So, it's finally here, decision time. After what seems like 12 months of campaigning by the parties, it's time to but the 'cross in the box'. This will be the 5th general election that I've been eligible to vote in, and possibly the weirdest. This whole election campaign has thrown up a few things that make my head hurt, or laugh out loud:
Firstly It always makes me laugh when people in their early twenties tell me how 'Maggie ruined the country'. Sorry, I think you'll find you weren't born when Maggie was in charge, so how would you know? Don't believe everything you read/hear.
Now don't get me wrong, the tories did do some stupid things when they were last in power (poll tax being the stupidest) but they weren't all that bad. I went to college for 5 years and it didn't cost me a penny in tuition fees, I got quite ill a few times when I was a child and I got treated in hospital promptly, and whilst the hospital didn't look as high tech as today the service seemed as good as it is today (actually that should be as bad as it is today).
Then there is this belief that many people seem to have that the tory administration of the 80's was solely responsible for ruining the countrys manufacturing industry, but that's a little simplistic. I'm sorry to burst everyones bubble, but I think you'll find that the far east learning how to make good stuff cheap is what killed our manufacturing industry. While people in the west want to buy a dvd player in the supermarket for less than the price of a disc to play in it, then it aint going to be made in a factory in northern england. That's just a fact.
I would ask any younger people out there to please find out things for yourself and don't just take your parents/media/lefty comedian* (Delete as appropriate) opinions as fact. The 80's was a very complicated time in this countries history, and just blanket blaming the government of the time for everything is naive.
Then we have 'the TV debates'. The debates have changed the way we will do elections forever. They have transformed our election into a competition between 3 individuals, rather than three different parties or ideals. This is a very american phenomenon, but unfortunately our election/governmental system doesn't work like theirs. When you go to the polling station to place your vote, you aren't voting for Clegg/Cameron/Brown, you're voting for your local MP.
If people want to have a more presidential system, then lets do it. I think a blanket reform of our electoral system with a fully elected second chamber and a separation of the legislature from the executive would probably bring a bit more trust back into our politics, and will definetly improve things a lot more than some form of PR ever could. The biggest problem in our current system, is that the majority of people in this country didn't vote for the Prime Minister of the day, or the members of his cabinet. The only way to solve this is have an election for the PM/Government, and separate elections for the commons/lords, similar to the americans president/senate/congress arrangement.
Now don't get me wrong, I know the american electoral system has it's problems, but it also has protections in place because it's designed that way. The problem with how our elections are being run at the moment is that we have all the features of a presidential system, but none of the protections. We have been moving in that direction for 30 years, and whilst all of the parties talk of reform, none of them actually have the balls to go the 'whole hog'.
And now onto the biggest issue in this election, and the one that everyone either doesn't talk about, or when they do they are in denial about it.
The economy. All 3 parties have spent the entire campaign telling us what they are going to do with all our money, ringfencing this, securing that, and none of them will tell us the truth.
WE HAVEN'T GOT ANY MONEY!!!!
We are currently spending £168 BILLION a year more than we take in. That is not sustainable. This means that whoever is in number 10 tomorrow they are going to have to cut public spending, and/or raise taxes. This is a FACT. Telling us they can protect the NHS/Education etc. or anything else is a LIE. It can't be done. If they do not 'ringfence' any department, then the IFS estimate that they will have to cut spending by approx 10%, to reduce the structural deficit by 50% in the next parliament, and that's with the current governments very high tax plans in place. They could raise taxes a little more, but even with a raise of (lets say for example) VAT to 20% they will still need to cut spending by around 8%. This is a huge reduction.
As I mentioned above everyone always slates the tories for the cuts they made in the 80's. Well these 'savage' cuts that have gone down in history as some of the biggest/worst ever made (in some peoples opinion) are said to have been around 3%. That is less than half of what needs to be cut now. Anyone who can remember the strikes in the 80's, and was watching the news in Greece yesterday, knows we are in for some real trouble here, and there isn't a lot that any incoming administration can do about it. The problem we have is that the public sector in this country has grown too large in the last 13 years, and someone is going to have to shrink it.
There have been a number of voices in the media asking 'why the politicians aren't being straight with the electorate about this'. Well to be blunt it's because the electorate act like children when it comes to things like this. If we insist on acting like children, then the politicians will treat us like children. If any of them actually tell us the truth about the coming cuts, we run a mile from them.
The one guarantee for any party that told the truth, would be that they would lose the election and lose heavily. So all the parties have come to an unspoken arrangement were none of them will talk about any of the really bad stuff coming down the line, they'll just fight around the edges and wait until after the election to reveal the bad news.
But when it comes down to it, all the politicians give a damn about at the moment, is getting you to put your X in their box. They'll worry about telling us the truth later......