Any general election day is something of a celebration of democracy: this one feels a little different, for only the second time in the last thirty years we may see a change of government. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this feel different from 1997, the mood is a lot darker and there is not the feeling of better days to come that was had when Tony Blair and New Labour swept the Conservatives from power so comprehensively.
The electorate once again has the chance to remind those who end up in Westminster just who their ultimate boss is. It’s not the whips or the party grandees, it’s the electorate they have been courting so determinedly for the last few weeks.
I think we all understand the country is in trouble. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have actually seen the books and if it’s as bad as we’ve been led to believe it may be the country is faced with the biggest peace time deficit ever.
Whenever the next Prime Minister is will have to face the debt that’s been run up and make a large number of tough decisions. As a country we have tried to mitigate the recession by spending money the country did not have. This money has to be paid back.
In Greece we can see what happens when a government and people live so far beyond their means. There has been a nationwide social breakdown followed by strikes, arson, rioting and today deaths. While I don’ believe that Britain could head down the same path as Greece, but if the government does not reduce it’s spending to match it’s income then massive social problems await.
Blair and Labour were elected in ’97 with a mandate to fix public services and that took money. This increase in public spending was affordable as long as the economy kept growing at a pace that supported it.
When it stopped growing a couple of years ago swift, and potentially unpopular action was required. To be frank, I think Brown bottled it, with worried too much about being reelected rather than doing the right thing for the country
This election is unlike any other. In 1979 the country was feeling the pain, we were in the aftermath of the winter of discontent and inflation was rampant. It was obvious to all that the economy needed to be sorted and it turns out Thatcher was willing to risk her popularity and was the person to do it.
War and a Labour party that was all but unelectable aided her subsequent election wins, but the wins in the 80’ were based upon an economy made possible by the difficult choices and occasionally painful policies her government followed when they first came to power.
I also believe the same policies divided the country in a way never seem before. There were those who made fortunes off her policies, and a huge subclass that were left behind. Her government squandered billions of North Sea oil money and billions more raised by selling publicly owned companies.
The problems with the economy today are less immediate to most people, the power is there and rubbish does not lay uncollected in the street. The tough decisions were put off by Gordon Brown, but they are still there to be made.
The Australian government did the right thing, they made unpopular decisions and decided to live with the results. It hurt, and is still hurting, but the country will come out of the recession in better shape because of it. Whoever is living in Number 10 next week will have to make hard, painful and unpopular decisions. I hope they do the right thing for the country, not the right things for the polls.
One thing I don’t understand is that if Labour has identified 6 Billion in efficiency savings, why have they waited until now to implement them. They have seen the state of borrowing and if they truly waited until the election to roll out these savings it’s truly criminal to waste billions in taxpayers money.