Monday, February 06, 2006

Signs & Portents

Although Canada barely registers on most political analysts’ radar screens, the general election held on January 23, 2006 was of great interest in more ways than one. In the Canadian context, the centre-left Liberals of Paul Martin were dismissed from office after 13 years and replaced by a minority Conservative administration under Stephen Harper. Yet the outcome of this election may be of far greater importance in the international context, particularly with regard to the future course of British politics.
The implications were not lost on the Guardian newspaper three days later in its “Maple leaf lessons” piece. It noted that instead of wasting their time and finance on studying on the US politics (the course of which has greatly diverged from domestic priorities to be of any real benefit); British politicians and their strategists should pay greater attention to developments within Britain’s self-governing North American dominion. The broadsheet also drew a number of conclusions that might in time prove to be a foresight of the outcome of the next British general election.
The conclusions were that political parties in a parliamentary liberal democracy rarely remain in power for more than a dozen years as the Conservatives learnt in three times during the last century (the 40s, 60s and 90s respectively) as well as Labour in the early 1950s. Competent government treasurers do not necessarily become fine heads of government and that successful economic management does not guarantee the re-election of the incumbent administrations (as both major parties know again from the 50s, 60s and 90s). Certainly with regard to the first and last conclusions, familiarity does breed competent and a longing for change (regardless of whether it is warranted or not) among a bored electorate and media. By the time the next general election is called, Labour will have been in office for around a dozen years off the back left-leaning feelings that brought it and its cotemporaries in the other liberal democracies to power during the 1990s.
With the political tide shifting towards the centre-right, Gordon Brown is facing an uphill task in convincing voters not to replace him with David Cameron at the next election. Whether he succeeds or not, a Brown premiership will certainly not be as enduring as Tony Blair’s reign.

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