For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A Little Bit Of Politics


It's happened at last. Gordon Brown called on the Queen this morning, Parliament will be dissolved next Monday and there'll be a general election on 6 May. So far, so good. But who on earth do I vote for?

It's a problem, as there's no obvious party to back. Would it were as clear cut here as it was for the US voters in 2008! The Democrats - it had to be. A no-brainer. After the disaster that was Bush, a Democrat pygmy could have got in. But the Democrats held all the cards, the ace being Obama: a man of stature, dignity, charisma, sincerity, conviction and intelligence. They had a giant.

I don't want to make any personal remarks about Brown, Cameron or Clegg - good men all, I'm sure - but I really am failing to find any inspiring vision or charismatic leadership from any of them.

The background to this election is grim. Let's go back to 1997, when Blair and New Labour swept into power with by far the biggest Labour majority in history. After 18 years of the Conservatives (11 of them under Margaret Thatcher) the country had been aching for a change. Blair also scooped the next election in 2001, again with a large majority. All was sweetness, all was light. Exciting, optimistic times.

Then it turned sour. Blair cosied up with Bush and took us into Iraq, an act for which I and many others have never forgiven him. His majority slipped in the 2005 election from 167 to 66. Blair saw the writing on the wall and stepped down, leaving the poisoned chalice to his Chancellor, arch-rival and now successor - Gordon Brown.

Poor Gordon. To begin with we gave him the benefit of the doubt. He'd managed the economy all right, hadn't he? He was a good Presbyterian Scot of impeccable moral integrity and social conscience, wasn't he? Well, he may be all of these things, but he couldn't help the fact he presided over a jaded government about to face the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

Swift action avoided total financial meltdown - but, nevertheless, we're still completely lacking any strong and enlightened vision for the future. Brown always seems in the background, in hiding. And now he's had to apologize for misleading the Chilcot Inquiry with massaged statistics. What's more, some of his former cabinet ministers - Hewitt, Hoon, Byers - have been caught out employing various shabby, corrupt and self-serving practices. Overshadowing all of this - and this cuts across the whole party spectrum - is the MPs' expenses scandal. Not good, not good.

It's true the Conservatives look more electable than they have done for years. Their biggest asset is their new youthful and energetic leader, David Cameron. But he's untried and untested, and his shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, looks even younger than Cameron does - inexperienced, and without the gravitas of Alistair Darling, the current Labout Chancellor. And, anyway, can I really bring myself to vote Conservative? I don't think so.

The truth is I - along with a great many others - am disillusioned with politics in general, politicians as a whole. There's no easy, straight ideological choice any more. Although, of course, there are obnoxious extremes in both main parties, the two parties have tipped to the centre ground - and the poor Lib Dems are left struggling to define themselves. (Nothing new there then.)

In the end people are going to vote for the party which appears to have the best strategy for getting the economy back on its feet and for repaying the deficit without too much pain. This will be achieved by a balance of taxes, public spending cuts (or efficiency savings if you see it that way) and incentives for growth. It's a question of which party convinces us it has the right mix. But pain there will be.

So I come back full circle to my original question. Who on earth do I vote for?

4 comments:

gleaner said...

This blurring of political parties seems to be a global trend and I am often asking myself the same question of who to vote? Voting for one person rather than a party with clear longstanding values seems risky. We also have no inspiring or outstanding leaders.

Its interesting to read some regional news from afar.

Timecheck said...

I'd rather see a little more blurring of parties here (USA). We get two extremes that can't talk to each other like reasonable people.

Alan Sloman said...

Perhaps a hung parliament is what's required - that way moderation is assured with none of the unpleasant extremes of either party able to influence outcomes.
So vote for the candidate that will help hang parliament?

The Solitary Walker said...

So, Alan, that'll be Fawkes, G., of the 'Ban Bonfire Night Raving Loony Party', I think...