Who Can I Vote For? – The Agony of Democracy in 21st Century Britain.

 

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 imagesmob, 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 images-4hobbit 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…)

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30 thoughts on “Who Can I Vote For? – The Agony of Democracy in 21st Century Britain.

  1. Surely the pro-abortion policies of all the ‘major’ parties (apart, oddly, given the number of their MPs who voted for euthanasia, the Tories) should take centre stage in ANY Christian discussion of elections? Which should then segue naturally into a realisation that if there is a Christian Party or Christian Peoples Alliance candidate to vote for, sincere Christians should do so regardless of how ‘pointless’ it may seem from a secular viewpoint. For we vote not to ‘do the right thing’ (or the rightest thing), but to give glory to God.

    1. Depends Dominic on how pragmatically we use our vote. Should we vote on sheer principle for a party irrespective of how ‘pointless’ that vote is or should we vote for lesser evils in areas we can have a real influence and our vote may count? I’m not sure the answer is clear cut.

      1. We are taught, in the Bible, God’s Word, to do “everything to the glory of God”. Everything.

        “Dear God, I’m acting pragmatically, and mot in a way that is to your glory, but you don’t really mind do you?”
        “Dear x, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear me.”

      2. Dominic… every vote is to some extent pragmatic, or, if you like, a compromise. No party, at least no major party, is likely to satisfy al our demands. There will be good and bad in any manifesto. It seems to me the only option that does not involve lesser evil options is to abstain from voting completely. And it could be argued this is simply sidestepping responsibility. Voting pragmatically, is not voting without principle. I should not have juxtaposed principle and pragmatism. I use my vote to promote what I think is the greatest good or the least evil. All human interaction and cooperation involves this kind of decision making. I may wish for ideals, and work to that end but I must live with less than my ideal if I am to be part of society, any society. This is true in the church as well as the world.

        in the church of course, I will expect and insist on higher standards than I expect of the world. As a general rule, my principle would be to use a vote in a way that may effect some good rather than in a way that will achieve none. This is I think wise.

        Having said this, I recognise how serious an issue abortion is and I also recognise that so far has our culture turned away from its Christian roots that I am not at all starry-eyed about any political action. The only real hope for our culture is the gospel, preached and practised by God’s people in the power of the Spirit… accompanied by God determining to act once more in revivalistic blessing.

      3. I intend to follow God full-on in this matter, rather than compromise for the sake of what I might happen to think is the best worldly outcome.

      4. Dominic

        Imagine two hospitals one does abortions and one does not. The hospital that does abortions has a first class renal unit the other has a renal unit that has a bit of a dodgy reputation. You have renal disease. Which hospital do you choose and why?

      5. Your comment has nothing to do with the election. However, only one of the putative hospitals demonstrates that it really cares about life.

      6. It demonstrates that we live in a morally mixed world where it is difficult to know when one evil one should preclude our participation in another good. Margaret Court rightly condemns same-sex marriage but should she refuse to fly with an airline that supports it? Is the person who flies with the airline acting merely pragmatically and being unprincipled? Examples of this question can be multiplied. Is a maths teacher being unprincipled and not seeking the glory of God who chooses to teach in a school where gender fluidity is taught by others as part of the PSD curriculum? Is an obstetrician who refuses to practise abortion failing to follow God full-on by working in a unit where his colleagues do carry out abortions? Are all such choices worldly pragmatism? Is it unconscionable where all realistically electable parties support various evils to vote for one that you believe has other policies that offer the greatest civil good?

        My point is not that it is wrong to abstain from voting, or to vote for a party with less compromised policies that has no hope of election, but that we should think twice about labelling other voting decisions as not pleasing to God. Is not this an issue of Christian liberty?

      7. Voting for someone who has power over the issue of abortion and intends to use that power for the continuation of that evil, or even the extension of it, is nothing at all like flying with an airline (that has no power) that claims to support same-sex marriage.

      8. Of course the airline has power. Not the same power as a political party, but power nevertheless. However, probably time to draw this discussion to an end. I clearly am not able to convince you of the legitimacy of voting for lesser evils. I just don’t see how we can participate in the world unless we have some such principle. If we can support/have involvement in only that which is morally blameless then we must remove ourselves from society. Having said this, I acknowledge there are degrees of moral culpability and we must decide where we draw lines. I suspect if any of the main parties had a no abortion policy that would cause me to reconsider. However, that is not going to happen at the moment. To adopt such a policy would mean no longer being electable. Parties, after all have limited power; they must reflect the will of the people.

      9. Not voting , for reasons of conscience, is not withdrawing from society. Knowing that every ‘spoilt ballot’ is read by the candidates and their agents I intend to leave them a clear message. As I may also do at the hustings tomorrow evening. Neither is in any possible way withdrawing, they are actions which are more involved than most voters.

  2. Suppose you lived somewhere like France where they have a play-off for President and there are only two candidates left in the race at the final stage. One candidate says he will murder every Jew and start a world war. The other says he will murder every Jew but not start a world war. An extreme situation, admittedly but is the Christian thing to do in that situation to vote for the lesser evil or to abstain? By voting you could vote to prevent a world war.(lesser evil) but whoever you vote for you are voting for the murder of every Jew. You could argue that you should vote to prevent the lesser evil but you could argue that a Christian should never vote for something that is evil. To support a principle you have to test it in any situation. Fortunately we are not presented with the situation above but is a Christian ever justified in voting for a candidate who supports abortion? (That is a question, not an answer.)

  3. I have no liking for a State-regulated Press, but even less for a Press-regulated State, especially when all the Press barons are foreign non- taxpayers who bear no consequences for their actions.
    And the “dementia tax” is abhorrent, as punishing only those whom God has already permitted to be terribly afflicted, and only (so far) with one specific disease. Either you do the same for *all* long-term care (and that’s where I think these modern not-very-conservatives are going, together with “right to die” for those left to suffer who have no resources) or you continue with the insurance/pooling of risk principle and make your raid on the “rich” by way of inheritance tax for all – the lucky should be grateful enough for being spared not to begrudge it.
    Anyway my vote is a mere proforma, in a place that would vote for Ian Brady if he wore a blue tie and otherwise would roar for UKIP…

    1. I think you do not understand what has been termed the ‘dementia tax’ by the mainstream media. It is going to be levied on everyone who requires care, not simply those who have dementia. If people need care there will be a greater expectation that they pay for it, whoever they are, and the current cap is £100,000 of all wealth – only payable from the sale of a property after someone’s death, or the death of their partner living in the property. Interestingly this will mean that the more well-off will be supporting the less well-off – rather socialist for the Tory party. Also, utterly and completely not what is being put about, nor what you have put in your comment.

      1. Then it is still a penalty charged only on those already suffering one of the worst of life’s misfortunes, in an era where needing help from others is already viewed as moral turpitude. And a real incentive, when such is legalised, for suicide.

      2. I’m sorry, but what you say is simply erroneous. The payment for the care of the individual will not be made until AFTER they have died. An incentive, in fact, for people to live longer in order to spend more of their assets on themselves.

        Further, it is impossible for the state to continue to pay long term care costs for the ever increasing number of elderly, whose families are choosing, in ever greater numbers, to delegate such care to anyone but themselves.

        There is no bottomless pit of money to pay for this. I am staggered at the way in which so much of our population has decided that the state is responsible for paying for their care, in all circumstances, regardless of their own ability to do so. People have simply handed over responsibility for paying out to the state, whilst demanding the right to keep all they have acquired. As a result the state is faced with an impossible situation which it simply cannot, no matter which party runs it, actually pay for.

        If all my parents money is useful on their care, so be it. That’s what it’s for.

  4. Thanks for sharing, David. My postal ballot is already entrusted to the Royal Mail so too late to assist me, but I look forward to your thoughts on the personalities involved. (I never thought I would agree with Polly Toynbee).

  5. Dominic: (Apologies in advance for long post!)
    You sound like a typical member of my generation, with a home of their own and for whom an inheritance is “nice to have”, rather than the means for both parents and children to survive. Think how many adults are still living at home – this legislation is based on a rapidly outdating 80s home-ownership model.
    But here are some scenarios to consider:

    Scenario 1. It is already easy for those with financial skills or good advice to exempt themselves from this by use of the trust laws: the “rich”, who are supposed to be the targets, can simply use one law to frustrate another, and gain the State subsidy others less well-off are denied. There is little conservative or moral about that.

    Scenario 2. Parents are incentivised to spend everything they have early, borrow up to the hilt and help their children as far as they can in advance of the “axe” – the conservative virtue of saving and self-provision is actively discouraged and the “burden” again reverts to the State. Yes there is provision for recovery of deliberately moved funds, but it is not long if the parent moves early enough.

    Scenario 3. Failing that, the family are perversely incentivised to simply dump Mother on the State (which you already complained about!) and make no contribution themselves, since they can argue quite correctly that their inheritance has already been earmarked for seizure in order to pay for it. Another blow at conservative “family” values.

    Scenario 4. A devoted child (usually, but not always, a daughter) gives up her job and moves in to “look after Mum”. Eventually she WILL have to call upon the State for help – believe me, caring is not a one-person job – and it’s quite possible (especially when the child herself is in her fifties or later) both parties will require outside help. When Mother dies, the now elderly child (who may have no siblings never mind willing ones) has no prospect of providing herself with a home and little chance of a job that might enable it. The scheme will reward filial devotion (that classic conservative value – remember?) with homelessness – and who will pay for her housing and healthcare then? This, as much as the alternative, is “pushing the problem on to the next generation”. (A proper “carer’s wage” might mitigate this but I’m not holding my breath.)

    Scenario 5. The quiet, unreported return of “do not resuscitate”, if not active neglect, for the over-60s. I’ve already noticed a difference in attitude and much more “leave it and see” NHS treatment for those not needed to be quickly “got back into service”.

    Scenario 6. Pensions get cut below survival level; NHS care is shut down for all who cannot pay; the old and sick are relentlessly held out as “burdens” and “scroungers” and left to suffer long-term avoidable pain and ill health, which will wear down anyone’s resistance. There is already a loud and growing campaign from those unwilling to suffer the indignities of sickness and dementia and demanding “a dignified death” – with added support from a generation that has learned to abort its children “on demand”, the calls will come louder and louder until (following the same path) it is first provided by the State, and then made “on demand” – perhaps with cremation thrown in as a sales incentive?

    Only the last reliably enables the government to escape the “insoluble financial problem” – and I firmly believe it is the long-term objective for the Right, whose utilitarian philosophy has long since left my childhood’s old-fashioned conservatism behind.

    As for “State parenting” – that may well be the outcome of our two preceding generations having lost far too many fathers in war: a debt of care to the widows and orphans was owed. Family Allowance was then withheld from only children precisely in order to incentivise our parents to “breed” replacement workers; for the State to now move towards hurrying up our demise to remove the “burden” and replace us with the young and healthy, is no more than I suppose I should expect.

    I have already voted in any case, so the discussion is purely of academic interest at this stage. I wish you every health and contentment.

    1. You’re about as wrong as it is possible to be. I have no home of my own, next to no savings, and a very low income – I am a church minister. I find this idea that people expect the state to care for them when they want it, but are not prepared to use their savings, whatever form they are in and even though they have plenty of them, to help themselves to be a complete abrogation of personal responsibility. Using the money my parents have, in property or other forms, for their care is something so blatantly obvious that I cannot believe people argue against it.

      ‘Do not resuscitate’ is perfectly reasonable if it is something that the individual concerned has made the choice over. Whilst I was recently in hospital I ended up, even as a patient, speaking and praying with a family whose father made precisely this decision. It was a good decision. Several others on that ward had also made that decision for themselves.

      1. Dominic: As a church minister, you and any widow you leave can expect (if your church is like mine) not to be left homeless in your old age, even if you do not own a property of your own. It’s easier to be generous from that position than one of impending residence on the street.
        And I have also made That Decision, in consultation and in the light of prior discussion with the parent concerned. But the notorious “Liverpool Pathway” was withdrawn for a reason, and the attitudes behind it have not changed – indeed, I see them hardening as young people are encouraged to believe the Oldies “have gold plated pensions” and “voted for Brexit”, and are “spending all the money” and “living too long”.

    2. Karen

      You may well be right in much of this. Economically, my concern, is how we pay for all that others promise. The country is in deep debt. Is it not right to pay off our debts before spending more on ourselves? Is it wise or right to go deeper and deeper into debt and refuse to pull in our belt and learn some frugality? We could of course raise Texas but when push comes to shove, despite all altruistic noises, people don’t vote for raised taxes.

      Let me reveal my ignorance, and ask a wider question: are the present benefits really not enough to live on? What standard of living should the welfare state provide?

      1. It might help to more efficiently collect the taxes already imposed by law: that we do not do so (and I saw it from inside) brings the law and the very idea of Government into disrepute. And when respect for the law, and confidence in its equal application to all citizens, falls beneath a certain point the social glue comes unstuck and God’s justice itself is questioned.

        Ideally there should be no need for “working tax credits” – they are a subsidy to businesses who want work done for below what would be the going rate, while not infrequently rewarding the management well in excess of their risk or input. If the Tory doctrines of my youth that closed the mines and steelworks (with my then ardent support) had been applied, new and vital businesses should have arisen in the place of the inefficient ones that fair trading “forced” to close.

        The “standard of living” question is essentially distorted not because benefits are too great (if they are), but because wages have been held artificially low and are being squeezed further work doesn’t pay because it isn’t being paid for. Migration is convenient to blame but “workfare” has also replaced paid labour with State-provided work cadres – a Communist solution from a Tory government, and not the only one.

        I have to go out shortly and may not have a proper keyboard for a few days, so I’ve got to leave it here. Thanks for your courteous response.

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