New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:

Westminster watch

In that intensely surreal period between a General Election being declared and decided (politely known by political enthusiasts as 'the campaign'), reporters, pundits and psephologists find themselves in a frenetic limbo where knowledge and ignorance are often indistinguishable - though it is their job to persuade us otherwise.

The biggest question we want answering is always, 'Who's going to win?' But despite the increasing sophistication of opinion polling techniques, which have recovered and advanced qualitatively and quantitatively since the factual battering they received in 1992, the infuriating truth remains unchanged. Whatever privileged insight is claimed, no-one knows how things will shake out until all the votes are counted and apportioned - as we have seen again this time.

The opaqueness of a close-run election is peculiarly significant in a first-past-the-post system where the disproportions between votes cast and candidates elected can be considerable, and where local variables (especially in marginals) may make a massive difference to the overall outcome.

Soon, all will be clear again, we tell ourselves. But since this column emerges from that 'seeing through a glass darkly' which is attempted foresight, there is only one of my election predictions that I can confidently say will have been fulfilled come May. The national poll will see another victory for Lablibservatism, or maybe Conliblabism. They are hard to tell apart.

Lablibservatism is the triangulated distance travelled from Blairism to Cameronism, with a larger twist of Brown and a smaller dose of Clegg in the mix. It is product of an unreformed system which demonstrates, as those naughty anarchists put it, that 'Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in.' So within the first 100 days of any new administration that isn't so minority that another poll is pending, you are likely to hear that 'Now we have seen the books' our pledges on X, Y and Z may have to be 'modified in the light of the facts on the ground.' Manifestos designed to woo voters and nutmeg journalists tend to waver or crumble on actual contact with governance, because the distance between an aspiration and a policy can be very large indeed.

When people vote in elections it is often a deeply formed habit, a visceral sense of grievance, a generalised desire for change, a particular personality or a specific concern that motivates them. The difference achieved by that shift may be large for some, but the overall architecture of the political system  imposes a rather larger homogeneity.

So Conliblabism turns out to be the enforced consensus that while it is easy to bash bankers and praise the NHS, the incoming government will still end up incentivizing the wealthy by giving them money and incentivizing the less wealthy by taking it off them. Plus ├ža change?