Friday, 30 April 2010

A plague on all your houses!

    A nice long unfocused political rant for you. After all, this is the blogosphere!
    It's election time here in the UK. In a week, about 60% of us will go to our nearest polling station and cast our votes, and if the script is to be followed the Other Lot will kick out This Lot and remain in power for about ten years before being kicked out themselves.
    Only this time, we're told the usual script isn't quite as valid as it used to be. The Lot In The Middle might just be in with a chance at the Big Time after nine decades in the political wilderness, so this election may be the most important in my adult lifetime. Somehow I can't raise the enthusiasm required to welcome this.
    So where did it go wrong? I'm passionately interested in politics, I've been a news fiend all my life, I've woken to the Today Programme since the 1970s, why am I and thousands like me so dispirited about it all just when it starts to look as if it might be about to get interesting? The truth is, for the first time there's nobody on the ballot I want to vote for.
    Unlike seemingly the whole rest of the population I haven't blamed This Lot - Labour - for our economic woes. Sure I think they've been irresponsible and someone else might have done a better job, but the economic cycle being what it is I'm pretty certain any party would be facing the same underlying problems and no doubt having taken the credit in the good times would now be reaping the blame in the slump. No, I won't be voting Labour because they've crossed too many of my personal lines in the sand. ID cards, detention without charge, non-jury trials, security theatre, DNA databases, the police state, the Iraq war, even a crazy new set of wiring regulations that mean I as a fully qualified electronic engineer can't do my own house wiring, the list is endless. They have not left the country in a better state than when they got it.
    What about the Other Lot - the Conservatives? With my background I should be a natural Conservative, an insider. When I was much younger my parents were Conservative voters, I grew up in the middle of the swathe of blue seats on the electoral map and the social group I moved in for most of my first twenty years would be unlikely to vote any other way. Maggie was in power, and from the English Home Counties you could have been forgiven for thinking life was good. Unfortunately though my disenchantment with the Conservatives came because I saw what they are like from the inside. At the grass roots, not in their airily positive manifesto or scripted TV soundbites. (No, not that kind of TV, though it might be entertaining!) I'm afraid the grass roots Tory, with very few exceptions, lives in the Stone Age. These are people to whom everything is self-evident and for whom the world only matters to people like them, and though they are not often unpleasant people as such, this unthinking attitude leads to some breathtaking intolerance. Quite simply, they can't be bothered to even try to understand someone who isn't exactly like them and they aren't afraid to let it show. The steady stream of foot-in-mouth incidents in which Tory candidates have exposed their homophobic views during this campaign are ample demonstration of this. And there's the problem. These grass roots select their kind of candidates, who in turn select their kind of leaders. If politicians are divided into people from "them" or people from "us", I'm afraid in picking David "Bullingdon Club" Cameron and his associates they've most definitely become the party of and for "them". Which is why I feel I can't vote for them. I don't think their Britain would be a better place to live for somebody like me, and I haven't even started on their fanatical support for fox hunting or my experiences with the bent-as-a-three-pound-coin Tory local council where I grew up.
    After my previous two paragraphs, the Lot In The Middle - the Liberal Democrats - should be my natural home. And it's true, they tick a lot of my personal boxes. Iraq and  ID cards, on those two alone they so nearly had me a year or so ago. Unfortunately for them though if they want my vote, I live in a Lib Dem held constituency. And I'm afraid my Lib Dem MP is not someone I like. Sure, he's got a knack of appearing in the right place at the right time for a photo opportunity, but having engaged with both MPs my experience of the Tory weigh-the-vote safe seat MP in the area I grew up in is more positive. Even then, that's not the clinching argument for my not voting Lib Dem. I won't be voting for my MP because unusually for an MP representing a city he's a rabid supporter of fox hunting. For him it's a libertarian issue. For me it's an issue born of growing up watching rich idiots come out from London to spend a day as hooligans riding all over other people's property breaking fences, scaring livestock, threatening people and causing mayhem. If you're born on one kind of estate, you get an ASBO, if you're born on another kind of estate, you go fox hunting. And for some reason my Lib Dem MP thinks it's a wonderful thing. Well screw him, he ain't getting my vote!
     There are other parties on the ballot. UKIP might tempt me as a mild Eurosceptic, but they seem unable to control their more nutty right-wing tendencies. The Greens would woo me with the environment but are just too damn red on the inside. Besides, I've seen how Green councillors can comprehensively ruin a city. Beyond those two I'm in danger of descending into the nutters. Fortunately my constituency isn't high profile so the ballot seems mercifully free of them. Where are the Monster Raving Loony party when you need 'em?
    I've just talked myself out of voting for anyone, haven't I. Which leaves me two choices: spoil my ballot or abstain, don't vote at all. Both of these feel like failure. I guess there's a third choice, tactical voting, but then of the choice above I'd have to hold my nose on ID cards and vote Labour. And having assured one of their candidates face-to-face that I'd be one of the people they'd  eventually have to cart off to jail for not getting an ID card, I just can't bring myself to do that.
    I guess it doesn't matter. Our first past the post electoral system means that because I don't live in one of a few key marginal constituencies, my vote is meaningless anyway. I think I'll spend next Thursday evening in the pub next door to the polling station instead.


  1. My very well known LibDem MP, once leader of his party has thrice failed to make any reply to my overtures about "our" concerns!

    He is forcing me to not vote for him! Hope he fails by one vote, I shall write again and tell him who and why.

    Why has nobody asked why bully boy Brown threw away all the gold at 20% it's present value and spent the proceeds. Or why he stole so much from pension funds then told everyone to buy their own on a rollercoaster stockmarket.
    He was the chancellor of the exchequer who had no idea what removing the 10% tax level would do to "every" low wage earner, speaking to the secretary for a local MP I know they did not either even when their constituents questioned them on it, my friend could not make him understand either!

    Self serving scum, one and all.

    I feel so much better now.

  2. Ha! Hatred of politicians appears to be universal. I have very little respect for most of ours too. You wonder how many of them ever get elected in the first place. The problem I see here in the states, is that everyone seems to like their own Representative or Senator, but they hate everyone else's. To me, they are nearly all a bunch of weasels.

    Melissa XX

  3. The three main partys are all trying to look pretty and not say anything controversial by not saying anything. I think UKIP might do quite well out of it by sticking to only talking about their policy.

    We will just have to wait and see in the new presidential debate world.

    Suzie x

  4. Ahh, politics :)

    I find the problem is that they are all alike, and all equally despicable and self serving.

    As the phrase goes 'those most suited to serving in public office are those who would never want to do it'

    As to my view of the parties... I could just never bring myself to vote labour. The encroaching civil liberties are just one of many things I don't agree with.

    Education is the one that really annoys me with labour. I went to university under Tory goverment. I built up debts because I was stupid with money. My cousin went to university under Labour, she built up three times my debt just in study fees and is still paying it off.

    I just wish there was a 'None of the above' box. That would get people back to the voting box :)


  5. I want that box too and if nobody gets a clearly overwhelming proportion of the overall vote nobody gets in!

  6. It is a little depressing, isn't it.

    The worst bit is the falling voter turnout. Not only can FPTP give a government elected with a minority of the votes cast, it can do it with a minority of the voters bothering to get off their butts. I dislike compulsion intensely, but maybe the Aussies get it right with their compulsory voting. But I have no idea whether they have a "None of the Above" box to go with it.

  7. Jenny, I feel your pain on the hunting issue but I fear this cynicism - while understandable - is just playing into the hands of those who are doing very well out of the current unbalanced state of affairs.

    I'm a life-long Labour voter, deeply disillusioned with the way the current government has torn up human rights and allowed the gap between rich and poor to widen so horrifically. The Liberal Democrats are not perfect and have their share of lazy MPs too but their fundamental values of fairness and equality are, to me, values of compassion that are so desperately lacking in politics and their many years in the wilderness has given them the courage to stand up for policies that are unpopular and - sorry to disagree, Suzie - deeply controversial.

    I'm no fiery-eyed teenager (I wish!) but I'm throwing all my weight behind the Liberal Democrats this election and I'd beg you all to put your cynicism and disillusion aside for a moment and to consider them.

    Our system is broken: at the very least, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for reform and a signal to the other two main parties that they do not have an automatic mandate to rule.

    I hate it when politics divides people. I hate the dirt and corruption that surrounds power. But I believe that change is possible and that if we abandon hope then we die a little.

    Please girls, if you're seriously considering spoiling the ballot, not voting or picking a joke candidate then why not send a message of protest that will actually be heard?


    Julia x

  8. Lisa in Raleigh1 May 2010 at 19:53

    Politics, got to say I am not a fan anymore, as it has been years since I actually voted for a canidate instead of against another one. There have been a few over the years, but they all seem to come to their senses and stop running for office. In the USA it is often said that the people best qualified to be president would not accept the job - seems to be a universal truth.

    However, the alternative to a democratic system is always worse and I agree with Julia that you should vote. While their may not be canidate you favor, a right not excerised is soon lost.

  9. @Julia: A solution came from my mother. She reminded me I'm still on the electoral roll where I grew up, maintaining a tenuous hold on my terroir, so I can vote there instead. Of course, they weigh the Tory vote there so my vote will still be meaningless, but at least I avoid the shame of the abstainer.

    @Lisa: In New Labour Britain, the rights we exercise are soon lost, too.

    Didn't Colin Powell turn down approaches to stand for the presidency?

  10. Jenny, that's great news! Every vote counts even those that don't win a seat because they send a clear signal of support for the need of electoral reform so that in future all votes can be counted. Give your mother a hug from me :)

    I noticed this morning that a prominent Conservative has been advocating prayer as a cure for homosexuality and transsexualism.

    Please girls, don't let these bigots back in by not using your vote.

  11. I almost feel sorry for whoever it is whose job is keeping the Tory candidates on message. Every day, another one pops up!

    I'm reminded of this blog post on the subject from a friend-of-a-friend.

  12. I've actually been following the election pretty closely and it is all quite amusing to me, as one of you might find ours to be. I'm dreadfully embarrassed to say that since we Americans never have any interest in anything other than what goes on in our own state. Nevertheless, I have learned a lot about the British form of government.

    Now, Jenny dear, I had you pegged as a fox hunter (if you follow my drift).

    Calie xxx

  13. Bollocks to the green and blue! I'd be chuffed to vote pink!

    Seriously, a fascinating discussion. I love to follow politics, and I have learned so much about parlimentary democracy in the last few weeks. The whole strange bedfellows thing with Clegg and Cameron is unimaginable in American politics.

  14. Am I detecting some of our British colloquialisms rubbing off on you there? :)

    The best you can say about the ConDemNation is that it's the least worst option. Don't trust Cameron, but at least Clegg should curb the excesses.