Wednesday, 6 May 2015

My Vote Will Count One Day


This is the last full day of what has been a stage-managed, avoidance of the people and saying anything but the truth election campaign. In spite of that I am engaged with this election and feel excited! By Friday we will know the colour or colours of Government that will steer our country through the next five years.  I cannot wait.  

 

With the exception of the 17 year-old who misses her first vote by one month and one day, no one in my family is remotely interested in politics. Some of my friends and neighbours are not even going to vote.  So I am posting this as a way of talking to myself. It is sad though that so many people do not appreciate our democracy, especially in the light of what goes on in other societies. I remember how black South Africans queued in huge numbers and for days to cast their vote for the first time, and express their newly found power.



This election has been electrified by the ‘new girls’ on the political block. The Scottish Nationalists (set to sweep the board), Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) and the Greens are pushing the forces of change.  Liberal Democrat’s abandonment of their tuition fees pledge and the Scottish Referendum have galvanised 18-25 year-olds whom all parties have mainly ignored and indeed penalised.  Next time the ‘newbies’ will be joined by The Women's Equality Party |

 

The general election five years ago was characterized by the unexpected. The preferred electoral system - first past the post - designed to keep outsiders out, not only produced an unexpected bi-partisanship but also elected an environmental champion.  For the first time a member of the British Green Party had entered the corridors of political power. The people had spoken loudly and clearly. Some politicians and commentators were left bemused.



 After expenses scandals, too many wars, a loss of trust and lack of faith in politicians, the electorate had had enough. One of the two dominant political tribes would have to make common cause with an outsider.  Into the breach stepped the new Liberal Democrat ‘kingmakers’ who held the balance of power. Some politicians found coalition government difficult to accept because it would take them to a place they did not want to go but it was the people's will. 

Has coalition government worked?  Overall it served its intended purpose, that of stable government. But under this government the super rich have doubled their income and too many people are now dependent on food banks. Visits to London food banks have increased 10-fold in the last three years, and in the 6th richest country in the world.  At the same time that British sacred cow, the National Health Service and the education system are mostly not fit for purpose.

So here we are again, back to 2010 but now we are more vocal about what no longer serves us.  The electorate is troubled by the enduring fault lines that lie respectively at the heart of the two major political parties.  We dislike ideologically driven Tory policies and are fearful of the mismanagement of the economy by Labour, regardless of their protestation to the contrary. We cannot continue to be bounced back and forth between these two positions; there must be a middle way.

The 'new girls' on the political block, plus the extreme right UK Independence (Tea) Party have unsettled the 'old guard' better known as Labour and Conservatives, who up to now have been the two dominant tribes in British politics. Two days before the 2015 election results the pundits are saying either it’s too close to call or predicting another ‘hung’ Parliament. However, the American wizard nerd statistician Nate Silver has predicted that the Tories will gain the largest number of seats. What does he know? British politics is definitely an unfamiliar country Nate, and you got it wrong last time. Remember?

But suppose Nate the Nerd is right and the Tories squeak in first past the post, shored up by Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party.  It is rumoured that Cameron and Clegg are already comparing notes about coalition. This time I would give it six months, a year at the outside. In any event Friday's results will show that the British electorate has forced by default its own peculiar brand of Proportional Representation (PR). Whatever happens on Friday, electoral reform will have to be addressed.

I want the process of change in British politics that began in 2010 to continue. I am looking for major upsets in this election; I am looking for the dismantling of the status quo. It is time for change and maybe then my vote will count.


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