Bill's Archived Comments

for the week beginning: Monday, 2nd December 2002

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- Is a realignment of British politics a myth or potential reality? (5 Dec 2002)

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I've taken a few weeks longer to get back to posting here than I envisaged - partly this was because of a rather more extended vacation than originally planned, but aided and abetted by a heavy cold soon after my eventual return; I've also acquired a new 'toy', a digital camera (something I have been researching with a view to purchasing for ages), so have been experimenting with that, too. Anyway, I'm now back for a few weeks at least.

Is a realignment of British politics a myth or potential reality? (5 Dec 2002)

The Liberal Democrat Party announced on their website yesterday that they plan to write to one million former Tory voters in pursuance of their aim to supplant the Conservative Party as the real alternative to the present Labour government. Perhaps therefore I may expect to receive a 'billet doux' from Charlie boy (Charles Kennedy, LibDem Leader), no doubt something that would brighten up any pre-Christmas gloom?

Interestingly, I had a letter some months ago from one of the Labour Party regional list MSPs for this area, inviting me to contact her to discuss any matters of interest to me at a constituency 'surgery' she was planning in Nairn; I wrote back suggesting that it was highly-unlikely I would ever consider voting for her Party (the elections for the Scottish Parliament are scheduled for May 2003) and I surmised that it was to begin to prepare for these elections that she had written; and as far as that goes, naturally I realise that it is only realistic, even laudable, that conscientious MSPs should make early contact with their current and potential future constituents (I thanked her for her interest and advised that I had no immediate matters of concern - I even wished her 'good luck' in the forthcoming elections). On the other hand, the good lady had never troubled to advise me of her existence prior to the last election, or indeed in the three years already spent of her current four-year mandate. In this context it is interesting to observe that, at the last election, many of those who stood in the regional lists (i.e. for election under our modified system of proportional representation for some of the seats in the Scottish Parliament) for the Labour Party did not also stand in any constituency for election under the usual 'first past the post' rules; in effect, such individuals' election as regional list MSPs depended not at all on their campaigning efforts, but only on their ability to gain a high enough position in their Party's list to quasi-guarantee their election; QED the fact that she had not troubled to campaign very heavily at the last election. One imagines there may be changes in the way the Labour Party is to select its candidates for the May 2003 elections, which have prompted this [late] flurry of activity - I have not heard about this, I admit, and am probably just being overly-cynical (or not).

Now, back to the LibDems - according to a short report in today's 'Daily Telegraph', the Conservatives are so concerned about the LibDem plans that they have set up an 'anti-LibDem' unit - maybe they have, for all I know, but I think the Conservatives (in this area and some other parts of Scotland, at the least) have been concerned for a lot longer than this with what they have portrayed as LibDem 'dirty tricks'. Of course, the real 'battle' in Scotland is between the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party - the Conservatives and the LibDems are really just bit-players in Scotland in recent decades, however much they may huff and puff. However, it is at least potentially possible that the Conservatives in England sense a real threat from the LibDems in that part of the UK - the LibDems have been making slow, but steady, progress in local elections in England for some years and have replaced Conservatives in a few parliamentary constituencies at the last General Election and some by-elections, in constituencies which were once regarded as very 'safe' Conservative seats, but which are obviously safe no longer, because in a few cases the LibDems have consolidated their by-election successes by holding seats, with increased majorities, at the last General Election.

Personally, even now, I would regard the LibDems replacing the Conservatives as the second major Party with a certain amount of disquiet - they remain rather too wedded to quasi-'socialist' ideas for my liking, but there is no question that in recent years they have become somewhat less woolly in their policies and what one can understand as an outsider of their thinking and that they have a small, but growing, corps of spokespeople who are obviously intelligent, pragmatic and decent individuals. This category of Conservative has, in my view, been in steep decline in recent years, having been replaced in the much-reduced parliamentary Conservative Party contingent by rather unpleasant-seeming (to me) right-wing ideologues.

The realignment I speak of in my title for this article is by no means inevitable, but time does seem to be running out for the Conservatives - I don't think they have yet accepted that it is some of their policies which are being rejected by the electorate; they seem to think it is poor presentation that is their problem. Will they waken up in time?

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Copyright © 2002 William Cameron