Saturday, September 30, 2006

Telegraph headline cheers Labour supporter – shock

"Blow for Cameron as poll lead is slashed" screams the main headline on the Torygraph’s front page today. It’s above this story about "a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph showing support for the Conservatives slipping because voters are unsure what he stands for".

Tee hee. That should put the delegates packing their bags for Bournemouth into a grumpy mood. I’m sure it won’t be improved by the easy-viewing-TV-show style gimmicks which await them. For example the Telegraph tells us that "Delegates will be given electronic pads enabling them to text their views, which will be flashed up on a screen". How very modern, not.

More merriment (thanks to Gauche for leading me there before I’d looked at the paper) via the Guardian’s main headline: "Tories unveil their secret weapon: 'webcameron'" above a story which includes this link. The webcast of DC in his kitchen is especially amusing with the sound off.

There’s something rather pathetic about the thirty-something PR professionals who have taken over the Party trying desperately to show they’re part of the ‘Internet generation’. No wonder the mostly seventy plus-somethings who make up much of the membership are spluttering over their Cornflakes.

No commission cash conversion con

Having just received my VISA bill I’ve compared its Euro exchange rate with the one we got when converting some cash before we left for France (I have nothing better to do whilst waiting for a free bathroom).

The ‘commission free’ cash deal in England got us 1.4111 Euros per pound. The worst rate on the VISA card was 1.4376 and the best 1.4457. Even a 70c road toll didn’t incur a penalty rate or charge and cost us 48p.

So the ‘commission free’ rate (the best I could find in town) for cash actually contains a charge of 2% or more (still much better than the rate on the ferry). So the cheapest way to live is via a credit card as long as you can afford to repay the balance.

And the quickest way to get through a pay station on a motorway is to go down the credit card lane. But then you don’t get to have une petite conversation avec l’homme ou la femme qui travaille là. How do they stay so cheerful?

More alliterative travel tips soon......

Friday, September 29, 2006

Political commentary in the post Blair-Brown era

Political commentators have been filling their columns with the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown since before the dawn of time it seems. It must have been a comfort to have it to fall back on with deadlines looming and not much happening in the Westminster Village.

Now that that particularly rich seam seems pretty much mined out (they hit pretty impure ore donkeys’ ages ago imho), what will they find to write about? Some clues are appearing. In the Guardian Polly Toynbee is almost as gloomy as I am; the headline sums it up “Labour has one serious candidate - but it also seems to have a death wish”. She writes “By the end of the conference ... there was a growing certainty that Brown was the destined man ... But what if he can't win? What if, in this celeb-struck era, the smiles do matter more than a strong economy? Even Brown admirers are nervy ...”.

In the Times under the headline “They think the leadership is sewn up. They're wrong: it's all coming apart”, Mary Ann Sieghart writes: “Even the Chancellor’s supporters concede that his appeal has been badly damaged by the events of the past few weeks. For all his flaws, Mr Brown had at least been seen by voters as a man with the integrity of granite ... Now, though, the Chancellor is seen as a would-be assassin and duplicitous to boot. When he claimed in a TV interview that had had always said it was for Mr Blair to decide when to leave office, the public fell about laughing....”

And the Telegraph leader writer, although no friend of Labour helpfully declares “As for Mr Brown, the conference simply confirmed that the more he reveals of himself, the more he is found wanting. ... Locked into this volatile and spite-filled process of transition at the top, the party has lost all momentum....”

Oh dear, I wish they’d go back to Blair/Brown baiting......

Go back to your constituencies and prepare for opposition....

... might have been good advice to delegates at the end of this week’s conference. Especially for young MPs. It’s not that we’re bound to lose, it just seems more likely after Mr Blair’s speech reminded us all what an inspirational leader he is capable of being. The others are all in a different class.

It’s a risky business being an MP. One day you can be earning £60,000+ and about to climb the greasy ladder, the next you can be at the job centre. Many Labour MPs swept into office in the 1997 landslide have found it difficult to adjust to life after loosing their seats just as many Tories did after winning their seats on the back of the Thatcher landslide.

So a prudent MP should always have plans B and C well prepared. B in case they retain their seat but are in opposition and C in case they loose their seat.

But I should listen to my own advice. There are between two and a half and three and a half years to go before the next general election. Lots could happen; Gordon Brown might even learn some presentation skills.

It’s twenty-five years since David Steel uttered the fateful words "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government" to the Liberal Assembly at Llandudno in 1981. He was wrong; I hope I am.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy birthday Jon Snow, still a revolting student 35 years on?!

I was a contemporary of Jon Snow’s at Liverpool University at the turn of the 60s & 70s decades. I didn’t know him except by reputation. But I supported his opposition to apartheid in South Africa and shared some of his concerns about the university’s links with that country.

The Stop the Tour movement didn’t succeed in ending the rugby matches or the Davis Cup tennis but it did get the cricket test series cancelled. It hugely raised awareness of the cause and helped to bring about the Gleneagles agreement outlawing sporting contact.

Meanwhile poor old Jon was being rusticated which sounded very painful. He was fingered in a shameful process as one of the leaders of the occupation of ‘Senate House’ the university’s administrative centre (in which ‘secret’ files about us all were allegedly stored). In a way typical of ‘establishment’ behaviour in those days he was condemned behind closed doors by, I think, a small unrepresentative committee of the alleged great and good. No Human Rights Court to appeal to in those ‘good old’ days.

He claims to have got a taste for broadcast journalism at Radio Merseyside the then embryonic BBC local radio station. The only things I recall about the station are that their announcer couldn’t pronounce thyristor and that it relayed Radio One on Saturday mornings so we could listen to Kenny Everett in FM quality on VHF rather than AM on medium wave (well I was studying electronic engineering).

He’s worked all over the world as a foreign correspondent which has given him a healthy scepticism about the US’s motives and methods. He now presents Channel 4’s seven o’clock news which I used to think the best bulletin on TV. I probably still would if it hadn’t come over quite so Independent-like ‘holier than thou’ about Iraq (and if the BBC4 World News programme hadn’t started). I share the worries about US foreign policy and the UK’s apparent enthusiasm for it, but I can’t help feeling that had the WMDs existed and been ignored by the west and then used that the righteous indignation from the media would have been just as loud.

Without trying to diminish our efforts 35 years ago, it was easier to be a revolutionary then. South Africa was, literally, a black and white case and there was no doubt about who the baddies were. The catastrophic effects of the Soviet Union’s economic policies weren’t as obvious as they are now so one could almost still believe in communism. China was a complete mystery and, when news that all was not well in Eastern Europe leaked out, one could always pompously say that in China they’d got the model right while the Russians hadn’t. Innocent times……

I learnt on BBC local radio that Jon is celebrating his birthday today, I think he may be 59. Gosh, happy birthday Jon!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tony Blair’s last conference speech as leader – a view from the sofa

He’s right you know. Change is the only constant. Expectations rise. Britain and the Labour Party need to be outward looking. The world keeps changing fast. There is no comfort zone. Tolerance and respect are better than fanaticism and extremism. It’s tough being a leader.

If you missed the speech you can watch it or read it on the BBC news site and elsewhere. No doubt the smart set will be measuring how long he spoke about Gordon Brown against ditto about John Reid – let them, it gives them something to do. Listen instead to the substance.....

A lot's been done in nine and a bit years, there’ll always be lots still to do.

And if we can’t take the Tories apart in the next three years we don’t deserve to be in politics!

We’ll miss him.

Who wants to be a leading politician now that the media has become a rat pack?

I’m sorry that I missed Alastair Campbell giving “John Snow a right old ear bashing on Channel 4 news” last night (as reported by Elephunt on his splendid Impossible Promises site). Alastair is a fine man and a tribally loyal member of the Labour party. He also knows a thing or eight about the British media.

It is still trading on a reputation built up by some fine and brave investigative journalists in the 1960s. But such people are thin on the proverbial ground these days. Instead journalists are, in general, amongst the most bitter and twisted people on the planet.

No surprise, it must be a fairly awful way of life; competition for newsprint or airtime is intense and, except for the stars, wages are low and hours long.

So the desire for a ‘scoop’ is almost as large as it is for some (usually rightwing) bloggers. Dishing dirt on politicians or celebrities is considered an essential skill.

There’s nothing can be done about it but it means that anyone aspiring to high office must expect his every word and action to be analysed in minute detail and for his family’s life to be under 24/7 scrutiny.

No wonder so many potentially fine politicians seek instead the relative anonymity and higher material rewards to be found in boardrooms.......

Britain will miss the "two for the price of one" Labour leadership and may opt for the Tories instead

History will judge the past decade a golden age but Labour may lose the next election. My confidence drained away yesterday lunchtime whilst watching Gordon Brown’s conference speech. The Times leader writer is more upbeat: "If Mr Brown was trying to place a vast plaster over Labour’s (self-inflicted) wounds, he largely succeeded ... the extraordinary Blair-Brown family ... has proved brilliant, compelling and dysfunctional at the same time. Labour has ultimately benefited from being able to offer voters "two for the price of one", even if the two have never quite agreed on which is the better item."

It has been a ‘dream ticket’. The combination of Tony Blair’s charisma and Gordon Brown’s tenacity with both men’s massive intellect has produced a powerful and effective leadership for the party and the country. Whatever their personal differences they have been a dynamic duo.

But the era is rapidly closing. Mr Brown’s speech was a good one but it lacked passion. I found myself reading about Everton being in the top six that was scrolling across the News 24 screen. Maybe the tone was right for a conference audience and he will be more impressive in other contexts but I’m not confident.

There are two nightmare scenarios. If he becomes leader and can’t inspire the party and the country we’ll lose. If he doesn’t become leader the party will be torn apart with acrimony and we’ll lose. Suddenly I see another ghastly decade plus of Tory misrule looming....

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tony Blair’s last conference as leader – what the papers say

Seeking relief from the British press, I’m a little dismayed to find that the French ones also seem obsessed with the personalities rather than the policies. According to Le Parisien "le Premier ministre a refusé de réaffirmer clairement son soutien à son successeur présumé Gordon Brown". Similarly Libération declares that "Tony Blair qui, dans le passé, a estimé que son ex-ami de vingt ans ferait «un Premier ministre brillant» a refusé, hier, de réitérer le compliment, tout en déclarant : «Je ne retire rien à ce que j'ai dit auparavant.»". And, more succinctly, Le Monde says "Tony Blair a refusé dimanche 24 septembre d'apporter un clair soutien à son successeur probable Gordon Brown".

Oh dear. Perhaps it will get better when someone at the conference actually mentions a policy in a speech likely to make it onto a TV channel other than BBC Parliament. Not much chance of that then......

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Analysis of opinion polls suggests that two Gloucestershire seats would change hands in a General Election.

Based on recent opinion polls, the fun-packed Electoral Calculus site suggests that Cheltenham and Stroud would both be Tory gains. Losing Cheltenham would be a huge blow to local LibDems especially since they lost control of the Borough council in May in spite of gaining one of the two Labour seats. They have held the Parliamentary seat since 1992 when Nigel Jones defeated John Taylor and a nasty little racist streak was revealed in the local Conservative Association membership.

David Drew’s majority in Stroud was cut from 5,039 to 350 in 2005. But more than half of the votes he lost went to the LibDems or the Greens rather than to the Tories. With a decent campaign and such a tiny majority it might be possible to get the anti-Tory majority to rally round to him at the next election if he chooses to stand again.

Having lost (probably for ages) the Forest of Dean seat to (the Liam Fox supporting) Mark Harper in 2005 and assuming that the prediction mentioned in my last post is accurate, losing Stroud would leave Parmjit Dhanda as the only Labour MP in the county. Given that the Cotswolds and Tewkesbury seats will stay Tory until the end of time, the best strategy for Gloucestershire’s gallant band of Labour supporters seems to me to be to attach themselves to Stroud or Gloucester for the duration of the next campaign. But past experience suggests that they don’t all share my opinion and that many would rather battle closer to home....


Electoral calculus has analysed the latest opinion polls and moved Gloucester back to a ‘Labour Hold’ from the ‘Conservative gain’ that it had it as last month. Overall it predicts that "Labour will be 21 seats short of a majority with 305 seats" which is 25 seats more seats for Labour than the previous analysis predicted on 3 September.

Not bad for a government only sixteen months into its third term....

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat....

.... reads the headline in today’s New York Times. The story is based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate report that "represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside [the US] government".

Its assessment "has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks".

No great surprise in this but it’s interesting to see it confirmed by "the [US] intelligence community". So should Britain have joined what this report rightly calls "the American invasion". What many anti-war people demonstrating against Tony Blair in Manchester seem to forget is that the UK Parliament’s choice was not ‘should there be an invasion’ but ‘should the UK join the invasion that is certain to happen’. The UK had no power to stop George Bush.

Still it was a difficult call. The Labour MP that I know best joined many of his colleagues and voted against sending our troops. The rest of the Labour MPs and nearly all the Tories voted for the UK to join and so we did. I’m glad I didn’t have to make such a difficult decision.

Would the situation be better or worse if the UK hadn’t joined the coalition? No one will ever know. But we can be certain that the invasion would still have happened just as the Vietnam War still rolled on even though Britain hadn’t joined.

Now we are where we are. The debate should be about what should happen going forward rather than raking endlessly over the past....

Friday, September 22, 2006


Praguetory has left a comment on my Monday post about Clare Short. Hooray, I love comments (even from Tories)! They’re one of the things that make blogging worthwhile.

It reads: “that leaving speech was a powerful indictment of spin and incompetence”. I agree with him that Clare is very adept at spinning the facts to suit her point of view. And Hilary Benn, by being so much better, has certainly demonstrated what I always suspected viz. that she was a pretty lousy secretary of state for international development. But I think “incompetence” is perhaps a rather harsh way of summing up her career.....

Party Conferences; what are they good for?

Opinion about the LibDem conference in general, and Ming’s efforts in particular, is mixed in the newspapers. The supportive Independent thinks that the old boy done good. The Times and Guardian are lukewarm at best.

But the most perceptive comment comes in the Telegraph leader. Writing about "the vast mass of the electorate" it reminds us that for them "the events in Brighton will have impacted not one jot".

Comrades getting ready to travel to Manchester next week should remind themselves that party conferences are essentially about rallying the troops. They are for having a good time at, not for changing the world.....


When I was growing up in the 1950s families had to make their own boredom. Now it’s handed to them on a plate. Blogger Councillor Bob Piper was ranting on about the dullness of the Ryder cup a few days ago. Watching snooker or golf on the telly is an ideal way to ease oneself into senile dementia but it must bring in an audience. I understand there is a golf channel being beamed down to us from the sky 24/7.

And now, for perhaps the ultimate experience in tedium, Leighton Andrews alters us to the start of Tory TV...........

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How to attract more readers to your blog

My posting about the South Bank Show boosted the number of visitors to this blog by more than 100%. Unfortunately, as the BR spokesman never actually said about the famous snow, they were the wrong sort of visitors. They were attracted because the author’s web site had picked up my piece and placed a link to it prominently on its home page. I bet anyone who followed it was mightily disappointed.

The problem of how to attract readers who are at all interested in my observations on today’s exceptionally dull British political scene remains as acute as ever.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

George Monbiot writes something almost worth reading shock!

Sorry for the harsh title but I usually find his stuff pretty indigestible. It’s mostly smug gloom and always the government’s, the American’s or ‘Big Business’s’ fault. He seems to be a founder member of the new puritans who have leapt on the environmental bandwagon to give humankind a sound ticking off. You know the sort of line ‘ you may be happy, well fed and prosperous today but there’s some really bad stuff just around the corner’.....

But today’s Guardian extract from his new book is about his own house which seems to be about as environmentally unsound as mine is. Of course it’s not really his fault (even though he did choose to buy it) because "building regulations [covering its refurbishment] were both sparse and weak. Even those that did apply ... were not enforced". Nor, apparently, is it his fault that they now have a baby who needs the heating on. Quite why he’s bringing children into what he seems to think of as such a dreadful world or exactly how building regulations would be enforced in his idealised (perhaps a tad Stalinist world) we may have to buy the book to find out.

But I won’t be buying it. Have you any idea of the ecological damage the international book trade is doing to our planet?

Green: the evolution of a definition

For most of my life the main idiomatic meaning of ‘green’ was naive. Now that definition has been overtaken by a loose and woolly definition around the environment and its protection. How apt it is that so much of what is spouted about the environment relies on flawed understanding of scientific and/or economic principles and that so many self-appointed leaders of the environmental movement manage to combine well-meaning earnestness with staggering ineffectualness.

The LibDems seem to be the latest to confuse these two definitions. Their green tax proposals have a superficial appeal but are full of fairly obvious holes. They would be likely to hit the poorest in society hardest and if they were to meet their environmental objectives they wouldn’t raise the revenue the LibDems are banking on. Environmentally friendly or naive?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fifty pence in the Pound income tax rates and my conversation with Tony Blair MP

I’ve only had one real conversation with our Prime Minister, one that got beyond the usual "hello, how’s the wife, lend us a tenner" sort of exchange that is. It was in 2005 just before he called the general election (after taking my advice naturally). I asked him why he didn’t support the LibDem proposal for a 50 percent level of tax on incomes of more than one hundred thousand English pounds. He answered the question very well.

And now even the LibDems have caught up.

JG Ballard on the South Bank Show

JG Ballard was on ITV’s South Bank Show on Sunday. He had a weird upbringing but then so did many of his generation who had their childhood or adolescence interrupted by the Second World War. Being in Shanghai under Japanese occupation however must rank pretty high on the disruption scale.

I’ve never read any of his books but I gather that some of them rank quite high on the weird scale. He had some interesting things to say on the programme and I gather that he covers similar themes in his fiction, much of which is science fiction. He has an interesting take on modern life with its mixture of consumerism and boredom and seems to think that many people grave more violence in their lives.

Not sure he’s right about that but it does amuse me that we lead increasingly cautious lives on a day-to-day basis but seek ever more thrills and spills in our leisure time. Hence the rise of extreme sports and scary theme park rides. I’m sure he’s right about the increasingly blurred distinction between ‘reality’ and the imagination.
And he’s very sound about how unpleasant humans can be to each other particularly in extreme conditions such as war or famine. Seems like excellent reasons to avoid war through institutions such as the EU and to keep the economy buoyant...

He lives in Shepperton which is also weird. It’s in that part of the Thames valley where the map has no contours. The highest thing for miles around is the flyover that takes the M3 over Sunbury Cross near where I used to work. I hated it – right in the middle of bungalow land and lace-curtain-ville.

The South Bank Show is on far too late for old folk so I had to tape it. But then comes the dilemma; do you watch it or the eight-hundredth repeat of the Fred Dibnah show on UKTV History? Actually I took my daughter out for some driving practice to get some more adventure into my life....

You can get an audio podcast of the interview from here but you won’t be able to see his wild staring eyes unless you paste a picture onto your MP3 player.....

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is this the dullest ever period in modern British political history?

A comment I left today on Nick Robinson’s Quite Interesting BBC blog and this reasonably dull article about the extraordinarily dull LibDems by Jackie Ashley in today’s Guardian, have returned me to a familiar theme – sorry. As they used to say on Blankety-blank, the clue is in the question (and today's question is in this post’s title).

I’ve been aware of British politics for half-a-century or so. I admit that my analytical and critical skills weren’t quite as well honed at the time of the Suez crisis as they are (imho) now. My excuse is that I was only five at the time. For a lot of those fifty years things have been Quite Interesting. Unfortunately the most interesting bits have also been the most worrying and potentially disastrous. Proof, if it were needed, of the alleged ancient Chinese curse "may you live through interesting times".

Labour’s reward for bringing stability and prosperity after eighteen years of ‘interesting’ Tory rule is to have the muckrakers in. The rightwing press having failed to defeat Labour on policy has gone for the people instead. If it were the world cup they’d all have been yellow carded for making no attempt to play the ball.

And political commentators must be bored out of their skulls and thus eager to leap on ‘personality issues’. Surprise, surprise the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer don’t get on terribly well. I can’t recall any that did. I wonder how some of the ‘great’ politicians of the past would have fared under today’s media scrutiny. I can’t imagine that Lloyd George, Winston Churchill or many in Atlee’s cabinet would have lasted a week.


Swedish election result – is this what Clare Short meant?

Last week Clare Short declared that Britain needs "to look to the Scandinavian model". Today we learn that the centre right has gained control in Sweden. Does this perhaps explain why Ms Short appears to be doing all she can to help the Tories win in Britain?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gordon Brown – Socialist by Stealth

Gordon Brown has successfully been redistributing wealth from the well off to the poorest in our society. But he’s done it without much fanfare. He, Tony Blair and I (amongst many others) are all of similar age. We understand about ‘the limitations on a government’s power in a liberal democracy (see my last but one post and postings that are yet to come (tricky at present unless you can read my mind (not worth the effort) but they’ll be worth the wait)).

There’s a poorly written but still worth reading piece in the Observer today. "income has been redistributed to the poorest people since 1997 - not from the averagely wealthy but from the richest in society" it quotes Stuart Adam, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies as concluding.

Amusingly Mr Adam attributes the 'erroneous' belief that Brown has been "appalling for middle-income earners" "to the fact that journalists, who frequently pontificate on Brown's cruelty to the middle classes, consider themselves middle-income earners, when most are actually higher-income earners". Hah – journalists are one of the limitations on a government’s power in a liberal democracy (and so too are academics who also tend to be high earners (even if their salaries aren’t all that high)).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Worst Radio Programme

Thanks to Councillor Bob Piper (the number 2 of Labour blogging according to Iain Dale), my attention was drawn to this article in the Guardian. But they wrote too soon. Radio Four’s Saturday Live is the worst programme in the history of the wireless.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The limitations on a government’s power in a liberal democracy....

.... are many, varied and often overlooked by political theorists. Since returning from France I’ve been intending to restart my fascinating postings about some of the differences between life over there and over here in Britain. But, to be frank, I’ve found more interesting things to do with my time. I’ll write them one day I promise and one of them will be on this same theme viz. 'the limitations on a government’s power in a liberal democracy' complete with illustrations thereof from both sides of la Manche. Gosh I know you’re excited.....

Meanwhile reports in today’s Times, and now elsewhere, alleging that Labour is trying to avoid too many controversial NHS closures in vulnerable seats, have returned my thoughts to the theme. There is a desperate need to move our health service forward; its natural development has been hampered from birth by political interference and stop-start investment. This reached a peak in the Thatcher/Major years during which the NHS developed and renewed itself hardly at all.

Medical practice has, meanwhile, been moving on at an increasingly rapid pace. Treatments, which would have been almost unimaginable in 1948 when the NHS started, are now commonplace. And developments in technology and medicines mean that procedures which would previously have required a hospital visit can now be carried out at a GPs surgery or even the lounge bar of a country hotel (which is where my mother-in-law had one of her cataracts done).

So we now need a few big regional hospitals and not very many medium sized ones. So we need to shut some and that’s where the difficulties get really big.

People have a sentimental attachment to their local hospitals even if they’ve never set foot in them. Unions have a duty to try and preserve the jobs of their members. Many health professionals don’t want their jobs to change especially if it means moving to a new location or disrupting a cushy number they’d hope would see them through to retirement. Opposition politicians are always eager to stir up anti-government feelings. Local papers love a ‘save our local anything’ campaign.

A heady mix potentially blocking progress. Governments can easily find themselves almost unable to move and the next election is never far away. It’s not easy.......

Thursday, September 14, 2006

President Eisenhower’s popularity rating dropped 12 points in a week

President Eisenhower’s normally steady popularity rating dropped 12 points in a week after a Viking rocket crashed having risen only two feet above Cape Canaveral on 6th December 1957. The Americans were desperately trying to launch their first Vanguard satellite in response to public outrage and fear because they had fallen behind the Russians who had successfully sent Sputniks 1 and 2 (the latter containing an unfortunate and possibly communist dog) into orbit.

(I learnt this by listening to extracts read from Bill Bryson’s latest book which is about his childhood in 1950s Des Moines, Iowa. They were on BBC Radio Four’s Book of the Week last week. The author could also be seen visiting places featured in the book on ITV’s South Bank show last Sunday. He must have a good agent.)

Thus is demonstrated that fickle or easily led electorates are not a feature only of the twenty-first century.