Just recently Labour Leader Ed Miliband announced his “pledges” going into the Election. You can see them here but there’s not much to see. First, a few things to remember: pledges don’t mean anything. They’re a way of making people think you’re going to do something you haven’t done yet without “promising” to do so. Going back on a pledge looks and sounds bad, sure, but not as bad as “breaking a promise”. For example, I could pledge to donate £10 to charity but when it came to do so I could find I don’t have £10 on me. I’ve still made the pledge.
Labour’s pledges for this coming Election are:
- A strong economic foundation
- Higher living standards for workin families
- An NHS with time to care
- Controls on immigration
- A country where the next generation can do better than the last
On paper, they look okay. But look closer and you’ll see a number of uncomfortable, even meaningless, sentiments. We’ll go through them one at a time. (By the way, this is a piece critical not specifically of Labour but of politics generally). Bear with me on this one. Stick with it until the end. I hate criticising what I consider My Party, but find myself having to lately, since all parties are now – despite their vastly differing methods and opinions – chasing one thing alone, the same thing: Votes. And they’ll do and say anything to get them.
Firstly, a strong economic foundation means what, exactly? It just means “a strong economy” right? Wrong. It means “the environment in which a strong economy may exist” which, really, doesn’t mean anything specifically. It’s a sound bite. Next, higher living standards for working families is just another, sneakier way of saying “we won’t help raise standards for those on benefits”. Detestable doublespeak. Then there’s an NHS with time to care. Again, this doesn’t really say what they’re going to do. It simply means “an NHS” because having time to care is its job. It IS a health service, caring is what it should do ALL the time, by definition.
And now we hit number four, “Controls on Immigration”, as though these don’t already exist. As though, at present, it’s possible to parachute into the UK from wherever, without checks or documents or anything else. We HAVE controls on immigration already! Only an idiot wouldn’t see that! And therein lies the rub: this one is AIMED at idiots. Labour can’t say “tougher controls” in fear of alienating their more multiculturally-welcoming voters, so instead slaps “controls on immigration” in to make it appear to Neanderthal Ukippers that Labour are offering a slice of what they want. Again, this pledge is misleading and meaningless.
Then number five: “A country where the next generation can do better than the last”. Considering the last generation – or at least swathes of them – elected a Conservative government led by an (I think it’s now fair to say, after the paedo-coverup revelations) actually evil woman hell-bent on tearing the country apart and setting those parts against each other in the spirit of money-making and apparent pleasure, leading to decades of copycat establishment politics from both sides of the House, there’s not much Labour needs to do here. But let’s take a look anyway. How would one actively make a country a place where the next generation can do better than the last while cutting any and all services which would help, be it education, arts, benefits, pay, jobs, libraries, the list goes on. Austerity, devastating cuts and a vicious narrative pushing a hatred of Otherness, (Otherness now also including “you, but poorer through no fault of their own”) is something kick-started by the Tories in the Coalition of 2010 and not set to stop, regardless of which party, with the means to, wins the election in May.
And yet, like it or not, Labour are the best chance we have – at the moment – of freeing ourselves from (and I’m not exaggerating here) the tyranny of a Conservative-led government. Ukip won’t get a sniff of power, even with the inevitable few seats they’ll pinch from more worthy candidates in frightened, mostly-White towns in the South. The Lib Dems are literally finished. They might as well not stand at all. The Greens, for all their good-natured, well-meaning and genuinely attractive views, won’t get enough support (this time) to be seen as a real contender. They need to work on their costing, their image (not everyone will go for the tree-hugging, meditative calm, even on the Left) and their almost-novelty media presence (not entirely their fault). As for Nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, who knows what’ll happen.
But the fight is between Labour and the Tories, in real terms. One of the two will, be it with new coalition partners or not, be in government after the election. Call me naive but I can’t bring myself to contribute to a split left vote, as I feel I did in 2010 when I voted Lib Dem tactically, allowing the smirking polished faces of the Etonelite through the doors to take their knives to my home once more. I’d love to vote for a party I truly, deeply and wholly believe in and agree with, but no such party exists. So, whether through misplaced loyalty, heeded fear or sheer bloodymindedness, I’ll be voting Labour on May 7th. Plus, I genuinely like Ed Miliband. Whoever you choose to vote for, please vote. That’s the important thing.
If only more people who spoke, eloquently and with passion, intelligence and wit, about their grievances with The Way Things Are actually got off their arses to vote! Maybe then we’d have a wide-enough consensus to allow our parties to be true to their own beliefs and reach for their own vision, rather than having to pander to the usually-extreme vocal voters, all too often compromising their own founding principles to win the approval of some racist knuckle-dragger who will DEFINITELY vote, even if you won’t.
I don’t want to slag Labour off. I’m sorry I have done. But I think I’ve made my point, even if not as clearly or concisely as I’d wished. The moral is: if you don’t vote then nothing will change. Please. Vote.