UK Election Goes Viral
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
The General Election has yet to be declared in Britain, at a time when the polls appear to be narrowing between the two main parties, the ruling Labour Party and the Conservative Opposition. Most commentators concur; Britain faces the prospect of a “hung” Parliament, with neither party holding an absolute majority. This would be an unusual scenario, as the electoral system of “first past the post” is based on winner takes all and you have to look as far back as the early 1970s to find another hung Parliament.
Personally, I don’t believe the polls. I think that David Cameron’s Conservatives will win a small overall majority. They will do so not on merit, but largely because the party’s chief financier, a non domiciled taxpayer, has spent years and plenty of his cash in shoring up and building the Tory machine in the marginal constituencies in Britain were elections are won. Labour’s war chest is smaller, far smaller and the party’s organisation is creaking. My bet, for what it is worth is that David Cameron’s Conservatives will win with a twenty or seat majority. The prospect at least of a party, any party, having a majority, may also see of the immediate prospect of a run on Sterling, although that cannot be too far away anyway.
But away from the Westminster beltway, the public mood is dissolute and hostile in equal measure. The political class has never been held in such low esteem, as the effects of the MPs expenses row threatens to re-ignite. There is such a widespread dislike for politicians that the passing of a genuine Tribune of the people, Michael Foot, has helped to magnify. Foot was from a different age, when people of principle could prosper in politics. His passing served only to remind people of what they have lost.
And away from Westminster, a local battle to drive out the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, got underway in the Buckingham constituency where I live. The Speaker is also mired in controversy about his expense claims and his repeated “flipping” of properties to avoid paying capital gains tax. Today he became the first target of what is the first ever viral campaign to replace him as local MP. Americans may be used to this type of campaigning, but this is probably a first for Britain, and it will be interesting to see just what effect it will have amongst a local populace as jaded about politics and politicians as many other areas of the country.
You can see for yourself, exclusively in fact, the viral video, featuring “Flipper” the dolphin. Certainly those of you of a certain age will remember the television character.
Should this campaign, of which the viral campaign may only be a part, prove successful in May, and Mr Speaker is defeated, Parliament will be shaken to its firmament.
I will be reporting on that campaign as it develops.