Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Democracy, we trust

    It's election time again here in Blighty, and it's all looking a bit messy.

    Just for fun I took a look at my post from five years ago before the last election. Back then I took  the line of a plague on all their houses, and I can't say a lot's changed.
    So let's recap. In 2010 the election resulted in a hung parliament. The Conservatives had a few more seats than Labour, but neither party had enough to govern outright. The previous Prime Minister tried and failed to form a minority government by tempting the Liberal Democrats and a mixture of smaller parties, so our Government became David Cameron's Conservatives in coalition with Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats.
   Since then we've had a lot of economic turmoil and a lot of austerity. Savage cuts to Government services, some of which have been very unpopular. The Liberal Democrats have been blamed by everybody for the mess - from the Left for letting the Conservatives in, and from the Right by not letting them go far enough.

    Would you believe it, in a post-banking-crisis world, the above represents one of the more stable and prosperous European countries.

    So the result is that if last time was one of the most significant elections of my lifetime, this one's going to be a real nail-biter. The Conservatives are under attack on the right from a resurgent UKIP, while Labour are under attack in their Scottish heartland from a rampant SNP led by one of the UK's most capable politicians. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat vote is set to collapse, as all their supporters vent their fury over the coalition.
    I can't say I join the chorus blaming the Liberal Democrats for the mess. They weren't in power when its seeds were sown, and as for governing with the Conservatives I think Nick Clegg had no choice but to go with the party holding the most seats. He would have been pilloried for propping up an unpopular minority Brown Labour government. To anyone blaming the Lib Dems for Tory excesses I simply say this: imagine Cameron without the Lib Dems.
   That said though, I can't say I want to choose the Lib Dems. I feel that some of their policies are dangerous and unpalatable. Take a mansion tax for example, a policy they share with Labour. Sounds wonderful, bash the rich! And it would be so, were it not that it is a wealth tax with a fixed threshold. This means that like inheritance tax which was originally introduced for the super-rich but now applies to most people whose parents own a house, they won't change that threshold and within a generation we'll all be paying it. Regressive taxes are a definite no-no when it comes to my vote.
    So, what about Labour? Yet again, that regressive tax. Sorry Ed, you just don't get it. If you want to tax the rich, close all the tax loopholes and really get tough with tax dodgers, don't just make stirring sounding speeches and sneak in taxes that'll catch everyone!
    To be fair to Ed Miliband, I have more time for him than his predecessor. He's been portrayed disgracefully by the gutter press, and I think the world wouldn't end if he gained the keys to Number Ten. I just don't think it would get much better. Behind him are still the same bunch of idiots who stood behind Tony Blair as he took us into the Iraq war and waged a devastating attack on our civil liberties. Not something I want to spend my vote on.
    As for the Conservatives under David Cameron, last time I talked about them in terms of 'them' and 'us'. The Conservatives of Margaret Thatcher and John Major were elected trying a lot harder to be about 'us' rather than 'them', in Cameron's case the priorities seem to be entirely reversed. Critics will say they've gone after the poor and needy to pay for the disastrous mistakes of the super-rich banks, and to be honest it isn't hard to agree. David Cameron isn't a Prime Minister for the likes of me, he's one for his rich mates.
    Which leaves me as an English voter with the National Health Action Party, the Greens, and UKIP. The NHA party look ever so reasonable in their leaflet, but perhaps fortunately they'll never be given the opportunity to show just how badly their plans might work in practice. The Greens meanwhile are just as nutty and dangerous as ever. Having lived in a city with Green councilors I've seen this first-hand, they are a clueless and spiteful disaster when given any power.
    So, Nigel Farage's UKIP, nestling somewhere in the mid-teens in the polls and expected to have a few MPs. Somewhere to the right of the Conservatives, having hoovered up most of the former Thatcherite wing of that party along with assorted fringe members of the political spectrum. Prone to constant gaffes as candidates reveal their racism, homophobia and ignorance, anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-lots of things it seems. As a mild Eurosceptic I should be interested, but they're just far too nutty for my liking. Dangerous, even.
    All the pundits predict a parliament more hung than last time. Fewer Conservatives, the Lib Dems fitting in a minibus, and Labour decimated by losing most of its Scottish seats to the SNP. The so-called nightmare scenarios include a Conservative government propped up by UKIP and the right-wing Northern Irish parties, or Labour propped up by the SNP. Tomorrow night's going to be interesting.

    So what about me? I vote in a safe seat. So-called because in our first-past-the-post electoral system the majority of seats never change hands even if far more people vote against the sitting MP than for them because the vote against the incumbent party is split between other parties. So in effect my vote is pretty meaningless even in this closely fought poll, the best I can hope for is a significant dent in the incumbent party's majority. All I can do is vote for the party most likely to come second, for then the first-past-the-post majority is effectively reduced by two.

    Other than to say that I won't be voting Green or UKIP, it's safe to say then given the above that I'll be holding my nose as I do it.


  1. Any idea how your computer would vote having read all the nonsense of the last month or so?

  2. We have a crazy system, but at least we do have a system. I fear for tomorrow not because I think "the wrong" party will win, but because we may end up with a mess that pleases no one and can take no real action other than to tread water. "I don't know how to get there, but I wouldn't have started from here!"

  3. The pundits said it was Cameron's misfortune to win in 2010 because he'd carry the can for all the failures. I think the same holds today, only with worse consequences.

    You won't find anyone in 2020 who'll admit to having voted for whoever wins today, that's for sure!