08 April 2010

UK General Election 2010: 28 days to go

One of the less seemly aspects about the run-up to a general election is that politicians of one or other persuasion will offer tempting words that seem to contradict what they have spent the previous 4 or 5 years asserting. Whilst I can remember back into the 1970s talking enthusiastically about exchanging the still-current unrepresentative first-past-the-post system voting system for some form of proportional representation, the issue remains a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy. However, there is a significant credibility gap when Johnny-come-lately Labour Party politicians (such as Ben Bradshaw on last night's edition of BBC 2's Newsnight programme) bob their heads above the parapet and state that they too have long been staunchly supportive of proportional representation. There is an equally yawning credibility gap when Conservative politicians propose wacky populist ideas such as the direct petitioning of parliament for debate, as though they, the Conservative Party, have forever championed the wishes and rights of poor and ordinary people.

Although the attention being given to whether National Insurance tax (paid by employers as well as employees, as distinct from income tax which is paid only by employees) should be raised feels like phoney sparring, the issue has drawn out into the open the Conservative sympathy towards business leaders: should the cost of repairing the economy be borne by the little people, in the form of reduced public services, or shared between the people and business, in the form of a tax? Public engagement in the election will begin in earnest when the politicians begin talking about migrant workers, immigration and the EU. I regret that the somewhat nationalistic prejudices (about which they feel proud) and mildly xenophobic attitudes (which they deny, but cannot refute) of many white British people makes it difficult for them to listen to fact, reason and rationality. Were the Conservative Party to propose strict limitations on 'foreigners' taking work in the UK, I believe that the Conservatives would easily win an outright majority. Were the Conservatives also to have the courage of their deep-seated convictions and offer the electorate the tantalising possibility of somehow distancing the UK from the EU, the Conservatives would win a landslide victory. I do not understand the Liberal Democrat enthusiasm for a referendum on Britain's engagement with continental Europe - turkey's voting for Christmas is a phrase that comes to mind. I believe that these are the issues that many people would prefer the electioneering politicians to be addressing.

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