There’s a strong smell of arrogance coming from Westminster at the moment – an attitude of “What are you going to do about it?” to everything. Am I wrong?
On one side we see Labour, trying to divest itself of union influence – and therefore its last link to its working-class background. Ed Miliband thinks the middle class is where the votes are, and he’s absolutely determined to ruin his entire organisation in a vain attempt to prove it. He’ll turn Labour into a plastic copy of the Conservative Party (in the course of which, of course, he’ll also have to change its name. You can’t be the Labour Party if you don’t represent people who work. I understand the word ‘Tory’ is going spare). Trouble is, there is already a Conservative Party. If your politics leans to the right anyway, why support the copy when you can have the original?
The Tories know this. They reckon Labour will self-destruct in fairly short order, leaving the way open for them to continue doing exactly anything they like – as they have been for the past three years and more, despite never having been voted into power by the British people, because they have support from the Liberal Democrats – who are enjoying their very last taste of any national political power.
Both the main parties are sneering at you. They think they know that you will stick to your traditional choices when election time rolls around again: Labour or Conservative. And they know that this means they will be allowed to continue doing whatever they want, against the wishes of the nation in most cases.
That’s how our version of democracy works. You get one chance to vote for the organisation that will rule over you for the next five years. Your decision is nominally based on the promises they make in their various manifestos (many of which will be broken. These documents are rarely worth the paper on which they’re printed), but most likely to be based on habit and an impression of what each party stands for – one that is no longer likely to bear any relationship to reality. Your influence is diminished by the fact that most Parliamentary seats are ‘safe’. The voting population is locked into a particular pattern and each political party can ‘parachute’ its own favoured candidates – people who will support the leaders’ policies, no matter what the wishes of their constituents – into those seats and be assured of support from these drones over the next five years. This is why Labour and the union Unite have been at loggerheads recently – Unite wants candidates who genuinely represent the people of their constituencies; Blairite Labour wants neoliberal, party-propping drones. It looks like Blairite Labour has won the battle, meaning the Labour Party will lose the war; how are they doing in the polls?
So elections are determined on the basis of a tiny number of marginal or ‘swing’ seats. Do you live in a marginal constituency? No? Then your vote probably doesn’t count.
It seems to me that, if we ever want to see democracy in the UK, we need to make it possible for EVERY seat to become a ‘swing’ seat – make it a much harder job for the large parties to ‘parachute’ in their party faithfuls and open up the field to candidates from smaller parties (not just UKIP). But how?
The answer’s obvious, isn’t it? You make sure everyone in your constituency knows exactly what their MP has been doing in their name. Only an informed electorate can make useful decisions, after all – and government of the uninformed is not legitimate government at all.
For example: My MP is a Liberal Democrat backbench drone called Roger Williams. I’ve known him for years and thought he was a nice enough fellow. In fact I voted for him at the last election. It was a tactical vote to keep the Tories out (foolish, in hindsight) – but he has let me down on many major votes, and I’m about to give you two examples.
My constituency is Brecon and Radnorshire – the most rural in England and Wales. It relies on agriculture for much of its income. Therefore it was a shock to our economy when the Westminster government voted to dissolve the Agricultural Wages Board. I cannot currently find any information about how Mr Williams voted on this issue of major importance to his constituency.
I can, however, report his fellow Liberal Democrats’ response to the Welsh Government’s plan for a replacement body covering Wales – they oppose it.
The AWB ensured consistent wages among agricultural workers, and prevented disputes over pay and conditions. Abolishing the board removes recognition of workers’ unique skills, bringing with it a significant pay cut. It is also a mark of disrespect.
In Brecon and Radnorshire, cuts to state benefits will take an average of £433 from working-age people’s incomes – more than a week’s take-home pay where wages are only around 76 per cent of the national average. The loss of the AWB means a significant extra cut to the local economy.
According to Lib Dem AM Bill Powell, his party doesn’t want the Welsh Government to “ram through” this emergency legislation “without allowing Assembly members and committees to scrutinise their proposals fully”.
Perhaps he is forgetting that Mr Williams voted in March to help the Conservative Party “ram through” emergency legislation on the Work Programme in a much quicker and undignified way, in order to prevent jobseekers from claiming back the £130 million that had been stolen from them in illegal sanctions by the Department for Work and Pensions?
So we see that my MP’s party supports the abolition of the AWB, and my MP supported the retroactive law. Both were acts of repression; both were pieces of legislation I oppose. Did he act according to my wishes? Most assuredly not. But he acts in my name.
Oh yes… He also voted against a cumulative impact assessment on the effects of benefit cuts on people with disabilities.
Should he – or any Liberal Democrat – represent Brecon and Radnorshire after 2015? Absolutely not – it would not be in the best interests of the constituency.
But we shouldn’t tolerate anyone from the other parties who preaches freedom for us but practises similar policies of repression.
That’s the message that needs to go out:
“Not in my name.”