and so it begins

This morning the Queen gave permission for Parliament to be dissolved and a General Election to be called for May 6.

The way in which Brown and Cameron launched their campaigns has been quite different and I think this campaign will be interesting in a whole range of ways:

the leadership debates

For the first time the 3 main party leaders will face each other directly in three debates live on prime time tv.

I have some very big reservations about the debates.

It doesn’t quite fit with the nature of UK politics.  We don’t elect a prime minister, we elect our local MP.  The party with the largest number of MPs  is asked by the Queen to form a government.  It’s highly unlikely, but the leader of any party could not be elected in their local constituency.  That said, we’ll hopefully hear some of the real policy differences between the parties.

My second reservation is that it paints the election as a straight choice between 3 parties.  Of course the political reality is that Labour or the Conservatives will form a government with the Liberal Democrats holding sway in the event of a hung parliament.  But why should it be that way?  Presenting the election in this light seems to deny that in each constituency there will be a huge range of candidates.  The very nature of these debates emphasises that a vote for anyone other that the big 3 parties is a wasted vote.  It’s not.

the Interweb

This is the first internet election.  So far it seems that the Tories are the only party to have embraced this reality but again the nature of British politics where each local contest is an election campaign in isolation in many ways means that a consistent party line might be almost impossible to maintain.  Viral posters like the Guardian’s “Outside Now Posh Boy” and Airbrushed For Change will play a part in reinforcing messages.

It will also be interesting to see if Twitter, Facebook and blogging will engage people in political debate.