I saw David Cameron in action again yesterday at the Power Inquiry’s conference to discuss the findings and recommendations of their report. He’s getting much better at speaking and growing into the role of leader. I’d venture to suggest that the majority of the audience were traditionally Labour, Lib Dem or Green voters, but he had them all on his side by the end of his session. Much better than the last time I saw him.
It’s been a strange week for democracy in the UK. On Monday, IPPR decided it would be good idea to make voting compulsory in the future. I think this is a A Very Bad Idea, but hey, they’re entitled to their opinion.
Their argument is that we need compulsory voting to counter greater voting inequality. From a social democratic point of view this sounds fair enough: Belgium and Australia have compulsory voting, and they have lower voting inequality, plus the Netherlands used to have it and when they abolished the system in the 1970s their voting inequality went up.
But I believe it’s the job of politicians to go to where the people are, not to try and wrangle people into participation in a system that simply does not meet their needs. I’m with David Cameron on this one: “It’s a bit like bribing people to come to your birthday party and then telling people how popular you are based on the fact that all those people have turned up.”
Thursday saw Labour hit in the local elections and the Lib Dems tread water. The Greens, Conservatives and BNP were the winners, if that’s possible in an election where the parties could only convince 36 per cent of the voting age population that any of them were worth voting for.
Tony Blair acted pretty quickly to reshuffle. We’ll probably never know the real stories behind the botched elements like John Prescott keeping his title and perks or Geoff Hoon being confused about whether he was in the cabinet or not.
I think the reshuffle plays to the theory that Blair doesn’t want Brown to rule for long, if at all. He’s finally promoted the next generation into high profile positions. David Milliband gets a department of his own, as does Douglas Alexander. Ed Milliband (who was also very good at the Power Inquiry conference) and Ed Balls get ministerial roles. They’re Cameron’s competition, because they will develop the next wave of policy ideas and the new post Blair image for the Labour party. Brown’s image and policies are already set because he’s been around for so long — he’ll have much more trouble reinventing himself.