Friday, 23 April 2010

Election meets Alice in Wonderland

Last night's leaders debate was strange affair. It was supposed to discuss foreign affairs but what should have been the biggest TV topic of debate was passed over with barely a flutter. The issue is, of course Afghanistan, where British soldiers continue to kill and be killed in an un-winnable war.

According to a poll in the Independent on Sunday, 77% of people in the UK want the troops brought home. Respect agrees. But sadly all the three old parties promise to keep them there - ensuring more blood is spilt needlessly. It's time to get round the table and talk peace and bring British troops home to their families.

My fellow candidate Dr Kay Phiilips in Manchester wrote the article below for her election website after the first debate. It sort of sums up the election so far: the election has been reduced, by the media, to three men and a question of who can look most 'prime ministerial'. Meanwhile our services face a decade of Thatcherite cuts. But should it really matter how 'calm and assured' they look as they wield the axe?






For all the hype and hysteria of the pundits, last week’s ‘great debate’ was largely a sterile affair. As all three parties have already committed themselves to ‘savage’ cuts in public services (largely unspecified until ‘next year’), for much of the hour and a half of ‘debate’ there was little new to be learnt from Tweedle Dee and his arch enemies Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. However several things stood out.

Every poll suggests that Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat came out on top. This is apparently due to his ‘fresh’ or ‘revelatory’ performance or media skills. Perhaps this misses the point. In policy, Clegg made some effort to place himself to the left of Brown and Cameron. He called for scrapping Trident and ID cards and a permanent tax on bank profits. Maybe he grasped that millions are looking for progressive change?

What about David Cameron, Tory boy? Largely he seemed to have ditched the Blair-style caring sharing compassion. Thatcher was back – more prison sentences, more tax cuts (for the rich), less (black and brown) immigrants. Yet even he scored points by attacking this year’s 7% pay rise for NHS bosses on six-figure salaries. 

That Toryboy could outflank Gordon Brown by attacking fat cats (albeit only the public sector variety) shows the dead end New Labour has reached. Opinion polls show a majority opposed to slashing public services, a majorityagainst the pointless war in Afghanistan. Millions hate seeing the bankers and their mates in the City get away with robbery. Yet New Labour is unwilling to even hint at policies with genuine support.

This is why a hung parliament or a Tory government is the most likely outcome of the general election. It also explains the possibility of a very low turnout. Labour won in 1997 with a landslide and has left voters without any enthusiasm for any of three old parties. The stench of the expenses scandal and the distrust that grew from it continues to haunt British politics. 

Given that the media has bought into it, those of us opposing the agreement for public service cuts on show yesterday will find it very hard to challenge on a national level. Locally we are having an impact and from here we can construct a national challenge. 

This election feels like a shadow of what is to come. A potentially huge audience exists for investment not cuts – the question is how it expresses itself in this election and afterwards.