With the General Election around the corner, both of the main (Westminster) parties have been wooing their core voters of late. New Labour have been pushing the message of targeted cuts, while trying to keep key services (relatively) well funded. The Tories on the other hand have been getting off the canvas and playing their “Union” bogey-card. Interestingly enough, the Tax-payers alliance, the Tory supporting value for money lobbying organisation have “produced” a video which pinpoints where they think the cuts should be made.
In theory I should be manning the barricades and getting ready to vote Labour in May. After all, i live in the West of Scotland, which is classic Labour heartland, and i have a low income. I should be a stick-on Labour supporter. So why have I not voted Labour since the first time I voted in an election?
I must admit that I can’t remember why I voted Labour at the European Elections of 1994, come to think about it, i don’t even remember the campaign very much. I have a vague recollection of going to vote and… well that’s it. Well, they say your first time is supposed to be forgettable.
May 1995 saw the break, and i remember this occasion a lot clearer. We were voting for a new council, Renfrewshire Council was going to be formed out of Renfrewshire District Council and the massive Strathclyde Regional Council, a particular target of Tory politicians at the time. I was undecided at the time, but was umming towards the Lib Dems. When I went to vote, the local candidate was canvassing outside the Polling station urging us to vote Labour “to improve Glenburn”. Now Labour had power at regional level for goodness knows how long, and had power at district level for a similar period, and even I could see the entropy which had infected Glenburn. I went in determined not to vote Labour and was astonished at the ballot paper which had only 2 candidates, the Labour candidate and an SNP candidate. I voted SNP. And they won the seat.
Since 1997 however the reason for not voting Labour is that… well… it no longer exists as a centre/left party that believes in equality, re-distribution of wealth and helping the poor/low paid parts of our society. The successor party to the Labour Party, New Labour, won power by on the surface appearing to be all things to all people. But scratch the surface they were nothing more than Thatcherites with a red rosette. They were relaxed about the prospect of people being seriously rich, whatever the consequences. For the guilty parties, you do not have to look very far for the leading suspects. Blair, Mandelson… and Brown.
Several examples spring to mind. Blair flying half-way around the world to suck up to The Dirty Digger, so that his publications would support New Labour in the ‘97 election. All Cameron’s bunch had to do to get Murdoch’s blessing this time around was give a commitment to curb the BBC and scrap OFCOM. New Labour were also extremely reticent to enact “old” Labour pledges. Devolution arrived, but only after a Referendum, and the Minimum Wage was set at a low level. Then there is of course Brown’s policy of a “light touch” regulatory regime for the financial services sector, which encouraged the banks to get so greedy, and take one too many risks to get that extra profit, their implosion caused the credit crunch and the current recession.
It is unlikely that i will be voting New Labour at this election, Brown has been a disaster as Prime Minister and I can’t quite forgive his last act as Chancellor, the doubling of income tax for low earners. However, the real problem for New Labour might be where to go next. Does it stay on the New Labour path, and go for one of the Millipede brothers, or does it pretend to be a Centre/Left party and go for Balls.
That however is another blog post for another time.