Thursday, 5 May 2016

I like your manifesto, I'll put it to the test-o

I've been trying, on and off, to write a political post for a long time. So long, in fact, that some of the "things I would do if I was in charge" that were in early drafts of this post have now actually happened or are happening (step forward the carrier bag tax and sugar tax). By dubious inference, and in the manner of politicians for time immemorial, I will claim this as irrefutable evidence that my policies are all sound.

So if I really am the great lost statesman of our time, why have I never finished the "manifesto"?

Well, a small part of the reason it took so long, and never quite got finished, is that the political landscape keeps changing. A bigger part, though, is that I have been reluctant to get it finished; they say that you should never discuss politics or religion with your friends, and so by extension a blogger should never post about those topics for their readers. I don't have a massive readership, and I don't want to alienate any of you. I can only think of one person who agrees with every point I was going to make. And besides, who am I kidding, this is a pop culture blog, not Guido Fawkes ... So why did I even try?

In the run-up to the last general election, I wrote about how hard it is to identify with a specific political party when they've become so blended, so uniform, such similar shades of the same colour. I went on to speculate that maybe this was a factor in the gradual decline in voter turnout, and contrasted this to the high turnout at a single-issue vote like the Scottish referendum on independence, being a simple either/or choice - no shades of grey there.

Now, following the boy least likely to's ascension to Leader of the Opposition, politics is starting to polarise a little more. If what's left of the Liberal Democrats are able to reclaim the, presumably now vacant, centre ground, perhaps we're heading for a return to the 1970s and '80s, when you were either right, left or centre. Perhaps, perhaps...

But more likely not. See, here's the thing: I would suggest that people are, on average, more politically aware, if not engaged, than ever. 24-hour rolling news, the sheer speed of news coverage, the media channels now available to bombard inform the electorate ... it takes a concerted effort to avoid political news coverage. And with the sensationalist reporting of recent non-stories like Corbyn/anthem outrage and Cameron/pork incredulity (snoutrage?), even the red-tops are getting in on the act. And the trouble with such saturation, such coverage of the minutiae, such in-depth analysis, is that the days of being, for example, a Labour man just because you always have been are gone. There really aren't that many default positions any more. So you're left with trying to find the party of best fit. And then maybe you're like me, finding you're a little from column A, a little from column B, and so on.

It really does all come down to policies, then - finding a party with the most policies you can identify with, and/or the fewest policies you abhor. The least worst party, if you like. And so my intention, with the manifesto post, was to outline my thoughts on a number of policy areas. Maybe I thought, naively, that I could influence you, I don't know. Again, who am I kidding, right? On my two-bob blog that nobody reads ... but anyway, since I've gone to the trouble of finding some links for your further reading pleasure, I'll have to content myself with just making these two points:

  • Trident - simply put, we should not renew Trident. Whatever your views on the need for a nuclear deterrent or otherwise, at a time when UK public sector net debt is in excess of £1,500 billion (yes, really) it seems to me to be morally inexcusable to spend between £15bn and £100bn (depending who you believe) on what is effectively a luxury item. When you can't afford beer, you stop drinking cocktails, don't you? And show me someone, anyone, who doesn't agree that money could be better spent on the NHS, or schools. Besides, if large, developed economies like Germany and Japan can manage just fine without nuclear weapons, why can't we?
  • HS2 - the Beeb summarised the pro's and con's of HS2 better than I ever could but the fact that there are counter arguments or disputes over every claimed advantage the scheme is supposed to bring makes me very uncomfortable about spending £70bn to £80bn of tax-payers money on what, some argue, is effectively a vanity project. At the risk of repeating myself, when you can't afford beer ... Also, isn't throwing money at unaffordable prestige infrastructure projects derided in the developing world?

In case you were wondering, I was going to go on to talk about the deployment of British troops in overseas operations, foreign aid, education, public sector maximum wages, pension scheme review for MPs and firefighters, a child benefit cap, a trans-fats ban, cycle helmet legislation, incinerators, neonicotinoids, firefighters striking, EU membership and the global over-population crisis ... and now you can see why I've stopped. There is enough outrage in the bottom half of the internet. However liberal my policies, however well-argued and evidence-led they may be, you will inevitably disagree with some of them. Maybe all of them, and perhaps vehemently. And whilst I think most of my regular readers are pretty balanced individuals, I don't want to incur your ire. Or, more selfishly: I don't have many readers - I can't afford to lose any of you.

Seriously though, Trident renewal? What are they thinking?

Footnote: +1 kudos point on offer here for identifying the source of this post's title.

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