With the general election now firmly in the realms of a TV game show, the degeneration of mainstream politics is clear for all who care to take note. Another ninety minutes of well rehearsed assertions could not disguise the fact that in essence, there is nothing between the major parties.
Fundamentally, there are no disagreements between the three parties when it comes to the economy, immigration, defence, Afghanistan, climate change etc. Even on Iraq, where the Lib Dems opposed the war, the subject hardly got a look in, with the questions from the audience reduced to anodyne levels (e.g. should the Pope be allowed into Britain?!).
Forget all the knockabout stuff – that’s routine in the House of Commons every week at prime minister’s questions. It’s all for show, to try and sell the electorate the idea that politics is exciting and that New Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are brimming with different ideas.
Any differences between them are about emphasis, not content. They are about ways of doing things – not changing the things themselves. The electorate is being asked to change management rather than elect a new government. None of the three leaders, for example, questions the assumption that massive cuts in public spending are needed to reduce the mounting budget deficit.
As the Financial Times reported hours before the televised debate, the government borrowed £163.4bn in the past financial year, the worst level of in Britain’s peacetime history. Public sector net debt rose to 53.8% of national income in 2009-10, up from 44% the previous year. The bankers’ paper noted: “The level of borrowing – at more than 11% of national income – highlights the need for the next government to enforce stringent public spending cuts and tax increases as the economy recovers, something all the parties agree on (emphasis added).”
The only reason the cuts are deemed necessary, however, is to appease international lenders who finance the deficit with loans and global foreign exchange traders buying and selling the pound. Yet the deficit itself is the result of the recession caused by the collapse of the very same financial system which has benefited from state bail-outs on a massive scale.
The alternative to making massive cuts in spending would require a total reorganisation of the economy and financial system. It would mean defying capitalist markets and relaunching the economy on the basis of gearing production to social need. None of this is going to happen at Westminster. After May 6, some sort of coalition will be cobbled together to clobber the electorate. Make no mistake about it.
So our twin policy of hanging on to your vote while campaigning to launch a network of People’s Assemblies may appear utopian but is actually a practical alternative. If you wouldn’t buy a used car off of Brown, Cameron or Clegg, why lend them your vote? If the present parliamentary system is undemocratic and unrepresentative, one where your vote counts for little, why participate in the fraud that is the 2010 general election?
If we want a real democracy in a society not beholden to bankers and corporations, we are going to have to take the initiative ourselves. A struggle for power against the political and economic elites is a tough road to go down. A World to Win is launching as an international organisation next month, committed to providing leadership for such a strategy. You are warmly invited to take part in the May 22 conference.