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Hobson's Choice

The three main parties go to great lengths to convince us that they are totally different and that only they have the ability to look after the country properly. The Tories have traditionally told us that they will promote efficient small government and minimise the tax burden, the Labour party tell us they will provide for the weak and protect public services and the Liberal Democrats tell us they will protect the rights of the individual. Seems ideal: we have a Capitalist party, a Socialist party and a Liberal party. What more could we possibly ask for?

However if we take a closer look we find that not only are they prepared to sacrifice their principles at the drop of a hat, but that they will also adopt identical policies if they think it will help them at the polls. Our hard won democracy is therefore reduced to what goodies each party can offer and the more difficult issues are collectively ignored.

Labour: Well-meaning but a certain route to destruction

The Labour party is rooted in a public sector mentality: well-meaning and virtuous ideas which are self-defeating. Its activists want to see more spending on health, education and welfare. They want higher salaries for public sector workers and more rights in the workplace. Above all, they want to tax the rich and redistribute resources to the poor. All of which probably seems like a good idea to large number of people. However, the politics of envy is no solution and any democratic country which has gone down this path has suffered economic disaster leading to even worse conditions for the poor and fewer resources for public services.

Tony Blair has been careful not to advocate this route explicitly but he has allowed Gordon Brown, the favourite to become the next leader, to accomplish it by stealth: a bit more tax here, a bit more regulation there, all tempered with empty promises to reform the public services. Above all, the architects of New Labour understand power. The immediate electoral benefits of such policies matter far more to them than the implications for our economy or our society in years to come. Mr Blair has taken the same attitude to the European Union: the personal kudos he gains by going along with his fellow European leaders far outweighs the economic decline and loss of self-government that such plans will inevitably entail.

The ‘Old’ Labour of the activist base and the ‘New’ Labour of Blair and Brown thus lead to the same place. On the surface the Labour message is appealing but if we are genuinely concerned about the future of our country and its people we need to face people with reality rather than empty promises.

We must realise that we will become a third-rate economy with a dysfunctional society and a shell of a government unless we look beyond New Labour spin. Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan in the 1950s claimed that we had “never had it so good” at the very time that we were first starting to fall behind our competitors. Labour spin-masters are now simply copying what their Tory predecessors started.

The Conservatives: An equally certain route to decline

The Conservative party has become steadily more inclined to adopt the fashions of the day, never more so than under David Cameron. Their shallow 'hug a hoodie' politics and faux environmentalism may play well in the colour supplements but they will never address the far-reaching changes that our society needs. Despite espousing values that resonate with people on many issues, history shows that the Conservatives will always compromise our future for political gain.

After the war the Conservatives persevered with Labour’s welfare agenda, resulting in so-called ‘Butskellism’ (named after the consensual views of the Conservative minister Rab Butler and Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell). The seeds of the three day week, the 1970s stagflation, the IMF crisis and the ‘Winter of Discontent’ were all sown in the welfare state policies of the post-war era. In the post-Suez tunnel vision that afflicted British foreign policy in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Tories saw ‘Europe’ as the answer to our problems. While the Conservative party has sometimes been critical of the EU it was they who took us into the EEC and subsequently signed the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. Now we have Mr Cameron's attempt to brush the issue under the carpet.

During Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister the complacency and state corporatism that she inherited was for once challenged. However, many social problems were not addressed and the Conservative establishment soon reasserted itself. In recent years the party has reverted to its post-war role of accepting the apparent consensus and promising not to stray from it too fundamentally.

In short, the Conservatives will tax as much as Labour but say they will try to spend the money a little more wisely. In other words, they will continue along the same path of decline.

The Liberal Democrats: Oh Dear!

And what can we say of the Liberal Democrats, except that they are certainly not liberals and are quite unconvincing as democrats. They can not be compared to the classical liberals of the nineteenth century who believed in a progressive and free society built on shared values, self-restraint and personal responsibility. Today’s so-called liberals feed on the group rights culture and a high tax and spend philosophy that pays lip service to economic viability. Even their recently scaled down ambitions for income tax, compensated for in part by hefty new 'environmental' taxes, would leave us with an enormous and ultimately unsustainable public sector. And not only does parliamentary democracy not figure highly in their plans, Westminster would almost be irrelevant in the Liberal Democrat world of multi-tiered layers of government doing the bidding of the EU and the UN. If the Liberal Democrats ever became anything more than a protest vote then they would undoubtedly cause great damage.

Conclusion

The present choice for the voter is indeed a poor one. All three parties have polished their vote catching skills at the expense of principled leadership and each party, in its own way, has given in to the view that Britain is and will remain an irrelevance in the bigger picture. None of the parties can tell us how to stop our domestic decline and none of the parties can tell us how to measure up to world class economies.

So who is to blame?

Although there is growing distrust of politicians it is matched in equal measure by apathy and self interest. Voter turnout may be falling but this does not prevent the usual suspects from using the same old tricks to win elections. Although many people realise that the unremitting breakdown in our self-reliance, our skills and our society cannot continue indefinitely, a significant number apparently could not care less. At the end of the day we can hardly criticise politicians for reverting to spin if we are prepared to accept it. Despite all the evidence of our decline, it sometimes seems that we do not press our politicians too hard in case we might not like the answer. It will only be when we demonstrate our willingness to listen to the plain truth about what needs to be done to get our country back on the rails, that our politicians will at last pluck up sufficient courage to put their cards on the table.

The New Party has no wish to denigrate the efforts of those politicians who are doing the best they can to help their country. We are simply pointing out that our so-called “adversarial” system no longer functions properly as the main political parties have all resorted to politically expedient policies and spin to avoid confronting the electorate with too many of life’s harsh realities.