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.
Attacking Iraq (twice) was a mistake, attacking Libya was a mistake and gave rise to IS, ISIL, Daesh, whatever you want to call the power hungry, heinous, murdering hordes that are rampaging in the Middle East and giving rise to deluded religious fanatics in Europe and elsewhere.
The US and UK are engaged in air strikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq in the US case and currently only in Iraq by the UK. The UK government is about to consider expanding strikes into Syria also. Another mistake? I think so. Attack by air can never defeat these thugs and more importantly thousands of innocent people will be killed in the process giving rise to even more hatred of the West and so becoming a recruiting sergeant for more terrorists. There is an argument that troops on the ground is the only way to defeat them but as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can defeat a nation and impose a new government under the guise of a flawed democracy but you cannot impose peace. Thousands of bombs have been dropped in the last year and yet ISIL is unmoved and the lack of western triumphalist videos and news reports rather make the case for me.
So if air strikes can’t ‘win’ and using western troops on the ground is politically unacceptable to the electorate, as is the case at present, what should the West do? This is always the question asked but never the question “Should we do anything?” We first have to accept the fact that the West is Capitalist and Capitalism cares nothing about the suffering of people and only has an interest in money. Having accepted that point we can move on and see that the death and destruction wreaked upon the Middle East was not to free a people from Saddam Hussein or the Taliban but to ensure reliable cheap oil supplies from Iraq and the hope of building an oil and gas pipeline across Afghanistan. The result as we can see has been utter chaos; we may be getting cheap oil by way of repayment of Iraqi debt (incurred by the war) but the pipeline is still too risky a project and ISIL has been born and is a bigger threat to Capitalist hopes than before.
As I said and history has shown, peace in the region cannot be forced by western arms so just suppose we pulled right out and indeed did nothing. Middle Eastern nations are awash with wealth and stocked to the skies with armaments, supplied by us of course. Leave them all to get on with it and maybe, just maybe, the two wings of Islam might cease their squabbling and co-operate against the common threat of ISIL and with the excuse of Western infidels removed it would focus their minds. We may have to cut down a little on oil imports which is no bad thing but the Arab need and greed for cash would ensure it kept flowing. In addition by removing ourselves as a perceived threat to the region and also to Islam we would vastly lower or remove the risk of terrorist attacks in our own cities. We would of course, be morally bound not to supply arms to any other nation and perhaps there is the rub. Arms sales equals deaths equals Capitalist profits.
Let’s put aside for a moment the actual and terrible events in France last week and take a look at what has happened since.
Thousands of people gather in demonstrations on the Saturday following and on on Sunday (11/01/15) over a million citizens march through Paris and World leaders fly in to France from all points of the compass in, as they say, a show of solidarity with France and in support of free speech and expression, including Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel where 17 Journalists were killed last summer 2014 by the Israeli Defence Force, plus four more languishing in Israeli jails. Journalists who reported the atrocities carried out by Israel in Palestine. This Paris march is not a spontaneous demonstration of anger, of collective grief or any other emotion, it was organised by the French government and they who created this mass hysteria. Why would they do this?
They do it for the same reason that the UK in London projected the french Tricolour onto buildings and the UK Prime Minister expresses the ‘need’ for more controls, more surveillance of the Internet and to close borders that are at present open for business and inter nation interaction. Governments generally seek more and more control over their citizens and seize upon any and every opportunity to increase their grip. The deaths of the 17 people in France is a tragedy of course but is a golden opportunity for governmental control freaks. Here in the UK we are the most watched people on Earth with CCTV cameras on nearly every corner, our emails and telephone calls are recorded, through various requirements our very existence is monitored from birth to death. Demonstrations are again controlled, filmed and participants ‘kettled’ to ensure maximum discomfort in the hope of putting people off taking part in the future. New laws are proposed to make strikes all but impossible and so forcing workers into virtual slavery.
They need the population to be afraid because the people will turn to government in hope of protection and will accept even more curtailment of their rights and their freedom. Without diminishing the horror of the terrorist killings, if looked at calmly and rationally it was no more than a couple of nasty traffic accidents and the chance of similar happening to any particular individual are miniscule almost to a vanishing point. Most people though do not react rationally but with emotion which is so easily manipulated by the powerful.
It is not the terrorists we need to fear but our own governments.
Being just a tad politically active 😉 I get to sign an awful lot of petitions and I’ve been giving them some thought of late.
In pre Internet days they were a good way of expressing complaint or desires to those who had the power to make changes. Thousands of signatures on paper meant people actually stopped, took time to think about the issue and physically make the effort to sign and consequently it said to governments or whatever, look out, listen to us or you could lose the power you have.
Now it’s so easy to just click a link, click ‘sign’, feel good about yourself for a couple of seconds and that’s it ’til the next one. Along with the huge proliferation of petitions, the meaning and effect of on-line petitions has been reduced to almost zero. The recipient never sees detail of the numbers signing just a total, maybe issues a meaningless response and presses the delete button.
Originally an aid to more open and accountable governance and a useful feedback to Ministers or CEO’s of Multi Nationals they are now barely an irritant. A possible consequence of this is a growing feeling of impotence that could then lead to more direct action which would lead to more repression leading towards riots in an escalating spiral.
The now five yearly General Elections when none of us get the government we thought we had voted for is not sufficient for the maintenance of peaceful democracy and freedom. We are at an impasse, what should or could be done? What do you think?
A couple of days ago the Commons voted for restrictions to the Freedom of Information Act so that senior members of the Royal family are exempt for FOI requests. This is a disaster for democracy.
Should this Bill make it through the process and let’s hope it fails of course, then we will not know what lobbying Prince Charles, for example, has been doing on behalf of his architectural preferences or some of his other crack pot schemes. We will not know if Government decisions are being made in the interests of the people or of the Royals.
As long as we have an unelected and hereditary head of state then Royals should be subject to more scrutiny not less.
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.
For all those who truly believe in democracy and who believe that we should have it here in the UK then today is your day, Republic Day. Perhaps you could do just ONE thing to help bring about this much needed change, even if it’s simply clicking the logo.
A couple of Peers, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor have been found guilty of being willing to amend laws in exchange for cash have been recommended for suspension from the House of Lords for up to six months.
Wow! As much as that for taking bribes, bringing the House of Lords into even more disrepute and shame on the Labour Party. What on earth will they do with themselves for six months away from the House? Just have to be content with their business interests and make money I suppose.
At least with the current scandals in the House of Commons when it comes to elections we can, if we choose, vote out those whom we distrust. The Lords are unelected, undemocratic and beyond the reach of the electorate. Tony Blair promised reform of this anachronistic, medieval chamber but did nothing. It is time that we demanded our democratic right to elect all who make decisions on our behalf.