Posts Tagged ‘Liberal’

Will the UK Lib-Dems go the way of the German FDP?

September 26, 2013

Last Sunday’s election results were an unmitigated disaster for the FDP in Germany. Historically – and going back to 1949 – it was unprecedented. They have no seats in the Bundestag for the first time. Sharing power in government has not helped them.

(All charts from Wikipedia)

FDP seats won

FDP vote percentage

There is a parallel to be drawn with the UK though the German proportional representation system has generally been kinder to the FDP than the UK “first past the post” system has been to the Liberal Democrats. But when times are bad the PR system of Germany is also more ruthless. The FDP dropped from an all- time high of 14.6% of the vote in 2009 to 4.8% last Sunday. The Lib-Dems were at 23% in 2010 and are currently at 10%.

File:LibDem vote-seat percent.PNG

Votes and seats won by the Lib-Dems

Today’s modern Lib-Dem party is not quite the Liberal party of old. In my youth I read about the great days of the Liberal party of Gladstone and Lloyd George (and even the young Winston Churchill). I thought quite highly of Jo Grimond and David Steele. But the merger of the Liberals – proposed by David Steele – with the break-away Social Democrats  from the right of the Labour party in 1988 has created a strange animal which has no true identity of its own. Like the ancient chimera with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a snake the Lib-Dems today try to combine mutually repellent ideologies and produce rather confused, fascistic do-gooders. With figures like Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne (now disgraced), Vince Cable and Ed Davey in their ranks they are enjoying their moment in the sun but are suffering from the twin fantasies that the tail wags the dog and that they know best what is good for others.

That their time in government supporting the Tories will be to their electoral detriment in the next general election seems very likely. Whether they will be wiped out like the FDP is unlikely in the British system but a comprehensive collapse is not inconceivable. Like the FDP which participated in a government dominated by Angela Merkel, the Lib-Dems are propping up but are totally dominated by Cameron’s conservatives.

Like the FDP, the Lib-Dems now run the risk of forcing their normally middle-of-the-road base towards the left or the right.  Like in the FDP, their traditional supporters in academia and the education system and the welfare services are going to move leftwards as the Lib-Dems give in to the Tories (with student tuition fees for example and for Helath Service cuts). The Lib-Dems have been the “green” face of this government but Cameron has been quite adept at using them for cover (as Angela Merkel has also done with the FDP). The disastrous cost of the renewable energy policies in Germany and the UK are seen as being more the fault of the Greens/FDP in Germany and of the Lib-Dems in Britain. Their ususal support among the environmental “do-gooders” is likely to shift leftwards for the moderates and greenwards for the more extreme. The traditional support from small shop keepers and small businesses is likely to shift rightwards.  The NSA scandal has hit the civil liberties image of the FDP as being a colluding party within the ruling government and so also for the Lib-Dems.  The support of The Guardian for the Lib-Dems can be compared to that of Die Zeit and Der Tagesspiegel for the FDP.

The general election in the UK is due in May 2015 (Scotland independence referendum intervening in 2014) and this gives the Lib-Dems 18 months to demonstrate that they have an agenda of their own. But this requires them to repudiate much of what they have agreed to while in government and will lead to a level of schizophrenia.

My guess is that the Lib-Dems will be reduced to less than the 10% they are currently polling at (from the 23% they had in the 2010 election). Philipp Rösler has just resigned as the FDP chairman. Nick Clegg will need to do the same in 2015 – though one could argue that the Lib-Dems might do better if they got rid of him before the election. They could do with a leader who is not as light-weight as Clegg or tainted as being Cameron’s poodle (but who?).

They will probably slip behind UKIP who are also at about the same 10% level but seem to be imploding. 2015 then will be a straight Tory-Labour fight. Neither Cameron or Milliband are particularly impressive as leaders. And so it will be a battle to see who is better at losing. And Milliband may be the more prone to losing an election.

Australian election: The battle of the zeros

August 22, 2013

The campaign is half over and two and a half weeks remain.

Maybe it is very exciting to those close the campaign. But to an observer on the other side of the world, it has all been rather dull and disappointing so far.  Gillard versus Abbott would surely have generated more heat and energised the voters a little more. Kevin Rudd’s ubiquitous  smiling – after his “treachery” in deposing Gillard – now seems more sinister than avuncular. If Kevin Rudd smiles at you – it is time to watch your back! Rudd had a little honeymoon in the polls but seems to have lost all his initial gains and is now at about the same level as Gillard was. If the present poll numbers hold till the election, the Coalition will win by 10 – 20 seats.

Rudd and Abbott have had two TV debates so far. The first was apparently a tie but Rudd is said to have won the second one on points. But the campaign – at least from this distance – has been lacking in any real energy. No major scandals revealed. No scintillating wit. No “cut and thrust” of great repartee. No fire. No brimstone.

Even after yesterday’s debate – which was a little difficult to watch in its entirety – only two real issues – of substance – came up.

1. Kevin Rudd was very unpleasant to the lady doing his make-up before the debate,

Bridal make-up artist and hair stylist Lily Fontana worked on both Mr Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott ahead of the televised debate at the Broncos Leagues Club on Wednesday.

Caused a stir: Lily Fontana put this post on Facebook.
Caused a stir: Lily Fontana put this post on Facebook. Photo: Screen grab via SMH

Ms Fontana took to Facebook afterwards to compare her interactions with the two leaders.

2. Tony Abbott told Rudd to “shut up”  though there is some talk that this was not a mistake by Abbott but was actually deliberate strategy. Such deviousness would have been consistent with Rudd’s methods but – I think – is beyond Abbott. Video of Abbott’s shut up moment is here.

Of course the Liberals are trying to make capital out of Rudd’s rudeness  to the make-up lady and Labour are trying to make capital of Abbott’s rudeness to Rudd.

(And why is it that Socialist leaders are always rudest to others of the “working classes”?)

Simple arithmetic tells us that there should be no difference between a few empty words and many empty words.

(zero substance x few words) = 0 = (zero substance x many words) 

But watching last night’s debate (or at least some parts of it), I realised that there was a significant difference.  Even with zero substance there can be a substantial difference in the level of irritation engendered in the audience. Many empty words produce a great “ZERO” while a few empty words only give us a little “zero”.

And in the battle of the ZEROs Kevin Rudd won hands down. Rudd spoke 5320 “empty” words while Abbott could only manage 3910 “empty” words and Rudd can therefore be declared the bigger zero (so far)!


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