air is electric with election fever, the expectant masses throng
newsagents to buy and passionately discuss the various party manifestos.
Every voter carefully sets aside all other commitments for polling
day on June 7th and neighbours and friends are earnestly proselytised
in the hope of gaining their vote for ones party.
to some polls, there will be an even lower turnout for voting
than previous election years with possibly one third staying away
from the booths. This is a general downtrend amongst disaffected
voters and who can blame them?
scan of the election manifestos of the three major parties betrays
the reason for this apathy - you could hardly slide a card between
the differences in their Statist policies. They are all firmly
entrenched in the ditch of centrist politics and the voter knows
that none of them is going to change anything of significance,
so why bother voting?
the parties have done their work by analysing various opinion
polls and feedback from so-called focus groups. These results
show that people are most concerned about health, education and
the economy with the implicit message that they expect the State
to sort it all out. The public's love affair with public health
services and schools continues and they love to have it so. Oh,
that there was an alternative message to shake them from their
with each major party committed to continuing public services,
there is only tinkering around the edges of a massive £400 billion
fiscal budget as the Tory party promises to reduce it by a paltry
£8 billion and the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats commit
to marginally increasing it by a few billion.
is as far as they will go. A rumour did the rounds last week that
the Tories were actually committed to cuts of £20 billion (a mere
5% of budget) which gave their opponents a field day before it
was totally denied. The panic and delight on both sides showed
how important a big budget is in the world of the Statist.
this is hardly blood-stirring stuff. Unashamedly, the parties
know this and resort to the basest of marketing techniques in
persuading the more primeval of voter instincts through shock
tactics and polemic sarcasm.
have to endure the sight of politicians employing unwarranted
hyperbole in describing their opponents’ policies as "ludicrous",
"disastrous" and "ridiculous" when there is next to nothing between
them in the grand scheme of things. They know the political attention
span of the average voter tends towards a few sound bites and
they subliminally plant the derogatives in the hope that they
will lodge in the limbic mind more than a reasoned argument would.
hollow tactics migrate to the advertising billboards as the Labour
party displays its poster version of "Towering Inferno" called
"Towering Interest Rates" with a skyscraper-shaped "15%" above
a smoky looking William Hague and Michael Portillo (I couldn't
figure out who was meant to be Steve McQueen).
subliminal message is clear; vote Tory and interest rates will
triple to 15%! Has the engagement in informed debate really descended
into such intellectually, vacuous fear mongering? Anyone who remembered
"Black Wednesday" in 1992 will know that interest rates only topped
15% for a day or two to combat intense speculation against Sterling
as Britain pulled out of the pre-Euro Exchange Rate Mechanism.
let the facts get in the way of a good poster! But let it also
be sadly said that these tactics, though perpetrated due to the
small differences in party policies, actually do appeal to the
baser instincts. The typical person is not given to long reasoned
arguments on minutiae and the temptation of a libertarian party
may be to shout the slogan "Vote for us and get a £4000 tax rebate
for life!" Tempting, but easier said than done when the electorate
then speedily expect it.
is nothing else really to say from the point of view of the major
parties as they try and look more electable than the others. The
only other major talking point is monetary and political union
with the European Union. In the next few years, Britain will have
to decide whether to give up Sterling for the Euro and with it
all major economic decision-making. The Tories are for the Pound,
Labour sits on the fence and the Liberals are for the Euro. But
the main point with politics driven by opinion polls is that Euro
monetarism will not be the major vote catcher in this election
and so it can be safely ignored by the party with a big lead in
the opinion polls. In other words, Labour will surely win by a
huge margin with or without the Euro.
for comic relief in this campaign, I turn again to the ultra-left
wing Scottish Socialist Party and its leader, Tommy "tax the rich"
Sheridan. Their manifesto threatens to impose an 84% income tax
rate on the richest citizens in Scotland. The only trouble is
that there won't be many rich people around because they will
also impose a maximum wage of £144,000 per annum on any entrepreneur
who has not by then had the good sense to flee from Scotland.
of Sheridan's recent interviews was particularly fraught with
socialist utopianism when asked what he would have done about
the mobile phone assembly plant which is to be closed down by
Motorola with the loss of 3,000 jobs in Scotland.
less than erudite reply informed us that the workers would confiscate
it and maintain productivity even though Motorola could not make
a profit out if it. One can readily translate these socialist
euphemisms into massive losses being subsidised by taxpayers'
money. No thanks, Tommy; we had enough of that when nationalised
car production in Britain took a beating from imported Japanese
and German cars. The Tory government under Margaret Thatcher had
the good sense to privatise the British car industry before it
soaked up even more tax money in spiralling losses.
election broadcast on television also resorted to fear mongering
with the pitiable story of a family threatened with their phone
line being cut off and a general lack of cash topped off by the
main character's bike being enigmatically stolen.
informed us in this broadcast that the hundreds of billions of
pounds sloshing around the various Scottish financial institutions
was "our" money. The last time I looked at my pension statements,
they definitely had my name on them. The socialist cat was let
out of the bag; private ownership is anathema in their eyes. Predictably,
one can expect the Scottish Socialist Party to grab the votes
of those who are low in wages but also high in envy.
I see no libertarian party on the horizon. That is unfortunate
and is surely a niche market for many disaffected voters. A recent
poll of Scots showed that over 60% felt they paid too much taxes
whilst only 2% felt they did not pay enough taxes. Paradoxically,
16% only rated tax cuts as an election issue. Nevertheless, there
is a ripeness there which could be harvested if only the megaphone
propaganda of the Statists could be turned down.
a libertarian political party is not difficult, that is what democracy
is all about. The hard work begins in promoting it and making
the whisper of privatisation and small government be heard above
the socialist din. Electioneering is particularly expensive to
small parties as a comparison is made with the Scottish Socialist
need about £100,000 to produce and distribute their propaganda
plus a £500 deposit has to be placed with every constituency candidate.
If the candidate fails to get 4% of the vote then the deposit
is forfeited. Now, with 72 seats in Scotland, this amounts to
a potential loss of £36000 for any small party with big hopes.
draconian measure is meant to deter lunatics such as Lord Buckethead
running for parliament but it also deters fledgling parties from
bringing fresh ideas and innovations into the democratic marketplace.
The dice are loaded in favour of the big parties before even a
single vote is cast. With such a shackle in place, a libertarian
party would have to target seats which are more affluent and seek
sponsorship from companies and people sympathetic to the free
to this, the necessary commitment to stand for 15 seats to ensure
one late night election TV broadcast and the problems of the small
party are summed up.
way ahead may be in pressure groups and influencing the major
parties from within. Thankfully, there is a trend in Britain towards
more and more privatisation and cooperation with private companies
in public services. We can only hope the increasingly apparent
benefits of these activities finally emboldens one party to make
a decisive change of direction towards economic liberty.