In next week's General Election, I intend to vote Labour.
I am not a traditional Labour voter. I am first generation Asian migrant, with a professional background and generally belong to Asian professional circles and neighbourhood. Most of the people I socialise with are likely to vote conservatives, and some of them, in time, will perhaps join the Tory party. I have not voted Labour in the last election, and have not agreed with many of its policies while it was in Government. I pay my taxes, and never taken any benefits nor thought of doing it. I don't know the local Labour candidate, nor has she campaigned too ardently in the locality I live in. On the other hand, I know the incumbent Conservative MP, a very likable one, and several of my friends are actively campaigning for him. And, yet, I made up my mind now to vote Labour.
Indeed, I would have never voted for the Tories in the first place. There are several reasons for this, but essentially, I see the Conservatives as a fear-mongering bunch, whose Britain-Is-Under-Siege mentality I utterly despise. For me, it is important for Britain to remain an Open Economy, and another Conservative government is a threat to that. The Conservative view of the Future of Britain is based on a closed economy, disconnected from Europe and walled-off from the rest of the world, a place where only the rich could invest in and stay. The Conservatives represent only a milder first step on the slippery slope of national chauvinism, of which UKIP is the natural end. The Conservatives tied their hands with a net migration target last time, which they failed to deliver, and this has done significant damages to British businesses and industry. This time around, while they realised the foolishness of trying to control migration, they have tied themselves to a referendum on EU membership, the outcome of which is unpredictable, doing further damage to British economy. So, from a purely economic standpoint, a Conservative Government is problematic.
There is more. The Conservative Agenda of British Economic Recovery is based on cuddling the House Prices. This was the last Labour government's original sin, artificially supporting House Prices but doing little else to restructure the economy. This strategy does not work, we already know, and the periodic boom-and-bust cycles that it creates, causes a lot of misery and push Britain backwards. And, there is an alternative - creating a fairer society which ensures robust demand for housing but less of the speculative flipping game - which a Centre-Left government is more likely to ensure (though the last Labour government utterly failed on this one).
Also, putting the Conservative Party in charge endangers the Public Services in Britain, particularly the National Health Service (NHS). This has always been a bugbear for the Tories, and the current government has done its bit to undermine the integrity of NHS services. There are indeed inefficiencies in the NHS, but then, we also know that the monopolistic large businesses that the Tories champion are no more efficient or customer centric (think BT or the Rail companies after decades of private ownership). Arthur Okun's point that the Market needs its place and it needs to be kept in its place is best served by a Centre-Left government.
Finally, if I hated Tony Blair's wars, I hated Cameron's, executed and intended, wars in Libya and Syria more. They have created a greater mess, and now the Tory handmaidens are talking about sending gunboats to kill the people desperately fleeing from the chaos created by, indeed, our gunboats. The Tory world-view, one where they intend to replace EU with the primacy of the Commonwealth, is utterly out of date, particularly in its assumption that Britain still has the moral or economic authority to dictate the agenda. A more pragmatic view, perhaps underlined by their own action of joining a Chinese-led Development Bank along with its European colleagues, is better for Britain, but the approach to it remained opportunistic, rather than strategic.
The British election debate so far has been driven by relative non-issues, including the sex appeal (or fidelity) of Ed Miliband (remember, last time, Nick Clegg's innocence did it!) or now, perhaps, a baby. The other, bigger non-issue was the fear of Scottish National Party (SNP), which may potentially win all the seats in Scotland and make a Centre-Left Government dependent on its support. But, the whole business of fearing the SNP - which the Tories are whipping up and the Labour leadership is being ambivalent about - is utterly irrational. The Scots have voted to stay with the UK just recently, and the best way to keep the United Kingdom united is to give the SNP, with its great popularity in Scotland, a voice in Westminster. Anything else - imagine a Tory government driving its London-centric agenda - pose a much greater danger to the unity of the country.
Hence, I shall vote Labour next Thursday. It is not a blanket commitment, but one based on practical, economic commitments. This is driven by my own interests, but instead of a parochial one (what can they for Asians), this choice is driven by what I think is good for Britain.
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