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UK Election Season Begins: Apathy Leads Early Polls

January 7, 2010

With Brits going to the polls sometime in 2010, the nation’s election machine is spinning up. Brits are tired of the current crop of idiots and would prefer real change. Sadly, they won’t get it.

2009 ended on a relative high note for Comrade Brown and the other Downing Street bunker dwellers; the decision to deflect national ire at stale government and hopeless overspending in favor of class war against the nation’s primary source of export revenue has resulted in brief poll stabilization and the hope of electoral stalemate this summer. Playing the class war card was a piece of political mastermind, in that it offered a double dividend: a distracted populace could then be ‘rescued’ by misplaced vindictive taxation from Westminster while the Patrician opposition were pushed into uncomfortable positions. Should Labour lose the next election, then the Conservatives will be forced to cut spending aggressively, an outcome not missed by Labour’s spin doctors. Tip O’Neill used to say that all politics are local; in the UK, the entire country would fit into the back corner of Utah, so the plurality manifests as a single locality. All politics here, it appears, are simply lowest common denominator.

British Politics 101: Color by Numbers

Herein British politics for Americans, the abbreviated version: Brits vote for MPs who represent their constituency. Most successful candidates are members of one of the three major parties: the Labour Party  (Red, Far more socialist than the Democrats, proud of their tax and spend heritage), the Conservatives (Blue, more socialist than the Republicans, but only from electoral necessity; Lefties fear ingrained fascism), and the Yellows (Liberals, who suffer from the problem that there are typically only two sides to an argument that anyone can actually remember: they provide voice to the third side). The Party with the most seats appoints the government. If are in your 30s, support animal liberation, wear combat boots and protest against war, you are likely to find affinity with the Labour camp; conversely if you think that your country has done nothing right since 1945, wear mustard colored cords in an irony free way and shoot animals at weekends, you are probably a core conservative voter.

American political overlaps don’t work well: Republicans often try to identify with Conservatives, but would never tolerate the NHS; meanwhile Democrats would stifle at some of Old Labour’s more repellant political philosophy, which appears to hold the party hostage to the country’s remaining unions. Tony Blair’s big idea was to move Labour into the center, and to abandon Clause 4, an article of the Party’s constitution calling for 100% state ownership of assets. That worked well enough to convince most mainstream voters that Labour was far more palatable than the squabbling, bitter, and confused Conservatives; anyway mustard colored corduroy was not in fashion in the 00s. Blair thus swept home three general elections, pushing the Blues into heavy minority and the yellows to irrelevance. Blair became a further casualty of George Dubya when the latter decided to wage war against Iraq, a decision which was unpopular among the British mainstream (though not among Conservatives, who get excited about any opportunity to sing Jerusalem, the preferred Conservative anthem). Faced with a choice between paying for security or paying for the Health Service, Blair went with the latter, and was subsequently defenestrated (in Harry’s opinion unfairly). This opened a path of succession for the more Old School Comrade Brown, who declined an opportunity to call a general election on appointment and instead ruled as head of the largest Parliamentary party. Under Brown’s administration, the national banking system failed, leading to the first British bank run since 1847 and the subsequently misreported and misunderstood move to save the country via a banking bailout. That has proven to be less popular than even the Gulf War, and the Reds are now deep under water in the polls. Time is now running out, meaning that Parliament must return to the people, news that is not welcome in the Downing Street bunker. Thus begins the spin machine.

Vote Nobody!

It’s genuinely difficult to get excited about either Party’s manifesto. The Reds offer more Red priorities: an increase in the nanny state, more attacks on privacy (by introducing a National ID card), more spending on the NHS, and an increase in the Chav stipend (aka “welfare”) to reduce crime. That the country is in hock to the tune of £190 billion doesn’t seem to matter to the Reds. It has occurred to the Blues that reducing the debt pile is a good idea, but they struggle to explain how they plan to do it (‘cutting welfare’ is what most people expect). The Conservatives offer a more telegenic leader than the lugubrious Brown, balanced with a manifesto nearly free of innovation, starting with the legalization of fox hunting (banned by Blair), a reduction in government spending (by  reducing the chav stipend, and no longer policing fox hunts), a reduction in several hated taxes, and an increase in military spending so the British Army can continue God’s Work in Afghanistan. The Yellows, meanwhile, offer the attractive option of suggesting that everyone just shut up and get along; as a pragmatic solution, this will get nowhere with voters.

A relatively recent development is the rise of the Nationalist Parties, who stand for very different things. The Scottish National Party wants to tear up the Union with England; it has had some success in key Scottish Red strongholds, such as, for example,  Scotland generally. The Blues currently control only one seat in Scotland; Not even Edinburgh Central, which boasts four shops selling shotguns,  three shops selling mustard colored cords and two public schools could muster enough righties to get their candidate elected. In 2010, the Scottish Nationals sense a tipping point and with Conservative complicity might succeed in gaining enough votes to jettison the hated English. See ‘Belgium’ to understand what happens next. Meanwhile,  the Welsh version, Plaid Cymru, has had less electoral success but has occupied the local assembly in Cardiff. The British National Party are another group altogether, who are Harry won’t dignify, save to say that reactionary right wing wingnuts  have scared the established parties with electoral gains in poorer communities. They scare most everyone else too.

The problem is that none of this actually matters. The average Brit cannot name their MP and has no idea what is going on at Westminster in an ordinary day. Assuming these voters actually make it to a polling station, they will always vote by color. The election’s propaganda machine is therefore aimed at the middle of the voting public, the group of ordinaries who have jobs and families, pay taxes, rarely consume services, and enjoy 2 vacations a year (skiing and sun). This group is almost totally agnostic about politics; unlike the American middle class, who think they can influence taxation, Brits know they can’t and thus don’t bother. Politicians are now attempting to convince this group that they are the correct stewards for the country. Where this group lies is known as the ‘swing’ and will be closely followed in polls. People bet on it too: spread betters have the Blues winning 350 seats to command an 87 seat majority. That would end the Red Menace and leave presumed Brown successor David Miliband confronting a 7 year rebuilding program before being able to muster a challenge against Team Champagne in the 2017 summer classic.

Harry’s Manifesto

Harry is dissatisfied with all three parties and Westminster generally. Precisely none of these parties are addressing the really central, structural issues which the country needs to confront. Seven of these issues are:

1. The assault on liberty that followed the attacks on 9/11 and 7/7, and continues today.

2. The nearly complete absence of accountability within local government, which allows an attitude of profligacy with public spending.

3. The inelastic nature of the British economy, underscored by the legions of under employed who toil in frustration, free of enterprise and equity participation, itself related to…

4. The inability of the country to assimilate immigrants and minorities, thereby giving ground to radical Islam.

5. A Government which impedes the lifelong pursuit of happiness and imposes an excessive tax burden.

6. Poor standards in many state services eg primary education.

7. Excessively generous welfare subsidizes sloth and punishes the industrious with taxation.

On the issue of tax, Harry offers the following example. Let’s say you have a real job, which pays reasonably well; for the purposes of argument we’ll call that £50,000 per year, which puts you more or less above the national average but essentially bang on the average for people who think for a living. Let’s say you make an additional £100 or so flogging your etchings on eBay. How much of the 100 do you get?  For starters, you owe the Government 40% for income tax. That leaves you with £60. Then you go to spend it- and discover that the Government actually wants more: so you spend your £60 and the government bites you for 17.5% sales tax – leaving you with £49.50 in spending power for your £100 worth of effort.

The question of whether you get value for your £50.50 investment in Comrade Brown’s Circus is a different matter entirely. But just for reference, here is where your spending goes, care of the Treasury’s excellent website:

£14.20 goes to something called ‘Social Protection’, 80% of which is the dole; so £11.16 of your hard work is a straight donation to the non employed. Britain pays out £150 billion in social security every year, nearly £2.5 grand per capita. Astonishing.

£8.94 goes to the NHS

£6.61 goes to pay for Education

£2.86 goes to pay the Military.

£2.63 goes to pay the Cops.

£2.33 goes to something called ‘Personal Social Services’, whatever that means.

£2.18 goes to Housing and Environment.

£2.10 is paid away in interest.

£1.73 goes to the Roads and Highways

And £6.91 goes to ‘everything else’.

What the UK desperately needs is this: a reform of local government, a squeeze on welfare payments, a reduction in taxation, and a return to enterprise thinking. Much as Harry wishes to the contrary, this is highly unlikely to happen.

It’s just so depressing.

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2 Comments
  1. “Apathy Leads Early Polls”

    There has been a warning sent out in the UK to voters.

    “Don’t vote the Government will get in!”

    Kidding appart due to our “Economic issues” I think the election will be very intetresting as if history has taugh us anything strange things happen to voting patterns in time of crisis!

  2. petition the Prime Minister to amend the general election ballot paper to include an ‘abstention’ option in addition to the named local candidates.

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