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Optimism

Wednesday 12th May 2010

When New Labour swept into power in 1997, I was 9 years old. At the time I was too young to pay attention to politics, so I didn’t know too much what it actually meant. All I knew was that John Major was out, and that a younger bloke called Tony Blair was now PM.

Basically, in the time that I’ve been reasonably aware of what’s going on and paid attention to the news and to politics, all I’ve known is a Labour government. And as long as I’ve been paying attention, I’ve mostly had one feeling towards that government: disappointment. A feeling, every time I read the news, of things getting worse. I’m not going to detail specific things, because the time has passed and I’ve said much of it before; but generally I’m thinking of things like ever-increasing taxes, or ever-spiralling public spending, or batshit-mental policy decisions which run contrary to what they’ve been advised to do, or of course the constant erosion of civil liberties.

This last thing is something that particularly ires me, because civil liberties – freedom – should be the hallmark of a civilised society, so it baffles me why anyone would think that taking some of them away would be a good thing. Someone I know who is a member of the Labour party says that I “exaggerate” this issue, that Labour hasn’t actually done that much to damage liberty. But that’s clearly bollocks; Labour have done quite enough, and I cannot take seriously any party who thinks that such attacks on individual freedom are justified.

So my experience has always been of the government disappointing me, always seeming to fail the people of Britain, and for that reason I’ve never supported the Labour government. Over the last few months, as I’ve been thinking about politics more and reading into the policies and ideologies of all the parties, I’ve began to understand exactly why I dislike them. The “nanny state” is a cliched joke now, but like most cliches there is a reason for it being – it’s true! Nick Clegg wrote a pamphlet last year called “The Liberal Moment“, and he said:

Labour requires a mighty nation state, just as liberalism believes in pooling sovereignty in multi-lateral institutions. Labour believes that society can only be improved through relentless state activism, a belief driven by far greater pessimism about the ability of people to improve their own lives. Liberalism believes fairness, fulfilment and freedom can be best secured by giving real power directly to millions of citizens. Labour believes in the ordered, controlled capacity of the state to take the right decisions about other peoples’ lives. A liberal believes in the raucous, unpredictable capacity of people to take decisions about their own lives. Labour believes a progressive society is characterised by enlightened top-down government. A liberal believes a progressive society is distinguished by aspiration, creativity and non conformity.”

I encourage everyone to read that pamphlet, because it’s a really interesting thing. As I read it, one thought kept running through my mind: “I agree with Nick”! I was shocked – and delighted – that any of the leaders of the mainstream parties actually believes the same sort of things that I do; that I’m not just some nutter on the fringes of the political spectrum.

After seeing their results and understanding their politics, my response to Labour campaigning for “a future fair for all”, or saying that theyre “fighting for your future” is: how dare they? After 13 years of illiberal, unequal government, how dare they pretend to stick up for anyone other than the rich and the powerful?

As I’ve said before, I support the Liberal Democrats. I seem to be in the minority in that I also don’t hate the Conservatives. And as you may have ascertained by now, I have nothing but contempt for Labour. And today, for the first time I can remember, I look at government and don’t feel disappointed. I think we really could be seeing the start of “new politics”, where the emphasis is on co-operation and compromise; not pointless tribalism where the aim is just to win.

For now, I feel optimistic. And I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

Posted at 1:14 am | Posted In: PoliticsRant Tagged:

7 Comments:

Andy

Wednesday 12th May 2010, 6:59 am

Labour haven’t been entirely bad. I’m as pissed off as you about what they’ve done to civil liberties, I’ve been angry since the passing of the RIP Act in 2000, but they’ve also done some pretty great stuff to reverse the under-investment in things like the health service and schools and the like, and things like the national minimum wage were brilliant.

They got a lot of stick for the national minimum wage because big business leaders crowed that it would slow down the economy and cost too much money and all that bollocks.

So I don’t have contempt for them. They did some good, mixed in with the bad.

Lucy

Wednesday 12th May 2010, 9:52 am

What Andy said ^

As you know, I do dislike the Conservatives, a lot, and the fact that George Osborne is now in charge of our economy makes me want to cry. But I do agree that a ‘new politics based on cooperation and compromise’ can only be a good thing, and if we get even AV out of this then that’s a massive step forward.

Also, I’m really hopeful that the last few weeks will have stirred some of the more apathetic people in this country towards taking at least some political interest, and some of the already interested people towards activism. An increased engagement with politics has to be a good thing, whatever your particular views.

Dickie

Wednesday 12th May 2010, 3:09 pm

I agree they did some good things, but on the whole they were pretty poor IMO. And the poor things more than outweigh the positive.

Fiona

Thursday 13th May 2010, 7:44 pm

They dare to because of the minimum wage, and because of discrimination laws, and because of the Human Rights Act and the Constitutional Reform Act. They dare to because of the Working Time Directive, and the significant narrowing of the wage gap, and parental leave, and rules on unfair dismissal and health and safety. They dare to because of devolution, and regional solutions to regional problems. A lot of these are things that the Conservatives simply would not have done – and did not do, and we laugh at some of them but they’re important. Yes, some people’s rights have been hugely abused, but if some people have been horribly abused and denied their dignity – which I’m not saying isn’t a huge shortcoming, because it is – then millions of people are better off (these aren’t related, but both, I think, true). We live in a more fair, equal, open society, with more rights that are generally far better protected than they would otherwise have been, after the Labour government of the last thirteen years. There are some terrible and very important negatives, it’s true, but the Labour government did far more in its time than the ATCS Act 2001 and the Digital Economy Act, and I absolutely refute that the negatives entirely outweigh the positives.

Having said which, I agree with you on liberalism. I don’t know what I think at the moment, honestly, and I think I’m sick of being told what to think on the one hand and told I’ve no idea what’s going on on the other. Wait and see, I suppose. It’s been a long campaign and I’m kind of getting sick of the analysis… (ah, hypocrisy, how I embrace thee!)

Dickie

Thursday 13th May 2010, 8:48 pm

Some brief comments. I’m not going to explain them fully because that would require me writing an essay on economics and I have better things to do, and I’m not going to look for the statistics I mention because again, better things to do :P

– I’m not sure that a minimum wage really is a good thing.

– And I’m positive that the Working Time directive really isn’t. I opted out last year; when I re-start employment I will do so again. I think I’m right in saying it’s an EU thing anyway…

– And I think I’m right in saying that the gap between rich and poor increased during Labour’s time. (And btw, I’m also not convinced that is a wholly undesirable thing…)

– I don’t think they believe in “local solutions to local problems”, considering their obsession with controlling things from the centre (seen this first-hand during my year out – it delayed a project I was on by about 9 months)

– I also don’t think that the evidence supports the assertion that “we live in a more fair, equal, open society, with more rights that are generally far better protected than they would otherwise have been”. There have been lots of things to make it a more unfair and unequal society (good example: regressive taxation – the Tory/Lib government is already planning to address that, which isn’t bad considering most lefties seem to think they’re evil!). And considering the anti-liberty “anti-terrorism” laws which have been passed, it’s certainly less open.

Whether the negatives outweight the positives is quite subjective, I guess. Fundamentally I think that they did a number of things which are simply inexcusable. And I think that a party which purports to defend the poorer members of society and then screws them over (and make no doubt that this is what they did with the tax system they implemented) is guilty of massive hypocrisy.

Fiona

Thursday 13th May 2010, 9:25 pm

– Minimum wage: I hate to say it, but try saying it’s not a good thing when you’re living on it. The minimum wage is, or should be, I think, a basic human right.
– WTD is European, yes, it’s an EU directive, and I’m likely to opt out of it when I start to work as well, if I end up working where I’d like to. But the very fact that it’s an important concern, and that it has to be an active and explicit decision by the employee, which is more heavily regulated, I think is a very good thing. Again, probably subjective.
– The average earnings of the lowest 20% of society have risen by a lot more than inflation, and the gap has definitely closed substantially as far as I’m aware, or it had done when I still had access to my A level Economics notes, which admittedly was a good two, three years ago now. But still, the data between the last decade and the five or six decades before that was, I seem to recall, a lot more positive than I expected it to be. Meh. Yours is probably more up to date.

I’m getting serious deja vu here… Sorry!

Dickie

Thursday 13th May 2010, 9:49 pm

– It helps some people at the cost of hurting others. It benefits the higher-lower wage earners (i.e. people who would earn close to the minimum wage anyway) at the expense of the lower-lower wage earners (people who wouldve earned much less than the minimum), if that makes sense?

– If people want to work lots, let them. If they were being coerced into working more than they wanted, then isn’t the WTD is an inelegant way of addressing that?

– I don’t know if the government can claim the credit for the successes or failures of the private sector making jobs… And the lowest earners were still taxed proportionately more under Labout than they were previously. And like I said, still not convinced it’s a good thing for a “pay gap” to be lower…

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