Sunday, September 23, 2007

England travails! Is an election weeks away?

Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the failed and disgraced Tony Blair left office. Of course Tony was the lap dog to George Bush and Bush manages to destroy everything he touches.

One result of the close alliance between Bush and Blair was that the Labour Party was in basement poll wise. And in the recent council elections the Conservatives came back strong, capturing more seats than most people thought possible.

Yet, it appears that Mr. Brown may be able to pull off a win in spite of Blair. And it is possible he may pull it off very soon. The rumors that are floating about English political circles is that Brown is about to call a snap election. And Labour is having its annual conference now and the word is that Brown may use this conference for the announcement, and to launch the campaign.

When Brown was asked about the rumors he gave what sounded to these ears like a campaign speech. “"We had terrorism, we had the floods, we had foot and mouth, we had the financial turbulence, and I'll keep getting on with the job.” I must say I'm sorry he had a case of "foot and mouth" but it is common in political circles. Brown then went into other statements about things he will be fixing -- of course the National Health Service is at the top of the list—again. Apparently no matter how much they fix it the damn thing remains broken. It is a top priority for fixing every election year. As the saying goes: “Don’t mend it, end it.”

Brown has until May 2010 to call an election but now may be his best time. What if the US economy tanks due to the collapse of the housing market? Consumers in the US are heavily in debt, partly because of the low-interest rates the Fed has been pushing. But consumers think their home equity is sufficient to cover their debts and feel confident to spend what they don't have. But if the housing bubbles continues deflating the equity will decline in more and more houses and those debts will come back to haunt many a consumer. Add to this the collapsing dollar and that this will push up prices of consumer goods significantly. This will cause lots of problems, especially for banks. A recession, or depression, for the US economy will impact the UK. And already the Brits have had their first panics. Just days ago thousands of people lined up outside one bank to withdraw all their deposits in fear of a collapse. The price of shares in other banks dropped by as much as a third before the government rushed in and promised to pay 100% of all deposits with the money of taxpayers, if necessary.

But the fear is that this could happen again and bigger. And if the UK economy follows the US markets into the toilet no sitting Prime Minister wants to run for office under those conditions.

Brown is currently ahead of the rival Tories by 6 points in the polls. That ought not be surprising. The Tories have a new leader, if you can call him that, David Cameron. Cameron came onto the scene presenting himself as a moderate Conservative who was good on civil liberties and and on free markets. But once in the leadership he presented himself as a Labourite in Conservative drag. Since becoming party leader Cameron has been singing the tune: “Anything Labour can do, I can do better. Anything Labour spends, I can spend more.”

If Labour proposes new regulations then Cameron not only endorses those regulations but ups the ante by insisting he will regulate more than Labour does. If Tony Blair ran to the Right of John Major it appears David Cameron is intent on running to the Left of Gordon Brown.

The problem is that neither Labour voters nor Conservative voters find that particularly appealing. And Cameron comes across too slick, too driven by “focus groups”, to appeal to most voters. His lacklustre personality and lack of any principles ought to have him further behind in the polls than they do. That this hasn’t happened is not due to an innate ability on his part. It is entirely due to the utter disgust of voters over the Blair years. Cameron is a major reason that Brown is doing better than he ought to be doing.

Brown needs to figure out what risks he wants to take. He’s ahead in the polls now but Labour will still lose seats. Should he wait so that more and more voters get sick of Cameron’s Labour-lite antics? But if he waits, and the US economy tanks with England skidding downward as a result, then even a weasel like Cameron could start to look good to the voters. Brown has to bet on who is more inept at his job: George Bush or David Cameron. Neither should be where they are. If I were Brown I would probably assume that Bush is the more inept of the two. I would call a snap election within the next few days and I would hold it as quickly as possible.

Cameron will try to continue his Labour-lite positions to attract “green” voters and play down traditional Tory support for free markets (weak as that has been of late). He will probably find the voters totally underwhelmed by his stands and may try to pull some last minute flip-flops in order to shore up Tory support but by then it will be too late. Alas, it’s too late already. Cameron will have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And hopefully Tory supporters will send him to the backbench, from which he never should have emerged in the first place.

The Conservatives will have to look for a new leader. They need someone with some principles and some resolve. Anyone know how Maggie’s feeling these days?

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