British politics is decidedly unsexy.
Unlike our transatlantic cousins, there’s a distinct lack of truth and charisma, and the task of being able to ‘vote’ is treated like a chore rather than being regarded as a privilege.
I’ve refrained from writing anything election-based since the polling day was announced, but it suddenly dawned on me how important this vote is going to be to so many.
Looking back at the spectacle that was the historic race to the White House in 2008, it couldn’t have been more engaging.
The possibility that the land of the free could be led by an elderly white man whose claim to fame was that he was a prisoner of war, or an inexperienced light-skinned black man or a woman who happened to be the wife of a former President, had millions of people around the globe, hooked.
From those who chanted Obama’s slogan of ‘Yes We Can’, there were many others that followed political blogs, watched the riveting election debates, commented on their policies on millions of forums and message boards and talked about it in playgrounds, pubs and post offices from as far as Kansas to Kenya.
But in the UK, it’s been slightly submissive; the attitude has been less ‘Yes We Can’ but ‘Do We Have To?’
Since Gordon Brown dissolved Parliament and called the election on April 6, we’ve witnessed a campaign that’s seen ‘bigot-gate’, seen the televised leaders’ debates, where Brown, Nick Clegg and David ‘call me Dave’ Cameron gave us their best after-dinner rhetoric whilst subliminally channelling ‘fucking vote for me’ down the camera…
We’ve been subjected to the party leaders attending saccharine photo calls; note the obligatory ‘holding the baby’ shot, watching street dancers in gritty, inner city youth centres and visiting supermarkets and state primary schools, all in a bid to seem closer to the electorate and less public school-boy, never-been-to-Peckham-before politicians.
We’ve all heard how Cameron wants to reduce youth unemployment, reform tax benefits and give families more control of their lives, but at the same time he’s proposing £6bn worth of ‘efficiency savings’ but won’t give the electorate an idiot-proof breakdown of where the money’s going to come from.
Clegg is pushing for REAL change, because after 65 years of Labour and Conservative governments, his party thinks it’s high time they had a go at running the country. Amongst other things, he wants to invest £2.5bn in schools to help struggling pupils and give workers the chance to earn the first £10,000 of our wages tax free.
Yeah, it’s true we’ve had 13 years of this Labour government; I’m old enough to recall Labour’s 1997 campaign, and vividly remember a grinning Tony Blair shaking hands with practically the whole of Britain; a campaign song featuring the refrain of ‘Things can only get better’ and his now infamous mantra of ‘Education, Education, Education’.
Cameron, Clegg and Brown: On Friday, May 7, one of these men will be running the country. But who will it be?
But what are the real problems? How did this government, which was elected with a landslide victory 13 years ago, get it so wrong? According to figures, statistics and reports -
▲ Britain has had the longest recession in the G20 with six consecutive quarters of negative growth – more than any other major economy (Principal Global Indicators).
▲ The current government has doubled the tax rate for some of the poorest. In the 2007 Budget, Labour scrapped the 10p tax rate, doubling the rate for some of the poorest to 20p. The Treasury estimated that 5.3 million households lost from the April 2008 changes announced in the 2007 Budget (Hansard, 18 October 2007, Col. 1266 WA).
▲ Over 100 serious knife crimes a day. In 2008-09, there were 38,082 serious offences involving a knife – including homicide, attempted murder and robbery – equivalent to more than 100 a day (Home Office, Crime in England and Wales 2008-9, 21 January 2010, Revised Table 3.10).
▲ Child poverty rising. Child poverty has risen for the third year in a row (DWP, Households Below Average Income First Release, 7 May 2009, p.1). There are now four million children living in poverty.
▲ Hospital-acquired infections now kill more than three times as many people as are killed on the roads every year (Department for Transport, Road Casualties in Great Britain 2008, 24 September 2009).
(To view the complete list, click here)
There have been some successes, but it’s always going to be the negative points that resonate with the electorate come polling day; the expenses debacle, the banking crisis, spiralling unemployment, out-of-control immigration, an illegal war, rising taxes taxes and poor-value-for-money public services…
Today is the penultimate day and in about 36 hours, the UK could change, for better or for worse. Never has there been such an intense campaign to get first-time votes down to the polling station.
It’s a well known fact that the majority of this generation don’t read newspapers or take an active interest in politics, and when put into perspective, millions of the great British public would rather vote for Susan Boyle or an X Factor offspring than put their faith in a politician.
But having said that, there have been various crusades on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, with groups and pages like “If Rage can get Christmas No.1! Then Nick Clegg can be Prime Minister!”, “I’m Voting Labour on May 6”, and “We Love David Cameron” garnering thousands of members and ‘likes’.
Never has an election been more important or a vote been so instrumental and pivotal- so ignore the opinion pools, disregard all the spin and put the talk of ‘change’ to one side, because when you get into that polling booth, it’s just you, the pen and that ballot paper. And before you mark the X in the box, ask yourself this:
“Which party best fits your politics?”