Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Readers outside the United Kingdom might not know that we're at the beginning of an election campaign here in the UK. Beginning is used in the loose sense of the word.

Unlike the US, we don't have fixed election dates for the national offices. A Parliament can last up to 5 years, but has an average life of about four years. Sounds odd, I know. Most British Governments down the years prefer not to leave the election until the last minute. Unless, of course, the result is a foregone conclusions, as it was in 1997 when Labour came to power after 18 years in the wilderness.

Suffice it to say, that a May 2005 election has been predicted for over a year and the parties have built their campaigns on that basis. So, we've had a phony campaign for months now.

I consider myself a natural Labour voter. Apart from one or two blips (voting Green at a European election when they polled nearly 20% nationwide and got precisely zero seats; voting tactically LibDem in vain to defeat the Tories), I have always voted Labour.

Like many natural Labour supporters the May 2005 election presents a dilemma. This has, by any measure, been a successful Labour Government. The economy is in good shape. For once Labour has managed to see through its agenda, mainly because of a huge majority. Employment is at record levels. Investment in public services - the National Health Service, education, social programmes - is making a difference. (And, if you don't believe me, read Polly Toynbee and David Walker's book "Better or Worse".)

On the other hand I've read John Harris's book which is highly critical of New Labour's sell out to Thatcherism and Blair's Iraqi adventure.

I never thought I'd see the day when Labour attacked civil liberties. Measures introduced after 11 September 2001 to combat "global" terrorism have effectively suspended the concept of habeas corpus. The Government seems to have been seduced by "evidence" brought forward by a discredited intelligence service (read Hans Blix, if you dispute this).

And, of course, I will find it hard to forgive the Government for taking us into and illegal and unjustified war.

So, as I'll be out of the country on 5 May, I applied for a postal ballot over the weekend.

I still don't know who to vote for. What will probably decide for me is not which candidate or party is most attractive to me - if that were the case I'd probably vote LibDem and I certainly wouldn't vote Tessa Jowell - but, whichever party is going to stop Michael "Thatcher reheated" Howard from becoming Prime Minister.

Democracy - great, innit.

:: Posted by pete @ 21:11