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The Odd Couples

18 April 2011

1:15 PM

18 April 2011

1:15 PM

It must be Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau season at the Commons’ film club. A string of
odd political couples has stalked stages across the land this morning, supposedly pronouncing
the merits or demerits of the alternative vote. David Cameron and John Reid were the oddest: the Prime Minister’s well-heeled insouciance contrasting with his lordship’s winking
Glaswegian charm.

It’s good fun, without being hugely constructive. Cameron and Reid joked that they agreed on nothing beyond FPTP, before embarking on a distended muse about party politics and that old canard
‘Britishness’. Things were little better for Ed Miliband, who spent a large portion of his conference listening to Vince Cable explain why he wasn’t resigning from the government.


There were some arguments amid the pageant. Cameron and Reid agreed that AV privileged some voters above others, which is
unfair and a danger to national ‘wellbeing’. Miliband was in visionary mood: talking of
‘broken politics’ and the need to choose ‘hope over fear’.

Miliband’s clichés are not wholly worthless. Despite the catharsis of a general election, politics is still mired by public mistrust. You don’t need professional polling to see
that. The AV referendum had the potential to reinvigorate public life to an extent; yet, at the national level at least, it has been conducted in a state of near constant vitriol. Miliband’s refusal to share a platform with Clegg (or the Yes campaign’s,
depending on whose spin doctor you believe) is just one self-important
instance of a generally grubby campaign. Small wonder that it hasn’t claimed the public’s imagination. 


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