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According to the BBC, “David Cameron is to tell voters they face a ‘stark choice’ between him and Labour’s Ed Miliband as the election campaign officially gets under way.”
Really? So it’s just a two-horse race again, is it? This writer disagrees.
People are sick of the Tories’ right-wing politics, that take from the many and give to the few – overbalancing the economy in the process. How many measures have been put in place to keep the ship of state from overturning since George Osborne became chancellor? Too many.
Tories have inflicted a massive rise in appallingly poorly-paid jobs, triggering consequential rises in housing benefit claims and food bank use.
They say they have cut the national deficit by half, but in numerical terms it is only down by a third, and now it is rising again. The national debt has doubled under the Conservatives. Responsible government? Not a bit of it!
Meanwhile, Labour has a better offer, but simply isn’t saying what people want to hear – basically out of fear that it will scare them off. Ever hear of the ‘Overton Window’? It’s a concept devised by American conservatives to describe what is deemed politically possible at any time. At the moment, that window opens onto ideas that are very much in the right wing of the political spectrum, presenting the illusion that they are moderate, middle-ground views.
Owen Jones, in his latest book The Establishment, makes the point clear: “When Labour’s Ed Miliband proposes a temporary energy price freeze – a welcome, albeit pretty unremarkable, policy – it is portrayed by media and right-wing politicians as crypto-Marxism, even though most voters support a far more radical option: renationalising the energy industry lock, stock and barrel.”
This criticism can be applied to many Labour policies: They are timid. They are too concerned with what can be seen through the Overton Window. They are made in fear of a backlash from the right-wing press.
So when Labour says it will “reform” the work capability assessment, this flies in the face of public opinion that demands its abolition altogether and reform – real reform – of the benefit system as a whole, to serve the British population and not private industry.
When Labour says it will make public spending cuts – but they won’t be as harsh as those imposed by the Conservatives, this flies in the face of public opinion that demands an end to austerity altogether; in fact, it seems possible that Labour can achieve its plans simply by reversing the tax cuts for the very rich that the Tories have made over the last five years.
Neither of the ‘Big Two’ parties are offering what the public wants – and this means the door is open for the smaller parties.
Even the BBC’s arch-Tory Nick Robinson acknowledges this, in his first blog after returning to work post-medical procedures.
“With the polls so close, with the inexorable decline of the big two parties, with the widespread hunger for a different type of politics the range of election outcomes is bewildering. They go way beyond single party governments led by David Cameron or Ed Miliband or another coalition with Nick Clegg.”
They do indeed. With the rise in support for the SNP in Scotland – due to a collapse of confidence in a Labour Party that many Scottish voters no longer see as representing them (we’re back to that Overton Window again; it seems Labour has been looking through it in the wrong direction), Labour is unlikely to win a majority as matters currently stand. The Tories can’t win one in any case.
So we’re looking at coalition deals, confidence-and-supply votes, and the possibility of extremely unstable governments for the foreseeable future.
It seems unlikely that these will have any staying power. The Coalition went the distance because the Liberal Democrats turned out to be more yellow than their party colour, and did whatever their Tory masters told them, simply to hold on to a bit of power, some ministerial salaries and a few ministerial cars.
Future partners in government could include the nationalists (Welsh and Scottish), the Greens, the DUP – and they’ll all be much more strident in announcing what they want because they’ll know that, without their support, the government will be powerless to act.
The ‘Big Two’ parties need to learn a lesson from this (although they probably won’t).
This is what happens when you offer people what you want, rather than what they want.
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