They say confession heals the soul, but I feel no better by admitting that in 2010 I voted Liberal Democrat. Back in the previous election I concluded that after 13 years of Government it was time for a change. Having principles, I’d never bring myself to vote Conservative and so I turned elsewhere in protest. I felt a mix of conflicting emotions following the formation of the Conservative/LibDem coalition. Firstly, pride. The party I voted for ended up in power! Following that came a deep, lingering sense of betrayal - one which would grow into disappointment, frustration and anger.
To list all the faults with the Coalition is a blog post in itself. In short, they have dismantled the NHS. They have starved the poorest in our society of financial support, with record numbers now relying on food banks, forced the unemployed to take part in unpaid labour and cult-like behavioural counselling, forced the sick and disabled to be examined and demeaned by non-medically-trained, corrupt, outsourcing companies. They violently suppressed protest, creating a more draconian state by rushing through data retention bills under false “emergency” situations. They have oversaw, indeed facilitated, one of the largest transfers of wealth, from poor to rich, in history. Neither the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats are fit to govern for a second term.
Their actions hurt. The Lib Dems didn’t win where I voted, but in some way that vote counted. In some way they were doing what they were doing in my name. My family have suffered greatly under this Government as a direct result of their policies. What pushed me through was the thought that Labour would get back in next time and start to correct the excesses of this Government. Under Ed Miliband, the New Labour cohort have been de-prioritised and causes such as the abolition of the bedroom tax, a re-commitment to a publicly funded NHS and a crackdown on tax avoidance have been adopted as core principles of a future Labour government. These ideas came not from Labour, but from protestors on the streets. Don’t let anybody tell you that protest doesn’t work. For this, Labour have been punished in the media. Once again they were in the pockets of the Union Barons, with Neil Kinnock level floundering and no credible alternatives. Labour have been squeezed out of the debate as the Overton Window was dragged rightwards. Remarkably, the public are considerably to the left of Labour when it comes to transport, energy and economic policy, leaving many dissatisfied with the supposed Prime Minsiter in waiting.
Labour are neck and neck in the polls with the Conservatives. To some degree this always happens around election time, but the key question remains - why aren’t Labour way out ahead? After five years of pain and damage, how come a Labour majority isn’t effectively guaranteed? The simple answer is the SNP. If it weren’t for the SNP this would be an open and shut election - instead for almost every Labour gain, they’ll lose a Scottish seat to the SNP.
It is almost a certainty that a second election in a row will produce a Parliament with no overall control. It can no longer be said that First Past the Post produces “strong, stable governments”, as the No2AV campaign argued. It will be 23 years since the Conservatives won an overall majority at an election and a decade for Labour. Multi-party governments in some form or another, are here to stay. Minor parties such as UKIP and the Greens (and to some degree the LibDems) will continue to claim their vote share is not reflected by their seat share. Their arguments will increasingly ring true. Despite the public rejecting the Alternate Vote, we may still get a better voting system. This time, by necessity, not convenience.
It is truly a parting of the ways. Conservative and Labour dominance is now longer absolute, it comes with conditions and minor party support. But the key question still remains - which of the two will gain the most amount of seats? The Conservative “coalition of chaos” narrative has barely shifted the polls. Major policy announcements have had negligible impact. David Cameron announcing he won’t serve a third term, followed by criticisms of the Conservative’s “dirty” campaigning and rumors that his heart isn’t in the game have stirred dissent within the Tory rank and file. The Game of Thrones begin. Cameron’s barely holding on.
This time around, I’m supporting Labour. The deck has been stacked in favour of the rich and powerful. It’s time to re-balance. Labour seem genuinely interested in doing so, but they’re going to need external influence to ensure this happens. A Labour government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister can begin to pull the Overton Window leftwards, introducing new ideas to the electorate in a gradual manner. It’s time to put the pressure on and campaign for the heart and soul of the nation.