There is, of course, another election happening on the continent of North America. Canada is in the grips of election fever, and in the UK we can't open a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing associated reportage. Erm...
Given the 100% absence of anything approaching information about the election, for your delectation, ladies and gentlemen, I have researched the following carefully (thanks internets).
So, friends, what's at stake from our ill-informed point of view?
The Conservative PM Stephen Harper, who it must be said has one of the smuggest faces in professional politics wants to get his hands on a parliamentary majority so he sought and got an early dissolution of parliament from the Governor General. He is up against the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Stéphane Dion, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois and the Detective Chief Inspector-esque Jack Layton of the small New Democratic Party.
One astonishing issue that the election has highlighted is Harper's role in an attempted bribe of an MP to vote against a previous Liberal government's budget. The PM has admitted authorising the action. Attempting to bribe an MP is a crime according the Canadian law and yet the man is still the PM and leading in the polls.
But it is to the important issue of Canada's overseas role that we must inevitably turn. Canada has been a stalwart in the fight against the sadistic Taliban in Afghanistan. Just short of 100 brave members of the Canadian Forces have been killed trying to establish and defend a free and democratic Afghanistan and Canada deserves our thanks and praise for its sacrifice. But the people of Canada have had enough.
According to a recent poll 61% of Canadians do not support their country's involvement in Afghanistan, so this is an important election issue, as well as a crucial moral and political one. There is some leadership in Ottawa on this issue, though, but not from where it should be coming.
The Tories and the Liberals support the mission until 2011, but the Liberals in particular are clear that the forces will have to come home then.
My party's sister party in Canada, the NDP, supposedly the social democratic party of Canada and the one with very sensible policies on the environment, poverty and equality, have fallen into the trap of so many left-of-centre parties in opposing the most important battle for those of us on the left -- the battle to support democrats in Afghanistan against the fascist oppression of the Taliban and their allies.
The NDP would bring Canada's armed forces home immediately, which would put southern Afghanistan, especially Kandahar province where Canada is heavily deployed, into a new quagmire and would leave Canada's allies -- in particular the United States and the United Kingdom -- picking up the pieces.
It is an utter disgrace that the Canadian member party of the Socialist International should be advocating the abandonment of democrats, trade unionists, women and secularists in Afghanistan in one of the defining battles of our times. As m'colleague pointed out to me, Nick Cohen really did have a point, didn't he?
So surely any good socialist or social democrat should do what is necessary in Canada and send Harper packing, punish the NDP for its isolationist policies and help make M. Dion the next Prime Minister of Canada. It is an added bonus that that is far more likely than Mr Layton's ascension to the office in any case. However, it is certainly disconcerting to be advocating the election of a member party of the Liberal International, especially when their UK brethren have so little to commend them, but needs must.