Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Vote with Your Mind, Not Your Wallet.

In the days since the Chancellors debate, we have seen major captains of industry come out in support of the Conservatives. The mass-media coverage of this recent development is particularly informing of the nature of British politics. That's an interesting theory in itself, upper-class people backing the Conservatives must mean that the working-class do too. They tell us, we the people are supporting the Conservatives because the rich are supporting the Conservatives. They have even compared the support of the Tories to the support New Labour received in the run-up to their victory in 1997. The dependency of the political class and the establishment on "Big Business" for power, this is reflected by the way the media has claimed that corporate support is reflective of mass-support from the working-class. This is just like the scandal surrounding Lord Ashcroft and Lord Paul, the political class is reliant on wealthy backers and that is a major problem. The difference is that we are told this instance is a positive sign that we should embrace, as it means the Conservatives have our best interests at heart apparently. The fact that the Conservatives are aiming to demolish poor estates in West London doesn't seem to register.

It should be noted that a few of these businesses used to support New Labour, while the most have been staunch supporters of the Conservative Party all along. And that all of this just days after Tony Blair popped up out of nowhere to support Brown, which may suggest the publicity of the rich backing the Tories is in reaction to Blair's appearance. Though, support from a war criminal like Blair is hardly going to gather much support. It is also significant, that the wars for oil have been largely ignored and the focus has been on the economy, taxes and public spending etc. It is insulting to the 1 million dead Iraqis and the thousands killed in Afghanistan that our politicians choose to bicker over taxes than confront real issues like war and mass-murder. The same was done during the run-up to the 1993 Presidential Election in the US, the debate was turned towards the tax system. In which, Bill Clinton ran against George HW Bush. The Republicans accused Clinton of intending to raise taxes, but ultimately lost the Presidency because Bush had raised taxes in direct contradiction of his electoral manifesto. Bush had publicly stated "Read my lips: no new taxes." Never mind the thousands slaughtered in South America.

The discourse around the upcoming election has been shifted toward aspects of the tax system. The Liberal Democrats are running on a claim of being the only party that intends to cut taxes for those who deserve it. This is a traditional Conservative claim, though it is widely believed that the Tory Party cuts taxes for the wealthy. Whereas, Labour is stuck with the reputation for raising taxes to "unjust" rates. Of course, what no one is saying, what no one dares to say, is that people abhor taxes because they have no say in what their hard-earned money is spent on. It is perfectly understandable that the public hates the idea of their money being used to cover MPs expenses, bail-out banks and provide bonuses for Canary Wharf. And the idea that our money is being spent on wars that corporations benefit from is even more unsettling and unpopular. If we lived in a truly democratic society, most of us would view paying taxes in a positive light if we felt politicians were actually representative of us and that our money is going to a causes which are beneficial to our society. But the right-wing media needs something to exploit in order to further the country's descent into neoliberalism.

Instead of seeking to reform the political system, the mainstream media focuses in on taxes that effect the well-off. The stated reason for the corporate backing of the Conservatives is the increase in national insurance by Labour. But what goes unsaid is that part of the Conservative Party's economic policy is to "incentivise" business. "Incentivise" being a euphemism for subsidies and tax-cuts for the wealthy, combined with deregulation. The subsidies will be paid for with the funds cut from spending on the public sector. There has been no mention of this, as "Big Business" has flocked to the side of Tories, which says something we all already know about the Conservatives. It says the "need" the wealthy have for tax-cuts, subsidies and deregulation are not only imperative, but that "need" does not even require commentary. As "incentivising" business is so essential it cannot be challenged or even mentioned, nor can the dedication of the Conservatives to these policies. The practices of the Labour Party over the last decades, which have been nothing out of step of the Thatcherite orthodoxy, are also ignored by the commentators and the media.

This election is not going to result in a government representative of the populace if the real issues go on ignored. Thus, the debates should not be personality driven and the media's focus should not be on the campaign posters and the populist slogans, essentially spin cooked up by a public relations firm. The parties may use rhetoric about fighting poverty and building community spirit and so fourth, but where is the substance behind the rhetoric? The media should be pushing for the details of policy. The parties are still hiding the substance of these policies behind deceptive language like "incentivise" turning subsidies and deregulation into a something which no one would oppose. But sadly, it would seem as though this is going to lead to yet a lower voting turnout than in 2005. There is no optimism around this election or any of the parties. It could be said all that is being offered to the public is austerity and more of the same that we've seen over the last 30 years. If anything these elections may accomplish the continuing devaluation of the right to vote.

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