At some point or other, we’ve all thrown our hands up in disbelief and cried, “What’s happening to this country?!” or “The world’s gone mad.” A lot of British people have just given up trying to follow what’s happening to Britain anymore. People can barely keep track of where we were as a country last month, let alone 2 years ago; how on earth we ended up with this law or that reform; why every few weeks or so, we wake up in a different society governed by different rules. Over the last 5 years, change has happened to Britain fast; in dramatic leaps, and over a very short space of time. There has been nothing gradual about the last 5 years and frankly, it’s been exhausting to watch. It’s no wonder the British have become numb to politics.
The problem is this. Being disinterested in politics doesn’t make you stupid. Being disinterested in politics does make you underinformed and ill-equipped for disaster. Ask any British person what’s happening to their country and the simple response from your average joe is, “Everything’s changed so quickly.” Ask where Britain is going and you’ll get either a roll of the eyes, a resigned sigh or a shrug. The apathy has set in deeply and many are immovable from it.
There are just 10 days to go til the next UK General Election. A lot of people are sick to the back teeth with party political propaganda all over the TV and can’t wait til it’s all over. And so for some, my enthusiasm for voting is over the top. They couldn’t be more wrong. If ever Britain needed a hardcore election it’s now.
There have been two televised debates between Brown (Labour), Cameron (Tory) and Clegg (Lib Dem) covering domestic policy and international affairs; the last will be on economy and taxes. This is something we’ve never done before and taking prime advantage of the public’s political apathy, are the tabloids. The media are delirious with opportunity as the work comes easy; sensationalist headlines, spoof campaigns, repetitive soundbites and salacious stories of corruption pour out, emotionally whipping people up into a sudden frenzy of divisive opinion. The clock is ticking and thus far, opinion polls have fluctuated erratically across Britain like a rollercoaster. While the media have everything to gain from swaying the public, once the election is over, the media will be onto their next catch while the public are lumped with the consequences of a bad choice. So how does a tired, languid and fed-up Britain know what the right choice really is?
The truth is that this comes down to the lesser of three evils.
As current PM, Gordon Brown represents the vote to increase ‘free’ handouts for the ‘unfortunate’ public, ‘free’ benefits to keep people smiling and happy (even though everyone knows there’s no such thing as a completely ‘free’ benefit), with a general greater reliance on widespread government control over everything. Essentially speaking, Brown’s manifesto will keep Britain as a slave to tax increases (which, by the way, is how Labour pays for all your ‘freedom’ passes and ‘free’ this and that). His idea is to reinforce a nanny state which is completely dependent on the government for absolutely everything. (That’ll work for the politically lazy who can’t be bothered with reading the small print, “so long as Big Brother doesn’t do anything nasty” like, deny the public a right to fight a reform before it becomes a law–which, of course, Big Brother will.) Lest we forget–Brown never actually wanted the role of PM when he was forced into the position by default of Blair’s resignation in 2007. In following his Labour advisors, he frankly hasn’t the foggiest idea of why he’s made the promises he has, nor how on earth he will execute them, financially nor strategically. Despite appearances and his talk of us hoping in the ‘experienced party’, Brown knows deep down how his last 3 years of service has reviled many. His plea for the public to vote Labour smacks of, “I know I screwed up, I’m sorry, I promise I won’t do it again.” Anyone with a rebellious child knows there’s only so many times you can believe that line as gospel.
Despite appearing to be the ‘refreshingly different’ speaker of the three, Nick Clegg is the opportunist of the traditional ‘conflict’ between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. His appeal is less of a strategic one and more of an emotional one, whispering to the listener, “You don’t have to watch these two fight it out for another age–pick me. I’m someone else altogether and after all, isn’t it “different” that you’ve been looking for all along?” Clegg’s approach is an unveiled, intentional play on the public’s distrust in previous Tory/Labour governments; an assistant to the aforementioned media circus. If you’ve been won over by his Mr. Straight Talker speeches, read the Liberal Democrat manifesto first. For the first plan of his inexperienced party, Clegg wants to “fix” the problem of Britain’s 900,000 illegal immigrants by ‘forgiving’ them for breaking the law with an amnesty to “stay in the country, work without being a criminal and we’ll reward you with citizenship.” What’s terribly wrong with that? Oh, only the consequences. Only a nice and easy, brand spanking new loophole for the next wave of illegal immigrants to make a fresh attempt on Britain’s borders. And apparently our citizenship is no sacred thing to Clegg, since he wants to give it away to any old Tom for practically nothing. If “Politically Correct Britain” is driving you up the wall, Clegg isn’t your man for that either: the Liberal Democrats’ central goal of making Britain more EU-centric will further weaken our economy, our say in what Brussels can lord over us and their ‘environmentally friendly’ banner smacks of more restrictive rules about good old carbon emissions and crying over polar bears, that have left us the laughing stock of the world driving revolting electric cars.
The Conservative Party are no angels either. The Thatcher years have such a bad reputation in Britain; a synonym for ideological betrayal. Cameron’s identification with Thatcher’s views have made him a target for criticism, largely because of Thatcher’s allegiance with liberalism in the face of traditional Tory politics. The current Conservative Party were involved in the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal of 2009 which damaged their appeal as a ‘clean politics’ party. Cameron has echoed Obama’s winning formula with the headline “Vote For Change”, producing further skepticism from traditional Tory supporters who take issue with what that represents, given the consequences America is facing having voted for a liberal president under such a slogan. In a modern multi-cultural Britain where the idea of social class has become more and more fragmented, the current public have less of an affinity with the traditional British class structure, which have been a fundamental skeleton to previous Tory politics. Cameron’s manifesto is Eurosceptic which could easily cause internal conflict through Britain’s membership in the EU and the huge number of Europeans living in Britain. Cameron has not guaranteed that taxes will be lowered which the public views as a grey area.
What the British public need to realise over the next 10 days is that the direction Britain has been going in has not been working up until now. This popularity contest will get us nowhere: we need facts and facts can only be found in party manifestos. Comparing manifestos only, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are only walking us in that direction faster; under the guise that this direction is the only way, any other way is “backwards” and your only choice is simply who you want to walk with. This is completely untrue and a giant deception. With this to mind, the Conservative Party are the lesser of the three evils. Currently this is the only party which has a focus on managing the country’s current problems whilst minimizing the side effects that could create future problems. Having a cap on immigration is one such policy. The consequences of this reform are minimal compared with Clegg and Brown’s solutions which would quickly compound the problem. Exacting a punishable consequence for residents and citizens who are able to work but don’t want to is another. This hardline on benefits will inject vigour into a reluctant nation that’s been used to getting freebies for over a decade; a far cry from the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ attitude Labour and the Lib Dems exude. Cameron’s idea of putting 16-yr old British boys back into mandatory National Service is a champion idea; it’s a hard line but a vision with a long term benefit. Whether or not Cameron will deliver on his promises, only time will tell. But any fool will tell you that when a country loses it’s identity and roots, it loses it’s way. Let’s hope The Conservative Party’s promise to bring our identity back is worth voting for.