It’s been so long.
Do you remember this? On Wednesday 28th April 2010, Nick Clegg began a final push for students to vote for the LibDems.
“Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign.
“It’s because they don’t want to come clean with you about what they’re planning.
David Coburn claims in an interview with the Big Issue that he was against the EU from 1st January 1973 onward, for a rather odd reason:
“I was politicised young, while I was a pupil at Glasgow High School. I collected old coins, bought and sold silver shillings to dealers, I was busy and happy. Then we joined the European Union, decimalisation was introduced, and overnight my coin business was destroyed. That set me not only against the government, but also the EU.”
David Coburn was born in 1958. If his birthday is between March and August, he would probably have started primary school in August 1963, and gone on to high school (secondary school) in August 1970, when he was 12. (If his birthday is between September and February, he would probably have started at high school in August 1969.)
But the day that the UK and Ireland decimalised our currencies was 15th February 1971, when David Coburn could not have been older than 13. The transition period for the pre-decimal currency ended on 31st August 1971.
We’ll overlook David Coburn’s confusion of the EU (established 1993) with the European Economic Community. He’s also confused the year the UK decimalised the currency (announced in 1966, when he was 8: finally completed in 1971, when he was 13) when the year the UK joined the EEC (1973, when he was 15).
Instead let’s consider his claims to have been running an antique coin business when a schoolboy.
In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.
But as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
Looking ahead to 2015, the polls say (and the bookies agree) the next general election is likely to be a Labour victory.
The results in so far from the local English council elections support that (full results won’t be out til later today): despite a low turnout (estimated at 36%) Labour has maintained or gained control in 27 local councils (up 2 – there were 161 local authority elections yesterday) and won 617 council seats (up by 101). Including – as I found out via Twitter – David Cameron’s favourite Tory council Hammersmith & Fulham.
The Conservatives have lost control in 8 councils (they’ve kept control in 27) and are down 99 council seats. The Liberal Democrats have lost control in one council (kept control in two) and are down 93 council seats. None of this looks good for their general election prospects.
The Green Party have four seats so far, up by one.
None of this, however, is the headlining news.
Everyone in Scotland is so focussed on the referendum that they’re forgetting the European elections on 22nd May. (And that’s worrying, because low turnout is how parties like UKIP get in.)
Illustrating this forgetfulness about the European elections, last night on Have I Got News For You an English comedian made a joke about “Methadone elections” and Susan Calman took audible offence because she’d forgotten about the EuroElections and thought he meant the independence referendum was methadone: but the English comedian had forgotten about the Scottish referendum – he was making a joke about the methadone of the European Parliament elections compared to the heroin smack of a General Election.
George Osborne says the Treasury won’t permit Scotland to use the UK pound, supposing Scotland votes for independence. In May 2015 – regardless of how Scotland votes in September – Osborne’s reign as least-qualified British Chancellor since the one who forgot his budget speech in 1869 comes to an end, so his pronouncements are necessarily limited to campaigning for a Yes vote.
(What? There was another reason for his coming up to Scotland? Seriously, does anyone think a very posh, very English Tory Minister telling Scots what they can and cannot do is likely to be anything but a drawback for the Better Together campaign?)
Quite possibly the worst result for 18th September would be for fewer than 50% of the electorate to vote, but for Yes to win by a narrow margin. The more Conservative Ministers moved to join the debate the better in that regard.
The next General Election for the UK will be on 7th May 2015. In Scotland, we’re all looking at 18th September 2014, but for the Westminster parties, the general election campaigning has already begun.
At the 2010 general election, the results were Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57: the LibDems dashed into a coalition with the Tories, and the hugely unpleasant mess that followed is still miring us up.
It’s fair to say that without the LibDem decision to join the Tory party and keep them in government (despite Tories not having won an election since 1992) – there likely would not have been a majority-SNP government in Holyrood: conceivably, if enough Scots had voted LibDem in 2011, there might not be an independence referendum this year.
If you’re a Conservative/LibDem supporter, this must be like watching Titanic, except that Nick Clegg and David Cameron and Ed Miliband aren’t even as appealling as DiCaprio, Winslet, and Zane. The iceberg has hit, the ship is peeling apart and sinking, and yet you know the end of the movie is ages away and already seems to have been going on for far too long.
For the rest of us, though, things as much worse than simply enduring a long, long movie in the cinema as being on the Titanic was worse than taking part in the movie.
Paul Goodman, executive editor of ConservativeHome, offers four reasons why he does not believe the Tories can win a majority in 2015.
There is really just one reason, but it’s a shattering iceberg:
Austerity: The proclaimed conviction that if only enough people are unemployed or in work but struggling on a low income, plus essential services cut to the bone and cut again, then the economy will improve.
The belief that the economy must be destroyed in order to save it is essential to Tory thinking and was adopted by the LibDems with hardly a gulp. Labour can only lose if they adopt it too.
Nick Clegg’s New Year message leans heavily on things he had less than nothing to do with:
“The last twelve months have been lit up by moments that will stay with us forever. When Mo Farah approached the final stretch of the 10,000m final, who wasn’t up on their feet, screaming at the TV?
“When Nicola Adams beamed at the crowd after winning the first ever women’s Olympic boxing, who didn’t smile back? I was lucky enough to be there, and that’s one I’ll never forget.
“Was there anything more British than that drenched choir in the Jubilee River Pageant, singing Rule Britannia! in the pouring rain?
“Incredible images. Spectacular shows. Jaw-dropping personal triumphs.”
Sadly, none of them involved the Liberal Democratic party or its leader.
To be able to form a government the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons needs to be able to count on a minimum of 326 votes: otherwise, as soon as the government does something which the opposition cannot approve of, they can hold a vote of no confidence which the government will lose: Parliament is dissolved, a general election occurs.
The median age of the population of the UK is 40.2: the last time there was a general election called in those circumstances was October 1974. Over half the population are not old enough to remember this except as a historical report: no one under 56 is old enough to have voted in 1974, the year of two elections. Gordon Brown would have been 23 that year.
Ed Miliband wouldn’t yet have been 5: Nick Clegg was 7: David Cameron would have been 7 at the time of the first General Election in 1974, and the second happened the day after his 8th birthday.