Are they taking us for a ride?

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Ben Cohen
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(photo from politicalbetting.com)

Guest post by David Bowles

It seems to me that politicians think we are stupid. That may seem to be a provocative and dismissive statement but that is how I feel when it comes to British politics. We have three parties, currently the conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are in a coalition government with the Labour party in opposition after nearly 15 years in power.

During Labour's time in power there was an unprecedented boom followed by an almighty bust (the credit crunch). Labour were in power at the time so although it was a world wide crash, they must take a large part of the rap. The Conservatives didn't oppose many of Labours economic policies that caused the problems, so they must also take their share of the blame. The Liberals did warn of some of the dangers, but with around 20% of the vote they tended to do so safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't have to think of real solutions as they were unlikely to ever get into government.

After the initial crash and in the following general election Labour blamed the international banking system and hailed Gordon Brown for 'saving the world'. They left out the part about the lax regulation of the banks and the selling off of vast gold reserves when the gold price was at its lowest levels.

The Conservatives kept blaming Labour and keeping quiet about their support for de-regulation of the banking system. Their soundbite was 'we're all in this together', telling us absolutely nothing about how they intended to get us out of whatever it was we were in.

The Liberals, with a promise of a 'new politics', made lots more promises in the knowledge that they would never have to find a way to implement them in government (whoops).

Now we are around 6 months into the new coalition governments term. The coalition is implementing contraversial cuts in public spending and changes to the tax system, notably increasing VAT which they had previously said they did not intend to do. The latest GDP figures appear to be showing trouble ahead.

Labour have consistently attacked them with the catchphrase 'too far, too fast', but before the election the now Labour leader was reported to have been in favour of a VAT rise. The former Labour chancelor, Alistair Darling waned that a Labour party returned to government would make cuts that were more savage than anything that Margret Thatcher made during her time in power. The knowledge that there is likely to be around 4 years before a general election makes it very easy to criticise without having to come up with realistic alternatives.

The Liberals promised to abolish university tuition fees (after all they would never have to implement their policies as they would never get into government). They then helped introduce a trippling of higher education fees triggering some of the most violent riots seen in London for years.

There are too many other examples of this 'say one thing, do another' attitude in politics to list here but it seems to me that the media soundbites and catchphrases of 21 century politics are masking the laws that our leaders are implementing – not just the current government but also Labour when they were in power. What we need are facts and figures so that we can make informed decisions about what should and shouldn't happen. Otherwise the decisions about which party to vote for are more to do with political allegiances than actual politics.

The decisions we make when voting in a political election should not resemble taking sides on shows like the 'X-factor'. After all, the stakes are a little higher.