We’re two and a half weeks into the Campaign That Never Ends and we’ve finally got the manifestos from the five main parties all published. As I’ve said before, given that the election date was known a long time ago, there’s no real reason why they couldn’t have been released before now, but I’m not a well-paid political consultant who’ll have explained to the party leaderships exactly why it was a good idea to wait this long before releasing their plans for the next five years to the public.

The combined manifestos come to nearly 500 pages in total but the biggest of them by far is the Liberal Democrat one. While the others are all somewhere around 80 pages in different font sizes and designs, this drops in at a quite massive 158 pages, and it’s not using a large font size to achieve that feat. Unfortunately, while it has got lots of good ideas in there, it only gets a Lightfoot Test score of 1 from me, because the policies on the cover annoy me. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of extra spending on schools and mental health, as well as the idea of paying less tax – after all, who doesn’t like a government that promises to spend more and tax less? – but when those are coupled with balancing the budget, you’re straying towards the La La Land section of Flip Chart Rick‘s Venn diagram of public spending. Saying ‘cut less than the Conservatives’ shouldn’t be a boast, it’s the minimum commitment for a party that doesn’t want to dismember the state, and these front cover priorities would see other areas cut well beyond the bone to deliver them.

Despite the size, I find myself in the same camp as David Boyle and Ian Dunt in finding it a disappointment. It’s a manifesto of centrist managerialism rather than a liberalism with vision and purpose. The sheer number of policies is impressive – it feels like someone’s trawled through every policy Conference has ever passed – but there’s no vision to link them all together. As David says:

It is a document written to be used in coalition negotiations, and as such it works very well. But it is so hard-headed a document that people may not feel like spending too long in the company of the party which drafted it, for fear that they will start spouting statistics at them.

One wouldn’t want to spend much time in the company of today’s other manifesto, mainly because you’d get very weary of every conversation being steered towards the European Union, regardless of where it started. Yes, it’s the UKIP manifesto, and you’ll not be surprised to find it too scores 1 on the Lightfoot Test, regardless of where you choose to define it as starting to talk about policy. Every page of it is littered with something either stupid or offensive – Paul Nuttall’s photoshopped library on page 28 is a particular favourite in the silly stakes – but I think the most interesting part of UKIP will be watching their reaction after the election. A large number of supporters will be spinning conspiracy theories about how the election was fixed to keep them from winning, while the party’s various factions will finally have the space to coalesce and turn on each other. It’s particularly interesting to note that neither Douglas Carswell nor Mark Reckless were at the manifesto launch today.

Still, there are elements in the manifesto for political theorists to get excited about. The slogan ‘Believe in Britain’ prompts discussion of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and asks if the country goes away if we stop believing it. Meanwhile, their proposed question for a Brexit referendum – Do you wish Britain to be a free, independent, sovereign democracy? – could spawn thousands and thousands of words attempting to define the concepts of freedom, independence, sovereignty and democracy in Britain, the world and the 21st century.

Today’s amusing candidate found on Election Leaflets is South Dorset’s Andy Kirkwood, standing for the Movement for Active Democracy. He’s keen to overthrow the modern system of corporate feudalism, and the large number of pyramid images on his leaflet suggests he’s an Illuminati conspiracy theorist. Or maybe he’s actually an Illuminati agent using his slightly odd leaflet with it’s not-quite Comic Sans typeface to discredit those standing against Illuminati control of the world.

As ever, I’ve had a good idea far too late, but maybe for 2020 (or a second election this year) we can form a Discordian Party who won’t actually stand candidates, but merely declare themselves to be MPs in the style of Emperor Norton. ‘We’ve Already Voted For You’ might make a decent slogan, or distributing leaflets with just the word ‘fnord‘ on them and nothing else.

This time tomorrow General Election Leadershout 2 will be coming to an end, and I might have found an answer to the most pressing question: we all know why Cameron’s avoided it, but what does Clegg gain from not being there?

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Grayling: the Lord Chancellor who told the High Court to disregard the Rule of Law – Jack of Kent on the latest decision of Chris Grayling’s to be overturned by the courts. This time, he believes that because he makes the law, he can ignore it.
Why Henry George had a point – When the Economist is praising the idea of a land value tax, you begin to wonder if things might be shifting somewhat.
The many faces of Tatiana Maslany – Interesting interview/profile of the Orphan Black star and her acting process.
Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed – And now the supposed ‘ethics in gaming journalism’ arseholes of Gamergate are trying to get police SWAT teams called out on people who criticise them.
The Lib Dems’ big problem: and how to solve it – Liberal Democrats need to build a vision based on social liberalism if the party is going to grow in the future.

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A Brief History Of The Yemen Clusterf*ck – A useful primer and historical background to help you make sage and expert comments about the latest flashpoint.
The deficit: It’s a productivity thing – Failing to acknowledge lower productivity in the British economy isn’t helping economic debate make any more sense.
My Lib Dem ambivalence – James Graham explains his current issues with the party.
Floating voters: How living on a houseboat meant I didn’t officially ‘exist’ – Beyond the issues with registering to vote, there are some very interesting facts in this story about the number of people living in ‘alternative arrangements’.
Dan Hannan isn’t even wrong on the history of poverty – Left Outside on “around 900 words of nonsense from Dan Hannan. He’s a politician, I am sure of that because he definitely can’t be a historian.”

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Worth Reading 134: Offences not specifically mentioned in this chapter

It’s federal election time! – Probably only of interest to Lib Dems, but Jennie Rigg will be doing questions for federal committee candidates again, and wants your input on what to ask them.
Utter scumbags – “What I cannot accept, however, is the properly grotesque argument which this contemptible, reckless, immoral and intellectually bust Conservative Party is running to justify and explain its human rights plans. In Grayling’s thumping rhetoric to the grinning faithful in Birmingham, you do not see a meaningful and serious-minded parliamentary deliberation on the contested understandings of human rights, but an abject and irresponsible failure to engage in any intellectual or morally credible way with fundamental rights ideas.”
So The Lib Dems Have A Glee Club Where They Sing A Rude Song About Tony Blair – Buzzfeed are, I think, the first media outlet to actually understand Glee Club, and not use it to prove some agenda or other is correct.
In Spain, Politics via Reddit – Interesting look at the way Podemos is using the internet to transition from movement to party.
Understanding UKIP: Identity, Social Change and the Left Behind – The authors of Revolt on the Right, Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin have a new paper on UKIP’s voters and supporters.

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Worth Reading 112: Emergency link supply

Have slipped in collecting links for a while, but here’s the latest smorgasbord from around the web.

Andrew Neil – these are your climate errors on BBC Sunday Politics – Once again, Andrew Neil lies about science to bolster his own beliefs and mislead viewers.
Free to schmooze – Interesting post by Alex Marsh on the aims of libertarians within the Liberal Democrats
State of the parties – Jason O’Mahony on the current state of Irish political parties. Includes the great description “(he) resembles a man plummeting to Earth strapped to an anvil, who’s getting angry with people for not appreciating the magnificent workmanship that went into fashioning the anvil.”
The need for “grown up” policy – Alex Marsh again, this time on the Social Liberal Forum website, writing about the people who claim Liberal Democrats need to ‘grow up’ in our policy making processes.
An Open Apology to All of My Weight Loss Clients – a former weight loss consultant apologises for the damage bad nutritional advice has caused.

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Worth Reading 107: Qualifying benchmarks

Do we want fewer councillors, or should we make better use of those we have? – Andrew Coulson of the Institute for Local Government Studies asks a few questions about just what local government in the UK is for.
Argonauts of the incredibly specific: anthropological field notes on the Liberal Democrat animal – Some interestingly accurate assessments of the party from a departing member.
UKIP: The victory of the ruling class – A typically incisive post from Chris Dillow, pointing out that UKIP are anything but anti-establishment. “The discontent that people might reasonably feel against bankers, capitalists and managerialists has been diverted into a hostility towards immigrants and the three main parties, and to the benefit of yet another party with a managerialist and pro-capitalist ideology.”
This Other England: The Inevitable UKIP Post – “A significant minority of voters who hate everything about this country except the past. It’s a depressing vision – but one that we now have to confront.”
How can we reform local elections? – A proposal from Unlock Democracy to allow councils to determine their own electoral system locally.

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Worth Reading 97: Things can hardly get worse

Cycle Helmets: The impacts of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist fatalities and premature deaths in the UK (pdf) – A long piece of research but an interesting one, coming to the conclusion that the reduction in cycling caused by a compulsory helmet law for cyclists would cause more deaths than the helmets would save.
This is not an argument… – BenSix on the Iraq war: “It is hard to express what an appalling man the late dictator was: a man who was cruel that would not merely invade a nation but torch its resources as he fled; a man who was so spiteful that when militants shot at his car near a little town he threw hundreds of its residents into jails and torture chambers; a man who was so arrogant that he claimed to have had an 100% approval rating in the polls. The great tragedy of the Iraq war is that it began in a country run by this specimen and made things worse.”
The new planning legislation concentrates decision-making power at the national level, while eroding the ability of councils to mitigate the local impacts of development – For those of us who’ve dealt with planning issues recently, this isn’t a surprise, but apparently there are still some people out there who think Eric Pickles actually believes in localism.
The Liberal Democrats must rediscover why they even exist – or extinction is certain – Cicero’s Songs says something that a lot of people have been thinking.
Plus Ca Change, Plus Ca La Meme Bullshit Chose – Flying Rodent on Iraq War protest nostalgia: “I mean, this is surely the big story here. When nearly half the population base their opinion on a war – a war with a bodycount big enough for a respectable mid-20th century conflict, mind – on tall tales and oogah-boogah, you’d think that would be an issue. And yet, from what we’ve seen this week, it barely rates a mention.”

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