The victories of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee in, respectively, the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the state of Iowa yesterday deserve attention not just for having overthrown the front-runners comprehensively but also for destroying the received wisdom that you can buy elections in a genuinely democratic process. There may in this be a lesson for British politics.

There is, of course, instant gratification that the lumbering juggernaut that is the Hillary Clinton campaign has been derailed. She is a poisonous woman who routinely makes claims about herself and her experience that would have you believe that it was she, not Al Gore, who was actually US Vice President between 1992 and 2000.

In fact her only real foray into the administration of her unfaithful husband Bill was her disastrous effort on health care. For the rest she is chiefly notable as being so ambitious that she was prepared to suck on a whole basketful of lemons rather than cast herself adrift from her husband’s coattails upon which she depended to realise her own overweening ambition to become President, notwithstanding her lengthy public humiliation in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

But it is as a high-spending candidate for the Democratic nomination, alongside Mitt Romney as the highest spending Republican candidate, that I wish to advert to her. Her campaign has been marked by her ability, often on the back of her husband’s reputation and political contacts, to raise oceans of money to finance her campaign. The slickness of her organisation and the perpetual blizzard of advertising are a testament to the extent to which she has been able to raise cash to fund her burning ambition.

And where did it get her? Third and looking as though she had sucked a whole lot more lemons.

Mitt Romney has been spending his own money, he being a seriously wealthy individual. He has outspent everyone in sight by a long way and where did that get him? Second in Iowa behind Mike Huckabee, a former Governor of Arkansas and a Southern Baptist who has run his campaign on a complete shoe string. In New Hampshire next week he may well be beaten by Senator John McCain who a few months ago was dead in the water and whose campaign was all but broke. Huckabee’s website today opines that he was ‘outspent 15 to 1’ and that the voters cannot be bought.

All of this suggests that the US Electorate is actually thoroughly sophisticated and is well able to cut through the bull and make up its own mind about the character and policies of the candidates and that no matter by how much you outspend your rival, it is no guarantee of success.

The British electorate, one suspects, is also well able to see through the spin and the lies and make its mind up about the character and policies of Labour and the Conservatives, largely untrammelled by the billboards and the party political broadcasts.

There is a struggle at present over how and to what extent political parties may fund their activities. One wonders if, in reality, it matters a jot.

If, as may be the case with our present dishonest and gutless Prime Minister, the electorate decides that you have fatal character flaws, then no amount of money will restore that character. If it decides, as may well be the case, that our present Prime Minister presides over a cabinet of hapless nincompoops who could not organise one of those unmentionable events in a brewery, then no amount of money will buy confidence back. And if they just do not like your policies, likewise no amount of high spending will change people’s views.

Labour may well be strapped for cash just now but you may be sure that, in return for a whole raft of promises on policy sweeteners, the Trades Unions will bail them out, as they always do, and will front up barrow-loads of cash for labour to fight the next election. What may be missing is the moolah from very wealthy businessmen who have mysteriously discovered the virtues of Socialism in recent years and who have been frightened off by the sight of Knacker of the Yard feeling collars in the ‘cash for peerages’ enquiry.

The Tories, on the other hand, seem to be less constrained by cash problems and are carefully targeting the marginal seats they have to win under the auspices of Lord Ashcroft.

Does it matter at all? I have a suspicion that if, as may well be the case, the British public has decided to have done with you, that will be that. After all, if there had been no limits to election spending in 1997, who would be so unwise as to suggest that the Tories could have won that election if it had spent ten or twenty times as much as Labour?

Meanwhile I sit and hope for Obama to overhaul Hillary Clinton on New Hampshire, if only to see her permanent rictus grin wiped comprehensively from her face. She can then go back to her day job as a Senator for New York. Thre we shall see just how dedicated she is long-term to the people of that great state or whether she quickly packs it in and reveals what we have always suspected, that the office of US Senator was only ever a large and expensive public convenience for her and her ambitions.

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