I’m sitting here with my postal vote – still undecided about who to vote for. In fact much to my surprise I find myself agreeing with ‘Brenda’ whose horror at yet another election campaign resonated with so many.
Like many I laughed and thought ‘we understand, but don’t be silly but that’s the price of democracy’. But this campaign leaves me as a Christian and a human being just feeling profoundly depressed – its been so dumbed down, nasty and shallow. Later on I’m going to write a more ‘balanced’ article on the issues, parties and personalities involved, but this is just a personal way of trying to work through the issues – before I tick that box.
Summary of the Campaign so far:
This is what I dub the Twitter election – with Twitter the dumbed down repetitious sloganizing is multiplied…so here are the parties messages to the electorate so far.
Conservatives – “ Strong and stable…blah, blah….strong and stable….blah, blah…strong and stable”
Labour – “…For the many, not the few….blah, blah….for the many, not the few…..blah, blah…for the many, not the few”
SNP – “Tory (this word must be spat out with vehemence)…blah, blah….Tory, Tory….blah, blah…Tory, Tory, Tory…followed by people of Scotland, people of Scotland, people of Scotland”
Liberal – “Stop Brexit….blah, blah….stop Brexit….blah, blah…..stop Brexit…”
Greens – “Stop Brexit, Tory Tory…but we’re not standing in most constituencies anyway”
UKIP – ‘Ban the Burka…and we’re too busy fighting each other to have time for you…”
Abusive and Immature
As well as the dumbed down nature of the parties, I am disgusted at the abusive nature of the campaigns (there are of course exceptions), which sadly is facilitated by social media. The personal attacks on Sturgeon, May, Corbyn and Farron are not helpful. You except that from ‘the mob’ but when senior politicians and journalists encourage, join in and stir up that mob, it’s quite frightening. Let me give a couple of examples of how to do it…find the ugliest and weirdest photo of the Prime Minister that you can, pick out a dumbed down shock slogan ‘May- Lunch Snatcher’ and then launch it as a meme. Or you find a picture of Nicola Sturgeon looking like a hobbit and start naming her as ‘Wee Krankie’ before calling her desire for Scottish Independence an ‘obsession’ – which seems rather strange to me given that that is the purpose of the party she leads! I’m sure you can think of many other examples.
I search almost in vain for unbiased or even slightly biased coverage – if it wasn’t for Private Eye and the Spectator, the Dundee Courier and occasionally the Scotsman, I would be really stuck for any balanced reporting. A classic example was the ‘debate’ last night on Channel 4 – when Corbyn was being interviewed my twitter feed was filled with the great and the good going on about how past it and dreadful Paxman was; when May was being interviewed suddenly Paxman had morphed into a great interviewer and May was terrible. It’s basically ‘1984’ where people have made up their minds what and who to hate – and everything in their narrative fits that hate.
Who Can I Vote For?
So here I sit with my ballot paper in front of me. Who can I vote for? For me the main concerns are Brexit, the economy, justice, defence, poverty, the NHS, the right to life and liberty, education, religious freedom and the family. As I only have the choice of four I will have a look at the policies and the personalities of those four. Firstly the policies.
The Conservatives – I like their policies on Brexit and they are probably the best on religious freedom, education, the economy and the family. I am not convinced at all that they know what to do with the NHS and the deeper issues of poverty. But I am impressed at some of the ‘hard choices’ made in the manifesto. There is a realism that is often lacking in those who present a manifesto as a wishlist – because they know they are never going to have to put it into practice. But there are major reasons why I would struggle to vote Conservative. I hate their policies on immigration for example and of course I have a prejudice against voting Conservative (I was brought up in an era when voting Tory was considered unpatriotic for a Scot and traitorous), but that is not a reason not to vote for them. Reason and facts should overcome prejudice. I know a lot of people who would normally like me, never think of voting Tory, but are contemplating it this time. Here for example is the Marxist Brendan O’Neill –
“I have never voted Tory in my life, but this time I’m tempted. For two reasons. First, the Tories are the only party promising a full Brexit — “we will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union”, their manifesto says. This is the right, democratic thing to do. And secondly, the Tory manifesto makes a commitment to scrap Leveson II and Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which would have outrageously compelled the press to sign up to state-approved regulation. Democracy and press freedom — these are two very big deals, as far as I’m concerned. Possibly the biggest deals in politics. What are the other parties offering that competes with real Brexit democracy and a guarantee of no state regulation of the press?”
Labour – The Labour manifesto reads well. Its full of things that many people would want. I like the idea of public services being nationalized and also greater resources put in to the NHS. But…and it’s a big but….it all seems completely unrealistic. As I’ve looked at the economics of it, insofar as I understand them, they seem completely fanciful. As an example of this take Jeremy Corbyn’s interview this morning on Women’s Hour where he announced a new policy of free child care and was not able to say what it would cost.
Later on we were told it would cost almost £4.8 billion – adding to the billions the other announced polices are going to cost.
This is a manifesto of a party that doesn’t expect to get elected but what if they do? In a world where Donald Trump gets elected as President it’s not impossible that Jeremy Corbyn could be elected Prime Minister of the UK. My fear is that they would destroy the economy and do great harm to the security of the nation. The notion of Dianne Abbott as Home Secretary is a big enough reason not to vote Labour. Another massive problem for me is a little noted part of their manifesto – they would impose abortion on Northern Ireland. And on the big issue of the election – Brexit – Labour are useless. Given that they have already said they would accept any deal then they would be completely handicapped going into any Brexit negotiation – because they have already said they would accept any deal.
Labour as a protest vote would be fine. Labour as the party of government is another prospect altogether.
The Lib- Dems – This is a party I used to belong to. They have some good policies and some wacko ones – raise £1 billion by legalizing and taxing cannabis being one example. But they are in trouble because they have based their whole policy on opposing Brexit. In reality they have become the party of University academics and students. I won’t vote for any party that seeks to keep us in the EU. Which brings us on to the governing party in Scotland.
The SNP – This is the party I usually vote for. I voted Yes in Indy Ref, SNP in 2015 and 2016. But this time I can’t, despite the fact that I agree with a lot of their policies and have admiration for some of their politicians. Why? Firstly there is Brexit. For the SNP to campaign for independence from the UK in order for us to then become dependent on the EU is illogical and absurd. I will not vote for any party that seeks to take Scotland into the undemocratic, bureaucratic and corrupt EU. When Yes means No – A Tale of Three Referendums – Part 1 – The Fantasy
But I also have other concerns – not least the increasing authoritarianism and stridency of the Party. The SNP does not allow any of its politicians to disagree with any party policy. As a result it means that SNP MP’s in Westminster have just become Stepford politicians – voting en masse for whatever party HQ decides and then retweeting whatever is put out. What is even more disturbing is the way that this conformist mentality has filtered down to the rank and file. Even today, because I dared question Nicola Sturgeon over one aspect I received a storm of abuse accusing me of being a ‘Yoon’ liar and even received anti-religious abuse. It’s aggressive, irrational and hate-filled as in this tweet, liked and retweeted by several.
Floater my ar$€. a London Tory apologist.
Now in every party, because of social media you will get this (and it is, as I already noted a depressing feature of the campaign), but what is disturbing is how some of the SNP hierarchy encourage it. For example last night I was astonished to see the following tweet:
“It has become painfully clear in last half hour why the PM is dodging leaders’ debates in this election. #GE2017 “ .
It’s the kind of immature, petty personal comment that one expects online, but not from the First Minister of Scotland. In fact I thought it might have been a spoof…but it turns out that it was not. The trouble is that this kind of comments fires up the troops and gives them tacit permission to go out and continue the personal abuse. If you look at Sturgeon’s recent tweets about policy you will see that they are retweeted and liked in double figures, but this particular one was retweeted and liked thousands of times. Why? Is the policy not important? Indeed it is, but the troops like personal abuse and attack – and then they indulge in it…as I found out to my own cost. This is further demonstrated at the launch of the SNP manifesto in Perth where some activists chanted ‘If you hate the Tory traitors, clap your hands’. Sick.
The Dementia Tax
Let me say one other thing about policy and how the discussion gets so dumbed down. Take the example of the so-called ‘dementia tax’. At sound bite level it sounds horrible – the hated Tories taking poor pensioners homes from them. Little wonder that, when that became the narrative, there was a hasty back-peddling. Which is a shame. Because actually, as Polly Toynbee (the Guardian journalist who can hardly be called a right-wing Tory) pointed out – this is a policy which is ‘progressive’.
Here’s why her original policy was on the right track: 80% of the retired own their own homes, compared with only 35% of the under-35s. In the course of their lifetime, almost wherever they live, the old have seen the value of their property multiply in a bonanza bubble that has squeezed out the young.
Perversely, and almost uniquely, the UK doesn’t tax the property people live in, so this unearned windfall escapes capital gains tax. Thanks to former chancellor George Osborne’s super-generosity to the well-off, most of that wealth will never be taxed after death either, except for the richest, with assets over £1m.
Why did Jeremy Corbyn welcome her U-turn? His campaign has been marked by unexpectedly cynical opportunism. However rich, Labour lets the old keep everything, with triple-locked pensions and property untouched by care costs. Abolishing tuition fees for all immediately gifts large sums to mainly middle-class families at huge cost. That money could instead have stopped benefit cuts due to send child poverty soaring. (Polly Toynbee in the Guardian)
The bottom line is that social care is expensive and is going to cost billions. The proposal is that those who have to receive social care should have it paid for, until such time as they die, and then after £100,000 has been left for their estate, the sale of their house (if they own one) will pay retrospectively for their care. This was a radical proposal which would affect the relatively wealthy (I would love to be able to leave my children £100,000) but could be argued to be unfair because it is a bit of a lottery. But it was most certainly not an attack on poor pensioners, especially when you realize that the current threshold for such care is not £100,000 but rather £23,000 (although this does not include property). But now we have the ridiculous farce of socialists like Corbyn boasting that they would protect the rights of millionaires to have their social care paid for them by the taxpayer, so that they can pass on their wealth to their children!
And Nicola Sturgeon just boasted that every one in Scotland who needs social care gets paid £13,000 per year (incidentally not nearly enough). What this means is that if you are living in a million pound house in Edinburgh you will get the money paid for you and your inheritance will be kept safe. That may be fair enough but it looks to me like this is the State doing its best to ensure that the wealthy are protected. The subject may be more complex than that, indeed it is more complicated than that – but the cheap dumbed down party politicking over this key issue is a depressing example of what this campaign has been like….and it is so depressing to liberals, socialists and nationalists run to the defence of wealthy pensioners just so that they can hit the Tories.
Who can I vote for? I’ve written enough today…the smart ones amongst you will have realised that sevearl parties have ruled themselves out by not standing in my constituncy, and two have almost certainly ruled themselves out by their Brexit stance tomorrow I’ll turn from the policies to the personalities and see if I can get some help that way….before I make up my mind (and yes – I am still struggling to decide…)