Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Hang on to your vote on May 5

At last year’s general election, we argued that a vote for any of the major parties would be a wasted vote. Subsequent events proved we were right and on May 5 we again urge people to withhold their vote in the national and council elections and in the referendum.

In 2010, none of the mainstream parties were honest about the spending cuts they would make and the election was therefore a fraudulent one. The ConDem government has since made savage cuts in public spending, raised tuition fees to unaffordable levels and attacked the NHS.

Councils, many of them Labour-controlled, throughout Britain have implemented the cuts at local level. Whatever councils Labour may take control of on Thursday, they are certain to uphold exsiting cuts budgets and implement new attacks on jobs and services in 2012. No point in voting for Ed Miliband’s crowd then.

As for the referendum on the voting system, it really amounts to no choice at all. Under first past the post (FPTP), New Labour won huge majorities with the backing of only one in four of registered voters. The alternative vote (AV) system would enshrine coalition politics and make it almost impossible for smaller parties to win a seat in Parliament.

As a previous blog said: “Surely the point is that an unfair voting system reflects a broken political system. Traditional bourgeois politics is more about managing state structures on behalf of corporate and financial interests, than offering real choice.”

The experience in of elections to the Scottish Parliament, where a mixture of proportional representation (PR) and FPTP prevails, is salutory. PR does not increase the power of voters, but significantly increases the level of horse-trading and jobs for the boys and girls.

Since 1999, first Labour, then the SNP, have led minority governments, and none of them have been able to change the reality that one in seven Scots lives in dire poverty, or prevent youth unemployment soaring. Currently more than 20% of 18 to 24 year olds are out of a job, the highest level since comparable records began in 1992.

Labour leader Ian Gray claims that if elected this time, they will “eradicate youth unemployment”. This is nothing more than hot air and is rich coming from a party that, when in office, presided over the conditions that led to the current job crisis.

In the televised election debate, all the main parties refused to say how many public sector jobs they would cut in the course of the next parliament. One in four Scots work in the public sector. Finance Secretary John Swinney has admitted that 30,000 jobs are likely to go. The axe is already falling in the NHS and in voluntary sector organisations who deliver care services for councils.

The SNP have promised time and again to hold a referendum on independence but it is again retreating into the future. Polls have told them that people won’t vote for it while the economic situation continues to be so desperate.

The Welsh Assembly elections are an irrelevance for most voters. In March, by an almost two to one majority of the 35% of people who voted, a referendum gave the Welsh Assembly Government new primary law-making powers.

But it does them little good.

Successful candidates still don’t have any power over the economy – the single most important concern to most people. Wales remains entirely dependent on Westminster for a block grant, so, like the councils of England, Assembly Members are reduced to arguing over how to allocate the cuts in education, health and every other part of public sector the ConDem coalition has decided are needed to deal with the national debt.

At a hustings in Carmarthenshire East, the main parties’ candidates – Plaid Cymru, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative were asked whether a referendum, similar to that in Iceland, should be held to allow the people of Wales to vote on the decisions to implement cuts in services. All hid behind the parliamentary system falsely claiming that the forthcoming election gives voters the opportunity to express their opinion.

And that’s about right. An “opinion” that counts for very little indeed. Another good reason to hang on to your precious vote on Thursday.

A World to Win editorial team

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