Would that be a better way to beat the Soup-Dragon?
Sad news this week, with the death of childrenâ€™s animation maestro Oliver Postgate who passed away on Monday. Postgate was the creator of such classics as Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, but his enduring legacy will be the surreal and innovative world of the Clangers.
I cannot take credit for being the first to wonder whether a political article could be crafted from the inspiration of Postgateâ€™s creations â€“ I owe that credit to a conversation with my mother earlier this week â€“ nor am I first to make the attempt to write such a blogpost (see this submission from Jane Merrick). One joyous discovery as a result of following this train of thought, however, was stumbling across a fragment of a forgotten episode called â€˜Vote for Froglet!â€™, which was aired on the eve of the 1974 General Election â€“ you can view the extremely rare fragment here.
When I did a little more digging, I came across an extract from an interview with Postgate, conducted by Clive Banks:
CB: Thereâ€™s one episode called â€˜Vote For Frogletâ€™, which Iâ€™ve never seen.
OP: And you wonâ€™t! It doesnâ€™t exist [any more]. I was so angry in 1973, the Winter of Discontent, when the Miners Union and the government were locked in mortal combat and the economy of the country was going into the ground, that I honestly thought, having been in Germany at the end of the War and seen what happened when an economy collapsed completely, I really got frightened, I thought the process of government was completely buggered by inter-party squabbling. So I went to the BBC and said, â€œCan I do a little Clangers film about the election?â€ Itâ€™s basically about the narrator, thatâ€™s me, being the interlocutor as well, telling the Clangers that theyâ€™ve got to vote, either for the Froglet or for the Soup Dragon. And they refused point blank to have anything to do with it. It was a sort of tiny morality play really. It only lasted three to four minutes and I made it complete in three days.
CB: So who won the election?
OP: Nobody did! They all went back down to their holes and said â€œSod off! The whole thing is a waste of everybodyâ€™s time!â€ I was trying to sell them the idea of politics, and they were determined not to have anything to do with it.
We are now back to a similarly frightening economic situation â€“ maybe not as scary as Germany 1945 or Britain 1973, but enough for people to talk about â€˜a Depressionâ€™ rather than just â€˜a Recessionâ€™. It makes one wonder whether the very notion of partisan knockabout will actually serve only to frustrate voters who are beginning to feel the pinch.
I categorically disagreed with almost the entirety of Sir Gerald Kaufmanâ€™s speech to the House over Greengate and Parliamentary privilege, and his subsequent article in the Guardian. I believe that the rights of Parliament are of utmost importance, and that an inability to guarantee those speaks poorly of MPsâ€™ ability to safeguard the rights of their constituents against an overweaning State. That said, I could well understand that for voters less concerned with the minutiae of Erskine May that scenes of partisan bickering would induce the feeling of â€˜a plague on all your housesâ€™. I think he is wrong to dismiss the episode, but may be correct in anticipating voters’ reactions to the debate and ongoing controversy.
There was surprisingly little response to Frank Fieldâ€™s claim last week that a National Government might be required to help restore confidence in the UK economy. That said, I have been forced to re-examine my previous view which was that if the Conservatives were the largest party in a Hung Parliament that David Cameron would lead a minority government before calling another election 6-9 months later. Since the full scale of the crisis became apparent, I can more easily imagine that he might entertain making use of senior Liberal Democrats in his Cabinet.
Though not all are so enamoured, Vince Cable has become for many a leading authority on economic matters in the last year, and figures like Sir Menzies Campbell and Sir Alan Beith are now being seriously discussed as potential successors to the Speakership. The Lib Dems have enjoyed a purple patch with respect to their collective reputations: over MPsâ€™ expenses (Simon Hughes and Nick Harvey), Baby P (Lynne Featherstone), and now Greengate (Sir Menzies and Nick Clegg) and the sham of a Committee in which the Tories and Lib Dems will refuse to participate. If given a near-majority, I wonder whether making bi-partisan invitations might reflect well to voters who have no patience with party politics in the face of economic meltdown.
Vote for Froglet? Maybe, but if he invited the Iron Chicken to join him, they might not only oust the Soup-Dragon from his cave, but claim a broader mandate in the process. The real question is: will there be any soup left for the Clangers?
At time of writing, Betfair has Vince Cable at odds of 20.0 to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Nick Clegg at odds of 7.0 to be the next Home Secretary. Michael Moore, who preceded Ed Davey as Foreign Affairs Spokesman, is poor value at 20.0 to take over next at the FCO. On the seat estimates, NOM is at 3.25, and the Conservatives are favourite to have the most seats at 1.41. Looking back, I first suggested that Huhne or Clegg might get the Home Office or MoJ back in November 2007, so would be delighted if it happened, though I don’t have any bets on it.