Why the result on May 6 won’t matter a jot
Neil Clark: All three main parties offer near identical policies on the key issues
It promises to be the most exciting contest for years - one where at least a dozen different outcomes are possible. But that's enough about Saturday's Grand National. What about the General Election?
Over the next few weeks, we can expect to be bombarded by media pundits and politicians telling us how 'significant' the coming poll will be - why the election will be the 'most important' since the war and why we all need to get out and vote.
Don't believe a word of it. For the sad truth is that the vote on May 6 will be the most meaningless poll in modern British political history.
In a country which takes great pride in its 'democratic' credentials, and which sees its divine mission as spreading 'democracy' across the globe, the British voter will be presented with a choice of three main parties advocating almost identical policies on the most important issues of the day.
All three have promised major cuts in public spending if they gain power in the election. All embrace globalisation, Thatcherite neo-liberalism and free trade and are in favour of maintaining an open economy, where historic British companies such as Cadbury's can be easily taken over by foreign predators, with disastrous consequences for British jobs.
In foreign policy, all support continuation of Britain's costly involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the continuation of the transatlantic alliance. All take it as a given that Britain should play a prominent role in world affairs. All support Britain's membership of NATO and the EU.
What the public thinks doesn't come in to it. Around 70 per cent of voters would like to see Britain's fragmented and ludicrously expensive railways re-nationalised. Yet neither Labour, the Conservatives nor the Lib Dems advocate such a measure. (The latter did in 2005, but the policy has since been quietly dropped). Despite the obvious failings of privatisation, nationalisation is still the great 'no no' for Britain's political elite - except of course when it comes to using taxpayers' money to bail out failing banks.
On law and order, the parties are also out of step with the public. If Britain really were a properly functioning democracy, then we could at least expect one, or even two, of our three main parties to support the restoration of capital punishment for murder - a measure consistently supported by a majority of voters. But like the re-nationalisation of the railways, this an issue which is not even deemed worthy of discussion by the political elite.
To cover up the fact that on the key issues of the day they are singing from the same hymn sheet, we can confidently expect the election campaign to focus on perceived differences in character between the party leaders. The three planned televised debates between the party leaders are another sign of the Americanisation of British politics - as is the obsessive focus on the spouses of the protagonists.
It's all a far cry from how elections in Britain used to be fought. As recently as 1987, Britain had a choice between a Labour opposition still committed to social democracy, public ownership and making the rich pay their full whack, and a Conservative government advocating further privatisation and the rolling back of the state.
But the advent of Tony Blair as Labour leader in 1994, and the party's ditching of Clause Four, marked the end of genuine pluralism in British politics and our steady sleep-walk into what is now, to all extents and purposes, a one-party state.
To get elected, and gain the support of big business and the powerful Murdoch media empire, Blair embraced the economic tenets of Thatcherism - mixed in with a generous dose of social liberalism to give the solution a 'progressive' gloss. Such a combination of economic and social liberalism would not only gain the approval of the Sun, Times and News of the World, but the Guardian too. And in terms of winning elections in a country where big business and the City now called all the shots, it worked a treat.
The Conservatives tried to respond to Labour's rightwards shift by moving even further to the right, but after three election defeats, they decided that instead of opposing Blairism they would instead copy New Labour. After Blair's resignation in 2007, they have marketed themselves as Tony's true heirs, more likely than Gordon Brown to deliver radical 'reform' of public services.
The Liberal Democrats, having been easily the most left-wing of the three main parties when led by Charles Kennedy in the 2005 election, have in the intervening period lurched sharply to the right, with leader Nick Clegg lauding Thatcher's victory over the unions and deputy leader Vince Cable - a man mistakenly regarded as a 'moderate' - calling a recent plan by the investment bankers NM Rothschild for the government to sell off Britain's motorways and trunk roads "an attractive, positive idea".
The result is that we have three parties now occupying what they claim to be 'the centre ground', but which in reality is anything but. As Seumas Milne pointed out in the Guardian, "The assumption that the broad Blair-Cameron consensus - social liberalism combined with free-market economics, privatisation, low taxes on the rich, and a welfare safety net - reflects the centre of gravity of public opinion is completely unfounded".
What all of this means is that the vast majority of Britons who don't sign up to the phoney Westminster elite consensus are effectively disenfranchised. On May 6 we can either vote for small parties who, largely ignored by the media and faced with an electoral system which perpetuates the status quo, have no chance of forming the next government, or we can stay at home mowing our lawns.
If we wish to exercise a truly meaningful choice, we're far better off having a punt on the Grand National. ·
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