As an ‘older voter’ myself I feel qualified to write this open letter to my contemporaries many of whom, it seems, tend to become more right wing and vote Tory in elections. Why this should be is somewhat puzzling and the purpose of this missive.
Older people it is generally recognised tend to be more set in their ways but political leanings fly in the face of this generalisation. Could it be that as life expectancy diminishes resistance to change increases along with a desire for security as represented by continuity, money and assets? If so and I can think of no other reason, this is illusory.
People of my generation, those born in the 40’s 50’s and early 60’s were indeed very fortunate in that during their early and middle years they had security of housing, they bought houses or were more or less assured of a Council house for life. They had good ongoing health care from the newly formed NHS, good and free education up to and beyond a university degree and perhaps most importantly, employment was all but guaranteed as soon as ceasing formal education. For those who trod the craft or trade route apprenticeships were long, meaningful, detailed and effective training with a long experienced time served craftsman leading to a worthwhile and life long well paid career.
In the early 1980s under Tory Prime Minister Thatcher, the big con trick of the Right to Buy Scheme was started, not because she thought it would be ‘nice’ but because of the ideology that people with a mortgage are de facto in debt, heavily in debt and that means over a 25 plus year period they will be handing over a huge amount of their earnings to Tory friends, the bankers. In addition people whose home may be at risk if they fail to make the repayments become servile and compliant and unless pushed to the limit will not go on strike for better pay or conditions; in fact will even accept a cut in income without much dissent. As more and more of the social housing was sold off, much of it incidentally ending up in the hands of Tory landlords, an obvious shortage of homes was created leading to ever increasing house prices that is unabated to this day.
Much has been written about housing, including some of my blogs here, so I wont go deeper into it except that the dash for home ownership resulted in and was encouraged by not only the Tories but also the Blair government, a slight feeling of superiority by owners over renters. It was interesting at the time to see some of my friends who had voted Labour all their life until getting a mortgage, almost overnight becoming Tories. Little did they know that they would be working harder, longer, for less and that it would eventually require two of them to work to pay the one debt. Mortgages today can now stretch beyond a lifetime into the next generation; the transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the rich elite gathers pace.
No one likes to be proved wrong or admit to being duped and so it is natural for most to close their minds to even that possibility, to cling to that superior feeling that brings comfort which by default means a resistance to change. This is how older voters come to be more right wing and how they come to vote for a Tory government and their ‘austerity’ that only applies to the working and middle classes but not them.
Wait a minute though my older voting friends! Most of you will have children and grandchildren perhaps even great grandchildren, what of them? Perhaps you are thinking you can leave them your house albeit split between however many offspring you have, less tax and fees etc. so they’ll still need a mortgage and a big one with prices increasing way above inflation. The same people that made you pay roughly twice the sale price for your home will happily do the same for your descendants. These same people also want the destruction of our NHS for their profit, do you want your descendants to have to pay for private health care or go without and do you want them to be denied the education they would like on the grounds of cost? Of course you don’t but to ensure their safety you have to admit to yourself, no one else, that you were duped and make the changes necessary in the polling booth.
Quick Dummies Guide to the UK Political Parties and How to Use Your Vote
Conservative. The party of and for big business and people of wealth. It’s objective is to channel as much wealth as possible from the nation as a whole to themselves which in turn means controlling the people and the systems as much as is possible. Traditionally their leaders have come from a few elite families and have bred into them the belief that they are the chosen few who know best and have closed minds to any alternatives that might detract from their prime objective which, as I said, is to increase their wealth.
Labour. Would like to be a Socialist Party and clings to the memory of what they once were. Over the last few decades they have been cleverly manipulated by the Conservatives and have now become a shadow of their former self whilst morphing into a well meaning, slightly more caring version of Conservatism. They yearn to be more socialist but fear the power of the conservative media to ridicule them and so water down their policies or even attempt to be more Tory than the Tories.
Lib/Dems. By and large made up of well meaning people with some sensible policies. Due to our voting system their chances of forming the government are virtually nil. This has lead to great and understandable frustration so when the chance came and the Tories offered them a coalition ‘partnership’ the chance of some power was too much and they supped with the Devil. The Conservatives are nothing if not clever and manipulative as the Lib/Dems found to their cost. For the time being at least, they are a spent force and will have regroup and rethink.
UKIP. Mainly a one man party, Nigel Farage. Son of a stockbroker, privately educated with wealthy Conservatives and became a City commodities trader. He makes his pitch getting out of the European Union and panders to readers of red tops in particular. A very good rabble rousing speaker of little substance. UKIP attracts idiots and buffoons as it’s candidates as well as a following from the uninformed and far right nationalists. If one looks at such other policies that they have formulated it is easy to see that they are in fact the very worst face of Conservatism and if they were ever enacted would bring this country to it’s knees.
Green Party. Used to have the reputation of being the home of lefty tree huggers and environmentalists. but over the years has grown steadily into a political party of substance with many councillors spread over the country, several MEPs and so far, one MP in Parliament, Caroline Lucas, who is arguably the most sensible member in that place of intrigue and regarded with much respect. Definitely to the left of the political spectrum but with a much more realistic understanding of how to make business work for the nation as a whole along with an understanding that policy should be made with an eye on the long term future, rather than the short termism that dogs the two main parties.
Your Vote and the General Election.
Unless you belong to the very wealthy elite or believe in paying higher taxes for less services then the Conservatives are not for you and so you must choose from the rest. To not vote at all is an abrogation of responsibility. Should your constituency be a very safe Conservative or Labour one then why not use your vote to give the Green Party a lift. Live in a marginal where it could go Tory or Labour? Well, unless you are in the small group above then Labour is the obvious choice. Or perhaps you live where it’s likely to be either Tory or Lib/Dem? Then remember the Lib/Dems supported the Tories right through this Parliament and so consider voting Green as your protest and who knows, if enough vote with you maybe some more Green MPs to back up Caroline Lucas. Whatever you do don’t vote UKIP!
Yesterday in Parliament, David Cameron suggested that even more legal restrictions may be introduced to control our Trade Unions. He favoured the idea that no strike may be called unless at least 50% of the union members cast a vote.
We already have probably the most draconian anti trade union laws in Europe, a fact which ‘New’ Labour , to their shame, did little to balance. The right to withdraw labour in persuit of a just settlement in a dispute is a right that if abolished leads along the path back to serfdom. The benefits, comforts and rights that we enjoy to day in our standard of living have been hard won by thousands of our forebears and we owe it to them and indeed to ourselves and to our children, to stand up to those who seek our domination.
Yes, in the event of strike action we the public may suffer some inconvenience but that is a price worth paying for freedom. The early trade unionists suffered far worse for future generations; abuse, violence, imprisonment and deportation. Are we now so softened by the life improvements that they gave us that we no longer have the guts to stand up to injustice?
Cameron believes that over 50% should exercise their vote in a strike ballot; well, how about applying the same rule to electing MPs. The voter turn-out can be 30% or less in some constituencies and very, very, few are elected with more than 50% of the votes cast. Now there would be a problem!
Well, that’s it! The election is over and the Lib/Dems have done some sort of deal with the Torys. The lust for power must have been overwhelming for both parties involved because the Torys and Lib/Dems are hardly natural bed fellows. Mind you Cameron went to Harrow and Clegg Westminster so I can see them getting on. Both have said they were working together for the good of the nation and if you’ll believe that you’ll believe anything.
So, time for a prediction or two? We’ll be alright for a month or two due to plans set in place by Labour which are now coming into fruition and Cameron gets a feel for power. We can then expect a rise in unemployment as the new government sets about sacking public sector workers in an over eager attempt to reduce the national debt. Most still in employment will be working harder and longer for less (in real terms) and the effectiveness of public services will decrease. Stealth taxes will add to the impoverishment of the population and there will be some civil unrest put down by a larger and even less uncontrolled police force.
The much vaunted referendum on a fairer electoral system will be denied or put in such a form of words as to be almost certainly rejected despite what the Torys may say at present; they are as slippery as eels. Another election will be called within 18 months at which the Lib/Dems will slip back into obscurity taking the blame for Conservative mismanagement.
Uncertain is whether Labour can learn from it’s mistakes as well as the good things that it did whilst in Government or tear it’s self apart.
Time will tell.
Well, that’s it, the General Election date is finally to be announced today. The date when we, the electorate, shall decide to whom we will lend our power for the next probable five years. Yes, our power, as citizens in a supposedly free and democratic society.
Before this can happen though our elected Prime Minister must go to Buckingham Palace and ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament in order for the election to take place. It is a national humiliation that the permission, even if somewhat symbolically, of an unelected, undemocratic, Head of State who is only there by virtue of being born into one particular family, should be sort.
If we elect a party with an overall majority then the Government is not effective until the Monarch has given her approval and in the event of a ‘hung Parliament’ again it is the Queen who ‘invites’ one Party to form the Government. In addition it is through the Monarch’s Privy Council that powers that we, the people, did not give to the Prime Minister of the day are wielded. It is time to embrace true democracy and end our humiliation.
The bosses, all of them on over a £1million salaries, of some of the UK’s big businesses back the Tory plan to cut the increase in National Insurance contributions, calling it a ‘Tax on jobs’.
Well it is a tax on jobs or rather, a tax on each person employed but let us put it in perspective for goodness sake. It amounts in most cases to less than a fiver per week per employee and if a company paying out over £20,000 per worker can’t afford an extra fiver then either that company is in deep doo doo and unlikely to survive anyway or they fear having to cut down on executives bonuses or a tiny reduction in shareholders dividends. Either way it’s no reason to cut this small increase in order to help pay off our national debt and help to maintain our public services.
By the way, these business leaders are probably made up of the same leaders who squealed in 1997 at the very mention of a National Minimum Wage, crying that it was a ‘tax on jobs’ and would bring about the downfall of the whole economy. It didn’t though, did it?
A report out recently shows that the gap between the richest in Britain and the poorest has widened. I can’t say that it surprised me. In the usual and expected politician double speak Gordon Brown said “The report illustrates starkly that despite a levelling-off of inequality in the last decade we still have much further to go.” No Gordon, it didn’t say a ‘levelling off’ it said ‘widened’. We have indeed got further to go, in fact we actually need to make a start.
Those that know me often say that I lay the blame for almost all of the ills in this country at the feet of Margaret Thatcher, including this severe winter. Well, she did waste the windfall of North Sea oil and closed down 300 years supply of coal but that’s another story. What Thatcher did, very cleverly, was to break the strength of the Trade Unions and at the same time make the working population believe that this was a good thing. She then set about selling off most of our publicly owned assets such as our gas (remember ‘Tell Sid?), electricity, water and railways. She knew perfectly well that shares would largely end up with the financial institutions but fooled many into believing that they were ‘part of a share holding democracy’. Above all she put the notion of individualism, get what you can for yourself and the devil take the hindmost into the national psyche. In 1997 the nation with a collective sigh of relief elected New Labour with most not realising that Tony Blair was but a toned down Thatcher with a smiling face. The result being that the inequality gap has widened still further.
The Labour Party was originally brought into being by the Trade Unions to fight for the rights of it’s members and to bring about a more equal and fair society and forced through enormous benefits, the National Health Service being just one example. The (New) Labour Party of today has morphed into just another wing of the capitalist system that lies at the root of all our ills. The budget of yesterday, despite the crying need to balance the books, made it easier to buy a house and saddle the working population with a life long mortgage around their necks and thus restricting their ability to dissent. In addition this reliance on house prices ever increasing, played a large part in the recent economic crash and yet the Chancellor encourages more of the same.
So is it ‘Time for Change’ and bring back the Tories? Definitely not, New Labour is still the lessor of the evils but an evil non-the-less and although it’s perhaps worth voting for Lib Dems where they have a chance, real change will only come about when the people accept the hardest thing of all and realise that they have been duped for several generations and rise up with one voice and demand a new way.
I’m not going to go into the obvious scandal of Lord Ashcroft but it does point to a big fault line in our weak democracy.
The cost of elections escalates with every one of them so it doesn’t take a genius to realise that eventually, if not already, that the party that can lay claim to the most money stands a far greater chance of winning. That is not democracy that is akin to buying votes. Surely it is time that a limit is set to what can be spent by any party both at an election and also and perhaps even more importantly, on any one constituency between elections.
In addition we must have a fully elected 2nd chamber and therefore do away with buying seats in the Lords, Bishops and aristocracy influencing our laws and while we’re at it lets have an elected head of state. Then and only then can we lay any sort of claim to actually being a democracy.