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From across the big pond: The UK general election
By Andy Walsh
Sometime over the next week or so, Tony Blair is going to call a General Election for the early part of June. Who can blame him? He is so far ahead in the polls that, barring a natural disaster of biblical proportions, he is going to be returned with a healthy majority. Current polls give the Labour Party around 50 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives with 30 per cent and the Liberal Democrats with 15 per cent. Given the UK's election system, this should see Mr Blair returning back to Downing Street with a broad grin on his face and a sizeable majority in the House of Commons.
So, do the polls reflect a general approval for the Labour Government or do they reflect an absence of a credible opposition?
The answer is, I believe, a bit of both.
Labour has managed the economy well. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, advocates a 'prudent' approach, rejecting the Boom and Bust years of Thatcherism. Yet there have also been problems: foot and mouth, the fuel crisis, the breakdown of the country's rail infrastructure and problems in the health service. Up until now, the Government have been able to point the finger to, in their opinion, eighteen years of neglect under the previous Conservative administration. Fine. However, in their next term of office, they will not find this argument as plausible. The British public will expect to see results for returning them to power for a second term.
As far as the Conservatives are concerned, you would have to say that if they were a dog, they would have been shot by now. They appear to the public to be a torn party, not quite being able to make their minds up about anything. William Hague, the Conservative Leader, is deeply unpopular in the country. This is a shame. He can be quite a gifted speaker and is often the winner in brushes with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. His biggest problem seems to be his enthusiasm for jumping onto every bandwagon going. Now, the Opposition are duty bound to make hypocritical statements; it's part of their job. They have to come out with phrases such as 'We wouldn't have done it that way!' But by continually taking this approach and by not being proactive with their own policies, the Conservative's credibility is being severely shaken.
So what will the return of Blair mean for the US-UK relationship? Certainly, The Bush administration is not as ideologically aligned with the Blair Government as the previous Clinton administration was. The UK will push for a bigger and more central role in the European Community and I believe that the end result will be business as usual with the UK acting as an intermediary between Washington and Brussels.
So, prepare for a few weeks of electioneering. I've already taken the battery out of the bell on our front door, just in case any politicians turn up early.
Perhaps, on reflection, Mr Blair's greatest enemy is voter apathy.
Andy Walsh is a househusband and writer living in Cumbria in the UK. He writes novels, short stories, articles and poems some of which you can read at www.stbrodag.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org © Andy Walsh 2001
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