The kids have been asking questions about the elections. With so much hot air and hype out there, it’s hard to find a way to explain how I decide who to vote for.
It’s made harder still because I still haven’t quite decided who I am going to vote for. The clock is ticking!
I’ve read the manifestos, listened to the TV debates, and watched Newsround with the 6 year old. So many words, opinions, and commenters. It’s clouded my thinking. So today, I am going back to basic principles.
As far as I can see, the cornerstones of modern democracy in the West are Freedom, Equality, and Community. Think the French Revolution motto “Liberte, egalite, fraterinte”.
We are lucky, in many ways, that all political parties are mindful of these values that the vast majority of us hold dear. Some of them lean more towards Freedom, some Equality, and some Community to achieve the overall aim of making the UK as good as it can be.
When the Conservatives think of freedom, they think of freedom to make and spend money as you wish. They believe equality will come naturally if you give people this financial freedom – the wealth will cascade down, benefitting all of us.
Historically, Conservatives have had quite a strict interpretation of what makes a good community, especially with regard to family structure. You are free to spend your money as you want, but we’d rather you were married and straight while you spent it. Over the years, the Conservatives have made efforts to move away from this image and now we are left to interpret what they mean when instead they refer to “British Values”.
Labour’s primary driver is equality. They may restrict freedoms on making and spending money in order to facilitate redistributing wealth. By their own admission, one of New Labour’s failings when they were last in government was moving away from this core principle and granting the Banking Industry too much freedom, via the wrong type of regulation.
Historically, Labour have been so keen for us to all be treated as equals, that many believe their policies around issues such as immigration and integration has undermined the sense of community, of what it means to be British. Look at cases such as Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, for the problems that many perceive that this has contributed to.
The Greens, UKIP, and SNP are strongly focussed upon community. All have very strong views on how individuals should live their lives in order to make the world (Greens) or their small part of the world (UKIP and SNP) a better place. Personal freedoms will need to be restricted to achieve their vision. Perhaps you think this is worth it, to achieve the aims of a greener, more English, or more Scottish part of the world.
When it comes to attitudes towards economic freedom, I see Greens and SNP more left than labour (regulation and higher taxes is no bad thing if it serves the purpose of redistributing wealth), and UKIP as more right than the Conservatives (If i work hard to earn my money, I should be able to spend it as I see fit. If I don’t have any money, I’m not working hard enough).
Lib Dems are somewhere in the middle of all of this.
All of these approaches have strengths. All have weaknesses.
For me, the trick is going to be remembering those basic principles that I hold most dear, and those that I cannot abide when it comes to achieving a free, fair society with a healthy sense of community.
Writing this has helped clarify who I will vote for.
At 3.10pm, I’ll be casting my vote on the way back from the school run. The kids will be with me, and then I’ll be explaining to the kids how I voted, using words along the lines of what I have written here.
What else should I be telling them?