I'm still reeling from last November and here we go again.
My previous personal election encounters have been few and far between:
- Listening to my mum chastise a neighbour as the British electorate, terrified at the prospect of the late 1970's redux, flocked to John Major and his refreshed Conservative party.
- The euphoria of 1997 (such a cliche') and welled tears in my eyes as Tony Blair gave his speech at his Sedgfield constituecy and pledged a different type of society.
- November 2000... which was disappointing, but, to be honest, part of me was excited at the prospect of having a genuine demigod, Bush, for people of my politicial ilk to decry... little did I understand then the implications of a far right US administration.
- May 2001, a gleeful experience watching William Hague and the Conservatives squirm as Labour retained its landslide.
November 2004 was brutal.
The slow recognition of that confused evening... that the Exit Polls were skewed, and the early optimism that had uplifted the entire globe in expectation had all been a simple reflection of right wing voters' natural proclivity to be too ashamed to admit who they vote for when asked, and not the actual result.
Just the anti-climactic recognition that the Bush administration had won an emphatic (and despite the closeness of the election, their showing was emphatic) mandate for pursuing their strategy of fiscal indiscipline, antiquated moral socializing, and a thoughtless, self-indulgent foreign policy that had done so much to damage the progress the world community had been making together.
I haven't watched an episode of Hardball since... it's just too painful.
The reality of this election in the UK is complicated by all manner of factors. Britain's deep seated cynicism... which negates any objective appraisal of this governments accomplishments, the fall out from Iraq (which in reality is an excuse to freely vent the cynicism I referenced), and the latest, midly refreshed incarnation of the British Conservative Party. As far as the liberals are concerned... well... the fact that their core political constituency is students pretty much sums up the practicality of their policy suggestions... i.e. their proposals conveniently don't relate to the real world.
Labour's accomplishments are plentiful. Genuine economic stabilty, record low unemployment, low interest rates, low inflation. That is no small feat, and testament to the Clinton/Robert Rubin dochtrine of macro-economics that stands in stark contrast to the instability of the Reagan/Thatcher economic revolution on both sides of the Atlantic in the 80's. In addition to this modern climate of stability which allows for aggressive initiatives to promote enterprise, and opportunity for all, this government have managed to pump record levels of investment and provision for resources into Britain's public services. And, in spite of many very loud and vociferous condemnations of the NHS in its present form, the common consensus is that Health, Education, and Policing have all been bolstered under this government. This is, by any consideration, a remarkable balance that has been struct in the cause of the fundamental priorities of the UK electorate.
There have been plenty of negatives, too, though. The tax burden has increased to pay for these improvements in public services, which the majority of British people support. But, Tony Blair wasn't as forthright at the last election about rises in National Insurance as perhaps he should have been, and I think this gives people genuine cause to feel let down.
Britain is a massively densely populated island, and inherently stagnant, and immobile socially. This has given huge rise to the British working class's demonizing of immigration and people seeking Asylum, as the cause of the nations ills that they confront. The right, led inexhaustively by the Daily Mail has led the charge to exploit this burgeoning fear, and Michael Howard in this election, quite irresponsibly, made immigration the center piece of his campaign. Tony Blair has employed triangulation over the past few years to nullify the impact of the issue, being as right wing, and draconian as the Tories would be in dealing with the problem to cut off the potential impact of their policy proposals.
The reality is that if every Asylum seeker had never applied for residency in this country over the past twelve or twenty four months, the saved moneys would total to a mere fragment of the health budget for that period, or the education budget. The reality of its impact is so small, practically... no matter whether claims of wide spread fraud are true or not. It's not a priority within the context of our economy, hospitals, levels of taxations, and foreign policy at stake in this election. It patently speaks to some level of zenophobia.
If you ever have the misfortune to listen to a Britain's rant about Asylum Seekers you will be bombarded with the most irrational arguments:
"When I go into my post office all I see are Eastern Europeans queing up to receive Welfaire."
What! Is that personal experience in a city as multicultural as London the basis on which you say that welfare is currently excessively burdening the tax payer, as a result of Asylum Seekers, or is it the fact that the welfare system has been aggresively modernised by the government in a way that no Tory administration would dare. Is it that the welfare rolls are down? Is it that unemployment is down? Is it that we now have aggressive welfare to work schemes employed? Or is it that a visit to the post office saw a line of people whose appearance was foreign?
Individual examples of fraud are set as the standard, when the vast majority of people who come to this country would gladly work, and contribute taxes, and build a real life for themselves and their family, if given the opportunity to do so. How can anyone in their right mind dispute this?
Anyways, this issue has certainly given a great deal of fuel to Conservatism. In fact, as a party, and a political movement, they are defined, no more so, by any other issue.
But, an issue like this is important, whether I like it or not. It will be one aspect of mobilizing core Tory support, and it will help guarantee a good turnout on their part.
The other issue has been Iraq.
This Election was soundly won by Labour until, with two weeks to go, the press began to tremble at the idea of Blair winning an emphatic third term, and roundly held him to account for the general consensus of opinion - which is that Iraq has been a total disaster.
It's hard to disagree with that. The United Nations has been just as severely undermined by the US and UK's actions as it was by Saddam Hussein flagrantly ignoring UN security council resolutions. Iraq has been in terrible turmoil since the war was won. Little planning was put into the reconstruction and humanitarian effort by the US. And, worse of all, the threat they posed in the form of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the unequivocal basis for waging war, has been utterly disproved.
Tens of thousand of Iraqi's have died, thousand of US soldiers, and hundreds of British.
Tony Blair's credibility to win popular support on the basis of trust in his faculties and judgment has been damaged beyond repair.
And, yet, the truth is that Iraq and the middle east is free of Saddam, countries like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libia exist in a less hospitible environment in which to destablise their regions, and threaten the security of the western world... + free elections have been held in Iraq for the first time in decades.
In my opinion, Iraq had to be delt with, the threat was real, and was perceived so by everybody. Saddam had weapons, and used them in the past like no one before or after him. He committed awful atrocities against the Kurds, and was a terrible threat to Israel consequently. Not in terms of suicide bombings, or occupation, or military bombings that might recklessly harm civilian life, but, in the form of potential mass destruction with any weapons he might be able to obtain. Anyone who discounts this on the basis of Israels past activities doesn't take account of the fact that Israel is comprised of human beings and families who deserve freedom from tyranny as much as any other nation on the earth.
Plus, their disrespecting of successive UN security council resolutions threatened all of us. The league of nations were proved worthless in the 30's by their inability to confront Hitler and Mussolini, and that toothlessness on the part of the international community sparked the climate for World War 2. You can not continue to allow a country to be in breach of one security council resolution after another, especially when the issue is weapons of mass destruction that have been used to commit a mass atrocity.
All of these issues combined meant that Saddam had to be confronted, in my opinion.
But, this doesn't, in my view, absolve the Bush Administration, or Blair, and the UK government of the failures that followed. They did not plan practically for the state of the country post Saddam. They did not consider the need for the international community to partake in the reconstruction effort to lessen the stigma of occupation. They allowed military generals to organize the reconstruction, and not economists, and humanitarean agencies, who might have tried, from the beginning, to seek to develop an industrial infrustructure that could have given the Iraqi's a much better prospect for the future.
Making Iraq better isn't the point. I'm not trying to be imperialistic. But, doing so is the incumbent responsibility of us all after taking action to remove Saddam.
These are the issues at play in this election. And, I truly hope that the conservative party, and their ridiculous priorities, are left with no other alternative but to address their social attitudes, and their responsibility as a serious political party to prize, and promote, via all of their policies, an inclusive society... not one that fragments into riots, and class warfare, and widening gaps between rich and poor, like when they were in power for 18 years.
My heart wishes for a few things tomorrow:
1) A labour majority of over 100.
2) Conservative support in the country under 33%, which will be down on 2001, and an awful result for their current batch of aristocratic despots to explain.
3) A great speech by Tony Blair, recognizing people's grievances with this government, especially over Iraq, and promising to embody the lessons he's learned in this election... people want a leader who is explicitly seen to be autonomous internationally, people want less emphasis placed on centralised targets which have had some detrimental effects on individuals, people want a leader who is sincere, people want a government that really cares about them, and improving their lives.
What I believe will happen tomorrow:
Labour 370-80 seats
Conservatives 180-90 seats
At least, I should get the opportunity to bask in how undemocratically the parties are reflected in the house of commons, hee hee, to the disadvantage of the Tories, if nothing else. This is absolutely unfair, and while I'm no proponent of proportional representation, I believe something has to be done to address this. A fully elected second chamber might be a start.
Enough of this long ramble.