David Cameron, the Prime Minister I supported for much of these past five years – and for whose party I voted in 2010 – spent the last day of the election campaign not making a powerful case for real conservative stewardship of the country, but by indulging in petty scaremongering about a Labour victory and pre-emptive expectation setting around the “legitimacy” of rival claims to power in the certain event of a hung parliament.
A real leader worth their salt would have been using those last precious hours to try to inspire people and positively win votes, rather than stoking fears about the other side and manoeuvring for position in the event of failure. But then David Cameron has repeatedly proven himself not to be a real leader.
Speaking to reporters on his 36-hour tour of Britain, Mr Cameron accused Mr Miliband of ducking the question of whether he would refuse to enter No 10 rather than rely on SNP support.
“He has said so many different things about no deals or this or that. Basically what he’s doing is a con trick,” Mr Cameron said. “You can see what he’s doing: ‘Look at this strong language about no deals and no pacts, and ignore the fact that I can only become prime minister off the back of SNP votes.’
“The question he needs to be asked more directly is: ‘Are you saying that if there was a hung parliament, and Labour and the SNP had a majority of votes, you wouldn’t become prime minister?’ If asked that question, I suspect the answer is: ‘No, I’m not saying that.’
“At that moment he will in the eyes of the British people totally break with what he said about no deals and no pacts with the SNP. The last promise he made before the election will be the first promise he breaks after the election. He knows this and that’s why he is not answering this point. That’s why it’s the monkey he can’t get off his back.”
Incredibly, as the 2015 general election campaign draws to a close, all David Cameron can do is talk about Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP – not his own positive vision for Britain.
Is this “he said she said” kindergarten tantrum the best string in our (nominally) conservative Prime Minister’s bow as he makes his last appeal to the electorate? Apparently so – because David Cameron’s brand of Coke Zero Conservatism is in many ways so indistinguishable from Ed Miliband’s Diet Labour that even deeply politically engaged citizens are left feeling wholly indifferent.
Here is Ed Miliband’s own inspiring final pitch for the highest office in the land, delivered from his campaign battle bus as the Labour leader headed north to his Doncaster constituency:
We have the chance to build a country that works for working people, not just a privileged few, to build a future for our young people, and to rescue our NHS.
The choice is not simply of policies or whether David Cameron or I is Prime Minister, it is a clash of two completely different ideas.
David Cameron believes that if the people on top do well, wealth will trickle down and all of Britain will prosper. I believe that Britain succeeds when working people succeed. If I am elected as Prime Minister, I will make every decision with that idea in mind.
This means absolutely nothing. Like nearly everything the Labour leader says, it is a meaningless word cloud of left wing stock phrases and platitudes, bolted together in a feeble attempt to establish Ed’s compassion credentials.
Miliband claims that this election is a “clash of two completely different ideas”, yet both he and David Cameron believe in universal benefits, government-provided healthcare, largesse showered on wealthy pensioners while the young and the poor suffer, paring our armed forces to the bare bones and keeping Britain politically and economically chained to Europe, the world’s only stagnating and declining continent.
If this is what polar political opposites look like in modern Britain then the political elite has achieved a far greater degree of consensus than the British people, many of whom now hold ideas that are unrepresented by any of the legacy political parties.
Now here’s Labour’s Suzy Stride, the Labour parliamentary candidate running in my hometown of Harlow, Essex:
This quote from Suzy Stride reveals everything rotten at the heart of the modern Labour Party, in three quick sentences:
“What makes us great as a country is not our culture, is not our wealth, and it’s definitely not currently our footballing abilities. What makes us great is that we have the dignity to care for those who are most vulnerable. So when did it become acceptable to make parents queue for food at foodbanks?”
What utter, insulting garbage – I find this to be an appalling, almost immoral statement. Our culture and our economic wealth (or more specifically the dynamism, creativity and hard work that underpin it) are absolutely what makes our country great. But the Labour Party – and even some in the Conservative Party – do not see this.
Labour and their “Conservative” apologists believe that the greatness of Britain is measured solely in the quality of our public services, and that the office of Prime Minister is nothing more than being a technocratic manager of those services. They would have us elect not a world leader, but a Comptroller of Public Services.
Stride is correct that one of the key hallmarks of a civilised society is the way in which it treats the poor and the vulnerable, which makes it all the more amazing that she (and her party leader, Ed Miliband) dare to talk about food banks. Food banks are a consequence of what happens when you ratchet up the size of the state until government spending represents almost half of the economy and a majority of people become net dependants on the government.
Labour may be correct in their insistence that they did not cause the financial crisis and global recession, but through their arrogance and negligence they ensured that the poorest and most vulnerable would be the hardest hit when the economy stalled and government revenues dried up. The fact that so many Britons now rely on foodbanks is Labour’s shame more than anything, though they will never receive censure, instead coasting by on their unearned reputation for being the party of compassion.
But now a choice has to be made – for realistically, only one of two parties will lead the next government. On the one hand we have an unrepentant, unreformed Labour Party led by a weak and indecisive leader whose first instinct is to expand the state, expand it some more and maybe ask questions later. And on the other hand there is a Conservative-In-Name-Only party which has proven itself utterly incapable of articulating a positive conservative vision for Britain, and which has reverted to embracing aspects of the failed post-war consensus than the Thatcher and Major governments rightly shunned.
In my own London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn, I am torn. The seat was the tightest three-way marginal in 2010, with outgoing Labour MP Glenda Jackson clinging on by just 44 votes in the face of a Conservative challenge, but is expected to be a comfortable gain for Labour in 2015 – the only real unknown being the impact of Labour’s proposed mansion tax on the wealthier vote here.
I have followed the local campaign closely, and interviewed all of the candidates running in Hampstead and Kilburn here. All of the candidates seem like good people – all have the potential to make good constituency MPs. But my choice is difficult.
The Labour candidate, Tulip Siddiq, is expected to win and hold the seat for Labour. When I interviewed her she seemed poised and articulate, with a strong grasp of local issues – but she represents a party which is no longer really interested in helping the poor or the vulnerable, preferring to bask in its reputation as the party of compassion and indulge in ostentatious virtue signalling. Labour will never be an option.
Helping the Conservatives to an unlikely victory here would shore up the Tory vote and give the best chance of returning David Cameron to Downing Street. But Cameron has barely advanced any of the issues that this blog cares most about, and has made no substantive efforts to reach out to the eurosceptic, more libertarian vote. Local candidate Simon Marcus opposes the “bedroom tax”, thus propagating the expectation that council housing should be for life, and wants to scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent – although he seems like a decent person, it is difficult to work out how he is a conservative at all.
The Liberal Democrat candidate, Maajid Nawaz, would make a fine MP and his emphasis on revolutionising mental health care is inspiring. But he represents a party whose top selling point, according to leader Nick Clegg, is that they would stop the Conservatives from being too conservative, and Labour from being too Labour. When the Vote LibDem pitch has nothing to do with their policies but everything to do with taking the ideological edge off two bigger parties who have already lost all touch with their sense of purpose, it cannot be taken seriously.
The UKIP candidate, Magnus Nielsen, will never win in West Hampstead – this relatively wealthy north London constituency is simply not receptive to the UKIP message, as I discovered when I attended local hustings and saw Nielsen booed more than once. And he is controversial – he made national headlines last year for his suggestion that Muslim Imams should be “vetted” by the government before being given license to preach, which would amount to an appalling infringement on the right to freedom of speech and religion. Furthermore, when I interviewed Nielsen he seemed very vague on TTIP, declining to take a position.
So – should it be a vote for national party or the best local candidate? Tactical voting or voting from the heart?
Personally, I am tired of picking the least worst option. I am tired of being let down by the Conservatives every single day, and watching my country creep inexorably to the left under the watch of the people who are supposed to champion personal liberty and economic freedom and a strong nation state. And I just won’t do it any more.
I refuse to believe that this is as good as it gets. I utterly reject the notion that Britain is somehow past her peak, that our only hope of future prosperity lies in pooling sovereignty with undemocratic institutions and implementing a continental social democratic model as we slip into global irrelevance, chained to the rest of Europe.
I believe that electing more UKIP MPs to parliament, and increasing UKIP’s national vote share by voting for the party even in seats like mine where they are uncompetitive, is the best way to advance the national interest and seize back power from the centrist, pro-European, Big Government consensus which has trapped virtually all of the other parties.
I believe that Britain’s economic future is brightest outside the European Union, when we do not lock ourselves exclusively into the EU’s insular, protectionist trade racket, but instead open our markets and our firms to the entire world, exploiting our deep connections with the Commonwealth countries and the Anglosphere once again.
I believe that the survival of our United Kingdom is not best served by allowing our country to be swallowed and digested by the EU – an explicitly integrationist political union which seeks to gradually erode any remaining sense of national identity, seizing power in small incremental stages but never with the democratic consent of the British people.
I believe that the greatness of our country is not measured just by the performance of our public services but by the immeasurable contributions that Britain makes to science, culture, technology and business. And I believe that Britain needs political leadership that understands that the British people need to be challenged to reach for new heights of human progress, and then unleashed to achieve our potential.
Sadly, I sense that the Conservative Party no longer believes these things. There remain some excellent Conservative MPs who do great work, many of whom I hope are re-elected, but the party as a whole seems resigned to their Coke Zero Conservatism, Labour’s big government with a slight conservative spin. Worse still, I have no faith that David Cameron shares this blog’s euroscepticism or belief in an independent Britain, and fully expect him to campaign for Britain to remain a member of the EU regardless of the outcome of his negotiations.
Of all the party manifestos released ahead of this election, UKIP’s was the only one to be fully costed by an impartial, external source – which is of great credit to UKIP and the shame of the supposedly mature legacy parties. What’s more, although there are parts of the manifesto that I disagree with, the UKIP manifesto is a serious offering from a serious party – one which has grown up considerably and made enormous strides since the 2010 election.
But still it’s not easy. I will be called an ignorant, backward-looking, little-England racist – despite my own mixed race background. Half the country will think I’m a dangerous extremist and another good quarter will think I’m a politically ignorant, economically left behind loser who wants to take Britain back to the 1950s.
But none of this is true. The party to which I lend my vote in 2015 has more than it’s fair share of flaws – bad candidates with offensive views, ill-considered manifesto pledges etc. – but so do the other parties. The fact that the misdeeds of councillors and candidates from other parties go unreported says more about the failings of Britain’s press than it does about UKIP.
It has become fashionable to look down on UKIP supporters in the same way that some people on the more liberal east and west coasts of America scoff at the flyover states, sneering at them and dismissing the inhabitants as Bible thumpers or white trash. But having myself lived for a time in the American Mid West I know this is not true – the people are good, decent and proudly patriotic, but hardly ever nationalistic.
The same is true of most Britons, and most Ukippers. The other parties may believe that UKIP represents everything wrong with modern Britain, but I cannot vote for any party that so openly looks down on a large segment of our own society – whether it’s Labour’s continual bashing of the rich and successful or David Cameron’s barely suppressed loathing of the “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” who expose his lack of conservative conviction on a daily basis. .
Unlike many of UKIP’s detractors, I do like the people – whether they are immigrant or indigenous, young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, left-wing or right-wing. And I do love my country.
So it is out of a deep affection for my fellow citizens – and an abiding hope that Britain can yet change course and be great again – that I cast my vote today for UKIP.