Over the past several weeks and months I have come to regard the British Election of 2010 as one of the most important of our time; certainly the most important that anyone in my generation has ever witnessed or been able to participate in. There are multiple reasons for this; the fact that the thirteen year Government of the Labour party has dramatically reshaped and redefined the social, economic and political landscape of this nation, the fact that the televised debates have done more to usurp the traditional media managed power of Fleet Street, and the fact that for the first time in almost a century, we are seeing a genuine three party race, between Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s incumbent Labour party, David Cameron’s newly invigorated Conservatives, and Nick Clegg’s dark horse Liberal Democrats.
I will be voting for the Liberal Democrats, for a number of reasons. I would like to explain why.
First things first: anyone that knows me knows that I am a passionate and staunch holder, supporter and defender of progressive, left wing, liberal values. It should come as no surprise then that I would choose to vote for a progressive, left wing party. What you may not know was that the first time I was old enough to vote, I voted for William Hague’s Conservatives in the 2001 General Election. I did not vote in the 2005 election. I do not believe in voting for a party because you always have. I think that is foolish and wrong. I believe in voting for who has the best policies.
So, Left Winger, Why Not Labour?
The Labour party, which has traditionally called itself the party of the left and the progressives of Britain will not be getting my vote for a number of reasons. Under Tony Blair, and later Gordon Brown, Labour became New Labour, and shifted dramatically to the right of politics. Out went the left wing values and in came corporatism, big Government, security states and spin.
For all the talk of papers like The Daily Mail and The Times of Labour having eroded the traditional values of Britain, the truth is that Labour have done more to uphold the concerns of the traditional supporters of the right than anyone could have imagined. The Government of Blair, now Brown, is not a progressive party. They have presided over a bloated Government full of corruption, lies, broken promises and pandering to big business. Though they are desperately trying to portray themselves as the party of progressives in order to take the thunder away from the Liberal Democrats, they are anything but that. Having resisted reform and progress (on a Governmental level) for over a decade, they are a party trying to conserve their established grip on power more than anyone else. They have had thirteen years to try and make things better, and while their contributions to a more equal society should no be overlooked, after the last five years of incompetent bumbling, it is time that they were shown the door.
The Labour Government was also the one that took us into the horribly misguided adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan, two wars that were stupid and unnecessary. These two wars - one which was bungled from the start and cannot be won, another that was opposed by the vast majority of the British electorate and was sold to Parliament on lies, deception, falsehoods, more deception, more lies and done so with a concerned look and smile on the face of the trickster that sold it - both at the behest of Labour’s masters in the United States, are reasons in themselves why no one should consider voting for the Labour party. The lies of the current Government have caused the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans. They also broke international treaties and laws and threw over a century of British discipline and law on the battlefield out of the window by overseeing the illegal extradition, interrogation and even torture of foreign nationals deemed to be ‘enemy combatants’, and then trying to lie about it and cover it up. In the interim they may also have murdered Dr David Kelly, but thanks to their draconian security laws and obscene abuses of power, no one that is old enough to vote now will ever know what happened, as the records relating to the case have been sealed for the next 60 years. And all of this, this abandoning of the behavior that made this nation the envy of the world, was done for no good reason. This alone should disqualify anyone involved in that Government from receiving your vote.
Okay, What About The ‘New’ Conservative Party Then?
The support of the Tories for the Iraq war should also disqualify the majority of the Conservative party from receiving your vote, though there are a great number of other reasons why they are not deserving of Government.
I do not hide the fact that I vehemently dislike the nature of conservatism. I think that it holds us back, that it appeals to the base, self preservation nature in all of us, that it is inherently selfish and unconcerned with others. The current iteration of the Conservative party, under the leadership of David Cameron, has done a great many things to appear as if they they have changed from these core sets of beliefs. But they have not. They are the same Conservatives that they always been.
What Cameron proposes to do is take us back to the days of Thatcher. To take us back to the greed fueled days of the 1980s, the decade when the baby boomers oversaw the royal ruining of this country and the global economy. As seen in the last televised leaders debate, David Cameron ceaselessly ignored and dodged questions posed to him regarding his intent to cut the taxes of the richest 3’000 people in this country, his desire to cut public spending immediately and give tax breaks to big business, his intention to put a nonsensical cap on immigration and practically close British borders and his proposed withdrawal from Europe and intent to turn Britain into a semi-isolationist state in Europe. One only needs to look at the frequent trips of the Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne to the private yachts of several billionaires in the Mediterranean, many of whom would directly benefit from an isolationist Britain that favors big business. It doesn’t require much insight to put the pieces together.
Cameron, like the Tory party of old, has no interest in helping or supporting workers or the poor. He would like to break the unions like Thatcher once did, hand the rights and lives of employees over to their profit driven employers, cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs and force everyone to work for a year longer before they get the opportunity to retire. This forced extension of the age of retirement has nothing to do with allowing the elderly to put more money into their pension funds, but rather it’s purported aim is to reduce the national deficit. Though how working for private companies for another year would do that I am not sure.
You only have to look at the current Tory party to see how disingenuous they are about representing everyone and building a fair ‘Big Society’. They intend to keep and expand the surveillance state built by new Labour, but roll back the equal rights of millions of single parents and gay men and women across the country. As the Tories set about giving tax breaks to married couples, the middle finger is raised to those seeking a divorce, those who were never married or those who are gay.
One can also remember that the Tories’ same old virulent homophobia is as strong as ever. Though it is carefully hidden beneath a shiny veneer of tolerance, one only needs to look here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/29/information-beautiful-gay-rights#zoomed-picture) and here (http://mygayvote.co.uk/) to see that this is a lie. Look at the recent scandals that have emerged in the press; Chris Grayling saying bed and breakfasts should be able to discriminate against homosexuals and Conservative MP Philippa Stroud, who founded a church to try and ‘cure’ gay men and women. One can also look at this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBlDfp85gP8) to see how Mr Cameron cannot even get his facts straight about the voting of his own MEPs in their support for the incredibly homophobic laws in Eastern Europe when challenged on it.
The more one scratches beneath the surface, the more one can see that nothing about the Conservative party has changed. They are the same old party they ever were.
So that leaves us with the Liberal Democrats, and why I choose to vote for them.
The Liberal Moment
The Liberal Democrats have long been the party of ‘Well I’d like to vote for them, but there’s no point. They won’t win.’ All that changed on April 15 this year, when Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg stole the first televised debate. My mind had been made up about voting for the Liberal Democrats for several weeks beforhande, but I was ecstatic to see Clegg dominate Cameron and Brown and show why a real progressive voice, free from the need to serve its backscratchers in the media or corporate bankrollers, is so desperately needed in this country. But it is not the performance of Clegg, or the prophetic financial ability of his proposed Chancellor Vince Cable that makes me vote for them. It is their policies.
To start, let’s clear up the most frequently misrepresented of their policies. First we have the immigration amnesty. This is not, as Brown, Cameron and many in the media have tried to spin it, an opening of Britain’s borders giving citizenship to anyone that wants to come in. The proposal is this; a one off, one time offer to illegal immigrants who have lived in this country for ten years or more, that they may take this opportunity to apply for citizenship. If they can prove that they can speak English and contribute to society, they will be granted (subject to a full background check) British citizenship.
This would take immigrants out of the hands of the people that may be hiding them, owning them or bankrolling them, and will allow them to contribute to the society that they have been hiding amongst for the last decade. This, in my opinion, is a far superior solution to Labour’s intention to use yet more surveillance to solve an out of control problem, or the Conservative plan to round up and throw out illegal immigrants and then close the borders. This would allow a Liberal Government to figure out roughly how many immigrants are in this country - illegally - and potentially create several hundred thousand new tax payers.
The second policy that is misrepresented, is the intention to review Trident. Brown, Cameron and the media have repeatedly portrayed this as a Liberal intention to scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent. That is patently untrue. It is fear mongering. What the Liberal Democrats have proposed is a review of the vastly expensive program, a review that could save billions of pounds and reduce Britain’s over-bloated, Cold War style nuclear armament, in favor of tactical weapons with far more diverse use. Again, this is a smart move. Labour and the Conservatives would not take it because they know it could be spun to make them seem weak on defense. It is not. It will potentially save £100billion. It is smart.
Other policies I support are the reduction of classroom sizes and the additional assistance offered to underprivileged and struggling schoolchildren. I support the fair taxing of banks, the super-rich and large businesses. I support the increased Government regulation of industry. I support the intention to scrap tax on the first £10’000 anyone earns. I support their intention to stand as equals in the special relationship with America and not just roll over to U.S demands. I support their desired integration into Europe. I support their reworking of the prison service by making anyone that would be sentenced to 60 days in prison do community service projects, rather than bloat our already struggling jails. I support the linking of basic state pension and earnings. I support the breaking up of the banks and forcing them to lend again. I support the scrapping of university tuition fees for first time students. I support the scrapping of the £3billion Eurofighter program. I support the cutting of rail fairs. I support the proposal to reform the World Bank and IMF. I support the cancelation of 100% of the debt owed by the world’s poorest countries.
I support all these policies, but most of all I support the intention to reform the voting system. We do not, as the Tories claim, need a reduction in the number of MPs. We need to reform the system. Proportional representation is important. It is needed. Because of the current system, Labour - who almost lost the popular vote in 2005 - gained a sizeable number of seats and increased their power. Because of the current system, the Liberal Democrats may win the popular vote this election, but may only gain several dozen seats. The Conservatives and Labour have no interest in proportional representation, because it would break the stranglehold they both have on the current system. But the current system is unfair and broken. It leads to career politicians, it leads to things like the expenses scandal, it leads to the two party system that the majority of the populace have no faith in. It needs to be overhauled so things are fair.
That, more than anything, is what I believe the Liberal Democrats stand for and are offering. Fairness, and a chance to change the way things are. For too long the electorate has been scared of change, but dissatisfied with the way things are. Now is the chance to change this. Now is the chance to actually do something different. Something that benefits the many, not the few. Now is the time.
I am voting Liberal Democrat. I implore you to do the same.