Posts tagged ‘David Cameron’
I have to admit to being a little bit of a pro-European (no? never! you say), so it is with some fidgeting discomfort that I read overnight the happenings in my native land on the EU. Our London office have done a quick round up of the rebellion on their blog (sounds like something Darth Vadar would want to crush).
I think it’s worthwhile reading the Prime Minister’s full statement to the House of Commons from last night in case you missed it. As Jon Worth notes (hat tip for making the front of the Guardian’s online edition yesterday) being in office has driven probably the most Eurosceptic of Prime Ministers closer rather than farther from Europe. As I read through his speech I noted many of the arguments that pro-Europeans make for why the EU is a good thing and in our national interest. Pity it’s taken a financial crisis and frightful backbench rebellion to get Mr. Cameron to say these things out loud and in public. I do have to laugh however that he’s only just noticed that the Commission are actually for completing the internal market and a friend of the UK’s agenda generally…One has to wonder where’s he’s been since the Single European Act, oh, the UK (well that explains it).
As for the future, I’m of the opinion this debate is not going away, especially in light of the further integration needed as a result of what’s happening in the Euro-zone and the PM’s desire to fundamentally renegotiate our relationship with the EU as expressed in the same speech. As the Americans would say, “Good luck with that”. Well, so be it. It’s time the UK had this discussion and that those who are generally have an aversion to “Europe” acknowledge the good things that the EU does deliver for UK business and citizens. As someone who takes delight in seeking to convert London cabbies to the European cause I’m up for it.
(note – see top right, all views expressed on this blog are personal)
There’s never been a British general election campaign like this one! With just over a week to go before the May 6 election day it seems from the opinion polls that big changes could be on the way.
Here the Brits stand, midway between a Continental tradition of coalition government with multiple parties, and a US-style presidential battle between party leaders. The talk in Britain is of a hung parliament with no clear majority, of coalitions and of new voting systems. For some this is a threat (“look at Belgium!”), for some a promise (“look at Germany!”).
It’s the televised debates between the party leaders which have transformed this election. Nick Clegg, relatively unknown in Britain, former member of the European Parliament, member of Leon Brittan’s cabinet in the 1990s and now leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, was given his chance to shine. In an electorate still bitter at the parliamentary expenses scandal Clegg was able to distance himself and his party from the two parties which have dominated British politics for the last 60 years and to channel some of the indignation of the public in his favour.
His appeal to younger and sceptical voters seems to be particularly telling. We’ll see after the third debate next Thursday April 29 whether the Liberal Democrats can sustain their poll rating which puts them on level pegging with the Conservatives!
Britain’s relations with the EU have played a curious role in the debate so far. For both Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown the Conservatives’ secession from the European People’s Party was a stick to beat David Cameron. “Joining with a bunch of nutters” said Clegg. Cameron refused to be drawn in response other than to refer to the Polish president’s tragic death. Cameron might after all be prime minister in two weeks’ time and need all the friends he can get.
Cameron was also circumspect on EU policy issues, providing just enough to feed the appetite of a sceptical party (“in Europe, but not run by Europe”) and attacking the failure to hold a referendum on Lisbon, but giving no hostages to fortune. Take immigration for instance, which is one of the most emotive issues in this election. David Cameron, as well as Brown and Clegg, repeatedly stressed that Conservative policies would be directed at controlling the flow of “non-EU” immigrants, with passing reference to future accessions but not even a token threat to migration within the Union.
The catch phrase of the first of the debates was “I agree with Nick”, which did Mr Clegg no harm, but Gordon Brown did attack him for being anti-American – a clear confirmation of the British prime minister’s foreign policy instincts which give as much weight to the trans-Atlantic relationship as to Europe. Given his party’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq, it was an accusation that Clegg could live with.
It is impossible to predict how the euro-sceptic UK Independence Party will do on May 6. There is little sign that Europe is playing a major part in the general campaign, but any revolt against the main parties could translate into votes for UKIP and there are parts of the country such as Cornwall where anti-EU feeling runs strongly.
No one is counting their chickens. There’s little doubt that the Liberal Democrats will do well in terms of total votes in next month’s vote, but this could well translate into second place in many constituencies – the consequence of the first-past-the-post electoral system. My own prediction, or rather guess, is that the demand for change and poor turnout will hit the Labour vote, that the Conservatives will secure a small overall majority and that the Liberals will strengthen their position in the House of Commons.
This would not be a comfortable outcome if it put a newly elected prime minister David Cameron in hock to an anti-EU fringe in his own party.
There has been much written in the UK media that this will be the first truly digital general election campaign. This is true to an extent, with the numbers of blogs and websites devoting themselves to politics and the election having increased widely since the last General Election in 2005 – it is hard to believe that neither Facebook nor Twitter existed the last time Britons went to the polls. So it was perhaps somewhat surprising that one of those bloggers, Iain Dale, told a packed Fleishman-Hillard London breakfast event last week that in his view, digital content and information will not dramatically influence the outcome on election day.
Dale’s analysis was that initiatives such as myconservatives.com (a tool which enables local campaigns to recruit volunteers and collect small donations) were launched too late by the Conservatives and should have been introduced earlier in the election cycle in order to have a real impact. Labour strategists are keen to point out that their version – membersnet has been operational for several years now, where initiatives such as the phone bank (where members can phone other members and voters using an online database) have been successfully deployed. However, such online phone banks are merely digitally advanced versions of more traditional campaign methods – i.e, a compliment to the long established tactics of canvassing and cold calling rather than a digital step change.
Dale also suggested that the UK should look to political systems closer to its own parliamentary democracy such as those in Europe or Australia for inspiration, as opposed to the vast Presidential election campaigning in the USA. He’s right, but not only because of the difference in style (and resources) but also because the digital elements of that election were built on a grassroots campaign for change – in the UK, there is no such instinct, with voters turned off from politics by the expenses scandal and no great desire shown for either Brown or Cameron.
Where the bloggers and political websites can be influential is in their attempts to create news agendas either as virals or in the traditional media. After some caution, journalists are beginning to report on stories created by bloggers, with Guido Fawkes having claimed senior scalps, including Peter Hain MP and Brown’s former press adviser Damian McBride. However, it is worth remembering that the UK’s biggest political scandal this year – MPs expenses – was uncovered not by the new media, but by a very old and traditional title – the Daily Telegraph.
Recent episodes such as spoof versions of David Cameron posters have perhaps best shown how virals can attempt influence. Its owner, Clifford Singer, posted spoofs of the Tories’ main billboard campaign on his website but realised the idea could grow when he almost immediately started receiving hundreds of similar versions from viewers. Within days, a simple website was created which allowed anyone to ‘invent’ their own professionally completed versions of the Tories’ campaign posters. The Labour MP and blogger Tom Watson MP has said about the viral: “MyDavidCameron.com is an example of people taking an idea and reusing it to add to a discussion and make a point. Political party managers might not like it, but it has given election billboards new relevance and interest for the forthcoming general election. It is making electioneering interesting, unpredictable and, dare I say, more fun.”
So although the internet will not control this campaign entirely, it is already challenging political strategists, campaign advertising executives and candidates to think in new ways and to respond to challenges that they would never have envisaged just a few years ago.
You can check out more about the UK elections at the F-H London blog.
I’ve just watched President Medvedev’s first podcast. A picture speaks a thousand words and here’s a man who wants to demonstrate his importance. He has three computer screens, two mice (one for each hand?!) and more phones than I could count. Disappointingly there was no sign of the red telephone
Medvedev follows other leaders in bypassing mainstream media to talk directly to the nation and show their more cuddly side. Britain’s politicians have been running neck and neck in who’s more interactive. Tony Blair became the first PM to produce a podcast which he made with comedian Eddy Izzard and David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservatives, grabbed attention with his webcameron in 2006.
Good luck to President Medvedev, in future posts and in answering all those phones whilst keeping an eye on three screens and navigating his two mice…