I’ve so much wanted not to do this. Not to join the multitude of bloggers with their political hearts out there on their sleeves. Not to get dragged into the pointless invective and mudslinging that masquerades as our political discourse. Not to alienate some good people whose insights I value even if I cannot agree with them. Not to acquiesce in the mindlessly reductive sloganeering that would have me choose whether the vapidity of “A Future Fair for All” trumps the inanity of “The Big Society”.
Well, I’ve held out this long, but I can’t hack it any longer. I don’t know what’s really driving my need to confess all, to let my political innards hang out, but its force can be no longer denied. Perhaps it’s the distillation of all my thinking and meditating into that one simple act of putting a cross here rather than there. That feels so totally inadequate a way of expressing myself that perhaps I need to do more, to articulate less symbolically. But one thing’s for sure. Wherever I place my cross, it will be as much a denial of what I believe and hope for as it will be an affirmation of it.
In some ways I’ve been let off this time. If I were to say which of the parties I most believe in, the party that gets closest to responding to my deepest desires for my country, it would be the Greens. But there is no Green candidate in my constituency, and I’m sorry, but the Respect Party’s leaflet that tells me the next best thing for me is to vote for them leaves me utterly unmoved. If I were to vote for a party without the remotest chance in hell of having any influence over our lives in the next five years, it would have to be one I believed in. Sorry, George, but you and your rabble of discontents really don’t fit that bill.
So what, then? You can blame Johann Hari if you like. His glimpse into a Cameron future really does chill the blood. But that would be to credit (or libel – take your pick) him too much. Johann’s piece has merely reminded me of what I really needed no reminding of. That Tories in power bear little relation to Tories seeking office. That their instincts are fundamentally wrong, and that even one-nation Tories (oh, yes, I’m old enough to remember that distinction!) want to help the most disadvantaged only insofar as is necessary to prevent them overly disturbing the excessively advantaged. The LibDems? Nick Clegg’s now wearisome scolding of the squabbling of the “old parties” does little more than make me wonder at how little he seems to know about his own party’s history. “Look at those two at it again” isn’t going to survive even day one of the negotiations spawned by a hung parliament.
No. For all the smashed dreams of Tony Blair’s disastrous leadership, for all the economic legerdemain of Chancellor Brown’s budget conjuring tricks and their significant contribution to the fiscal disaster that now confronts us, and albeit with a heavy heart, it’s Labour again for me.
Because as Johann’s article so eloquently demonstrates, it’s always at the margins that political ideologies bite. It’s the pregnant homeless mother who foots the bill for a paltry £100 Council Tax reduction, and it will be the poorest who pay fastest for Cameron’s unseemly haste to reduce the deficit. ‘Twas ever thus. Labour, if returned, will tighten the screws as well, and their shameless rhetoric on prisons, on immigration, on benefit scroungers, will also result in more suffering for those who suffer too much already. But I believe that they will damage them less.
That’s what it amounts to. Damage limitation. So I’ll be voting Labour tomorrow, but I’m not remotely proud of myself, or of them.