The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

2012: Scores On The Doors

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 31, 2012 @ 11:12

So here we are again. Another year disappears. It has, on reflection, been a pretty incredible one politically. The Coalition bumbles on, but, in my opinion, now looks fatally weakened, no matter what happens in the next couple of years.

Anyway, that’s not what we’re here for. Not that anyone cares, but it’s time to check out how good my predictions were. I have got to say, prepare to be impressed…

1 - the Coalition will last the whole year

Spot on. But come off it, that wasn’t even difficult.

2 - The Lib Dems will take a pounding in the local elections, especially in Scottish councils

Spot on. But come off it, that wasn’t even difficult. To be fair, they didn’t do as badly as I expected in the English locals, but the Scottish locals were an unmitigated disaster. The Liberal Democrats have completely damaged their reason to exist for a generation.

3 - David Cameron will finally conduct a proper reshuffle, though it still won’t be particularly far reaching. Osborne isn’t going anywhere and neither is Michael Gove. Lansley may be moved if the NHS reforms pass successfully to give someone else a chance. He will definitely be removed if they fail. The Lib Dems have such a paucity of front bench talent that there is very little room for manouevre…

This is also mostly right, but it wasn’t a reshuffle by the standards we have been  used to under previous governments. I wonder whether Cameron would be any more adventurous in a Conservative-majority government though. It doesn’t seem his style.

As bonuses I will take full credit for the predictions on Osborne, Gove and Lansley. And the Lib Dems having no talent. Well, that’s a given.

4 - Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader, in spite of generally underwhelming election results and another defeat to Boris in the London mayoral election

A little bit right and a little bit wrong here. In my mind the Boris victory was obvious, but Labour did very well in spite of the Boris wave across London. A net gain of 534 councillors was pretty impressive. But, let’s be honest here, people have only started giving Labour a chance since the spectacularly bad Budget in March.

5 - In Europe, the Euro crisis will be resolved with a “treaty”. The treaty will not get the UK’s blessing, and the EU will proceed into a closer union without the UK, creating overwhelming calls for an in-out referendum. If it starts looking tempting, expect Labour to back the idea.

There’s a lot of detail there, but the core point is majorly wrong. In fact, the Euro crisis had a chance to come to head with the Greek election, but in the end the Greeks shunned the opportunity. But the whole thing has been papered over. There is still a problem, and we are muddling through it at the moment. But the question remains will we ever get the growth of the past back again. I’m not so sure.

6 - France will get a “Socialist” President as Sarkozy plunges to inevitable defeat

This was spot on, even the bit in inverted commas.

7 - Rick Santorum will win the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney will be the Republicans nominee for President

I love this prediction. To be so specific about the Iowa caucuses and still win is truly awesome. Just wish I’d put this on as a double bet!

8 - Barack Obama will squeak a narrow re-election against Mitt Romney

Yep, another winner, although it wasn’t that narrow in the end. 4 million votes difference can’t be wrong. But some of the key states were quite close run (see Florida, North Carolina). I was particularly pleased when I made a prediction of a 333-205 electoral vote during the year, because the actual electoral vote is expected to be 332-206!

9 – The Democrats will either lose control of the Senate or it will be an exact 50-50 tie… the Democrats will not re-take the House, but it will be close. This disastrous deadlock will result in two more years of pathetic governance in the States.

Hmm, pretty wrong here. The omens didn’t look good at the start of this year due to the strongly defensive nature of this cycle, but I underestimated the ability of the Republican party to self-destruct. I shouldn’t have done so, as they fucked up pretty badly in 2010, so a repeat peformance in 2012 shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. But thanks to Republican lunatics in Republican places like Missouri and Indiana, the Democrats managed to increase their majority. And not only that, they improved the progressive nature of the caucus, due to the kind of candidates that won. The House wasn’t close either, really, but the final bit of the prediction will definitely come true. See tomorrow.

10 – Syria will continue to make a mockery of the West – and the uprising will eventually be brutally suppressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arab Spring becomes stillborn, and the tendency towards strong, authoritarian governments in the region will persist

Christ. Excuse my sudden lapse of atheism, but this prediction was absolutely bang on. Again, maybe it was easy to predict, as all revolutions struggle, but the fact remains that Syria has turned the West into an embarrassment, and the Arab Spring is all but dead.

11 – Iran will successfully navigate the year without there being any progress on disarmament, and there will be no military activity of any sort. However, the West will begin sounding the war-drums, and the useless public will buy it

I was wrong about the public buying it, but there’s always time. To be honest though, predicting that nothing would happen is pretty easy, as, most of the time, nothing does happen. See prediction 1.

12 - And all the while the schizophrenic public will continue to ignore the fact that Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a catastrophic failure. More lives will continue to be lost, though Obama will, mercifully, confirm a long, slow, drawdown over the next few years.

Yup, but again, pretty easy. And maybe a controversial call, as I’m sure there are people out there who think Afghanistan is a success.

Time to summarise:

  • SPECTACULARLY CORRECT – 7
  • SORT OF CORRECT – 3
  • MOSTLY WRONG – 2

My best year of predictions ever. The trick I have finally learned is to predict that things won’t happen. Predict that the opinion polls are pretty much bang on. Most pundits have a habit of predicting the outrageous, because they know that it’ll get them attention. This was definitely true during the American election… and then the reality check was delivered. And yet, no one’s careers were ended…

Tomorrow, if I can find some time in the post-New Year stupour, I will line up a new slate for 2013. Bet you can’t wait.

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Liberal Luvvie Lord Leveson Likes Lunatic Lefties

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 28, 2012 @ 22:09

I’m sorry, I can’t substantiate the title of this post. It is not even possible.

But I just couldn’t resist.

Who knew, after all this time, that behind Leveson’s mysterious Blue Curtain was a secret gateway direct to the headquarters of the Stop the War coalition?

It had often been speculated that maybe there was some sort of jacuzzi, where the many attendants Max Mosley was so fond of take care of his every need, but the tabloid press were just too scared to report it.

Others thought that maybe it was a portal to some other dimension where the press behave impeccably and only report the facts after triple-sourcing every lead.

But no. It harboured much darker secrets than that.

Who next bursting out from behind the Curtain? George Galloway? Matthew Kelly?

Gotta love the Leveson Inquiry.

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12 For 2012

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2012 @ 20:23

Continuing a fine annual tradition, it’s time to lay down a few markers for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one, methinks…

  1. Starting at home, with yet another boring prediction, the Coalition will last the whole year. Get used to it, Labourites. It ain’t going anywhere.
  2. The Lib Dems will take a pounding in the local elections, especially in Scottish councils, where they will be wiped only for the saving grace that is a truly proportional electoral system. Predictably, it will all be dismissed, and the Lib Dems will accept it and carry on.
  3. David Cameron will finally conduct a proper reshuffle, though it still won’t be particularly far reaching. Osborne isn’t going anywhere and neither is Michael Gove. Lansley may be moved if the NHS reforms pass successfully to give someone else a chance. He will definitely be removed if they fail. The Lib Dems have such a paucity of front bench talent that there is very little room for manouevre… but maybe Nick Clegg will at least get a real portfolio at last, now the “political reform” agenda has vanished.
  4. Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader, in spite of generally underwhelming election results and another defeat to Boris in the London mayoral election.
  5. In Europe, the Euro crisis will be resolved with a “treaty”. The treaty will not get the UK’s blessing, and the EU will proceed into a closer union without the UK, creating overwhelming calls for an in-out referendum. If it starts looking tempting, expect Labour to back the idea.
  6. France will get a “Socialist” President as Sarkozy plunges to inevitable defeat.
  7. Rick Santorum will win the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney will be the Republicans nominee for President.
  8. Barack Obama will squeak a narrow re-election against Mitt Romney.
  9. The Democrats will either lose control of the Senate or it will be an exact 50-50 tie, with Joe Biden, VP, suddenly finding a reason to exist. The Democrats will not re-take the House, but it will be close. This disastrous deadlock will result in two more years of pathetic governance in the States.
  10. Syria will continue to make a mockery of the West – and the uprising will eventually be brutally suppressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arab Spring becomes stillborn, and the tendency towards strong, authoritarian governments in the region will persist.
  11. Iran will successfully navigate the year without there being any progress on disarmament, and there will be no military activity of any sort. However, the West will begin sounding the war-drums, and the useless public will buy it.
  12. And all the while the schizophrenic public will continue to ignore the fact that Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a catastrophic failure. More lives will continue to be lost, though Obama will, mercifully, confirm a long, slow, drawdown over the next few years.

And the usual bonus prediction… Manchester City will win this year’s Premier League.

See you at the end of the year!

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2011: Scores On The Doors

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 31, 2011 @ 15:00

It’s that time of year again. Not that anyone else cares, but I like to keep score…

The AV referendum will pass

Oh dear. Totally wrong. I just thought maybe for once we’d be able to have a reasonable debate – but in the end it was extraordinarily lop-sided – and there will never again be a chance for electoral reform in the UK. Nice job.

The “Other” 2011 referendum – in Wales – will also succeed, but with a larger majority in favour.

Correct. But that was an easy one…

Following that, Welsh Labour will win. But perhaps not as big as they will hope. I predict an extremely close finish, with them just falling below the magic 31 seats for outright majority control.

Correct and then some. Extraordinary precision. Incredible insight. Labour won the election with 30 seats of 60. One seat short of that magic 31. I am very proud of this one – makes up for the AV disaster!

The Scottish Nationalists will lose power in Scotland’s May general election

OK, so maybe my Scottish politics is not very good compared to my Welsh. My thinking behind this one was that perhaps the rise of the Coalition in England would force Labour voters to return home as the only way to create some clear red water at the border.

Instead, the SNP have established themselves as an extremely credible and powerful electoral force. Whether they turn that into support for independence remains to be seen. But the Scots electorate is very happy with them, and I’m delighted that I got this one very wrong.

Meanwhile, in London, the Coalition will last the whole year, without too many hiccups, despite sluggish economic data.

That wasn’t very difficult, but it was right on every level. Shit economy, after all.

Somewhere during the year, the Liberal Democrats will hit another low in their post-2010 election opinion poll woes.

I could probably have proved this any way I liked, choosing any of the multiple pollsters. But the fair answer is to choose one barometer and stick to it. My weapon of choice is the ICM/Guardian monthly poll that’s been going since 1984.

Their lowest Lib Dem share in 2010 was 13% in December 2010. Their lowest Lib Dem share in 2011 was… 12%  in June 2011. Beautiful. I count that as a win!

In the post-May reshuffle, Nick Clegg will receive a real portfolio in a bid by David Cameron to shore up support for the coalition amongst demoralised Liberal Democrat MPs. Home Office, anyone?

Well, this one was wrong because there was no post-election reshuffle. Never mind.

Also to boost the Lib Dems, House of Lords reform (defined here as anything 80% or more elected), will pass the Commons, but die a sad death in the Lords itself.

I’m really not sure why I predicted this one now. House of Lords reform to make it elected wholesale will never happen. I should have trusted my standard instincts when it comes to serious political reform.

Looking abroad, Silvio Berlusconi will finally reach the end of his woeful Prime Ministerial career.

Another beauty. Bye bye Silvio.

Barack Obama will have a traumatic year: under fire from the hostile House of Representatives, a ceaseless war in Afghanistan, and unable to achieve anything of great significance. This will seriously damage him running into the pivotal 2012. And if that happens, expect Sarah Palin to run for the Presidency. Whether she gets the nomination, however, will have to wait till next year’s prediction…

Let’s try to digest that. Barack Obama has indeed had a terrible year. I knew it would be the case. The House has been the thorn in his side, and the disastrous Afghanistan still rumbles on with no progress and no sign of ending. At least he has ended the Iraq one.

But what I didn’t get right was the bonus Sarah Palin prediction, in spite of all that. Little did I realise that she actually has no intention of running for serious office again. It was all a sham to make money.

Finally, North Korea will come back to the negotiating table at long last. But will a deal be reached? Extraordinarily unlikely. Unless Kim Jong Il croaks it, and his son is, to everyone’s shock, slightly less of a lunatic than his father…

I’m going to count this as correct. Not necessarily because of the negotiating table thing… even though there was some movement in that direction a few months ago. But because I talked about Kim Jong Il croaking it – which turns out did happen!

So what’s that then…

  • SPECTACULARLY CORRECT – 2
  • SORT OF CORRECT – 5
  • MOSTLY WRONG – 1
  • EMBARRASSINGLY WRONG – 3

And I also got my bonus prediction of Man Utd to win the title correct, though that was easy.

So we all drop some clangers from time to time. And once again, they were because of either sheer naïveté or simply making a ludicrous prediction to sound good. But then again, some of the ones I did win also sounded a bit ludicrous at the time. Hmm.

Maybe I’m not that bad after all… but let’s face it, no one could have predicted the actual major events of the year – the Arab Spring, the phone-hacking scandal and the ceaseless decline in Europe and the US.

A fresh set of predictions tomorrow!

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Why Not Regulate The Press?

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 23, 2011 @ 22:47

I don’t know about you, but when I see newspaper front pages like this…

 … a front page which is nothing other than a contemptible and deliberately cynical lie… I can’t help but feel that the current situation – much debated at present – that the broadcast media should be regulated, while the print media is allowed to get on with it – is completely untenable.

Can you imagine if, at 10pm last night, the BBC News at 10 had asserted to the same degree of certainty that front page does, that it was Al Qaeda responsible for the attack? If they had been right, no doubt they would be paraded as a fine example of getting an early scoop. But if they’d got it wrong, they would soon discover the full fury of the rest of the media. Not to mention those other unimportant bodies like OFCOM and the BBC Trust.

And rightly so. After all, if a broadcast media organisation had been so sloppy, so brazen, so downright wrong in such a manner as to give people completely the wrong impression, and – worse – potentially inflame the state of race relations in the UK – then they would deserve the book and the whole of the British Library being thrown at them.

So why not the print media? Why, on Monday (not yet on Sunday) will the Sun say absolutely nothing about just how disgustingly and dangerously wrong they were with their Saturday front page? Why is it that no one at all will be able to hold them to account for it?

Why should it merely be that the answer is “if people don’t like it, they will stop buying it”? Don’t the people in such powerful positions as to be able to dictate public policy and influence the public debate have a responsibility to at least either get the basic facts right, or, if they aren’t in possession of those, not to speculate idly without having a scintilla of evidence to back up their wild assertions?

If nothing else, don’t they owe it to their own readership to at least try to get things right?

Apparently not.

The constant refrain during the Murdoch/News International hacking scandal has been “whatever we do, we want to preserve press freedom to self-regulate”. It’s just a tragic shame that it requires such an appalling incident as what happened in Norway to, once again – as if recent events have not been enough – illustrate just how misguided that opinion is.

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The Biggest Irony Of Election Night

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 6, 2011 @ 09:06

A very misleading photo of some guy

One quick thought for you.

Labour, in Scotland, suffered a “shellacking” at the hands of the SNP.

That defeat was magnified to a very large extent by none other than the First Past The Post electoral system.

You know, that system most of them came out and backed.

But wait!

Scotland doesn’t have just FPTP. It has the joyous Additional Member System, allowing additional MPs to be distributed in accordance with the PROPORTIONAL preference of the electorate. And, even better, taking into account seats already won under FPTP, thus correcting for its distortion.

Hmm.

To recap. Labour, facing meltdown at the hands of the First Past The Post electoral system in Scotland, are rescued from utter disaster by a fair voting system, enshrined in proportional representation.

“Lord” Reid, your boys took a hell of a beating.

How do you like them apples, Iain?

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11 For 2011

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2011 @ 11:11

OK, so it’s hardly the return of the Futility Monster, here, but two posts in two days does mark something of a minor miracle. Even so, it’s unlikely to be repeated. Maybe I will try and write something at least semi-frequently. Maybe once a month or something.

But for now, more to get it down in writing than anything else, here comes my top 11 predictions for 2011.

  1. The AV referendum will pass. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I believe Ed Miliband will drag the Labour Party, kicking and screaming, behind the campaign as a show of his authority and capacity for “change”. This will encourage the Lib Dems to give it their full support. It will scrape home. Just.
  2. The “Other” 2011 referendum – in Wales – will also succeed, but with a larger majority in favour.
  3. Following that, Welsh Labour will win. But perhaps not as big as they will hope. I predict an extremely close finish, with them just falling below the magic 31 seats for outright majority control.
  4. The Scottish Nationalists will lose power in Scotland’s May general election, but they will only be replaced by an enfeebled Labour minority, who may struggle to find partners to get its legislation and budgets through.
  5. Meanwhile, in London, the Coalition will last the whole year, without too many hiccups, despite sluggish economic data.
  6. Somewhere during the year, the Liberal Democrats will hit another low in their post-2010 election opinion poll woes.
  7. In the post-May reshuffle, Nick Clegg will receive a real portfolio in a bid by David Cameron to shore up support for the coalition amongst demoralised Liberal Democrat MPs. Home Office, anyone?
  8. Also to boost the Lib Dems, House of Lords reform (defined here as anything 80% or more elected), will pass the Commons, but die a sad death in the Lords itself.
  9. Looking abroad, Silvio Berlusconi will finally reach the end of his woeful Prime Ministerial career. Having said that, his replacement will hardly be any better.
  10. Barack Obama will have a traumatic year: under fire from the hostile House of Representatives, a ceaseless war in Afghanistan, and unable to achieve anything of great significance. This will seriously damage him running into the pivotal 2012. And if that happens, expect Sarah Palin to run for the Presidency. Whether she gets the nomination, however, will have to wait till next year’s prediction…
  11. Finally, North Korea will come back to the negotiating table at long last. But will a deal be reached? Extraordinarily unlikely. Unless Kim Jong Il croaks it, and his son is, to everyone’s shock, slightly less of a lunatic than his father…

As for who wins this year’s Premier League, alas, it’ll be no one other than Manchester United.

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2010: Scores On The Doors

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 1, 2011 @ 14:43

OK, so I don’t blog any more – life happened, and politics drove me to despair – but there is some unfinished business.

On January 1 2010, I made the following predictions:

1 – The Conservatives will win the General Election (which will be held in May) with a majority of approximately 50 seats.

Well, I got that wrong. I lost my bottle. After predicting for years (pre-blogging, alas) that it would be a hung parliament next time, I got carried away with continuous polls showing a Tory landslide. I should have stuck with my gut feeling.

2 – George Osborne will not be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

OK, that was always going to be a long shot. More in hope rather than expectation. I thought he might get a different post, a more strategic one, and instead Phillip Hammond would get the job. Moral of the tale: wild predictions are often wrong.

3 – Gordon Brown will be replaced as Labour Party leader by Ed Miliband.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But no, that’s unfair. To me this ranks amongst my finest predictions ever. Best one since predicting Obama as next President in 2004. I just had a feeling that the Labour Party would turn to a “new” face, rather than David Miliband. I had been convinced Ed Miliband had the ability to win such a contest in 2007 at his conference speech. At least, I think it was 2007.

4 – Gordon Brown will get a job on the international stage and resign as an MP.

Wrong. I am really surprised that he is still an MP. Ex PMs just shouldn’t be in Parliament. Gordon Brown still doesn’t strike me as the type to overshadow the new leadership. I still think he will go. Perhaps the right opportunity hasn’t arisen yet…

5 – The new Tory administration will suffer a scandal of some kind. Yes, I know this is very vague, and a total cop out, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

Well, I was half-right. By “scandal” I was, naturally, implying some sort of personal relationship issue. It was provided extremely quickly by David Laws and his questionable financial arrangements. But it wasn’t a Tory administration that provided it. Though on the other hand, it might as well be.

6 – The Tories will scrap the ID card, but questions will remain over whether the database behind the project actually disappears with it.

Half right again. It was a coalition government that scrapped the ID card, and it seems the whole database has gone too. In this case, I’m glad to be wrong. Good riddance.

7 – Obama will not only pass his healthcare reform bill, but will score a major political coup by passing comprehensive immigration reform, utterly dividing the Republican Party in the process.

Oh dear. Well, sort of half right. He did get healthcare reform – of a sort – but no immigration reform, more’s the pity. Instead, he went down to a thumping defeat. The Republican Party, however, is definitely divided. The mother of all splits is coming down the track with the Tea Party vs Traditional Republican clash.

8 – The Democrats will lose 30 seats in the House, and 5 seats in the Senate, worsening the already fractured relationship between Obama and an increasingly obstructive Republican minority.

Well, they lost 6 in the Senate, so pretty good here. But the House losses were twice as large as I thought. And I was spot on about the “increasingly obstructive Republican minority”. In fact, they’ve done nothing other than obstruct, and have had incredible success in the process. But they’re going to have to do try and do something with their shiny new House majority to prove they can do more than just generate soundbites.

9 – Australian PM Kevin Rudd will win the next federal election – a double dissolution – with a major landslide.

Back in January 2010, this looked nailed on. It couldn’t have been any better for the Australian Labor Party. The opposition were in disarray, Rudd was riding high in the polls, and the right circumstances were in place for Rudd to call a special “double dissolution” election, which would allow him the opportunity to make significant changes to the country. Instead, he bottled it, and ended up getting kicked out. The replacement leader managed to scrape home with the help of a new coalition, but whether she’ll build on that is anyone’s guess. Goes to show how important nerve is in politics…

10 – The Iranian crisis will either culminate in the death of Mirhossein Mousavi or there will be a popular revolution. That’s another cop out, I’m sorry, but either way I think this will be a significant year for the Iranian situation.

Moral of the tale here: steer clear of international situations you know nothing about.

Overall, not particularly bad. Lots of “half rights”. The biggest errors were when I let my hopes overrule my genuine expectations. Or when I just made a bizarre prediction for shits and giggles. But I’m so proud of my Ed Miliband prediction that I think I deserve some credit :-)

But the less said about my prediction for Arsenal to win the Premier League, the better.

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Dear tuition@libdems.org.uk…

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 18, 2010 @ 23:13

Hello to whoever is reading this

As a Lib Dem member, and someone who joined the party many years ago because of tuition fees, amongst other issues, which made the Liberal Democrats a truly distinctive choice in British politics, I thought I’d respond to your e-mail.

I fully supported the Lib Dems in 2010 as truly the only genuine alternative to the same old rubbish from the main two parties. So much time and effort committed. When I saw us surging in the polls, only for us to be disappointed on Election Day, it broke my heart.

The choice of our leadership to back the Browne Review turns my stomach. We have done nothing other than sell our policies down the river since we went into government. And all for what: an AV referendum that no one wants?

Yes, I know we didn’t “win” the election, but neither did the Tories. And neither did we have to put our MPs in Cabinet posts which would end up causing the greatest difficulty for our party. Witness again today Chris Huhne issuing yet more screeching u-turns on our policies on nuclear power.

Sorry “Nick”, but if the party is doing nothing other than back solutions which consistently appear to be Tory – the kind of thing David Cameron would have done anyway – then there really is no point in pretending to be a different party any more. Call a special conference to formalise the merger now, and those of us still with a conscience can reform as a genuine centre-left, social democratic party.

Regards

The Futility Monster

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It’s All In The Timing

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 24, 2010 @ 11:47

Yes. It is.

To me, the beauty of the American political system is in its enforced renewal. Every two years, the populist House has to be re-mandated. It is this very nature that makes it populist. Meanwhile, their ultimate leader and national figurehead, the President, gets a little longer, but is not allowed to stick around for more than eight years, lest he (not yet a she) start to get ideas above his station, and become a little too attached to the trappings of office.

There aren’t many other Western political systems that have such rigorous time and term limits on everything. The rest of us, especially Westminster inspired systems, have a lot more flexibility regarding the calling of elections. And that’s where the problem begins.

Take Australia. In January, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd looked in an extremely powerful position. The opposition had just replaced its leader, in a fractious contest that split the party down the middle. His personal approval ratings were sky high. The opposition controlled Senate had just blocked a key plank of his legislation – environmental regulation – for the second time. This opened the door for Rudd to engage in some constitutional jiggery-pokery: a “double dissolution” election, which, most probably, would have resulted in a sweeping Labour victory in both chambers of the Parliament.

Instead, he decides to tough it out. And then sees everything go wrong, getting chucked out and replaced by Julia Gillard.

Julia Gillard doesn’t want to repeat Rudd’s mistake. While the polls see her arrival as positive, and the Labor Party improves its standing, she decides to seize upon the honeymoon and go straight to that election. The net result: Labor on the brink, courtesy of a terrible, back-biting campaign, and an opposition that had had eight months to prepare for this very moment.

Then there’s Gordon Brown: clinging on by his fingernails till the very last moment. If only he’d gone straight away, like so many commentators (including me) thought he should. His first job, after accepting the invitation of the Queen to be the Prime Minister, should have been to say, “And now I’d like an election to mandate this change”. He didn’t. He didn’t want to be one of the shortest ever PMs. And yet all the omens were good for them. Tories still not ready. Old election boundaries. Honeymoon period. The rest is history.

Recent evidence seems to be that politicians are not very good at choosing the timing of elections. They either worry that they’re about to sign their own death warrant, or are hopelessly optimistic about what’s lurking around the corner.

Since we should only trust politicians as much as is necessary, we should do them all a favour and back the idea of fixed election dates. Let’s take the stress off them, and in return, remove a major element of political fiddling from the system.

Though I still think five years is too long…

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