May 2015, which is the least worst choice party

Blog #1

I had some hopes for the coalition when it was formed, largely for two reasons: Government spends a great deal of money and wastes a large proportion of it. Cuts are always delivered in crisis conditions, so the cuts are invariably unintelligent. A government pledged to cut government expenditure over a five year period had an opportunity to actually cut budgets more intelligently. My second hope was that the presence of the Liberals would curb Tory excesses. While my first hope has been entirely forlorn, I do think the second has been vindicated. Even in this past few days, Clegg has been the restraining voice, helping to hold back the government from committing to unreasonable policies.


Clegg, however has been an enormous disappointment. Leaving aside his betrayal of the student vote – for which he will never be forgiven – he has squandered his opportunities on the wrong policies and fought them in the wrong ways. Liberal successes include the raising of the tax-free bands and the pupil supplement – much appreciated by schools, but the referendum on the worst type of proportional representation was inept and his attempts to reform the House of Lords a farce. A better leader could have come to the country now with a far stronger case.


But where does this leave us? I cannot forget how angry I was with New Labour at the last election. They had governed over an appalling and mistaken war in the Middle East, presided over a period of unparalleled increase in inequality, sold human rights down the river of terrorist paranoia, doubled the number of prisoners in custody, created a high-stakes testing/inspection culture in education and made the state a surrogate parent to us all.


Given all that, where can we most safely put our vote next May? I have drawn up a short list of what I consider to be the most important policy areas, and made a few comments about the three main parties. But there is still some time to go – do you agree with my analysis?



Party positions

My thoughts

The Economy

Conservative: More cuts, aimed at the least well off except when there is a PR breakdown.

Liberals: As above, but more cuts aimed at the wealthy

Labour: Hard to tell, but probably same as Tories.

In many ways the coalition has done its job. The recovery may not be the one they wanted – there has been no rebalancing of the economy or rebuilding of manufacturing – but the graphs are moving in the right directions and we have progressed from the dire position of 2010. Under Ed Balls, Labour have simply attacked coalition policies without ever suggesting alternatives. Labour clearly think that families in the top 10% of the income bracket are worthy of support (re: Child Support Allowance) and as far as I can see have financial targets which include just as much in the way of cuts as the Tories. Milliband’s identification of the ‘Cost of living crisis’ was good politics – but the other side is to convince people you can solve that crisis.

Foreign policy

Conservative: They have no foreign policy.

Labour: Nor do they.

Lib-dems: No. But they do have Paddy Ashdown who might talk some sense from time to time.

My personal belief is that there is little we can do positively in the major trouble-areas of the world by ourselves, but that the time has surely come to have a foreign policy, something that we haven’t had since Tony Blair derailed sense and logic over a decade ago. Do we support Shia, Suni or Christians in the Middle East? (Did we have a view on Assad’s enemies threatening to wipe out the Christian communities?) Dictatorships or democracies? (Mubarak, the Muslim League or the Egyptian army?) Pragmatic leadership or morally better options? I haven’t a clue, but more importantly, nor does the Foreign Office.


Conservative: ‘Renegotiate’ terms of the EU treaty then hold a referendum within 2 years.

This policy makes the Tories, for me at least, unelectable. If they are returned we will have two years when nothing will happen to the economy – the prospect of the vote will probably stall the recovery and lead to an increase in unemployment as the large employers look to pull out. The Government will be completely split between different groups wanting differing amounts of independence from the EU and the government will almost certainly fall after the result, whichever way it goes! The old Tory obsession with Europe is not shared by the population as a whole and they need to get over it.

Scottish independence

No idea for any of them

You can see my thoughts on this in Blog 18. If the vote goes for YES in a week or two’s time, the most important item on the agenda of the new government will be a negotiating position with the newly independent state of Scotland. Unfortunately, none of the parties seems to think we should know what their policy is. Even a no vote should lead to some serious thinking about how the English and their regions can be more fairly treated by Westminster.


Conservative: Keep the NHS free at the point of delivery, but use private companies to outsource as much as possible.

Labour: Keep the NHS free at the point of delivery, but use private companies to outsource as much as possible.

Lib-dems: Keep the NHS free at the point of delivery, but use private companies to outsource as much as possible.

I saw a really bizarre interview with Andy Burnham recently. He poured scorn on the government for privatising the NHS (by which he meant outsourcing elements to private companies). It was pointed out that when he was Secretary of State for Health, he had done even more ‘privatising’ than the coalition. He explained that his ‘privatising’ was good, but theirs was bad. So that is all clear then. Again, the serious issue is entirely different. The NHS cannot forever do everything for everybody for no fee unless we increase taxes to an untenable level. The NHS needs to be better tailored to reality. Will any party tell us that this is the case and have a policy to make it happen? Or will we just blunder on till it collapses in a terrible mess?


Conservative: Continued academies, support for Free Schools, continued interference with the exam system and undermining of teachers’ role.

Labour: As above, though they may go against Free schools.

Lib-dems: As above but with free school dinners.


Once again, Labour wins here for me. The appalling Gove has gone, but not his legacy and Tristram Hunt seems a good bloke. But his trump card is that Labour has promised not to de-aggregate AS levels, the current Tory policy. This policy is due to cause chaos in every sixth form in the land and is hated by universities just as much. Probably worth holding your nose and voting Labour for this alone.


Conservatives: Lock up more people for longer and in worse conditions. Privatise if possible and outsource what we can to private companies.

Labour Lock up even more people than the Tories and keep them in for even longer. We will let them have library books however. Privatise if possible and outsource what we can to private companies.

Bring back Ken Clark! He is the only Home secretary of the past 20 years who actually started to reform the prisons in a logical and sensible way. I see no hope from any of the parties on this one.




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