Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Pre-election thoughts

The cause for AV seems set to lose - deservedly so, in my view. I think perhaps one of the most mystifying comments I've read on this topic is Norm's suggestion that supporters of AV may well be defeated but can draw consolation from the poor quality of the arguments made by the No campaign. If the No campaign has made such poor arguments, what does this say about the Yes campaign? That they made even worse ones? Or perhaps they think opponents of AV are merely stupid? I suspect the latter but either way, how this could be a source of consolation is beyond me. (I accept there's one or two other possibilities that I'll leave for now...)

The arguments have been fairly appalling on both sides - which is why I hope the ultimate winner is the No2Referendums campaign. A whole lot of issues that have nothing to do with the matter in hand have been collapsed into the question? That's what happens with referendums. A polarised argument with exaggerated and downright false claims made by both sides? Artificially simplifying and then polarising a debate is a well-documented feature of referendums - why did anyone think it was going to be different this time? Other features commonly associated with them have been present here too, such as an attempt to paper-over fundamental fractures within a Cabinet. If there's any consolation to be had from all this, it is for me that this shabby and demotic strategy clearly hasn't worked.

When proponents of voting reform aren't busy being patronising themselves, they like to accuse their opponents of doing the same to the electorate. How patronising to Scots, I heard Chris Huhne say, to even imagine changes in the voting system might confuse voters. I'm wondering what other explanation he has for the astonishingly high proportion of spoiled ballots there were in the last Holyrood election?

Labour also seem set to lose in this election. Again, deservedly so, in my view. I have had literature from the Labour party posted to me that is so populist, scaremongering and mean-spirited that it would probably make Norman Tebbit blanche. I'm minded not to vote for them were it not for the raft of nationalist candidates on the ballot - although I have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that there's not a few Scottish unionist voters who will cast their votes for the SNP this time round.

Last, and least, we have the carnival candidate for the Respect party, Mr George Galloway. Here's his election pitch:

His concern for the state of Glasgow's roads is expressed with a certain degree of hyperbole, as we've come to expect. It's not that this concern isn't justified - but it is precisely this kind of mundane issue that hasn't been the sort on which he has built his reputation, to say no more than that. Let them eat windy rhetoric...

His ability to speak, if you can bear to view the clip, seems pretty much the central plank of his election campaign. (It's all location, location: in Westminster, before the US Senate, on the radio, on TV, in Saddam's court... Oh hang on - inexplicably, he failed to mention the last one.) Now, I don't think even his most trenchant critics disagree that Mr Galloway has a way with words but I think it's worth reminding ourselves of the causes to which he has applied his often impressive rhetorical skills:
"George Galloway has praised the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, for his dignity, referring to him as the last of the Arab leaders and his country as the last fortress against western aggressors.

In a speech that will incense Syrian democracy campaigners, the former Glasgow MP urged Syrians to take pride in the Baathist authoritarian, who inherited rule from his father, Hafez Assad.

An anticipated UN report into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, would "frame" Syria, Mr Galloway told an audience at the University of Damascus in a highly charged lecture.

"All dignified people in the world, whether Arabs or Muslims or others with dignity, are very proud of the speech made by president Bashar al-Assad a few days ago here in Damascus," he said.

"For me he is the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of the remaining dignity of the Arabs, and that's why I'm proud to be here."
Thought it might be worth mentioning, what with Syria being a bit topical and all. See ya tomorrow...

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