Sunday, 14 October 2012

OK - so I'm a political saddo.....

...but I have listened, back-to-back, to all three recent Party Conference speeches by our major party leaders. I've done this before and it's a good way of comparing their performances - if you have the time, inclination, patience and fortitude!

My starting position? I can't and won't pretend that I'm a neutral observer. I have a visceral antipathy towards the Tories, I have given (once and once only) the Lib Dems a chance in the past and I was a long-standing member of the Labour Party until Tony Blair took it away from the principles of its founding fathers. Having said that, I was genuinely interested in the substance of what they might present and, or so I like to think (ha ha, self-delusion!), I went into the exercise with a reasonably open mind. Could one of them win over my tribal prejudices?

What was I hoping for? A leader who could articulate a vision for the country that I could be enthusiastic about. A leader who could say, in unambiguous terms "Here's where I want us to go - follow me". A leader who could convince me that their policies were worthy of my support and their party deserving of my membership.

What did I get? None of the above! But I did get platitudes, sound bites, gratuitous pokes at the opposition, feeble jokes and offensive caricatures in place of reasoned arguments.

My overall verdict? Nick Clegg: beyond his level of competency. David Cameron: despite the caring rhetoric, he's a typical old-fashioned Tory retreating to his ideological comfort zone. Ed Milliband: maybe he's better than he comes across, perhaps not, but I  do think his heart is in the right place.

Look what I've just done. I've talked about the personalities of the leaders rather than the policies of the parties they lead. And that's the problem. The triumph of form over substance: too much form in the shape of personalities and too little substance in the shape of policies. Where does that leave me? Overall, I believe that the Labour Party is still the major party most likely to work towards the kind of society I want. But, it's the Green Party that has the very best approach to environmental and sustainable issues. So what am I going to do? Hedge my bets and join both! Join Labour and get involved at some level in supporting their social policies. Join the Greens and get involved in promoting their environmental policies.

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