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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Has the general election already begun?

Many fellow tweeps have been pleasantly apoplectic today over a new Tory ad decrying Britain's ravaging horde of grasping dole scroungers (many of whom live it up on as much as £10 a day) which has apparently being floated in order to keep the furnaces of middle england hatred quietly smouldering until the next election (warning: link leads to the Conservative party website, which some readers should find distressing). The online ad, which will haunt the waking hours of residents in sixty of the UK's most marginal constituencies, links to a push poll that invites respondents to ponder whether benefits should rise faster than wages (i.e. in line with inflation) and whether people should be able to claim more than the average family earns in benefits (note: they can't). While many fine members of the commentariat have expressed inexplicable shock that an online poll on the Conservative party website is not scientifically rigorous, the real story lurks beneath the surface like a geeky political Kraken. To wit:

Why are the Conservatives running election ads 30 months ahead of the next general election? 

Perhaps most plausibly, it may be that the Tories are starting to lose the argument on welfare and benefits and, consequently, are shitting their expensively tailored pants. Facetious bullshit about scroungers has so far been a political fig leaf for the cuts in general, giving cover to many far less popular policies like closing hospitals and killing disabled people. The full gamit of wankers, from Osborner to IDS, have nimbly pivoted the discussion away from the effects of austerity onto the pressing need to make the lives of Britain's most vulnerable people as difficult as possible. However, many of the myths around benefits are now eroding, perhaps in part because the Labour party have decided to act slightly less like blubbering pisswillows and actually call the Conservatives out on their slippery little lies. Personally, I don't give a shit about whether poor people are fiddling the system, and I'd actively encourage them to avoid working which, as anyone who'se ever really done any of it can attest, is shit. Still, as well as the right's ideological argument against welfare being a stinking moral abyss, it helps that the facts behind the bollocks are now being exposed as non-existent, particularly when it comes to such well-worn tropes as "families in which no one has every worked". As a result the once formidable Conservative polling lead in this area is rapidly evaporating, with one survey already showing that over two thirds of people oppose the current round of benefit cuts. If public attitudes continue to develop in this direction the Conservative party, which has bet the farm on the electorate being composed of mean, ignorant bastards, will be left wanking into the wind come polling day. With this in mind, perhaps it makes sense for the Conservatives to try and shore up support on one of their key issues before their battleship is completely sunk, and it's certainly been an effective advertising spend, what with useful idiots like me crowing about the campaign to many who'd otherwise never have heard about it. That said, it's unusual for a political party to spend money on advertising at all this far out from an election, particularly on negative ads like this, which are usually reserved for the fag end of a desperate campaign. 

The other possibility is that the general election is closer than we think. The coalition, which has long been dysfunctional, now seems perpetually on the brink of all-out divorce. There are any number of catalysts that could thrust what's left of this unholy alliance back into the pit from whence it came, with both the Lib Dem left and the Tory right potentially having something to gain from such a fissure. There's even the possibility that the gently brewing palace coup within the conservative party will finally come to the boil and Cameron will be deposed and replaced by one of his (somehow even less pleasant) chums. Any of these events could readily lead to a vote of no confidence in the government - one which some members of the Conservative ranks might choose not to oppose, particularly if doing otherwise meant limping onwards in minority government for two years. The Tories may decide that, despite their current standing in the polls, it's better to strike before Labour have all their ducks in a row and before the economy slurps back into recession. Though far fetched, the Conservatives could even, hypothetically, call a motion of no confidence in themselves, thus triggering an early election (though it's hard to imagine a party succesfully campaigning on a "Vote for us! We don't believe in ourselves at all!" platform). So these ads may be hedging against, or even planning for, an early election. 

Whatever the case, it seems the Tories are fighting a rearguard action - the ad is set to run in the sixty most marginal Tory held seats, which Labour would only need 25 of to become the largest party. If the Conservatives thought they had a serious chance of winning the next general election, they'd be doing more than trying to cling on to what they've already got.

P.S. If you encounter any of these ads on google or anywhere else besides the Conservative website, be sure to click on them. Doing so will cost the Conservative party money which would otherwise be spent on evil.

P.P.S Am now hearing that the Tory ad campaign was launched in response to a Labour leafletting campaign in the same marginals. Curiouser and curiouser. 

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