Whilst the polls show Brits remain cynical about Eurovision and think it is all about politics, some of us enjoy Eurovision for that reason, for the music and the betting opportunities.
With the elimination of the Former Yugoslavian states of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia in the semi finals, and Bosnia and Herzegovina withdrawing from the contest, due to financial reasons, there’s a potential for less Balkan bloc voting this time around which could make the final result more open.
I’m quite impressed by the Irish entry, for the last couple of years by sending Jedward, I’ve wondered if the Irish really wanted to win Eurovision. Short of sending Johnny Logan, I can’t see a clearer statement from the Irish that they want to win Eurovision this year.
It wouldn’t be Eurovision, without an entry that looks like something Borat has produced, and the Romanian entry meets that category.
What of the UK’s entry, this year?
I have to confess whilst being a fan of Bonnie Tyler, like Engelbert Humperdinck, I don’t expect her to do well, I suspect some of her 80s material would have done very well in Eurovision.
Hopefully next year the BBC will allow the viewers to choose the artist/band who represents the UK in Eurovision 2014, and maybe some of the UK’s best artists and bands decide to be shortlisted for the honour, musical giants, such as The Rolling Stones, New Order, Emeli Sandé, The Stone Roses, Depeche Mode, Steps or Radiohead, and we can go back to the halcyon days when the likes of Bucks Fizz won.
For true fans of Eurovision, the main focus of attraction of the evening is not on the artists performing, or the voting, but that the news that Abba’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus have teamed up with Swedish DJ and producer Avicii to produce the anthem for this year’s ceremony.
The Eurovision Song Contest starts at 8pm BST and will be on BBC 1 and BBC1 HD.
(Whose interest in and enjoyment of all things Eurovision has disturbed his friends for many years)
Social conservatives are the key swing vote of the moment
When David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition, he put a great deal of effort into detoxifying the Conservative brand – the analysis being that in order to gain an election-winning coalition, the Conservatives needed to pull swing centrist voters from both Labour and the Lib Dems. In as far as it went, that was true but it was far from the whole picture.
By going out of his way to ‘not scare the horses’, Cameron was making an open pitch to those who switch between the governing parties based on pragmatic issues like competence and character and seeking to minimise anti-Tory tactical voting. The risk is that rather like New Labour, dominance in the centre comes at the price of an eroding core (not that the dominance was sufficiently achieved, as it turned out).
The result of all three established parties following the same dynamic is that Clegg, Cameron and Miliband occupy a very narrow stretch of political ground on social policy. Arguably the gap on economics isn’t much wider, despite the intensity of the debate, but at least the sound-money / go-for-growth debate satisfies most points of view. By contrast, none of the three leaderships have much to offer to social conservatives.
The Lib Dems don’t have to do so and probably couldn’t even if they tried: their social liberalism is an inherent part of their identity. By contrast, both Labour and the Conservatives have sections of their traditional support bases whose views on social policy are far removed from their leaderships’ metropolitan liberal consensus.
Politics, as nature, abhors a vacuum and it’s in that space which UKIP is now finding support and success. The county council elections across large parts of traditionally Tory country demonstrated their ability to win votes from the Blues but a council win on Thursday for UKIP in what had previously been a very safe Rotherham Labour seat, as well as strong Purple showings in parliamentary by-elections over the last year show that Farage’s party is winning support from those who feel alienated by and disenfranchised from the three main parties, none of whom seem to stand for their values.
Which make the comments from Defence Secretary Philip Hammond that the government has spent too much time on gay marriage particularly timely and notable.
Nothing is riling social conservatives more at the moment than gay marriage and recognition of that is the first step in reaching out to them.
Winning, or winning back, their support will be critical to either Tory or Labour success at the next general election, not least because both Thatcher’s and Blair’s election-winning coalitions included many such voters.
It certainly won’t be easy for any party leader to attract social conservatives while simultaneously winning the support of enough of those who float between parties and those who have only a weak intention to vote at all – but then as someone who should know once said, if you can’t ride two horses, you shouldn’t be in the circus.
This week we’ve seen growing numbers of politicians past and present suggest that they’d be prepared to vote for Britain to leave the European Union in a referendum. Public opinion is currently leaning towards exit. The Prime Minister has declared he wants Britain to remain within the EU on new negotiated terms, but his own party is so divided that he can’t be relied upon to make a passionate case for this. So let’s look at the campaign wants to fight to keep Britain’s role in Europe.
The ‘British Influence’ campaign was launched in January this year. It’s funded entirely from the private sector. Its three front men are Lord Mandelson, Danny Alexander and Ken Clarke. They are a peculiar choice. All three are associated with the failed campaign to get Britain to join the Euro and all three come with notable baggage.
Tony Blair once said that New Labour’s modernisation wouldn’t be complete until the Labour Party learned to love Peter Mandelson. It’s still waiting. Mandelson is associated with the worst excesses of New Labour, has a well cultivated reputation as a Machiavellian schemer and is disliked by Labour supporters and trade unionists. Mandelson’s support for David Miliband in the Labour Leadership contest caused two previously wavering MPs to Ed Miliband’s campaign. Having been European Commissioner, government minister and member of the House of Lords, Mandelson is seen as part of the Establishment the public are so wary of and disenchanted with. His recent remarks that the last Labour government ‘sent out search parties’ to increase immigration suggest a man that is out of touch with the public mood. Politics is increasingly in issue of trust. Does anyone in the UK actually trust Lord Mandelson about anything?
Danny Alexander is a Cabinet Minister in a Treasury team implementing austerity policies. While George Osborne keeps his own profile down it’s often Alexander that is wheeled out to justify the latest unpopular cut. His party has seen its political support collapse since forming a Coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. Alexander may even struggle to keep hold of his own parliamentary seat. Previously Alexander’s experience included five years working at the Britain in Europe campaign. Given the organisation’s comprehensive failure to successfully make the case in positive economic times with a popular Prime Minister in support, it is hard to see what can be achieved now.
Ken Clarke is the most popular of the three however his decision to describe UKIP as ‘clowns’ backfired when his own party decided it needed to show the party and its supporters greater respect. Clarke is well in the last stages of his political career that would have arguably led to greater success had he not been so at odds with his party over his pro-European beliefs. Like the UKIP leader Clarke is one of few national politicians you see comfortably having a pint. But his best times are behind him.
The campaign to keep Britain in the European Union was always going to be tough. At a time when politicians are mistrusted why on Earth would you gamble on three politicians representing your cause to the public? The decision to make Peter Mandelson and Danny Alexander in two of the front men for the campaign already looks spectacularly ill-judged.
‘British Influence’ does not look to be equipped to deal with the very real economic, social and political insecurities and anxieties many voters are experiencing right now. If Nigel Farage were to handpick his opponents I’m sure both Mandelson and Alexander would be top of the list. If this is all the pro-European lot has to offer then I’ll be expecting a sizeable vote for an EU exit when the time comes.
The main story in the Times this morning is a report that preparatory work is going on in Downing Street to deal with the consequences of a break-up of the coalition.
The report seems to be based on wishful thinking that it would be the LDs who would want to close it down not the Tories. Fat chance. It is simply not going to happen that way. The yellows are in this for the duration and if there is a break-up then Cameron and his team will be the instigators.
@msmithsonpb To avoid an election when they’re polling in single digits
A key part of the story is that post divorce the LDs would allow the Tories to carry on with a supply and confidence arrangement. That is naive in the extreme. Clegg and his party would be getting all the negatives of keeping the blues in power without anything in return. The LDs would take gamble of an early election.
If the Tories want to end the coalition there will be NO supply and confidence arrangement with the LDs.
The most likely outcome would be that EdM would put down a vote of confidence which all the 57 LD MPs would support.
The blues might find a way of securing DUP backing for the vote – but at a heavy price. Thereafter it is hard seeing how the Tories could support their numbers.
The LAB-LD grouping could also expect backing from George Galloway, the Green, and Plaid. Those who watched the National Theatre’s live broadcast of “This House” last night will appreciate the machinations that would be involved.
My view is that a coalition breakup instigated by the Tories would lead to an immediate general election. My 16/1 bet on a 2013 general election might just be a winner.
Coker on Somerset (Deferred Election)
Last Council Election (2013): Con 28, Lib Dem 18, Lab 3, UKIP 3, Ind 2 (Conservative majority of 2)
Last Ward Election (2009): Lib Dem 1,454 (45%) Con 1,365 (43%) Green 249 (8%) Ind 131 (4%)
Last Ward Election (2009 Notional): Lib Dem 1,687 (46%) Con 1,559 (43%) Green 271 (7%) Ind 151 (4%)
Somerset has always been a Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground going back as far as 1989. In those elections the Lib Dems (or to give them their proper title the Social and Liberal Democrats) only managed to win 379 council seats and were the largest parties on Gloucestershire and Cornwall councils. In Somerset they were in second place in 1989 but with the Conservatives having an overall majority of 5 there was very little they could do (as was demonstrated at the 1992 general election when Somerset elected just one Liberal Democrat MP in the form of the Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown). However, just twelve months later, the effect of the United Kingdom being thrown out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on the popularity of the Conservative party was demonstrated when the Conservatives lost eighteen seats across the county with the Liberal Democrats making twenty one gains and with that gaining overall control of the council. They held onto the council in 1997 (held at the same time as the general election when the county of Somerset elected three Liberal Democrats and made Wells and Bridgwater into Conservative marginals). By the 2001 elections (when Taunton was regained by the Conservatives at the general) the Liberal Democrats lost control of the county only to regain it in 2005 (as Taunton flipped to the Liberal Democrats again). However in 2009, the Conservatives sought (and got) revenge for their 1993 defeat by inflicting nine losses on the Liberal Democrats and gaining overall control and making confident predictions that Somerset would elect at least four Conservative MP’s. You can imagine their disappointment then when at the 2010 general election, it was the Liberal Democrats who won four seats in Somerset after gaining Wells from the Conservatives (helped in no small way by a duck house). And with UKIP making their presence felt at the county elections earlier this month, Somerset could now be called a three party battleground (Con, Lib Dem and UKIP) and following those results Coker has the potential to do anything it likes!
Melcombe Regis on Weymouth and Portland (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Con 14, Lab 11, Lib Dem 8, Ind 3 (No Overall Control, Con short by 5)
Local Elections 2010 – 2012
Weymouth and Portland (named after the seaside town and the local stone) is one of those rare things, a southern council that operates the third rule. As a result we can see how the parties have done going back to the 2003 local elections and those elections were, to be honest, not all that bad for Labour. Yes, the council was hung but Labour had the largest grouping (Lab 13, Lib Dem 11, Con 6, Ind 5) and at those elections was one of only nine southern councils to have Labour as the largest party on the council. So the fact that the following year they made four losses to the Lib Dems three gains was quite galling. As the third Labour term carried on so Labour became more and more unpopular sinking to a low of just four councillors in 2008 with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats battling it out for the lead. Since 2010 though, Labour have been recovering and are no doubt planning on becoming the largest party on the council at next year’s local elections, but just as we saw in Somerset UKIP cannot be ruled out of springing more surprises.
Rawmarsh on Rotherham (Lab Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lab 58, Con 4, Ind 1 (Labour majority of 53)
Local Elections 2010 – 2012
As was demonstrated in the Rotherham parliamentary by-election, when you have a virtual one party state then people will look for alternative means to protest (which might explain why the BNP polled 8%, Respect 8% and the English Democrats 3%, so therefore I think it’s safe to say that Labour HOLD with some party that only a few people have heard of coming second.