General Election 2017 - A Personal Opinion
Iíve decided to limit my thoughts to a single, albeit long, post. If Brexit has taught me one thing Ė itís that no-one wishes to be preached at or told what to do, least of all by me. But sadly, politics have become a very real part of our lives today and have many implications for our children. Iím not going to apologise for sharing my thoughts, but you are under no obligation to read them or agree with me. In return I promise to respect your (reasoned) opinion, even if I donít like it.
The right to vote is precious. You should definitely use it, but please do so for the right reasons. Voting is not like sports betting Ė it doesnít matter if you back the winner. Do some research and vote for what you believe in. It takes just a few minutes to complete an online survey to evaluate which political party best represents your views. If I had my way, everyone would be required to complete something like this before being eligible to vote:
There is no obligation to vote for what benefits you the most. You can cast your vote for society as a whole, I believe it is possible to make Britain Great... for everyone.
Now for my personal perspective... seriously, donít read on unless you really care what I think. I know that not everything is realistic or achievable.
As a would-be Citizen of the World, I find National politics narrow-minded. I recognise that I am fortunate to live in a relatively wealthy and free country. However, this luxury and liberty only makes me sadder that we are facing a dramatic self-centred and isolationist political shift. I cannot understand why the United Kingdom would choose to build metaphorical and literal barriers between itself and the rest of Europe and the World. I am even less able to grasp why as a country we seem determined to construct and encourage social divisions within the population.
My dream would be to see a definitive swing towards a progressive, inclusive, fair, and tolerant government and therefore society. I would like the country I live in to be viewed by my fellow inhabitants and outsiders as reasonable, kind, and generous.
I am more than happy to pay more tax to fund facilities and services that improve or protect the lives of everyone. I strongly believe the more fortunate should carry the tax burden for the less fortunate. There are many people that would argue that they donít want to pay for the lazy or those that want to cheat the system. Neither do I, but I am prepared to contribute more for the good of all society Ė to fund the support they need, to educate, and to encourage such that in the future the earnings gap and social divisions will decrease rather than continue to grow.
Letís invest in making sure all of our children have the best possible start in life. The best education available and no penalties for coming from poorer backgrounds, letís have free pre-school allowances and school lunches Ė anything that makes it easier for children and their parents. I donít object to appropriate streamed education as children grow up. I have no problem with teaching according to ability and focusing on the particular needs or talents of individuals. Yes, even if that means they have to take tests Ė we all take tests every day, the challenge is in making those tests fair for all.
I would like my government to sponsor house building schemes to support the public sector, to better fund the NHS, the emergency and security services, teachers Ė all those that contribute to the general wellbeing of the nation on lower incomes.
Responsible and ethical businesses should be encouraged, regulations should be fair and not restrictive, but companies should be held accountable to look after staff and their local communities rather than their shareholders. Zero hours contracts that reduce unemployment rates and service the needs of shareholders without benefitting staff should be severely restricted.
Iím pretty keen on looking after the planet too Ė it may not always be easy but itís our duty.
I recognise that everyone has different priorities in life, different interests that are of no consequence to me. I would like my country to allow people the freedom to make decisions for themselves and to be accountable for their actions. Take for example, the recurring issue of fox hunting, I have no interest whatsoever in this activity and hunting for sport is unnecessary. Yet I have no desire to tell rural communities how they should or shouldnít organise their social calendars. I certainly donít think this topic is worthy of endless parliamentary debate Ė why not let society set the precedent? It must be possible to support traditions and lifestyle choices whilst also maintaining standards of animal welfare and decency, but instead we are left with the usual Ďthem against usí divide. Likewise, why not legalise certain recreational drugs? Provide a network of support and controls, but give people the freedom to choose safely how they run their lives. Obviously, Iím not in favour of establishing a lawless state Ė with liberty comes responsibility. Individuals must faces stiff consequences for endangering or harming the open society they belong to. Provide the education and opportunities and over time society will self-regulate its behaviour.
Foreign policy is extraordinarily complex but has immediate consequence at home. Collectively we cling to a self-belief that, as a nation, we have done the right thing and have joined various conflicts for the right reasons. However, historically there are many examples of where we have been the aggressor or where we have made the wrong allegiances. I fear that decades of misguided foreign policy have significantly damaged our world standing. As has been demonstrated by recent tragic events, we need to rethink home security also. The emergency and intelligence services should be funded comprehensively to do their jobs, we should resource better community engagement to help counter extremist recruitment within disaffected groups. Yes, we should use our borders as a means of protection too. I fail to understand how investment in a nuclear weapons program is supposed to deter evil individuals willing to kill themselves in isolated terror attacks.
No part of this provides justification for any terrorist activity at home or abroad, and we need to stand up for ourselves and others. We should forget our grandiose political posturing, stop allowing dubious allegiances led by profiteering and focus on building a new reputation as a distinct, serious, level headed, and compassionate nation. Ask ourselves why we are under attack. We should not make assumptions based on religious or cultural grounds, but instead draw conclusions on the basis of behaviour. Whilst religion may be at the root of all evil, intolerance is its willing accomplice. Individuals must be identified and stopped or punished, but causes must also be identified, understood, and tackled. There has been a recent clamour to see all terror suspects deported with immediate effect - undoubtedly this would reduce the opportunity for such individuals, but I strongly suspect it would not reduce their inclination. In fact the opposite may be true, or others may be provoked. The tragedy might be moved on elsewhere, to Paris or Brussels instead of London and Manchester, or heightened, or other methods deployed - I fail to see a long-term positive outcome. We must not forget the terror attacks that happen daily in other parts of the world too but remain unreported, at least in the mainstream British media, why are these lost lives considered less important to us?
We must recognise our responsibility to support and welcome refugees from countries impacted by conflicts, natural disasters, and political disorder. We should also do everything we can to help people in their own countries. Look at why they are displaced and use our global influence to address those issues and support them at home. I see no reason why, over time, we cannot re-position ourselves on the global stage. I am very happy to welcome economic migrants willing to come to the country to work, pay taxes, and contribute to society Ė it would be ace if we could maintain open borders with the EU.
The chances are you know my opinion on the Brexit referendum already. To leave the European Union would not be my choice Ė I think politically and economically the UK stood a better chance of reaching the ideals I have outlined above as a member state. It has become apparent that the process of leaving the EU will be exceedingly expensive for the country, the impact on exchange rates (and thus inflation) has begun to bite. I am yet to understand the positives. What still grates the most, is the reality-show manner of our decision to depart. A binary, arbitrary vote based on no possible understanding of the consequences of either staying or leaving. A vote granted purely to appease the growing UKIP movement and retain power for the Conservative party, fought through the media with misleading information. A vote driven by division that has perpetuated more division. I am dismayed when I hear that the argument that in time we will be stronger on our own, or that the EU will collapse without us Ė We? Us? Who are we? Why is it ever a good thing for one population to be better off than another? We should be working towards unity in Europe and the world, not moving in the opposite direction.
All that said, let us proceed to negotiate an exit, but it seems ludicrous that there should not be some process by which the terms of our departure can be validated before they are completed. Show me a business where anyone would commit to a sale of goods or services before reviewing the final terms and conditions of the contract. Sure, the country may have voted to leave, but letís please verify the consequences before signing on the dotted line.
OK, where does that all leave me going into this general election? Iím going to say exactly what I think of certain political parties, Iím quite sure I have my own biases (like trying to be reasonable and fair!) so if you donít want to be preached at this is your last chance to look away...
One thing I firmly believe is that the current Conservative party, with their UKIP influence and right-wing media steer, stand against many of the aims and aspirations I have for the UK. I find it disheartening that so many people seem to share the current Conservative ambition to throttle the public services that have stood for so long as cornerstones of this country. The same public services that repeatedly receive deserved acclaim and adulation in the event of any national crisis. The current Conservatives have made no secrets of their plans to privatise and profit by selling off our NHS assets. We will find ourselves heading rapidly towards the flawed US healthcare model Ė a model that works only for the rich. There has been unrefuted evidence of the current Conservatives cutting police numbers during their time in office. I dislike the fact that the current Conservatives are willing to endorse a hostile and unwelcoming outlook to outsiders wishing to come to the UK to work and contribute to the development of our rich social mix. To promote fear and division for politic gain. Or to sell-out our economy and potentially become a corporation tax haven, just to ensure a political victory if the EU proceed to stand firm in Brexit trade negotiations.
A vote for the current Conservatives does not only give them a mandate to pursue a hard Brexit, it gives them a mandate to focus the future of the country on profiteering and selective gain for a small selfish minority. It is highly likely that I personally would be financially better off under any Conservative government, but thatís the beauty of democracy Ė you donít have to vote purely from a position of personal self-interest. I worry that this Conservative government is dangerous Ė they pose a real threat to the financial and social security, and safety of the country. Why are we not fighting to Ďwrestle back controlí from them and their media superiors? Please think long and hard before giving them your support.
Sadly, from my personal perspective, we are not currently blessed with a dynamic, centralist political party with the clout to revolutionise UK politics, nor does our political system readily allow for the rapid emergence of a new political force. So Iím left to pick from the restÖ
The Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem easy read manifesto) show plenty of promise in terms of policy and several of their key individual politicians have certainly impressed me throughout a measured campaign.
Labour (Labour easy read manifesto) also represent the majority of my key beliefs. However, my stance on Brexit may preclude me from voting for them (given their commitment to backing the leave regardless approach).
Likewise the Green party (Green easy read manifesto) have a commendable manifesto, but lack significant policy on the major mechanics of running the country. I see them more as a respectable pressure group rather than a credible political party.
Itíll be no surprise to you that Iím not going to vote for UKIP.
I will continue to observe the campaigning and will of course give some significant consideration to the individual local representatives before drawing a final conclusion at the ballot box. I wonít bore you with the choice I make.
However it pans out, I wish everyone and the country the very best of British luck come June 8th. I have a distressing feeling we are going to need it.
Thanks for reading!
Edit (9th June 2017 - the morning after the election. The Conservatives failed to obtain a majority):
Mixed feelings. Pleased that Conservatives have no mandate to continue policy of throttling public services. Happy that a hard Brexit must surely now be tempered and a more humble, collaborative negotiation will be necessary. Delighted that UKIP all but destroyed. Dismayed by the wild swings (in both directions) in many constituencies reflecting ugly underlying Brexit divisions. Disappointed that the centre ground is only represented by the average of the two extremes.
The biggest tragedy remains the fact that Article 50 was triggered by an unelected Prime Minister prior to a general election that should have been called to endorse both the referendum and the chosen party leader. The clock is ticking.
Other major plus was the apparent decline in influence of the repulsive right wing press. On the negative side, the loss of Nick Clegg from parliament - Theresa May's first call should be to hire him as a Brexit adviser.