It’s not been a good week. Liverpool beat Atletico Madrid, but went out of Europe on the away goals rule. And now it looks as thought Benitez will go, leaving behind him a demoralised club with demoralised support. And it isn’t his fault.
Then I was embarrassed watching Gordon Brown being embarrassed into smiling penitence. Then I glanced at acres of newspaper and media response to the beauty contest that turned British politics into a policy-free, soundbite-rich, mantra-repetitive presidential-style personality show. The leaders’ debates have brought the election alive and engaged a new generation of voters (maybe) – but at the cost of policy scrutiny, accountability and detailed analysis?
OK, there has been plenty of analysis in various media, but the landscape is dominated by three personalities and their strengths/weaknesses. We are being asked to vote for Brown, Cameron or Clegg instead of Labour , Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. This shift – even in language – indicates something deeper is going on. And it is not a good shift.
It is now too late to go back on the debates, but how do we ensure that these complement and do not replace the interrogation by Paxman et al where we know the politicians won’t be able to get away with soundbites and mantras?
I had a chat with my local Tory candidate this morning and we agreed on at least one thing: whoever gets elected, the term of a Parliament should be fixed to five years and the freedom of a Prime Minister to choose the date should be removed. A recent report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network entitled An analysis of Electoral reforms agreed to by parties to the GPA and the newly constituted Zimbabwe Electoral Commission concluded (among other things) that it is undemocratic for the President to call the tune on election timing – especially if he is a candidate in the ensuing election:
While the parties agreed on a number of issues, there were a number of issues that were not taken into account which include: the executive monopoly in stating dates of elections where he is a player which could be done by ZEC [Zimbabwe Election Commission] guided by the constitutional provisions. The president is a contestant as such may call for elections at a time he deems it favourable for his party which may not be democratic.
It goes on:
The timing of election in Zimbabwe is subject to the proclamation by the president of Zimbabwe who is also a contestant in those elections. ZEC lacks control on the timing of elections and is therefore reactive to the presidential proclamation. This situation has in the past meant that preparations for elections begin after the proclamation which does not give adequate time to ZEC. ZESN advocates that election time should be specified in the constitution and a calendar put in place.
So, if the President of Zimbabwe calls an election and we regard the calling of it as potentially undemocratic, shouldn’t we remove this in the UK, too?
Well, just for extras, my observations on the resignation of Tom Wright as Bishop of Durham and on the electoral campaign in the UK come together (sort of) in Tom’s lecture on 10 February this year on God and Government. Seriously worth a read.