Friday, 23 April 2010

Shakespeare's Birthday n' all

Happy St George's Day!! A day to celebrate all things English.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

William Shakespeare, Richard II, Act 2

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Elections and Eruptions

Okay, so I don’t want this blog to become a political one, but this is going to be the second post running to mention the current General Election campaign.

Yesterday saw a landmark occasion in British TV and political history – the first ever Leaders Debate. The leaders of the three main political parties took part in the debate which was held in Manchester, and broadcast live to the nation on ITV. Ahead of the programme, the Conservative leader – David “call me Dave” Cameron - was seen as the likely winner, whereas expectations for the less media-friendly Gordon Brown (leader of the governing Labour Party) were much lower. When it came to the night itself, however, it was actually the leader of the third party of British politics - Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats - who blew away the opposition and emerged as the clear winner of this historic event.

Dori and I settled down to watch the debate at 8:30 last night, not entirely sure what to expect. We have both seen a number of the Presidential Debates in the US over the years, but didn’t know how the format would translate into the British political scene. The election campaign up to this point had been somewhat lacklustre and uninspiring, and there were fears that the debate would not be able to rise above the malaise. But I for one was quite surprised by how energised the programme was, and even more surprised that some actual debating was allowed to take place, and not just a series of recited Talking Points as has been seen elsewhere previously.

Gordon Brown performed, by and large, above the admittedly very low expectations, whereas David Cameron was surprisingly overshadowed and subdued and did not perform at all well. Nick Clegg, on the other hand, was a revelation, he came across as affable and he was able to make a distinction between the Lib Dems and the other two main parties. All the post-debate polls had him as the winner, with the other two leaders sharing second place depending on which poll you read. And, talking of polls, this morning revealed a further poll of people’s voting intentions which showed the Lib Dems receiving a monumental 14% bump on the back of their leader’s performance. It’s looking like the British political landscape may have changed forever. There are two more debates before Election Day on May 6th, due to take place on each of the next two Thursdays. I’ll be watching.

In other news, we are currently sitting under a cloud of volcanic ash! If you haven’t seen it on the news, an Icelandic volcano has erupted throwing up a huge plume of ash that is now sitting squarely above the UK. Due to safety fears for aircraft, there have been no flights into or out of England since early yesterday morning, and none are expected until at least 7:00 tomorrow morning, possibly longer. I was in the bank this morning, and overheard a conversation where someone was expecting visitors from overseas today who have now been told that they may not be able to get here until next Friday! Strange times indeed!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Date is Set

So, the waiting and speculation is over and the date of the General Election here in the UK has finally been announced. Gordon Brown went to Buckingham Palace this morning and asked The Queen to dissolve Parliament, and hence fired the metaphorical starting gun for the General Election campaign. The country will go to the polls on Thursday May 6th.

This election promises to be very different from any that has taken place before. We now live in the digital age, and as Barack Obama did so successfully in 2008, all of the parties will be trying to make the best use of Twitter, Facebook and the other social media that have come to the fore since the last election. That’s not to say that there won’t be some old-style campaigning taking place, and the old ”Battle Buses” are sure to make an appearance during the next month.

The biggest difference this time round though, is that there will be three Prime Ministerial TV Debates. Whilst the US has been having Presidential Debates since the days of Kennedy and Nixon, this will be the very first time that it will happen in this country. Previously it has been impossible to get agreement for any debates from the leading parties, mainly because the favourites to win would always see it as a way to slip up, rather than an opportunity to seal a win. This time, however, the race is close enough that everyone has something to gain from taking part in the debates. They will be taking place on April 15th, 22nd and 29th and will feature the leaders of the three leading political parties. It promises to be a very interesting addition to a British election campaign.

So, we have a month of campaigning to go through when I will not be answering the door to anyone, and will be avoiding strange people on the street with over-sized rosettes. But, that’s not to say that I won’t enjoy it at all. Democracy in action is a wonderful thing, and something that not everybody in the world has access to, so I certainly honour that fact. The debates will also be something new and fascinating this time round to look forward to.

Let the campaigning begin!!
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