Friday, 20 March 2015

The Budget and the UK Election

The Liberal Democrats are now beyond parody.

Facing electoral wipeout – and deservedly so – the party’s MPs last week supported a Tory budget that will result in even-deeper cuts to public services, and the greatest financial burden continuing to fall on the poorest members of society. 

The next day, Lib Dem Treasury Minister Danny Alexander made himself look foolish – even more foolish than usual – by making a speech to the UK Parliament, during which he pretended he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and set-out an imaginary ‘alternative’ budget.

Mr Alexander’s proposals were, apparently, what the Liberal Democrats would have done differently to the Tories, if they were in government: but, of course, the Lib Dems are in government.  They have supported the Tories every step of the way in imposing devastating austerity measures.  Without Lib Dem support, the Tories could not have remained in power since 2010 and could not have implemented their savage cuts.

If Danny Alexander and the Liberal Democrats really did oppose what Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced last week, they could have withheld support and refused to vote for the budget.  They didn’t.

With a UK Election just seven-weeks away, the Labour Party went into overdrive - in parliament and in every TV studio across the country – launching attacks on the Tory (and Lib Dem) budget, demanding voters kick-out David Cameron, George Osborne and their party, and telling us that an incoming Labour Government would do things very differently.  Well, that was the message Labour wanted us to get.

In another studio on the day following the Budget Statement, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme asked Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls to list the Tory proposals – on the economy, taxation, wages, benefits, public service cuts - that would be reversed by an incoming Labour Government.  Balls replied, “To be honest, there’s nothing from yesterday I would reverse”.

So, there you have it: the London-based political parties have made clear what they will do if they are elected to run the UK.

The Tories intend to continue cutting public services and wages; they want the poorest to continue paying the debts of multi-millionaire bankers and financial speculators in the City of London; they will roll-out further privatisation of the health service in England (which impacts on funding made available to the SNP Government in Scotland); they will reduce taxation paid by the rich; they will spend £120bn on nuclear weapons of mass destruction that can never be used (and will make Scotland a target for nuclear annihilation by basing missiles and submarines on the Clyde); and they will continue to portray the unemployed as a lazy, sponging under-class demanding hand-outs from ‘hard-working’ taxpayers.

The Liberal Democrats have supported this Tory agenda for five years, and would continue to do so if it wasn’t for the fact most of their MPs will lose their seats at the election on May 7th.

The Labour Party, while telling us how different they are to the Tories, have confirmed there would be very little change if Ed Miliband moved into 10 Downing Street.  Let’s look again at that statement from Ed Balls: on the Tory austerity and cuts agenda announced last week by George Osborne, the man who would be Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government said, “To be honest...there’s nothing I would reverse”.

Of course, you could vote for UKIP, but only if you are insane.

British political parties have all signed-up to a right-wing, capitalist agenda that panders to the interests of multi-national corporations and banks.  Whether Cameron or Miliband is Prime Minister after May 7th, austerity will continue with ordinary women, men and children plunged into further suffering as government pursues policies designed to maximise profits for private companies.  Unless, that is, Scots decide to unite in a move that will curb the neo-liberal excesses of Westminster and will benefit the majority of citizens right across the UK.

Polls continue to show the SNP surging ahead in Scottish voting intentions: predictions have the party likely to take anything between 25 and 50 seats.  With that level of representation in the House of Commons, there is every chance the SNP would be in a position to heavily influence the actions of a future Labour Government: it is long-standing SNP policy to reject any deal that would put the Tories in power.

SNP support for a UK Labour Government would not be in the form of a coalition.  When Ed Miliband last week ‘ruled out’ a coalition with the SNP, he was ruling-out something he had never been offered.  It was like me ruling-out a date with Kylie Minogue – it was never going to happen.

A large SNP group of MPs at Westminster would be prepared to support a Labour administration only if the London-run party changed its policies on austerity (in other words, stopped copying the Tories) and on nuclear weapons.  By pulling the current Labour Party back to the political centre – away from the right-wing policy agenda created by Tony Blair and New Labour – the SNP would be doing a massive favour to ordinary women, men and children in England.  It would be ironic if it was the actions of the SNP that forced Labour to rediscover the core policies that lay behind the creation of the party, which were to give a parliamentary voice to the working class.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the SNP is a socialist party – it isn’t.  Today’s SNP has returned to its natural position, that of a moderate, centre-left social democratic party (after a disastrous flirtation with a moderate centre-right agenda under the failed leadership of John Swinney in the early 2000s, which coincided with Labour’s rebranding as the Tory-clone New Labour).

Back where it belongs, the SNP represents the moderate, left-leaning position supported by the people of Scotland.  It is for this reason that the party can expect a landslide victory in Scotland on May 7th.

The British Labour Party has abandoned Scotland: its Tory policy agenda and the decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the party of Margaret Thatcher in opposing the right of Scots to run our own country has brought Labour to a position unimaginable not so long ago – it is facing being reduced to a handful of seats in Scotland.   

This UK Election presents a massive opportunity for the voice of Scotland to be heard.  On this occasion we can hold the balance of power in a parliament that, until now, has treated Scotland as England’s last colony.  To achieve that powerful position – and to prevent London parties introducing further devastating cuts and austerity – we need to send as many SNP MPs as possible to Westminster.

Next year, at the Scottish Parliament Election, we can vote for whichever progressive, left-of-centre party best represents our personal beliefs – Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish Green Party for example – but this time, in order to maximise Scotland’s voice and power, we must unite behind the SNP.

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