HERE we are at the start of a general election year and I’m getting my predictions in early in the hope that you will have forgotten them by the time I’m proved wrong on May 7.
The common view is that there will be no overall majority, raising the possibility of another five years of coalition government, which doesn’t bring joy to the heart.
I can’t think that the Lib-Dems, even if they retain a significant number of seats, would want to renew their ties to the Tories and they could hardly ally themselves to Labour without appearing, heaven forbid, to be cynical and power-hungry.
Ukip, as right-wing populists, could happily join a coalition with the Tories, if the Tories were prepared to risk being tied to an ill-disciplined group whose members have great difficulty avoiding embarrassing remarks and unnecessary rows, like the recent one over the Ukip candidate who called a Chinese woman a ‘chinky bird’.
The phrase could be taken as racist or sexist or both, but the most striking thing about it was that it was hopelessly old-fashioned. I’ve not used the word ‘chinky’ since I was aged about 12 in the 1960s and the word ‘bird’ has an Austin Powers 1970s feel to it. I don’t think, despite Nigel Farage’s ability to look surprisingly like a human – even if rather a weird one – that Ukip can be the party of the future.
A more likely alliance might be between the conservative-minded Ulster Democratic Unionists, who now send eight MPs to Westminster, and the Tories. If Northern Irish voters start to get unexpected government hand-outs and alarming visits from cabinet ministers in high-viz jackets, we can assume the Tories are considering the possibilities of a post-election pact with the Ulstermen (and they are all men).
The Scottish Nationalists would most naturally side with Labour, except that if they continue to flourish under the admirable Nicola Sturgeon, they might win so many seats that Labour will no longer be in a position to make deals with anybody. An alliance with the SNP would also tug Labour to the left, possibly causing Ed Miliband to fall over.
Also, think of the complications if ever SNP MPs were to hold the balance of power in Westminster but were prevented, as Scottish MPs, from voting on matters only affecting England. Actually, don’t – it’s too early in the year to worry about things that might not happen.
The Greens will almost certainly increase their vote at the forthcoming election, attracting support from lefties who are, like me, disillusioned with the current Labour party, but I can’t see them taking enough seats to turn them into power-brokers because the first-past-the-post system is weighed against minority parties.
On the other hand, says Gypsy Oliver Petulengo, the Lib-Dems, although their vote will drop drastically, will hold on to more seats than you would expect because their MPs tend to take better care of their constituencies (often won at by-elections) than the unashamed careerists in the two main parties – Simon Hughes, who won Bermondsey in a controversial, and thoroughly dirty, by-election in 1983 and has held it ever since, is a good example. Greg Mulholland in Leeds North West could also buck the trend.
I think, contradicting recent polls, that the Tories will win the largest number of seats in May, if for no other reason than that they’ve got more money and most of the press, plus a cowed BBC, are behind them.
But after trying to survive as a minority government, they might, like Harold Wilson in 1966, decide to call another election very soon after the last one. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it.
The Government should keep their hands off the word ‘community’
IT’S A TRICKY word, community. When used by genuine communities, the people you live amongst, it’s relevant and sometimes inspiring; when used by officialdom it’s very dodgy – remember that in 1989, Mrs Thatcher renamed her poll tax the Community Charge in a misplaced attempt to make it look cuddly, and I’m sure that I wouldn’t like the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to be in charge of my community.
Anyway, over the Christmas season, I went to a community pantomime which really was a community pantomime, with no corporate or government involvement. It was the annual performance at Wrangthorn church hall in Hyde Park, Leeds, to raise money for Hyde Park Unity Day, which is a celebration of community values and also, especially in its pantomime phase, a snortingly-good laugh.
This Christmas it was better than ever, with a show involving Sherlock Holmes, Rapunzel, an evil step-mother, some stirring singing, brilliant performances from children and adults and several rabbits. There are also an inexplicable big fish, which turned out to be a red herring, and several ghostly apparitions.
I can’t begin to explain the plot because the glory of pantomime is that it’s not designed to make any sense at all, and it’s rather unsettling that it’s one of the few things, apart from darts and ballroom dancing, that the British now lead the world in.
As well as the laughs, there was free sherry, mince-pies and games of bingo and a huge feeling of companionship. The entry fee was £3, which shows that communities can sometimes organise things a whole lot better than accountants.
Timeless classic is still top of my pops
THE best pop song I know is Mary Wells’s My Guy, although by ‘the best’ I mainly mean the most poppish.
It’s the epitome of unpretentious, well-produced, easily absorbed, sunny-sided popular music, released in 1964, when musicians didn’t take themselves too seriously and when the game was about pleasing the crowd and getting into the charts.
The song was written and produced by the Motown giant Smokey Robinson, who, like Mary Wells, came from a poor working-class background in Detroit, which was then an industrial power-house and is now a wreck.
Robinson’s lyrics are about an ordinary girl’s devotion to an ordinary guy; the best popular music, like Waterloo Sunset or Penny Lane, being based on popular experiences.
The song has a winning playfulness and the lyrics, although unsophisticated, tend to get stuck in the brain - “He may not be a movie star/But when it comes to being happy/ We are,” or “I’m sticking to my guy/ Like a stamp to a letter/ Like birds of a feather/ We stick together”. You can’t improve on that.