With the UK general election upon us, I decided to reflect on my feelings about politics in general, and the problem I have about how to vote. Although I am no longer a “young person” who feels disconnected with Politics – I can well understand why they might feel totally disenchanted with polititians.
I try to think about some guiding principals and try and understand which of the political parties is likely to take me in the same sort of direction. I believe that thinking about the specific issues of the day is not the right approach, because one lot are going to be in power for a number of years and the issues change (sometimes in the space of days).
So what are the top level issues that I think are important. For me they are:-
- Statesmenship (Trust and Integrity); I want to believe that the people in charge of the country are working for my good and not (just) working for their own glorification. I do not expect every polititian out there not to get a reward for their hard work, but I do expect that when it comes to a choice between what is best for the citizens of Britain and personal gain that we can trust in this instance that we come first. On this front I feel entirely let down by Tony Blair with Iraq. To my mind there is strong evidence that a position was manufactured in which we had to support going to war in conjuction with the Americans, when in reality there was no real reason to do so at that time. The reason he did this is less obvious, but seems to me to be related to going down in the history books with a great reputation, and might well be why (as it has so blatantly backfired) he has expressed going for a third term.
- Good Management of the Economy. This is about stability, low inflation, full employment and some growth. This is about the overall environment in which everyone lives. In this respect, there is no denying that Labour, and Gordon Brown in particular, have a record that no-one else has achieved. There has been a lot of talk that from an economic management point of view there is very little to differenciate between the parties, but the management of our econony has been impressive.
- Avoid wasting our taxes. I understand that I have to pay taxes, and provided my tax burden is approximately fair compared to everyone else, I am not that concerned about the odd few pence on the tax rate one way or the other. But I have an underlying belief that competitive providers of a service do so much more efficiently and with higher quality than a monopoly (be it a commercial or a government) provider. I am very nervous of a government whose direction is to increase taxation in the belief that they are better at understanding our needs than a competitive environment. This underlying philosophy seems more of a Tory direction.
- Protection for the weak, including prevention of exploitation by the strong. Although the classical view here is of a nanny welfare state providing services to support the poor, this is not so much my concern. Of course I am concerned that we provide safety nets for the everyone in society, but that is more of a given in modern Britain. It is much more about global businesses holding the world to ransom because of their ecomonic power and their ability to use this money to lobby and change our laws to their advantage. I am looking for my polititians to be resisting this.
Although most issues are relatively short lived (we might be fighting the MRSA bug today – but will it be a key issue in a years time?) one area does require special comment, and that is Europe.
Because of my job, I often travel to Europe on business, and I am generally in favour of closer integration. I believe that as a co-ordinated group Europe can a useful balance to the American superpower. However the following things concern me greatly:-
The enormous and generally unaccountable power that stems from the European Commission. It is, like all beaurocracies, driven by the employees within it who have to ensure that they remain important by suggesting new initiatives which they have to drive thought and therefore keep their jobs, and as such is by design guarenteed to generate rule after rule to dictate how we control our lives.
I remember the UK experience of decimalisation, which kicked off price inflation at the bottom end of the market. Talking to my European collegues who have switched to the Euro, they have noticed the same thing – so if we enter the Euro (which I would like to have happen) we could be kicked hard in a similar way.
None of the political parties can really be said to offer a vision that matches mine – but there perhaps may be one last thing to add.
I think it important that we do not allow any one government to go on too long. As has been said many times before, power corrupts, and eventually everyone slowly succumbs to its siren call. It is necessary to change power to another group every so often just to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.
As a closing comment I want to say to the young people out there who feel that the whole political system is corrupt and has no meaning for you – please vote! Maybe your vote doesn’t count for much on its own, but it is likely that your views are very similar to others who also could vote. If it even appeared that you might do so on mass you really could make a difference.
The problem of course is who to vote for and right now I don’t have an answer.
UPDATE IN 2020.
Again I have come across this article as I migrate my web site in April 2020. Interesting comment on the Iraq war and even more interest in my comments about the European Commission and the Euro.
I was wrong about the Euro. I am so glad now we didn’t join. If there is a common currency there needs to be a government is control of the laws and taxes across that common currency. If that is not the case then the disadvantaged in society loose out as is now happening in places like Italy and Greece.
I think I was right about the European Commission. I did vote in the referendum to remain in the EU, but the decision to vote that way was on a knife edge because of that comment about the Commission. But as soon as negotiations started once we had voted to leave I changed my mind, as I saw the Commission come out with is claws out and fighting. So now I am glad we left. I think we would have been better off economically in Europe, but from a sovreignty point of view we are better off out.