Saturday, 1 May 2010

Politics (rhetorical questions!)

As it now looks as if the Tory party is in the lead in election polls, I'm alarmed by the way spending cuts are being discussed. David Cameron has said quite openly that he's going to target areas like mine (the north east of England) in his cuts. It seems he wants to start making these as soon as possible and give tax cuts to his rich friends, instead of putting the burden of extra taxes on the better off, as it should be. While I agree that the deficit needs to be tackled, this was largely a product of the banking system. Shouldn't even heftier taxes be levied on the banks, then, and the rest on areas like VAT, rather than creating unemployment deliberately and increasing the benefits bill by sacking public service workers?

As you'll have gathered, I'm not a Conservative supporter. The LibDems have, in the past, seemed to me to have some sensible policies. However, Nick Clegg has shown himself completely out of touch with a large segment of the public on the issue of immigration, by suggesting an amnesty that would give the right of residence to families of some illegal immigrants.

The perception (accurate or not) is that immigration is already out of control in this country, and that many asylum seekers choose Britain as a "soft touch". This idea may not stand up to scrutiny but, then, why do so many non-European asylum seekers end up in the UK when the rules say that they should seek asylum in the nearest "safe" country to their country of origin? This is not a question of racism or xenophobia. No-one can deny that we are a small, overcrowded island facing some severe economic problems. When many retired and working class people see immigrants every day who are not allowed to work because they are still being processed by a dysfunctional system, and those indigenous people are themselves on a low income, then resentment builds up, and this has worrying implications for social cohesion in the UK. We need to be able to discuss immigration levels without being called bigots. While I've no wish to sound like Enoch Powell, surely the minimum the new government has to do is to tackle the Daily Express' "immigrant invasion" perception, even if this doesn't lead to a reduction in immigration?

Like many of us, I've lost most of my faith in policitians. I'll put my cards on the table and say that Labour seems the least of the evils to me, and I've already cast my postal vote for them.

I'm a bit baffled by the idea that people need the recent TV debates to help them decide how to vote. Surely everyone who watches TV or reads (proper) newspapers knows the policies of the main parties? If we make the decision on which party to vote for on the basis of a TV show and how well its leader performs there, isn't it all sinking towards the level of a "beauty contest"? I'm haunted by the fact that the voters in the USA (where the "TV political debate" idea originated) first saddled the world with George "Dubya" Bush on a very narrow majority, then - incredibly - voted him in decisively for a second term.

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