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The Campaign Trail, 2005: the inevitable fear and loathing…

… but is that a side order of despair with that, sir?

Time to start blogging the election, then.  But what to say?  Normally I’d be exhorting you to vote Labour, like in 1997 and 2001; though those were before the days of blogs (for me, at least).  But this year.  This year it’s different.

I could of course warn of the danger of sleep-walking towards a Tory government, as Ken did.  And that would be true: there’s no doubt that the Tories would be much worse than Labour or the Lib Dems for the economy and public services.  Plus the idea of it is just repellent; especially for those of us who lived through the Thatcher years.  Who, like me, was politically naive (and fortunately too young to vote) in 1979, and thought something along the lines of, “let’s give them a chance to see how they do”.  And then watched as public services and manufacturing industry were systematically dismantled, as everything good at the heart of this country was attacked by the greedy, money-grubbing scumbags who wanted to turn us into a “share-owning democracy” by selling us the stuff we already owned.

So yes, I could warn about that.  About how Michael Howard was one of Thatcher’s henchmen, about how he presided over the “No repetitive beats” Criminal Justice Act which attempted to criminalise public partying.  About how Howard Flight’s secret revelations are probably understated, and that Tory sleaze didn’t go away after 1997, it just went underground.

But this is 2005, and we don’t have to try to depose a sleazy Tory government any more.  It’s much worse than that.  We have to try to depose a sleazy Labour government; and we have to do it without letting the Tories in.

There is an obvious answer, in theory, at least: we should vote for the Liberal Democrats.  And that wouldn’t be so bad.  I could do that (I might have to).  But the trouble is, most people, disillusioned as they are with the other two, won’t vote for the Lib Dems.  Many people seem to have this strange desire to vote for the winning party.  This is a curious attitude that I have never understood.  Obviously you  want your side to win.  You believe in their policies, or thnk that an individual is the best person to represent your constituency, so you want them to win.  That’s how a representative democracy works.

What I don’t understand is the attitude that seems to say, “I’m not going to vote for them, because they won’t win”.  Well of course they won’t, if nobody votes for them.  But you’re not trying to bet on winner, you’re trying to choose a representative.  It doesn’t matter (in one sense) if you lose; it matters that you vote for what’s right.

The government is crap.  New Labour is crap.  It’s not just Iraq and the whole US-poodle thing; I could see my way past that.  It’s much worse than that.  it’s ID cards.  It’s house arrest.  it’s an attack on civil liberties so extreme that even Thatcher wouldn’t have attempted it.

I live in a safe Labour seat.  My MP, Brian Sedgmore, kicked government arse in his speech on house arrest.  I could happily vote for him again.  Unfortunately, he’s standing down at the election.  I’ve just being doing some research on his replacement candidate, Meg Hilllier.  She is worryingly silent on ID cards.

I miss old — rather, proper — Labour; I miss having people you might actually want to vote for.  Hell, I even miss 1997-grade New Labour.  I almost miss having Thatcher in power.  At least then it was easy to know who to vote against.

But I wouldn’t want them back.  I’d spoil my ballot before I’d ever vote for those scumbags.  Unless — just maybe unless — they came out against ID Cards.  If they did, though, I wouldn’t trust them.

Never mind a Tory government: we’re sleep-walking towards hell in a handbasket.