Posted By: January 26, 2015


Tom Kelly. Irish News ( Belfast). Monday, January 26, 2015


IF YOU ever wanted a reason to vote the forthcoming election in May give you that
reason. Not since the post-war election of 1945 has there ever been a chance to make
your vote count. And if you want proof just look at the farce that David Cameron has
turned the televised leaders debate into.

Cameron, presumably on the advice of his American strategist, decided he had to
muddy the waters in the traditional leaders’ debate by calling for the inclusion of
the Green party.

To quote him, he said “you can’t have the inclusion of some minority parties and not
others”. These TV affairs are usually quite tame but the power of televised debates
definitely enhanced Nick Clegg before the last election.

At one stroke Cameron solved two problems.

Firstly, here is a man unloved by his own party. He is a latter day Stanley Baldwin.
Many Tories are deeply mistrustful of Cameron and they hate the coalition with the
Liberal Democrats.

The Tory backbenchers get indigestion having Nick Clegg as deputy PM. He is the
voodoo doll they carry in their suitcases. Cameron, on the other hand, is a
political pragmatist.

It’s doubtful if he has an ideological bone in his body. He simply understands power
and likes being prime minister and, to be frank, amongst the three possible
contenders for the job he is the best of them.

That is not an endorsement of the Conservatives, it’s a plain and simple
acknowledgement of the truth.

If there ever was a fish out of water it’s Ed Miliband. Never has a man been so
ill-fitted to the mantle of leader since Michael Foot or Anthony Eden.

He looks and sounds like a geeky nerd; he is the Billy No Mates of politics. It
doesn’t matter that he is smart. It does not matter that he cares deeply about his
party. It does not even matter that his arguments are right about the direction of
the country.

Quite simply he is a division one player aspiring to play in the premiership. That
may seem harsh but it’s delusional to think that this man is prime ministerial
material. He is so bad he actually makes Cameron look like a statesman. And everyone
in Labour knows it.

Electorally he has a chance of being prime minister solely because more people like
the Labour party and because thanks to a measure of benign gerrymandering Labour is
likely to have more seats than the Tories.

Clegg, on the other hand, is well named. He is the political parasite that no
contender for Number 10 can ignore. The Lib Dems are facing electoral meltdown but
they will still be the kingmakers. Even if they halved their current representation
in parliament they will still help choose who gets the keys of Chequers.

But back to the leaders’ debate; the one thing Cameron could not risk was him and
Clegg in a three-headed lock with the Labour leader. Had that happened even the
hapless Miliband could score a goal. Then there is Ukip, the TUV of British
politics, though with a sense of humour and a pint. More of a bark than a bite, the
numbers for Ukip just don’t stack up. This party will not create a tsunami in
British politics but it will concentrate some minds.

A bigger threat is the SNP but it too will most likely take 20-odd seats. The
potential of the SNP being kingmakers sends shocks waves down Tory spines. And then
there is Northern Ireland. Even the Westminster penny has dropped on the
abstentionist Sinn Féin. This is the election when they really will have to work for
every vote because frankly, their non attendance puts the DUP into play at
Westminster and even gives the luckless SDLP a raison d’être.

Already Margaret Ritchie has cut out an impressive figure on the Westminster
agriculture committee, standing up for the Northern Ireland farming and fishing
industries. She has created a niche but think of how the Labour leadership might
reward the SDLP if it needed their votes? Gordon Brown had already thought about
that and is believed to have factored in the talents of Mark Durkan had Labour won
the last election.

Yet the keys to the kingdom literally may have just landed onto the laps of the DUP
and the decision of the broadcasters to exclude them may not stand and if and when
it falls, the British public may get a taste of alternative Ulster.