When the bulb lights up and you just want to get it off your chest, there is a time to just come out with it. Usually, I like to reflect and analyse and then wax lyrical but I hope this time people will bear with me. Two quite different things showed up on my radar earlier today that each begged a common question, and that is how to cut through the propaganda being churned out by the different political parties and their supporters, ahead of next Thursday’s election, and come to a right view as to where the truth lies. Examples like these, along with an assortment of snippets on Facebook and when I get the opportunity to check out the media, seem to be my daily diet these days, and the quest is to determine where the balance lies. As some of the folk who know me will know, that now I am in my grumpy dotage I get quite irritated at the sound bite politics that these days seem to dominate the political landscape and feel I have a mission to set the record straight. I like to cut to the chase and understand what it is each party stands for and to be presented with reasoned arguments why they are better than their rivals such that I and those who listen to what I have to say can make our views known and then make informed decisions, even if these differ.
The first happening was listening to Ed Balls on the BBC Radio 4 Today program, en route to the gym. I have to admit that Ed is NOT my favourite politician and in days gone by he has irritated me on more than one occasion, but today on Today he was superb. He was asked to respond to yesterday’s Conservative announcement that they would freeze taxes and unlike as pointed out by a Facebook friend, also today, after they made the same promises last time, they reneged on them, but this time it would be enshrined in law. While he was understandably skeptical, Ed also pointed to other taxes the Conservatives may well increase, e.g. doing away with tax credits, and the need to balance the books to deliver on what they said they will do. Moreover, he went into detail, at the appropriate level, on what he saw as Labour’s costed spending plans. While impressed, I am not naïve enough to be taken in. For once the interviewer let him off lightly (I felt) and, besides which, there was no George Osborne to challenge him. I was glad to have listened and then listen again on BBC iPlayer (2hrs 10mins in), noting I have work still to do to get a full grasp of setting budgets that are socially just yet balanced.
My next destination, following my work out, was breakfast at Deb’s diner (please don’t tell Mrs B – ed). The newspaper offering at Deb’s was rather limited but I guess there isn’t much demand for the Times or the Guardian in these places. But there was the Sun, which I read for the sports news of course. I was struck by its front page: “Monster raving Labour Party cosies up with Brand”, as if his late night visit to be interviewed by Russell had any sinister undertones. Having just listened to the interview, I thought t’other Ed was also superb and he should be commended for taking the opportunity to engage in this way. Back to the Sun, the inside page had the head line Tax Ban – no rise in income tax, VAT or National Insurance vs Tax Man – 12 billion of tax increased to pay for more benefits. While I recognize the Sun has a point, it is quite clear it also has an anti-Labour agenda. How influential it is these days, it is difficult to say, but it is regrettable it should employ such disingenuous tactics to support its stance and just as with Katie Hopkins rants the people of this wonderful democracy let them get away with it far too easily.
It may well sound that with all this praise I am going back to my Labour roots. That isn’t my intention and I have yet to make up my mind on the many issues and who I will be voting for. My quest is to get to the bottom of understanding the issues and what the various parties would do to address these along with the implications. There is work still to do. Sadly, besides those who won’t vote, there will be many, probably most, who will vote on spurious grounds like which of the sound bites appeal the most. Yet it is as I have seen today not easy to come to a definitive view and easy to have one’s already held views shattered if open to be challenged. Neither is it as simple as we might like to think. It may well have looked like the old style vote Labour on social justice grounds and Conservative on economic grounds, but I am not so sure it is that straightforward these days. The issues before us at this election are many and complex, but come May 7th we must choose. I hope before then I will have decided what that choice will be and will share on my blog who and why.