Sunday, 26 October 2014

What to make of Westminster politics!

My column which was published in the Cornish Guardian on the 15th October was as follows:

The three largest Westminster parties held their 2014 Party Conferences during September and October. There were plenty of pledges and promises, as well as the expected spate of policy announcements.

There was also the inevitable “positioning” ahead of the upcoming General Election, as each of the parties attempted to differentiate themselves from their opponents. I have to admit that it has all left me more than a little confused.

The Labour Party Conference took place first and delegates were, not unsurprisingly, condemning of the actions of the present government. But then, Ed Balls reaffirmed that they would stick to Coalition spending plans in the initial period of a future parliament. They also made announcements which toughened the party’s austerity stance, and said there would be no new spending funded from borrowing and added there would be a real-terms cut in child benefit.

Ed Miliband gave a speech from memory – something I would never have the nerve to attempt – but he forgot to mention the deficit; an omission for which he was widely ridiculed by opponents and elements of the media.

At the Conservative Conference, there was much talk of the deficit, which David Cameron and George Osborne used to justify their plans for additional cuts of £25 billion. They made it clear this would come out of “unprotected” areas such as local government –already being obliterated by cuts – and the welfare budget, with a specific benefit freeze for claimants of working age, many of whom are the working poor, struggling to get by on low wages.

They did however propose tax cuts for higher earners at some future point in the next parliament, showing their true priorities – which is clearly not the provision of public services.

And then there was the Liberal Democrat Conference, when leading Lib Dems spent much of the time lambasting their Coalition partners. Nick Clegg accused them of “snobbery and bile,” while Paddy Ashdown popped up again to accuse the Conservatives of being the “nasty party” of British politics – though I do recall that was exactly what he said in 2010 leading up to the last General Election!

In spite of the fact that the Lib Dems had been complicit in all of the Coalition’s cuts, slashing many areas “to the bone” – their words – Vince Cable kept up the public broadside against the Tories. He blasted their “obsession with ever deeper cuts in public spending” and suggested they wished to “destroy” the welfare state.

Newspaper reports meanwhile reported that “in private, Lib Dem ministers, MPs, candidates and activists spoke warmly about another Coalition with the Conservatives.”

Whatever conclusion you take from the utterances, it is unlikely to be complimentary about what passes for Westminster politics.

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