As you may have noticed, there is an election going on here in the UK. I have been trying not to bore you too much about it, but there’s only a day left before polling day, and I’m not sure I’ll have time to blog much tomorrow, so here’s my one election post.
It is facile to complain that politicians are “all the same”, but these days there is a certain amount of truth to that allegation. The UK has, to a large extent, moved away from conviction driven politics that is a battleground between Capitalism and Socialism, and instead embraced celebrity politics where clean-shaven men with nice smiles try to convince you that they are marginally more trustworthy than any of the other liars out there. We are faced with an election where all three party leaders want to present themselves as the heirs of Tony Blair, without all that messy Iraq stuff.
The situation is complicated by the fact that the UK is in a very severe financial crisis. Things haven’t looked too bad of late, because Gordon Brown knew only too well that if he didn’t make the situation look rosy he had no chance of re-election. Once the election is over there will be an urgent need for action on the economy, and that will mean ferocious cuts in public spending, no matter who gets in.
So the question becomes, who do you trust to make those cuts? There has been a lot of talk that a hung parliament will be a bad thing because a coalition government won’t be able to agree on a course of action and will dither fatally. I can’t see that happening, because if the minor coalition partner tries to block any action on the budget then the major party in the coalition can just go to the country and demand a mandate. You won’t get a California-like stalemate.
What you will get is bargaining over exactly where the cuts fall, and how they are spun. Whichever party gets in will pick their own scapegoats, so we should be asking ourselves who those victims are going to be.
If Labour hates anyone then it hates the rich. And the rich, for the most part, can take care of themselves. Some of them may, of course, choose to leave the UK as a result, and economically that’s bad in the long run, but it won’t be a disaster.
The Liberal Democrats are much too nice to hate people. It is not their style. They might get annoyed at people who pollute the environment, but that’s about the extent of their angst. Besides, they are not going to win. The best they can hope for is to be a minor partner in a coalition.
The Tories, on the other hand, despite friendly Dave’s attempt to consign all of their lunatic fringe to UKIP and the BNP, still have their fare share of hate-motivated adherents. They might claim not to be racist, but they are all over the rhetoric of “tough on immigration” and “tough on Europe”. Nor has it stopped them from finding common cause with some of the least savory people in European politics (a fragile alliance whose common hatred of the EU barely manages to overcome their hatred of each other because they are foreigners). They might claim not to be homophobic, but that doesn’t stop them claiming that gay people are possessed by demons and can be cured by prayer.
Whoever wins the election will be keen to make cuts, raise taxes, and to spin all this in such a way as to annoy the fewest of their voters. The Tories, should they get in, will seek to do so with as little harm as possible to the rich, and by taking advantage of the weak and defenseless. In particular they will seek to look good by picking on small, disadvantaged groups that they can rely on the media to demonize. It won’t matter that the savings are small, as long as the PR gains for victimizing such people are big.
Not content with that, they have also been talking enthusiastically about repealing the UK’s human rights legislation and replacing it with a new “rights” act that will be little more than a charter to discriminate. It will be ugly.
I’m not exactly thrilled with the prospects for the future, regardless of who wins. I am, however, much more worried about the prospect of a Conservative victory than about any other possible result.