So in the past week or so there have been four elections which have had greater or lesser coverage in the international media. What are the key lessons from them all?
1. The all involve people choosing politicians, which is the worst form of government ever devised (except for the alternatives). Nearly a million people think Ken Livingstone, a warm supporter of Fidel Castro, is a fit and proper person to spend billions of pounds on a city. More than half of French voters think a man who has never created a job in his life, should run Europe's third largest economy. A majority of Greek voters want to be told what to do by authoritarian Marxists and fascists.
2. Boris Johnson is a funny engaging man who woos women and is intelligent and entertaining. Moreso than Ken Livingstone. He won because he captures people's imagination, and he didn't pretend to be offering that much. He offered frugality, a 10% cut in the Council Tax levied by the Greater London Authority, but also didn't pretend to not be a private educated, Oxbridge, upper class chap. In an age where being a celebrity and a character is more valued than most things, it worked.
3. Ken Livingstone is a bitter nasty old socialist who plays class warfare politics, who blamed the riots on austerity, who says one thing and does another, who plays fast and loose with comments about rich Jews and says one thing about gay rights whilst giving succour to Islamists. He's a politician of the past, and cost Labour victory.
4. Beyond the London mayoral elections, Labour did well because over 60% of voters didn't bother at all. The core opposition to the government was motivated, the core support was not. The Liberal Democrats continue to erode into what looks like fourth party status. The Greens, despite some efforts in doing well, have barely lifted their support as the environmental arguments don't wash well in a recession. The socialist fascist BNP lost every council seat it defended, including losing what had been its single seat on the London Assembly. UKIP gained some votes but not seats. People are fed up with politicians, don't trust them and given the gaffes around the last UK budget, it's hardly surprising the UK coalition is uninspiring.
5. The French have always voted for socialism, it has long been a matter of degree. Now they have voted for a hardened socialist rather than a softened champagne socialist who preaches austerity, but really lives it up large at the cost of future taxpayers and who preaches suspicion of foreigners when he himself is the son of a Hungarian migrant. Now they can pretend that they can stop trying to live within their means, get taxed more and just borrow to prop up their socialist economy where, despite the mythology, manufacturing is no bigger a part of the economy than it is in Britain. Bear in mind a fifth of the French are warm towards a fascist and another 15% are warm towards communists, then you see that liberte isn't as big as equalite in France.
6. The Greeks have voted in protest. The two formely major parties responsible for decades of overspending, lying about debt, a culture of corruption and rent seeking, have been decimated. The "centre-right" New Democracy party has the greatest number of seats, but 108 in a Parliament of 308 is far from enough to govern. The "centre-left" PASOK party which led the last government is third with 41 seats. Second is the Marxist "Coalition of the Radical Left" with 52 seats - a party of communists, Trotskyites, environmentalists and Maoists. It promises to reject spending cuts, reject austerity and somehow magically produce a socialist motherland where money can pay for the big warm maternal state that makes everything happy again. Fourth is the new Independent Greeks party, with 33 seats, which is an odd nationalist party wanting the Germans to pay war reparations, rejecting loan agreements with the EU and wanting politicians and officials responsible for the crisis to be prosecuted - well I can agree on the last one, but I think the Germans have done Greece enough good by lending to it when nobody else would! Fifth is the Communist Party of Greece, which picked up to get 26 seats. The party that is Marxist-Leninist and would have run Greece like a totalitarian twin of Bulgaria had the Greek Civil War gone differently, not that anyone noticed. However, everyone noticed that Sixth is the fascist Golden Dawn Party with 21 seats. It rejects the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution, is radical Greek Orthodox, and wants removal of foreigners. Greeks almost certainly will face no stable government that will enable their bloated state to be funded - indeed, the future looks bleaker now than ever before.
So for London? Business as usual - nothing to see here.
For France? A little man (shorter than Sarkozy) is going to fight austerity - that hasn't even happened- but will inevitably bow to reality, because he is, at the heart of it all, a man who will listen to the grand French statist bureaucracy. Expect little change, although there are reports that real estate agents in South Kensington in London are facing record queries from wealthy Parisians seeking to flee punitive taxes Hollande has promised.
For Greece? Hardly anyone has been telling people in Greece the only solutions to their problems are:
- Accept the government has failed them, make their own arrangements for retirement, healthcare and education.
- Move all their money into foreign bank accounts, preferably not in Euros, or buy precious metals.
- Hunker down and accept that the next 5-10 years will be very hard for those who can't or wont make provision for themselves.