Friday, 30 April 2010

Money too tight to mention

I don't follow the news as closely as I perhaps should these days, much of my time being taken up with work and family commitments, so I'm probably displaying huge political ignorance here, but there are some things that have been puzzling me as I think about the issues involved in this election campaign.
As a country, we owe huge amounts of money; according to some of the panel on this week's question time the national debt amounts to the equivalent of £90,000 for each household in Britain, or £1.1 million for each day since the birth of Christ!
Whenever he's questioned about the financial mess we are in and the consequent need for public spending cuts and savings (the scale of which, many commentators say, are currently being hidden from the electorate by the three main parties) Gordon Brown rightly points out that we are in a global financial crisis which originated in America and affects the whole of the worldwide economy (as he did, for example, on tonight's interview with Jeremy Paxman).
But wasn't the global financial crisis originating in America originally referred to as a 'credit-crunch'? And didn't it largely consist of banks losing lots of money through dodgy investments (mainly in the sub-prime mortgage market) and in some cases going out of business, while those that remained batoned down the hatches and became extremely cagey about lending money to businesses? It wasn't about national debt.
So the huge debt we're saddled with is not directly connected to the global financial crisis - unless, of course, it was incurred as a result of the extremely costly bailouts that the government so generously undertook to prevent crucial businesses from going bust as a result of the worldwide crunch. But the recipients of those massive bailouts were, almost exclusively, the banks.
In which case, from whom did we borrow these vast sums needed to effect the bailout?
Presumably, from other banks! Ones that, clearly, weren't in such dire financial straits at the time. In which case, why couldn't the struggling banks have just borrowed the money directly from the financially healthy banks? Why did the government (and, ipso facto, the taxpayer) have to be involved at all? And anyway, if these apparently financially robust banks existed, why was it so crucial to the economy that the failing banks didn't go under? Okay, some bank customers might have lost their savings, but the government could far more easily have bailed those customers out rather than racking up huge debts getting the whole banking sector back up and running, fat salaries, hefty bonuses and all.
Anyway, like I said, these are probably stupid questions born of ignorance, but they've been puzzling me so I thought I might as well mention them.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Why I'm going to vote Lib Dem

I'm not particularly keen on the idea of voting for Gordon Brown's New Labour, but as a low paid worker in receipt of Working Families Tax Credits I don't trust the Tory party either, even with their new 'non-nasty' image. The obvious solution is to vote for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, but it would be nice if there were more choice available other than the big 2 and slightly less big 1. There are other parties of course, but a vote for one of the smaller parties would seem like a wasted vote as they have very little chance of electoral success under the current voting system.
But it's precisely because of this last point - the notion that to vote for a small party (ie. any party other than Labour or Conservative or apparently, now, the Lib Dems) is to waste one's vote - that I have decided to vote for the Liberal Democrats; not necessarily out of a desire to see that party form the next government but in the hope that, in the event of a hung parliament with the Lib Dems holding the balance of power, they will use that power to push for a system of Proportional Representation to be brought in for future general elections. I voted Lib Dems in 2005 for the same reason, only this time I think there is far more chance of this actually coming to fruition. The introduction of PR would completely change the nature of politics in this country and would break the stranglehold of Labour and Conservative, making room for those who dissent from the views of the major parties to have their own ideas and opinions taken seriously within the political arena.
In other words, people such as myself, who might, all things being equal, be inclined to vote for one of the smaller parties, should, in my opinion, give serious thought to refraining from voting for the natural party of their choice in this election and consider instead voting tactically in order to bring about what would be far more amenable circumstances for said party at the next general election. Call it an electoral investment, with a very worthwhile dividend to be reaped in 4 or 5 years time. A vote for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 could be the springboard for a far more meaningful vote for one of the smaller parties in a few years time.

Saturday, 3 April 2010