The Hard Choice Facing You In The General Election

FOR THE FIRST TIME in British politics, the electorate have been given the chance to witness their next potential Prime Ministers take part in a live TV debate. And, if nothing else, those events have made clear that there are only three parties that have any hope of achieving a mandate to lead this country out of its desperate financial crisis.

The choice facing us all at the general election is clear: it is between the three main parties. The likes of the BNP, and the Independent Save Our Green Belt Party, only offer an opportunity to register a negative protest vote and, moreover, neither of those candidates – or their respective political parties – offer any solutions to the difficulties facing this country and their consequent effects upon this borough.

Whoever wins the next election will be forced to introduce severe austerity measures. Measures far tougher than those introduced following previous recessions – because the UK’s finances have never been in a worse position.

There is only one question facing us all at this election: ‘Whom do you trust to make the best of a bad situation?’

This is not an election in which to cast a vote for uncertainty. If we are to navigate our way out of this crisis: we will need a government that has a clear mandate to act on our behalf. As much as many may like to see a hung parliament and send a clear message to politicians in the wake of the expenses scandal, a coalition or minority government will only hinder the type of decisive action needed to alleviate the situation.

None of the party leaders are providing a detailed economic policy in this election campaign. The Labour party could – because it holds the country’s books that contain full details of the situation; but they have chosen not to reveal those details to the opposition. The fact is that, releasing that information, would lead to widespread panic in the markets and a fatal run on the pound – the likes of which Greece is currently experiencing. But the main reason why Labour is not releasing the figures is because it knows it would stand no chance of winning the election were they to be published.

We can argue all day as to whether Labour is to blame for the current state of affairs, or if it is all due to the collapse of the sub-prime market; but it brings us no closer to solving the problem. Britain’s current situation is like that of a family which has exhausted its cash and bank accounts to rely entirely on credit-card spending to pay for essential food – whilst still maintaining their expenditure on entertainment and luxuries.

When the family runs-out of credit, they will have no choice but to beg from family and friends to bail them out. And the first action that will need to be made by any new PM is to ask the International Monetary Fund for help.

Two more crises are rapidly approaching for which the country has no funds left. The first is the impact of the Greek crisis on Europe and the knock-on effects it will have on Britain. The other is the second mortgage credit crunch that will send house prices into a tailspin from the beginning of next year.

Britannia’s ship is already holed below the water-line – and the two approaching waves will combine to produce another tsunami.

Whom you vote for in this election is likely to be largely decided by where you stand upon an appropriate strategy for the financial crisis.

Labour’s strategy is to do nothing until next year. It believes that making cuts now would remove precious funds from the economy, which could then lead to a double-dip recession. It proposes to continue nursing the economy this year and postpone cuts – along with a National Insurance hike – to next year. The strategy is equivalent to our example family continuing their profligate spending – and putting their tenant’s rent up to help compensate.

The Conservative strategy is to implement a limited package of cuts immediately, with a view to reducing the National Insurance hike due next year and provide more help to business. They argue that increasing National Insurance is a ‘tax on jobs’ that will hinder any economic recovery we may see in 2011. It is equivalent to having our hypothetical family cut-back on unnecessary expenditure and leave their tenant’s rent alone to ensure he does not leave.

The Liberal Democrats propose to introduce a fairer tax system which would mean that the first £10,000 of an individual’s income would be tax-free. To fund it they would look to cutting back on large capital projects and doing away with the UK’s nuclear Trident deterrent. The Lib Dem family would renege on sprucing-up the tenant’s accommodation and cancel their insurance policies to help stretch their income.

None of the above strategies provide a solution; but they do permit voters to judge the type of government that might be expected by electing  a particular party.

The Labour strategy is for more of the same laisez faire policies, which, it could be argued, are the main cause of our current position. The party continues to rely upon optimistic forecasts of the economy as a reason for doing nothing – just as our Labour family chooses to do nothing in the belief that their incomes will rise. During this recession, every forecast that the Labour government made for the economy was revised downwards.

Labour could be right. The economy may be returning to growth; but what if it is not? And their do-nothing strategy does not take into account the 2011 tsunami that will be breaking upon our shores.

The Conservative strategy indicates a government determined to take control of the situation and begin paying-down the country’s debt. It is the only strategy, amongst all political parties, that recognises the importance of planning for the unforeseen. Moreover, it is the only strategy that recognises the intimate connection between swingeing cuts, unemployment, and the necessity to ensure employers can afford to take-on staff. It also suggests a government that is prepared to be autocratic to deal with the situation it is faced with.

The Liberal Democrat strategy does not appear to be a real strategy at all. Instead it appears to be a promise of ‘committee’ driven, intellectual, government, which is mainly concerned with tinkering around with current legislation to produce a more equitable society. Such ambitions may be laudable; but they do not address the fundamental problem that this country now faces. It suggests a government that would spend most of its time discussing various options – rather than getting things done.