The 18-20s particularly strike me as more vocal than I was in their position; perhaps it's the new surge of enthusiasm for the Lib Dems which appeal to them, or just the shaken-up feel of British politics that has seemed so stale and inevitable for years. Post-Expenses scandal, MPs are more apologetic and desperate for our support than ever. A lot of the high-faluting crap has been cut out as they begin to realise how jaded and savvy the public are about the spin and gloss of their campaigns. In my very first post on this blog, I wrote about the reactions to the Obama/McCain election and expressed a sadness that British politics are so much less passionate and patriotic. I just don't think it's our style though; as a nation we're unmoved by a soundbite and unconvinced that any party will bring large-scale change (quite rightly, really). Now I am impressed that things seem to be moving forward and becoming more focused here, with campaigns edging towards more info and less PR. I've grown to like the grey area in our system - I am not loyally 'Republican' or 'Democrat' but instead entitled to see what's on the menu and order as I see fit.
The TV debates have been the epicentre of this new approach - party leaders abandoned monotone voices, lengthy policy description and generalizations in favour of dramatic pauses and angry accusations, short'n'sharp outlining of aims and bizarrely specific anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed David Cameron's description of meeting a 40 year old black man who had moved to the UK aged six and served in the navy for 30 years. In fairness, neither of his rivals jumped to correct him after a spot of mental maths I imagine a six year old immigrant could do themselves. I did like the ferocity of approach, though - points had to be made quickly, sincerely and on the spot.
General consensus is that Nick 'Who?' Clegg came out on top after months of obscurity, but I wasn't that much more impressed with him. He had the best tone, body language and used the most accessible vocabulary, but I just wasn't feeling that musty yellow tie on him. Just joking - I felt he stumbled more than the other two over his answers, cleanly avoided the negatives surrounding tackling the econonmy, and kept reverting to the Lib Dem appeal as an alternative to 'Old Politics' (Did you know the Lib Dem party, founded in 1849, has been around 40 years longer than Labour?) A fresh face, yes, and definitely the one I'd shag if I had to choose, but he hasn't got my vote yet.
Poor old Gordy is the opposite of 'fresh face'; dowdy, practical and worn down, but I would always trust a leader (headmaster, boss, bank manager) who looks like the face of experience rather than the face of Creme de la Mer. In the blue corner, Cameron is almost oddly collagen smooth, with a sneery manner and just a hint of sleaze behind the good suit and family man image. If you're pro gay rights and equality, do make sure you watch the footage of his interview with Pink News, where he not only faltered over his policies and values but had the unmistakable glint of panic in his eye as his 'New Conservative' diversity-friendly image collided with the long-standing values of his party. I would also take a glance at the Don't Judge My Family campaign, countering the Tory plans to give straight, married couples a tax break. I have known married couples stay together far longer than they should, causing knock-on problems down the line with a sustained, unhappy family atmosphere. Equally, marriages can break up as a result of one person rather than both - should the abandoned party be left to pay more tax because they couldn't or wouldn't beg their partner to stay and make it work? Judging citizens based on their marital status is laughably backward - 'smug, Victorian finger-wagging', as Harriet Harman so eloquently put it. So the Tories are not scoring highly in my books, especially with Chris Grayling's (my local MP, oh the shame) recent comments on B&B guests.
I still haven't 100% decided where my vote is going, but I do feel sorry for the flack Labour gets. Whoever is in power will cause dissatisfaction and attract mockery after thirteen years at the helm, especially in the wake of recession depression and a (non party-specific) expenses scandal. In the TV debates, for me, Gordon made the shortest, neatest points, seemed the most honest - including addressing the tough stuff - and seemed to have his policies most firmly in his head, and not in his notes. That said, he also made cringey jokes and got suckered into Cameron's playground bickering. I liked that he picked up on Cameron's constant quest to avoid giving any kind of answer ('This isn't question time, David, this is answer time.') Dave just seems to think he can respond with 'Yes, I agree *carefully registered name*, we're in a real mess. But look at what Labour have done about it - NOTHING. I'm not going to promise we're going to do any better but... Look! Look at them! Gordon can't even smile properly!' The day I see him respond with something resembling a plan of action will be the day I consider him as a possible leader.
I'm interested in the Lib Dem's ideas, but need to hear more than 'We're different.' This isn't Lidl trying to compete with Sainsbury's and Tesco, if you're a real contender come out with your policies up. Equally I need to read more into Labour's plans and track record, but I will certainly be stepping out to vote come May 6th. I think the Lib Dems will get much of the youth vote, if only because they're not such a broken record. Anything that gets my generation voting is fine by me, but make sure you get all your info before heading in to that polling station. I would love to hear if anyone's developed any new political leanings this year, and why. Particularly any new young Tories, oxymoronic as that may seem to me.