Friday, May 07, 2010
Whether it's Labour or Conservatives we need to avoid big public sector job losses leading to another recession - and we need P.R
Well - in complete contradiction to my own guesses before the election Labour increased it's majority in my constituency due to fear of a Conservative government (full result here) After spending a week organising my campaign, election communication and website and three weeks knocking on doors and ringing doorbells I got well and truly gubbed with 670 votes, 1.4% of the total number cast. It is a 48% increase on my vote last time but still irrelevant to the result as a whole.
(Thanks very much though to everyone who voted for me and everyone who campaigned for me and all the people who were polite or friendly on the doorstep when i interrupted their tea or their TV programmes or their baths and showers, or getting the kids to bed.)
(I’m still considering standing on the second vote on the Scottish parliament’s regional list for the South of Scotland next year, but not decided yet. The additional member system is as favourable to small parties and independents as the first past the post system for Westminster elections is unfavourable, but the list has 500,000 voters on it across a vast area – and many voters don’t realise that voting for a big party twice in Scottish Parliament elections will usually result in no additional seats for that party.)
I can’t blame people here for being scared of a Conservative government and voting Labour out of fear of it as bad rather than much worse.
On top of that the Conservatives (pretty much the UK equivalent of the Republicans) have won the largest number of seats in parliament - and whether they or Labour win they've both said they'll make cuts in public spending bigger than Thatcher did - as Labour Chancellor Alastair Darling said before the election. They won't touch military spending, or private finance initiatives, or public subsidies to arms firms, or public subsidies to privatised rail firms - nor raise taxes on the highest earners, nor close down tax havens.
So that means lots of public sector workers sacked (the local councils have already started by sacking the lollipop ladies and men (road safety wardens) for road crossings at primary schools.
More people made unemployed would mean reduced demand in the economy, which will result in knock on job losses in the private sector. This would likely lead to a "double dip recession" like the one Japan suffered in the 1990s, with the job losses killing the recovery of the economy.
All in all it looks pretty grim unless the big parties’ leaders step back from the brink or the smaller parties and some back-bench Labour MPs on the left of the party can prevent it – which I hope they can.
We certainly will have to cut public spending and/or increase taxes to avoid the risk of ending up a bit like Greece (though our public spending and debt as percentages of GDP are lower than Greece’s and we can vary the interest rate as we have our own currency, so we’ll hopefully avoid that fate). The question is who to tax and what cuts to make. We can’t afford to make large numbers of public sector employees unemployed any more than we can afford to continue without any cuts our tax rises. The most important thing is not that we eliminate the debt rapidly but that we rebuild an economy that can pay off that debt rather than slash and burn into a vicious circle of rising unemployment.
I'm still hopeful that we might get proportional representation for future elections if the Lib Dems stick to their guns on demanding PR in return for any kind of support for a minority government. That would mean that in future elections people could vote for the candidate or party they agree with most instead of mostly voting negatively against the party they dislike most and for one they only see as slightly less bad.
Nick Clegg would be a fool to accept David Cameron's vague promises of an all party electoral commission to discuss reform - he needs to hold out for a solid commitment to bring in proportional representation - and would be more likely to get that from Labour, who have less seats and so are more desperate to make a deal - and who at least believe that public services should exist and be well funded, unlike most Conservatives, even if both parties (and the Lib Dems) have gone for the over-charging and service cuts resulting from PFI and PPP deals.