Posts tagged: political parties

On the current British political scene

By , 19 February 2010 6:29 pm

In case you are not resident in the UK let me tell you that this has been a long cold winter and even here in normally mild Wales we have seen snow flurries almost every day this week. In many ways the weather seems to be echoing the gloomy political scene.

A general election has to happen in the next few months and I have to say that in all my experience of British elections this is the most dispiriting one I have ever come across. Various people whose opinions I utterly respect have shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to vote.’ I quite sympathise: I will vote but I’m not sure for whom and it’s very much on the basis of the lesser of a number of evils. Let me summarise the contenders as I see them.

First of all, we have the incumbent Labour Party and perpetually glum and scowling Gordon Brown. Even Labour supporters can come up with no enthusiasm for the man who as long-time Chancellor of the Exchequer (and so responsible for the nation’s finances) must be held to blame for the appalling financial state that we find ourselves in. In fact it is difficult to avoid using of Gordon the phrase that I believe C. S. Lewis used of Lord Grey, the Foreign Secretary prior to the First World War, that ‘he has done as much harm to the country as one man possibly can do.’ As I write this, I’m trying (and failing) to think of anybody in Gordon’s dreary Cabinet for whom I have anything like respect. The new Labour dream that began so promisingly when Blair came to power has now gone very sour indeed. There is now no desire for reform, but merely the desperate urge to hold onto power. So far the Labour Party has not unveiled any political manifesto for the future but it is essentially ‘We are not the Conservatives’.

Secondly, we have the Conservatives under David Cameron. Unfortunately, no one really seems to know what he believes in and there is some question whether he even believes in himself. As a very English public schoolboy with a very substantial personal fortune he is not someone that the ordinary person identifies with and certainly not here in Wales. He is more a 19th century figure than a 21st. Cameron is widely portrayed by cartoonists as a façade over an empty nothingness and there is something in that. The Conservatives cannot even escape the accusations of financial incompetence that hang over the Labour Party; after all it was their idea under Mrs Thatcher to dismantle British industry in favour of banks and bankers. So far the Conservative party has not unveiled any political manifesto but it is essentially ‘We are not Labour’. So unappealing are Cameron’s Conservatives that they are only just slightly ahead of Labour in the polls which is a pretty remarkable feat.

Thirdly we have the Liberal Democrats under…  Ah, yes, what’s his name? Oh, Nick Clegg, a man whose hallmark seems to be blandness. On the positive side, Nick’s financial spokesman is Vince Cable, who by universal, if grudging agreement, is the only senior politician to have warned of the pending financial catastrophe and who very sensibly wants a way forward that does not involve returning to the bad old days. Yet the Lib Dems’ social agenda, apparently based on a boundless faith in human nature, is alarming. And anyway there is a widespread belief that the Liberal Democrats really don’t want power because they actually like being in that state of permanent opposition which gives them the privilege to make all sorts of promises in the sure and certain knowledge that they will never have to actually implement any.

Here in Swansea we also have the option of voting for Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalists, but given that Wales has no resources other than a boundless supply of rain, sheep and talkative politicians the idea of Welsh independence is far from enchanting.

The problem of choice is multiplied by the fact that there are real and profound issues to do with the future of Britain. You feel that one of the biggest distinctions between Britain and the USA is that Americans have always held to some sort of vision of what they are. In in our own little way we never really got round to the ‘vision thing’; we just kept muddling on in the hope that something would work out. That was never a very good policy and in the midst of a major economic crisis and unravelling multiculturalism it looks particularly bankrupt.

Those who pray, might want to pray!

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