Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A Midsummer to Speak No More..

Well, it had to happen and after his lamentable performance yesterday, Speaker Michael Martin was a dead duck and has resigned or rather will be resigning on June 21st. The race for the role of successor has already started and while I'm pleased to see such interest in Alan Beith as a possible successor, I'm less convinced.

The role of Speaker is unique and it requires a unique character - George Thomas, Bernard Weatherill and Betty Boothroyd all brought their idiosyncracies to the job and in a difficult time for the reputation of Parliament, it requires a similar figure to reinvigorate the chamber. I've no strong view on who it should be at this time.

Last night's ICM poll sounded a note of sense after a bizarre series of weekend polls. The figures (Conservative 39, Labour 28, Liberal Democrat 20) are nearer my sense of where the parties are than BPIX and ComRes last Sunday. The Tories remain on course for a decisive victory at the next election though predictions of a 1983-style landslide look a little off the mark. The Liberal Democrats still face a tough challenge defending seats against the Conservatives but the possibility of holding more and taking some seats off Labour is very much up for grabs.

On the forgotten issue of the economy, the news remains cautiously optimistic. The DJIA has rebounded 2,000 points from its March low while the FTSE has recovered over 950 points. It is approaching the "peak" of mid January from where it began the long slide to its March lowpoint. It will be interesting to see if the same happens with this rally.

Optimists think growth will return as early as later this year, the more pessimistic think 2010 is more likely. It is worth remembering that the Depression had a similar false dawn in 1930 before the "double-dip" slide kicked in. The recovery of oil prices to near $60 a barrel (levels last seen in November 2008) sounds a cautionary note as to the impact of inflation and energy costs on any recovery.

At the moment, however, no one is interested. It's all about MPs and the recriminations. The public mood seems to be to clean house and start again and it was interesting to read a column in this morning's City AM praising the Jury Team. Now, I'm no fan of the Jury Team - I suspect that once they had their hands on the levers of power, they'd just be like any other political party whatever their fine words or protestations to the contrary.

The current system is flawed but that doesn't make politics or parties flawed. All parties contain honest, dignified people caring about doing what's best for their communities. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater solves nothing - Government is a serious business and needs to be taken seriously.

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