Tendring Topics……..on line
‘There’s no point in voting – they’re really all the same!’
That’s one of the standard reasons given by those who can’t be bothered to vote in Parliamentary Elections. The really sad thing is that they’re not far out. In times gone by – certainly before World War II and I think for some time afterwards, political parties had a clearly defined purpose and we all had a pretty good idea of their ultimate aims. Leaders and members of the Conservative Party, as their name suggests, thought that the social order in our country and the way that industry and commerce performed were pretty well OK. Conservatives agreed that some things might need a slight tweak here or there, but generally speaking they felt that history had come to an end and that we Brits were currently living in the best of all possible worlds.
The Labour Party on the other hand, believed that there was a great deal wrong with our present social and economic system and wanted to change it. They were influenced by the great reformers of the 18th and 19th centuries, by Christian concern for the poor and disadvantaged (‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek..........He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away) and to some extent by the revolutionary ideas of such thinkers as Marx and Engels. They thought it possible that they could, by democratic means, create an earthly Paradise – fulfilling William Blake’s prophecy in his great poem Jerusalem ‘I shall not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, till I have built Jerusalem, in England’s green and pleasant land’
The Liberal Party, originally the Party of the rulers of industry and commerce in conflict with the land-owning gentry of the Conservative Party, sat uneasily between Conservative and Labour, declining in power and influence throughout the twentieth century, though enjoying a temporary popularity at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Love them or hate them, the three parties were quite clear in their objectives and those who had votes (it wasn’t till well after the end of World War I that there was universal adult suffrage, and eighteen year olds didn’t get a vote until after World War II) knew exactly why they voted for the party of their choice.
Now, thanks largely to Tony Blair and his New Labour, all that has changed. All main political Parties now support the Market economy in which everything and everybody has cash value. Job satisfaction – enjoyed by many thousands (including myself) in the past – has been replaced by a struggle for personal wealth in which everyone grabs as much as he or she can demand for as little as they can get away with. Leading New Labourites like Lord Mendelson declare that they ‘have no problem with billionaires’; well (while thousands of their fellow Britons are homeless and reliant on voluntary food banks to keep their families fed) they should have problems with billionaires.
Both Parties accept that top bankers must be paid in millions a year, plus more millions as bonuses – because ‘that’s the only way we can attract the very best brains’ to make Britain great again. Those ‘best brains’ who demand and receive millions of pounds for their services are the very people who, as was repeatedly affirmed by the recently retired Governor of the Bank of England, caused the current financial crisis. They were also responsible, if only by default, for the banking scandals that have made the press headlines in recent years.; miss-selling of insurance (for which the banks have had to pay millions of pounds in compensation), fiddling interest rates and assisting very wealthy clients to become even richer by tax avoidance. If those are the kind of things that result from appointing (at enormous expense) the very best brains to head our banks, perhaps we should find out what the ‘second-best’ brains can do. At the very least they’d come a bit cheaper – and might not be quite so good at feathering their own nests!
George Osborne is already set to impose further austerities on a long suffering public sector. He says that he only proposes to impose the same economies this year as he did last year. He will be imposing them on already sadly depleted services. Does he really imagine that if you empty half the water from a bucket one year, you can pour out the same volume of water from that same bucket the next year without emptying it?
So far the competing political parties have been much more eager to denigrate their opponents than to tell us what they themselves propose to do to solve
problems. The Conservatives promise more
of the same medicine and warn us that electing a Labour Government will create
chaos. The New Labourites point out that the Tories are already wrecking the
NHS and will probably try to solve its problems by mass privatisation. Well, my medical practitioner (family doctor)
service is certainly not as good as it was when the coalition took over
government and the government’s bungled reforms have without doubt played a part in
this deterioration. Now they are
proposing that pharmacists should take on some of the tasks previously
undertaken by doctors. That has the
potential of creating long queues waiting for service in pharmacies as well as
in doctors’ waiting rooms.
For many years the British government’s annual expenditure has exceeded its annual income resulting in a ‘deficit’ that is filled by borrowing.
Central Government’s strategy must be the reduction, and
eventually the elimination, of that deficit.
There are two ways in which this can be done; by reducing expenditure
and by increasing income.
Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all chosen the path of reducing expenditure – not on obviously wasteful practices like maintaining a wildly expensive ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ which is neither independent nor an effective deterrent, maintaining an ‘armed presence’ in the Middle East, and unquestioningly supporting the USA in such military adventures as the invasion of Iraq and of Afghanistan, not to mention blindly backing the Kiev government in the civil conflict in Ukraine. No, the government has concentrated its demand for economies on benefits for the poor and the unemployed and on local government services – education, maintenance of highways and footpaths, social services, libraries, public parks and gardens, refuse and recyclable collections and so on; all the services in fact that make the difference between civilisation and barbarism.
All the main parties reject the other way of reducing the deficit; increasing the government’s income by taxation. There are ways in which this could be done with minimal hardship. I have suggested in this blog that all state ‘benefits’ should be subject to income tax – winter fuel allowance for the old, children’s allowances, attendance allowance, free tv licence, free prescriptions and so on. This wouldn’t affect at all the really poor who don’t pay income tax. It would affect the rest of us (several would affect me!) but they wouldn’t impose a crippling burden on anybody. It would at least reduce the scandal of elderly millionaires getting exactly the same winter fuel allowance and other universal benefits as the rest of us oldies.
Nor, I think, would a penny or two-pence on the standard and higher rate of income tax cause real hardship to anyone. We’d only lose a little of the taxable part of our income. I’m no mathematician but I believe that penny or tuppence on each pound of our taxable income would make a tremendous difference to our country’s finances. Yet David Cameron promises that a new Conservative Government would not raise the rate of VAT (he could naturally be expected to prefer indirect taxation that disproportionately penalises the poor). Much more shamefully, Ed Miliband, Labour leader, promises that if he leads a Labour government, there will be no increase in either the standard or the higher rate of income tax.
Perhaps the cynics are right and they really are ‘all the same’. They’ve certainly all got the same ultimate aim. No – it’s not to make our country a better place in which to live. It’s to get sufficient compliant MPs elected to enable them to form a government and, having done so, to hang on to power for as long as they can manage to get away with it.
It’s still worth while to vote though – and our duty to those who in the 19th and early 20th Century – laboured and endured derision, arrest and imprisonment for the right to do so. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate, then vote against the candidate whose policies you most dislike. Put your cross against the name of the candidate most likely to defeat him or her!
And, of course, in this General Election we’ll have at least two credible alternatives to those of the three traditional parties. There’s UKIP and there’s the Green Party. UKIP consists of Nigel Farage and his followers. He wants to get us out of the European Union and to limit immigration. For other policies he’ll just jump onto any bandwagon that promises a few extra votes, but generally speaking, his policies are well to the right of the most hard-line Conservatives. A quite astonishing number of prominent Ukippers – MEPs and other senior party members, have departed from Ukip ‘under a cloud’. I can imagine no circumstances under which a Ukip candidate will get my vote.
The Scots the Welsh and the Northern Irish all have nationalist alternative candidates for whom they can vote. I shall vote Green because they are working towards a fairer and a more sustainable
Britain of which
it might truly be said we are all in this together. They won't achieve this in my time but perhaps my
grandchildren’s generation will bring it about. As yet at least, the Greens are
not tainted by the determination to achieve office at any price – and I wish them well.
I’m sorry if any –or all – of the above sounds like a history lesson. It isn’t that to me. It’s the story of the
during my lifespan, from the first quarter of the 20th century to
the first quarter of the 21s.