T Nation

UK Election & Undemocratic Gov.

Here in the UK we have an election in about a week. Its pretty refreshing after the mud slinging of the American election and on the whole the rhetoric has been a hell of a lot less hollywood. But… but, but, but. What the hell can I vote for? Labour with Tony Blair the war monger who violated the U.N. charter repeatedly, the one thing which checks the power of true rogue states like America and Britain. Tony Blair who wants to have biometric ID cards (George Orwell must be spinning in his grave) and add extra fees to university students. Or theres the Conservatives, with Michael Howard who opposed the minimum wage and supported the Iraq bollocks. Who wants the government to pay for private healthcare (he no doubt has ‘friends’ in that industry) and whos budgetry mathematics just dont add up. Or theres the Liberal Democrats, who did oppose the war, and who do want to scrap the ID cards, but who may favour too much ‘big-government’ when its obvious the government should back off in many areas of life. Theres not much choice really, but what compounds the problem is the people of Britain have one shot at voting every few years, then we let the politicians do whatever they want with no direct accountability to the people. There needs to be a system in place whereby people can stop bills and introduce bills by popular consent. The government needs to call referendums on everything, as happens in Switzerland, which sees high voter turn out as a result of popular inclusion. Until these measures are in place our ‘democracy’ will continue to be unfulfilling and disenfranchising. The one good thing is at least the BBC adds some transparency by uncovering the crap politicians do.

Democracy and choice is a bit of a myth. yes, you get to vote, but those are limited and damned difficult to seperate.

there are no idealogical differences now. it comes down to managment, of economy, health, welfare, services etc. where you think the best managment lies (unless you have ideals like the green party) is probably where the votes will go.

i think of t this way. MH can easily say about integrity…its easy when you dont have to make the hard decisions. CK, also the same there. can make claims as they have no chance of getting in. It takes someting drastic to change a government that on the whole has done well and achieved a lot in terms of managing the country. as such, stability is what people tend to desire. this means tony and co will likely get in.

If you stil dont want to vote, send a spoilt paper, you still register your vote, and it is still noted. think of it as a protest vote.

With all the recent vote rigging here and in the US, i am amazed we dare call ourselves democracies.

Find the closest thing to a Libertarian party that exists in the UK and vote for it.

no such thing exists in polotics per se here.

I thought this was a good analysis of the British elections:

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2005_05_01_dish_archive.html#111522046255178884

THATCHER’S SEVENTH VICTORY? That’s one view of the Brit election tomorrow:

Assuming Labour wins, it will be the seventh victory in a row for Margaret Thatcher. It will deliver her a round 30 years of supremacy over British government, equalling the epoch of Attlee?s welfare socialism after 1945. Labour?s manifesto is a Thatcherite classic: adventurism abroad and progressive privatisation at home, moral partiality bolted on to an ever-expanding nanny State. The consensus is well illustrated in the near-identical proposals for public services from Labour and Conservatives. Both have pandered to middle-class insecurity. They have used fear, crime, discipline and control as leitmotifs and promised to curb civil liberty and make the welfare state increasingly optional. Baroness Thatcher may have disappeared to Venice for the duration, but she can look back on this campaign with pride. She destroyed the Social Democrats, she destroyed old Labour and, in stimulating the creation of new Labour, she has all but destroyed the Tories.

The key test of political longevity is whether your political opponents eventually adopt your new consensus. The only flaw in this reasoning is that Simon Jenkins misses the premiership of John Major. If the Tories had not won their post-Thatcher victory, Blair would never have emerged to save Labour. It was Major who reconciled the country to Thatcherism - by winning an election as a Tory who was not Thatcher. For what it’s worth: I’d vote Tory this time. Blair will win anyway. But his creeping expansion of the welfare state must be resisted and reversed. Another Labour victory might just convince the Tories to go back to advocating much lower taxation, a smaller state and far more decentralization. Here’s hoping.

  • 12:26:00 PM

Here is another interesting piece, with an American perspective:

Is Blair a Liar? Brits Don’t Care

How can you tell if a political party is brain-dead? Easy. It spends an entire campaign denouncing the incumbent as a smarmy, good-for-nothing liar, rather than outlining its own agenda. The Republicans tried it against Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democrats tried it against George W. Bush in 2004, and now in Britain the Conservatives are trying it, with equal lack of success, against Tony Blair.

Such a tactic is beguiling because, to True Believers, the other side’s triumphs are never on the up and up; they must be the result of hoodwinking the hapless electorate. The problem with this approach was pointed out to me by a political strategist last week: “Voters think all politicians are liars. So telling them that someone is a particularly effective liar doesn’t work.”

It especially doesn’t work for the Tories because they’re accusing Prime Minister Blair of duplicity on an issue about which they actually agree with him. Conservative leader Michael Howard says he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even without weapons of mass destruction ? the subject of Blair’s supposed dissembling. By nevertheless making the L-word the centerpiece of today’s election, Howard comes off as opportunistic and unprincipled.

Beyond the “liar liar” taunts, the Tories have little to offer British voters. Their agenda is essentially indistinguishable from the Labor Party’s. The biggest change Howard has promised is a reduction in immigration. This may snare some votes among xenophobic yobs, but it has also led (Arnold Schwarzenegger, pay attention) to a backlash against “mean-spirited” right-wingers.

Much of the Tories’ trouble is due to the skill with which Blair has seized the political center. He has run a tough, pro-American foreign policy while not interfering with a domestic economy that has produced 13 years of growth. Yet there are still issues on which he could be vulnerable, even if the Tories stay away from the “third rail” of British politics, the National Health Service.

The first of these is taxes. Although the Labor government has kept top income tax rates where they were after the Thatcher cuts of the 1980s, it has presided over dozens of stealth tax increases. The share of the economy taken by government has edged up from 35% in 1997 to a projected 42% today. (In the U.S., it’s 29%.) The Tories should be promising big tax relief, as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did. Instead they’re offering a paltry $7.5 billion in cuts, just 0.6% of the budget.

The second issue the Tories should be hammering is the European Union. Blair has tried to have it both ways by backing the controversial new EU constitution but not taking a stance on whether Britain should adopt the euro. He has also supported NATO while backing an EU defense force that would compete with NATO. The Conservatives are against the EU currency, the EU constitution and the EU army, but they’ve soft-pedaled those issues because of divisions in their own ranks.

The third issue tailor-made for the Tories is defense. Although Blair has made frequent use of the military ? in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq ? the defense budget has not risen in absolute terms in the last decade. Last year, his government announced cutbacks in the number of its soldiers, warships and aircraft. The British army will be reduced to its smallest level since the First Afghan War of 1839.

Admittedly the Tories have some credibility problems in all these areas because of the disastrous John Major government, which took Britain further into the EU, raised taxes and cut the defense budget. But Major has been out of office since 1997 ? long enough for the Tories to have recovered. The reason they haven’t is that they’ve been focused more on political posturing than on principled policies. As Bruce Anderson writes in the Spectator, Britain’s leading conservative magazine: “For the past seven weeks, the Tories have been suffering the consequences of seven years’ timidity.”

There’s a lesson here for the Democrats as they chart their way out of the political wilderness: Now is the time to do some hard thinking on the big issues rather than simply trying to sex up their marketing.