope.info!

  2. Yes indeed!

    For those who think the EU a bad idea - look to Ireland - one of the poorest in Europe when it entered, now so wealthy it is a net contributor to the EU.

    If only the UK had been so enthusiastic about joining the Euro etc, maybe we would have achieved the same levels of growth as Ireland.

    The UK was on it's knees begging to get into the EU in the 1960's. Thankfully, Heath managed to get us in otherwise we never would have reversed our downward trajectory.

    Don't get me wrong, we had to pay a price to get in, our contributions, the CAP and the undemocratic structures of the EU have exacted a price, but overall every country in the EU have prospered. Which is why there is a queue to get in. Ask any business if they want to leave the EU. It is folly.