Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Looking for Hope at the Ballot Box


The last week or so has seen a rise in my synaptic meanderings. Over the last couple of days, I have found myself thinking about such diverse subjects as efficiency savings for the 2012 Olympics, alternative uses for novelty pastry cutters and the upcoming general election here in the UK.

Unfortunately, it means that I have sat down several times to spout forth on the joys of representation, only to find myself distracted.

I fear the problem is that for the first time in my life, I am not at all sure which of the Political Parties deserves the honour of my support (See Note 1). The menu set before me for the upcoming frenzied media electoral banquet doesn’t make me salivate with expectation. It simply lacks any hint of hope. At the moment, what I really want to have is a feeling that I can deploy my ‘X’ into a box that will inject a feeling of confidence and hope, not only in me, but also in the country as a whole.

Instead I am faced with three main parties who are seemingly competing to see how much money they can save if they come to power – and by that I mean how many people they can put out of work in the name of ‘efficiency savings’.

With the lack of any defining policy to sway my vote, I find myself with the rather disturbing idea that I may need to choose based upon the three party leaders. The mere thought makes me shudder as not one floats my boat.

The current incumbent is our Gordon. I’m sure that behind closed doors, Gordon Brown is vivacious, charming and generous. Sadly, our Prime Minister as soon as the public gaze falls upon him, turns into a dour sourpuss who through sheer force of his Presbyterian roots, transforms optimism into the feel of an impending tax audit. However, that isn’t his greatest flaw. No matter what happens over the coming weeks, it will shake my belief that he is fundamentally unlucky. Having eventually manoeuvred Tony Blair out of office, almost as soon as he took the helm the world banking fraud took a grip. I’m sure that he would like to point out the work he has put in to mitigate the effects, but it happened on his watch. Not only that, but it seems so many of his attempts at being personable and ‘nice’ have a terrible habit of boomeranging back (see Note 2).

The main opposition party, the Conservatives are led by ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron.  Keen to promote himself as a man of the people, David Cameron has utilised his extensive experience in Public Relations within the media to good effect. The party machine working hard to convince everyone that an education at Eton and Oxford, plus membership of the infamous Bullingdon drinking club means he is able to easily connect to the voter in the street.  Unfortunately, the way the Conservatives seem to jump on any bandwagon with three wheels and David Cameron’s appearances in the media only serve to convince me that he has insincerity oozing from every pore (see Note 3). The Conservatives also have the added handicap of George Osbourne (a mate of David Cameron from his Oxford and Bullingdon Club days) as their treasury spokesman. If George told me that the sun was out, I would still look out the window to check.

Bringing up the rear we have the Liberal Democrats, the smallest of the three parties. While I have to admit that of the three party leaders, I have the greatest respect for Nick Clegg, I know the least about him. Nick Clegg doesn’t get a lot of media coverage, so there is always going to be this nagging feeling that I am basing any opinion of him on the scantiest of evidence (see Note 4). The Lib-Dems have the benefit of having Vincent Cable as their Shadow Chancellor, but all of this counts not a jot if they are unable to reach the voters with their message.

So my vote remains up for grabs.

Depressingly, I fear that the current situation will mean that we will continue to go over and over the same old ground and watch as any optimism and hope is slowly throttled by the election campaigning.

Nobody in this election is daring to mention that while politicians can promise all kinds of tinkering with the public sector, big business is able to carry on in its own sweet way and dictate terms to politicians whenever they see fit. When the banks screwed up, they went to the Government for bail outs – and got them. Over the last 18 months, other businesses have had the same help – but none give anything back. The Government is so powerless in the face of big business that it wasn’t even able to control the level of bonuses paid to bankers when the Government is the biggest shareholder in those banks!

In the 1960s and 70s, the Trade Unions held too much power and the UK economy suffered. Now big business holds too much sway.

With the election looming, now is the time for real leadership from one of the political parties to look at revolutionary ways to make sure that big business is serving all of their stakeholders – not just their shareholders. In the past, I have suggested that this could be done by letting various groups run ethical stakeholder schemes. The Trade Unions could run one for the treatment of employees; Greenpeace for environmental considerations; the CBI for treatment of suppliers; Local Government bodies for community schemes etc. Companies would then be exempted a portion of their corporate taxes for each certification they hold – therefore making a difference to the bottom line.  As we all know, it is that dreaded bottom line that matters above all things to big business and it is the pursuit of a bigger bottom line that has in the past has sometimes meant that ethics are overlooked.

It could well be that I am being idealistic in hoping for change, but at the moment I’m beginning to feel disenfranchised by the whole system. This is an even greater worry. For if people like me start to feel that it is not worth voting, there are some very nasty parties out there who will exploit low voter turnout to get their own narrow-minded bigoted agenda foisted on the country.


Note 1: Not that in the past any of the party leaders felt the inclination to neither reciprocate the honour bestowed upon them, nor have their election strategy teams felt that my support was worthy of wider publicity.

Note 2: An example of this would be his writing of sympathy notes to our servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fate engineered it in such a way as to get vast amounts of negative press over errors in the notes and his handwriting.

Note 3: There is also the rather unfortunate poster advertising campaign being run by the Tories where David Cameron’s face peers out at you alongside a one-liner hook thought to persuade you that he has the right policies. The trouble is that whenever I see these posters, I think of George Orwell’s novel 1984 and Newspeak. In my mind, I automatically classify David Cameron as Big Brother and read the text as some inane double-talk.

Note 4:  I always feel that the Liberal democrats are spending all their time running around the country looking for a TV crew willing to give them a few seconds of air time. In my minds-eye, I picture teams of activists running through London seeking out journalists doing voxpop interviews only to arrive sweating and breathless just as the crew are packing up.