Anne (ajva) wrote,
Anne
ajva

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general election ponderings

I posted this on Facebook, but expect it'll get more attention here. :o)



OK. Only fair to start with a disclosure: I'm generally a floating voter with a slight built-in centre-left bias. Quite left on social issues, a bit to the right on the economic/financial side. It all seems to come out as centre-left in the wash.

Now, I've witnessed elections that were generally quite exciting, because there was a real mood for change of one sort or another. This time, though, there doesn't seem to be such a thing happening in the sense of, say, 1997, when the Conservatives had been in power a little too long, probably, and had got a bit too nasty and hypocritical ('back to basics', anyone?) in terms of their social policies for most people to cope with. (Section 28 was a big issue for me.) And, on the other side, I dare say, had I been around in 1979, I may very well have voted for Thatcher too, given the shocking economic state of the country back then - despite my natural left-wing bias - also because I can well imagine I would have liked the idea of having a woman as prime minister to break the mould and act as an important precedent for the rest of society. But of course, I wasn't round then (well I was, but I was 5 years old), so I can't be sure.

It seems to me that this time round, most people in the country know that we are financially fucked as a nation. And I don't think anyone really knows for sure what the right thing is to do about it. So I don't think most people think there will be that much difference between the Labour and Conservative positions in terms of sorting that particular problem out. So people will be voting on other issues that feel more close to their own lives. The idea that our deficit could cause sterling to ultimately get crucified on the bond markets, leading to sky-high interest rates and the ignominy and severe physical ramifications of devaluation seems somehow far away. A bad thing that could never actually be all that bad (and, after all, say many - wouldn't devaluation help exports?) and is somewhat abstract. And anyhow: higher taxes to call the bluff of the Laffer Curve? Lower taxes to stimulate the economy? Greater or lesser public spending? Who knows? The fact is, no-one can be certain what would be best, really. It all depends on how it's done in practical terms, and in what circumstances it unfolds. It's not for nothing that they still call economics "the dismal science" (even if it's not quite what Carlyle meant at the time of coining the phrase).

I was concerned a few months back that a hung parliament might scare the bond markets, but now I think that the odds on it actually happening have been so short for such a long time that the markets will have had a chance to get used to it. Remember that the financial markets don't tend to work on what's happened, but on what they expect to happen, so if it's accepted that there may not be a clear mandate for any one particular party, then their reaction to a hung parliament could very well surprise on the upside. In other words: they might not react as badly as I feared a while back.

So I'll set out my stall. I can't vote Conservative because I'm afraid I still think that far too many of them are homophobes in a friendly mask, and I'm not at all certain that their economic policies are as sound as they'd have me think. I also don't like the promise to incentivise marriage in the tax system; in my view, government has no place in telling us how to run our personal lives. Cameron's somewhat nebulous promise to encourage marriage seems grounded more in emotion than reason, and reveals him to espouse what I would call "nanny-state Conservatism", as opposed to the more libertarian Conservatism that I find more instinctively appealing. But I can't vote for Labour because they, frankly, spend too much money. I'm no great fan of Thatcher, as everyone knows, but one of her most incisive remarks was this: "They [socialists] always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them." And I think that's true. It's the fundamental flaw in the philosophy. And although the recent economic crisis of which we've been part was global rather than UK-based, we could have been better off today as a nation if, for example, the public sector hadn't been so hugely expanded over the past 12 years.

So I'm retreating to the party I voted for in 1997: the Lib Dems. In the hope of a hung parliament. We've not had one in the UK since 1974, when it proved to be totally unstable and we needed another election to get rid of it and form a clear mandate for one party. I think things might be different now. We are a more globally-focused country and the idea of coalition government I think might come more naturally in a time when we are more educated about continental European politics, and when there is, I think, more of an appetite for discussion and compromise at the heart of government.

After all, if it's not quite clear what path we should take, maybe we shouldn't put it into one party's hands; maybe we should talk about it as we go along.

But don't think I'm trying to convince you; I'm just telling you what I think. Democracy - it could be argued - depends on you doing exactly what you damn well please.
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