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General Election 2024 - A Personal Opinion

It's that time again: my thoughts on UK politics, in the context of an upcoming election. Ignore as you see fit.
(First posted 31st May 2024 - updated since)

I'm quite sure you don't need me to tell you that this Conservative Government has failed. (And not just because I already told you it would back in 2017 and 2019).

Boris Johnson swept to an 80 seat majority in 2019 on the strength of one headline policy - getting Brexit done. You'd think we'd be hearing all about this monumental success this time around, but nothing. Crickets. Sure we left the EU, but at what cost? Eye-watering inflation. Alienation of our nearest neighbours. Loss of freedom of movement. No impact on immigration*. Complete loss of control over import & exports with spiralling costs. An increase in poverty, a decrease in the standard of living & environmental protections. It has been, exactly as predicted, a shit-show. Literally in the case of our waterways.

No doubt the country faced the once-in-a-generation challenge of Covid, a novel unpredictable disease spreading wildly across the world. Generally speaking in retrospect, the government made many of the right moves, promoting lockdowns and pursuing a vaccination strategy. Tragically they failed the care-homes. And true-to-form we now know that many in power took the opportunity to profiteer, or just party.

Rishi Sunak is clinging to the furlough scheme as his personal positive contribution, but it is hard to imagine that a Labour (or any other) Government would not have responded similarly. He blames outside influences, such as Covid & the war in Ukraine for inflation, but wants the credit for the recent fall to more manageable levels. Meanwhile prices for goods and services remain much higher than before, without any proportional economic growth or wage rises. Elsewhere in Europe fuel companies were asked to absorb the impact of the war, but not in the UK. We gave them tax breaks.

Brexit always was about creating another scapegoat, to cover the Tory managed decline & asset stripping of the country. Now they have turned their attention towards the young, the vulnerable, outsiders of any kind, in an effort to salvage the base vote from Reform, and avoid complete annihilation on July 4th. We face a month of scattergun policies with this express purpose, no doubt we will get the last minute promise of tax cuts too. If you are going to believe any Tory promise, after they have had 14 years to deliver, I have a bridge to sell you. Of course we should protect our pensioners, but we also must invest in our youth and in particular their education. Some form of National Service could indeed be worthwhile. I have long seen the merit of some sort of scheme for graduates in return for free university education and to give valuable work experience in organisations like the NHS and local councils. I am not against private school entirely (not least because I benefitted from the experience myself), but it would be far better to provide everyone with a premium education and more importantly the other opportunities such well financed institutions can offer. Charging VAT on public school fees seems perfectly reasonable.

So where do we go from here? We need to focus on redistributing power, wealth, opportunity and education across society as a whole. Voting for a party hell-bent on making the rich richer and the poor poorer is not the answer. Whilst another 5 years of Tory misrule would be very much the worst thing that could happen, perhaps the second worst thing would be a violent swing to Labour. Whilst I trust the Labour party to re-invest in social welfare and education, I don't believe this is the long term solution to the UK's decline either. Our two party political system and first-past-the-post electoral system should carry a lot of the blame for the perpetuation of a devastating class & social divide which ultimately devalues the country for everyone. This needs to change.

My four pillars for improvement in the UK (and consequently the world) are:

1. Electoral reform - we will never break the power divide without adopting some form of proportional representation. We need all opinions to be represented in Parliament, and for our politicians to be forced to work together and compromise to deliver success for everyone not just the socio-economic group they appeal to. The system was put in place by the gentry and rigged in their favour in order to retain power for generations to come. Education à deux vitesse is itself a vehicle engineered to maintain the class divide. The stronghold has only been broken in times of serious national threat or by union driven revolution - such occasions have only served as a safety valve on power, a corrective but temporary lurch in the reverse political direction.

2. Wealth taxation - we will never break the social divide in the UK (or the world) if we continue to over-tax income but not accumulated wealth. We should reward all forms of work that enrich our society and economy. We should not reward greed and self-interest. Of course you can permit success, betterment, and even luxury, providing the overarching goal is for society to get there together and protect the weakest. People should be incentivised to spend their money, not to hoard it. There is no need for any individual to be a billionaire, growing their own wealth exponentially. We should offer the mega-rich better routes to re-investing their wealth in society, legacies that they can establish, and problems to solve, and then celebrate them for doing so.

3. Increased globalisation of the world and international collaboration especially on environmental protection. We exist as a highly evolved species on a tiny spec of rock hurtling through the enormity of space. Unique in our ability to understand our own mortality, and technologically advanced enough to be able to detect the threats to our survival. The fact that we cannot agree to work together to protect the very thing that supports our existence is a tragedy. Preservation of our natural world should be everyone's number one priority.

4. De-politicisation of our media, and transparent funding of politics. Both traditional and new media are very much to blame for the state of our political system, and the disdain with which many people view our politicians. Whether this be through interference, malicious bias, or simply because Members of Parliament & Government Ministers are judged on their soundbites rather than aptitude to do the job asked of them. Equally, there is no justification for political parties to have to fundraise independently, and doing so opens them up to serious manipulation, lobbying, or influence. It also creates an imbalanced playing field between the different parties.

The million dollar question then, how can I vote to change things in line with my personal viewpoint? Under normal circumstances I would advocate for ABC (anything but Conservative), and consider a tactical vote. However, Tory failings and malice has hopefully destroyed their appeal nationally, and thus I find myself with more freedom. Even if I risk splitting the opposition vote, I can chose to vote for something and someone I really believe in. Whilst historically my views align well with the Liberal Democrats & the Greens, we have been gifted something even better in the new St Neots & Mid-Cambridgeshire constituency: The opportunity to vote for a genuine & credible independent candidate. A candidate with a proven track record of delivering for the local community, and with political ambitions aligned with improving society for everyone. Someone capable of representing us based on their beliefs, not just the needs of their party.

I am pleased to be supporting Stephen Ferguson in the upcoming 2024 general election stephenferguson.uk.

Some people will make the case that an independent cannot be effective on a national level, and that coalition government is incapable of making decisions. I would argue that we have seen first-hand that a party, even one with a huge majority and resources, can be devastatingly inept, and only capable of bad decisions. I often hear that local MPs regardless of their party affiliation are doing great work for their constituents. I am sure that is the case. Equally, I have no doubt that Stephen would continue his exceptional record of serving the community unencumbered by party interference.

For me, a Government completely devoid of party politics is a stretch goal, but we have the chance to take that first step locally. Every journey starts with a single step in the right direction.

* In fact if you look at the ONS migration data immigration has doubled since Brexit. I'm sure that wasn't in the Brexit game plan.

EDIT 03/07/2024 (election eve!): Almost unbelievably, these remarkable Tories have managed to fight a campaign as inept and scandalous as their governance over the past five years. To the point where ambition is reduced to avoiding a wipe-out. Reform has captured more column inches & screentime than I had expected. I guess in retrospect this isn't surprising, given the rise of populism in global politics. Nigel Farage is great at pointing out problems, and generating publicity. He has no interest in solving the issues he raises, only promoting his brand, and making opportunities for Nigel Farage. It is worth remembering that no populist government has delivered any improvement, anywhere, ever. One silver lining, of course, is that Reform voters will soon learn first-hand that our FPTP electoral system does not favour broadly supported parties that cannot command the majorities needed to secure seats! Welcome to my world Reform voters!

Thanks for reading!