Robert Hampton

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5th May 2010

I agree with Nick
Posted by at 1.04pm | No responses | Politics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’ll be aware that there’s an election tomorrow. If you’ve been following the election closely, you may be reaching the stage where you want to live under a rock for a month.

I sent my postal vote on Friday morning, the ballot paper enthusiastically marked for the Liberal Democrats. In the remainder of this post, I am going to set out the reasons why they have earned my vote and also why Labour should not win another term.

Let’s be clear: I was a Lib Dem voter before Cleggmania made it cool. I have voted for them in every election since I was eligible to vote. It wasn’t a protest vote: I genuinely believed, as I do now, that the party’s policies were closest to my own views.

This time, however, I have taken things a step further: I actually made a donation to the party for the first time. I put up a sign in my window, and you may have noticed the subtle banner at the top of my home page and the twibbon on my Twitter feed.

I wanted to do something more useful than simply voting, especially since I am in the safe Labour seat of Liverpool Riverside where, according to the Voter Power Index, my vote is worth 14 times less than the UK average. Labour’s Louise Ellman will almost certainly be heading back to the House of Commons to “represent” me, but I can still say I helped the Liberal Democrat cause, in some small way.

I should, according to logic, be a Labour voter. I come from a working class family, I grew up in a relatively poor area. I was over the moon when they swept to power in 1997 and wasn’t too unhappy when they more or less maintained their huge majority in 2001. I am also fully conscious of the progress that the country has made since 1997: the national minimum wage, welfare reform, great improvements in health care, comprehensive gay rights laws, to name but a few. Significantly, many of these steps forward appear to changed attitudes generally: in contrast to the old Tories of the 1980s, David Cameron is keen to portray himself as a supporter of the NHS and gay rights (not always successfully).

So, Labour have much to be proud of after 13 years of government. However, in recent years the wheels have started falling off dramatically. The Iraq war remains a particular sore point for me. David Miliband recently told the Guardian: ‘You’ve punished us enough about Iraq’ — on the contrary, I don’t think they’ve been punished nearly enough for leading the country into a dangerous, borderline illegal war against a regime which did not possess the weapons of mass destruction we were told they had. The Liberal Democrats opposed the war, leading Tony Blair to declare that they were “united in opportunism and error”. I think history has proved who was ultimately right.

Draconian anti-terror legislation has been introduced, leading to craziness such as photographers being arrested for taking perfectly innocent pictures.

The unpleasant ID card scheme is slowly being rolled out. It would, if Labour remain in power, eventually become mandatory, meaning every British citizen would be forced to spend money for the privilege of having their name and biometric details on a hugely expensive national computer for no readily-apparent benefit.

Civil liberties, as far as I’m concerned, are not an option; not something that can be quietly dropped on the basis that “if you’re not doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about”. While Labour continues to be so cavalier about the subject, I cannot even think about voting for them. Compare and contrast to the Lib Dems who have an unequivocal commitment to civil liberties.

I had hoped that Gordon Brown would provide a much needed change of direction. Unfortunately, his time as Prime Minister seems to have been marked by a distinct lack of any direction at all. Increasingly, over the past year or so, the Government seemed to have no idea what it was doing. On a multitude of issues, from anti-social behaviour to drugs policy, the Government seemed to be making it up as it went along, based on what would look good on the front of the Daily Mail. This culminated in the Digital Economy Bill, a bad piece of law cynically forced through Parliament in its final week before dissolution.

The Lib Dems’ policies have been described as crazy, mainly by the Daily Mail and Murdoch press who have a vested interest in seeing David Cameron installed as Prime Minister. As I pointed out myself just the other day, many of their policies actually make a great deal of sense, even if they don’t easily translate into a positive Sun headline.

The Liberal Democrats are hindered by their perennial third place position and an electoral system which means that a big increase in vote share doesn’t necessarily translate into an equivalent increase in Commons seats. Electoral reform is the answer, but until that happens, it is important that as many Liberal Democrat MPs as possible are voted in on May 6th.

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