Funnily enough, even though I’ve always considered myself politically driven I’d never actually joined a political party until this election. Partly this was to convince myself I was unbiased, and partly it was because most of the constituencies I’ve lived in have been safe since 1997, and I was happy with the incumbent. This time round, I actually did put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and joined the Liberal Democrats. It seemed they were in with a fighting chance down our way, and needed all help available to capitalise on the post-debate popularity.
It didn’t work, of course. There wasn’t actually a lot of effort put into trying to win Worthing East and Shoreham, where the local MP (Tim Loughton) has been sitting since the seat was created. Eastbourne, just a few miles away, was the key marginal that all available resources were thrown into.
Still, I’ve remained a party member, even as the message from central government has got more and more appalling, believing that possibly there was a tempering influence being exerted by the Liberals. This is the tweet that’s ended my brief flirtation with party politics, though.
It’s an out and out lie – and you’d have thought that after the student demonstrations Clegg would have been careful about that. The number one reason for everything this government does – as reiterated by Lord Henley at a conference I attended today – is to address the deficit. If there is a ‘single, over-riding principle’ it’s to save cash, not to get people back into work. Not at the same time as cutting hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs. This comment from a Guardian reader sums up my feelings about the new welfare to work plans and the punitive actions against claimants who stay on the dole that have been announced today. Maybe, just maybe, if there was a promise to invest the money saved in the benefits system in public works programs that create jobs – basic Keynsian economics – it would make sense.
Even on an idealogical level, it’s inhuman to penalise the poor. What many conservative theorists forget is that built into the very fabric of capitalism is the demand for a mobile workforce – that there has to be a body of unemployed people to cope with the ebbs and flows of supply and demand for labour. Even IDS’ own mentor, Bob Holman, has voiced concern about about the social wisdom of forcing the out of work to take up demeaning voluntary jobs.
People, on the whole, do not remain unemployed through choice. However, they can choose their political affiliations. Which is why I’ll be posting back my membership card in the morning.