So only one day left before the UK’s unrequested and unscheduled general election. The politicians are out trying to convince people to support them, and the media is getting itself into its usual election frenzy. Do you want a Britain for the ‘Many and not the Few’ or are you moving ‘Forward Together: with a Strong and Stable Government’? Quite frankly it seems to me that the choices on offer from all parties are the most unappealing ‘Hobson’s Choice’ in all my years of voting. The political debate in this country hasn’t moved forward one iota from the 1970s, when we initially joined the European project. This election looks in many ways like the 1983 Margret Thatcher versus Michael Foot, post Falklands War election.
There are clues to the various parties’ philosophical outlook simply by looking at their names. The Conservatives are, well conservative; generally they like the status quo to be maintained; they are represented by people who have done well through the existing institutions and structures. The Labour party was born out of a very real need for workers’ rights, and as the name suggests it defined itself by class struggle. And to be fair, I think that there is a class structure ingrained within UK society, even if we might like to think that it’s no longer there. The Labour party has been in power before, yet the class system remains. If you define yourself by being against something, you will forever need that something in order to be. The Liberals existed before Labour and were seen, as the name suggests, as being more open to change than the Conservatives. But they were not progressive enough to prevent the rise of the Labour party from the working classes, and during their recent time in power simply supported the Conservative status quo. UKIP and the Scottish Nationalists are, again as the name suggests, one issue parties. UKIP won its argument and has in effect performed a reverse takeover of the larger Conservatives. They have changed their name and are now lead by Teresa May. The Scottish Nationalists lost their battle, but in true brave-heart style will not give up their struggle. Finally the Green party’s environmental focus makes them sound like modern day Luddites, bent on returning humanity to pre-industrial poverty, instead of harnessing technology and progressive thinking to repair the biosphere.
Part of the ongoing argument between Labour and the Conservatives is about the merits of the economic model that we should be using, is it capitalism or collectivism? You may think that capitalism won years ago with the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union. It certainly looked that way. But what has happened since then? The capitalism that we thought had triumphed has turned out to be a corrupted form of crony-capitalism. We endured a financial collapse, undoubtedly fuelled by fraud, in which very few, if any, prosecutions followed, and where the normal operating procedures of capitalism were set aside. Banks could not be allowed to fail, as they should have under true capitalism. Instead what has happened is that profits have been privatised, but when things go wrong the downside risk is socialised on the people.
So where do we go from here? In all change processes the first step is self-awareness, start by seeing through the headlines and the spin, start asking simple and obvious questions, like ‘Why does a sovereign country have any debt at all?’ Do not be beguiled by claims of inflation from printing money. The real arguments aren’t just that simple, and after all printing money was what Quantitate Easing was anyway. Recognise that there is no net-debt on this planet, we owe nothing to Mars or Jupiter. We don’t actually have a debt problem, what we do have is an imbalance problem. As I said last year there are 62 people in the world who own more wealth than the poorest half of the world’s population put together, this degree of imbalance cannot continue. We need to start to find new ways to reconcile the demands of ‘me, mine, and my’ with calls for ‘we, our and us’. The strong winds of change are caused by nature seeking to equalise imbalances of high and low pressures, as it is in nature so it is within society.
I do believe that a much more balanced and positively focused world is within our grasp. Often times, in our own personal lives, and in human history in general, it is necessity who is the mother of invention. However, to get there the world, and this country needs largescale progressive change. A degree of change that none of these parties are likely to deliver, not yet anyway.