Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Friday, 26 February 2010

A fool's guess?

Everybody else is doing it, so Mrs Rigby has decided to prove, once and for all, that she has little experience of things political so will make a fool's guess or two.

British people are getting tired of politics, they are getting tired of reading about badly behaved MPs, they're tired of obfuscation and dithering, and they're tired of being treated like fools. They're also getting tired of complaining and not being heard.

Long before the opinion polls started turning, the media began carrying predictions of a hung parliament. The polls are, naturally, now confirming this. (Look up self-fulfilling prophecy.) Some people like the idea of a hung parliament, because they don't want, in their lifetime, to see a single political group have such a clear majority that it lets them do whatsoever they wish. Some of these people assume the group with the most votes will get to lead a coalition.

Because of all this tedium and the oh so frequently-predicted outcome, some people are planning their own strategies. Some have decided not to bother voting, others have decided to mess up their ballot papers to make a point and some are planning to vote Labour, reckoning that because this government made the mess, it's their job to clean it up - with the expectation that that's what they'd do, because it's the right thing to do, what decent people would do.

Others, though, point out that if Labour were to win a coming election it would be seen as a mandate to continue, and expand, existing policies. It isn't worth trying to list them all, frankly it's too depressing for Mrs R to contemplate.

So, with all this running through her head and never having actually learned anything much about either politics or political processes, Mrs Rigby's instinct tells her when the election is likely to be. To support this gut feeling she's hastily scrabbled around for a few supporting bits and pieces.

People throughout the country, and of every political colour except red, have been politely requesting an election ever since Mr Brown became PM, and almost every request ends with the word, "Please,". But, of course, our 'caring, 'kind', 'fatherly', PM refuses - because he and he alone knows what's best for both the country and its population, he also knows what's best for the rest of the world.

Throughout this government April 1st has been the day much favoured for the commencement of new legislation, opening the doors of new 'agencies', the day new taxes are levied etc., it is also the beginning of the new tax year.

This year April 1st is a Thursday. It is the day before Good Friday and marks the beginning of the long Easter weekend, it is the day when many people, irrespective of their green credentials, will be either starting out on journeys or preparing to travel to an overseas holiday destination - to catch a bit of early sunshine to recover from a long, cold, winter.

If Britons mimic their New Zealand counterparts then around 33% will have already planned to be away from home over Easter this year, although not necessarily outside the country and may, therefore, not wish to be distracted by things political.

Not many people realise you can register at any time throughout the year because the register is updated every month, as set out in the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 2000.

Not many people realise that postal votes can be requested on demand, and unlike a proxy vote, once you have applied for a postal vote you are not allowed to vote in person unless you re-register - which can be done at any time.

April 1st may also be "All Fools' Day", a day for pranks and jokes, but Mrs R guesses that this date will be chosen for the 2010 general election.

There must be at least 17 working days between when an election is called and election day itself. In practice that means at least 20/21 days warning, including weekends, and would mean that there could be an announcement around 10th/11th March.

The results?

Whether on that day or any other, Mrs R predicts that most people who are happy with their existing MP will continue to vote for that particular party, even if their current MP has decided to resign. She thinks that, in some parts of the country, Labour will lose votes, perhaps even a seat or two, to the BNP and the Tories will lose votes to UKIP, whilst the Lib Dems and Greens will bumble  along, keeping about the same number of seats as usual, although it's more likely the Lib Dems will gain votes from the Greens because a lot of 'thinking' people are a bit annoyed with environmentalists just now.

From reading what people think, and also talking to family and friends dotted around the country, Mrs R thinks the media is calling the tune and the results will be close, possibly leaving no party with a clear, overall majority - as predicted by the polls - although she has some reservations about these polls because, for example, she is registered with YouGov but has not been asked a single political question since last autumn.

Under constitutional convention, the Prime Minister can stay in Number 10 if his rivals do not win a majority, even if Labour loses the election.
Mr Brown seems to display a certain stubbornness of character, he has made it clear both in Parliament and in the media that he does not believe any other  political party is fit to run the country, so it's likely he will do his best to stay, demanding that all other parties do his bidding in a coalition under his control.

Okay, so Mrs R realises she's probably made a complete and utter fool of herself, so if anybody has a handy dunce's cap she'll happily wear it until the election - whenever it may be.

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