For whom should I vote in the upcoming British General Election? I may be tucked away here in Baltimore, but I still have an avid interest in UK life and politics (the BBC not the Baltimore Sun being my homepage). Living overseas has given me a new perspective on my country and allows me to view the issues facing Britain without the inane tabloid chatter which dogs British public discourse. The bottom line is this: should Tony Blair be given a third term in office?
I wish I had a simple answer to that question. I loved the spectacle of the presidential election here, but because I am not American it was mostly for its entertainment value that I tuned in. There was one electric moment, however, that I will long remember. It was during the first debate and Kerry was wiping the floor with Bush. I listened to it on the radio in the car and had goose bumps.
But now my franchise must be exercised, my country must vote on a new government. I rarely follow specific campaign promises. More important to me is whether a party philosophy gels with my own worldview. Here’s how I see the three main parties:
How one feels about Labour depends on how one feels about Tony Blair. From here in the US, Blair comes across very well. He’s a strong, impressive leader, who seems to command international respect. But therein lies the problem with New Labour. It is all show and spin; Blair seems like a decent chap, a nice family man, an intelligent public presence. But is it a show? Is his commitment to George Bush a sign of weakness and/or stupidity? Does his arrogance and his penchant for avoiding the truth deserve to be punished? In short, how much does the Iraq War matter?
Domestically, Britain seems to be doing pretty well. Low inflation and unemployment, improving public services, a strong economy. But do we like Blair’s nanny state, his plethora of stealth taxes, his distinctly unsocialist introduction of tuition fees for university students? Blair is the incumbent. If we don’t like him, we have to decide whether we prefer the alternative.
Ah, the Tories. Who can argue with lower taxes? What libertarian would argue with small government and public choice? Don’t like your local state school? Fine, here’s a credit, go put your kids in a private school. Don’t want to wait for the NHS? Fine, take this credit and go private. Sounds good….
…but the Tories’ biggest problem is the memory of their last turn in office. Lower taxes equal less investment equals a bad deal for the little guy. But what about all those yobs and illegal immigrants who drain the system? Michael Howard has all the populist rhetoric, but is it just the same old nasty Tories?
Oh, and they supported the Iraq war.
Me likes “liberal”. Me likes their honesty (“if you want good hospitals we’ve got to put up taxes”). Me not so much likes their gung ho attitude to the EU (but Blair’s Euro-evasions, and the Tories’ anti-Europe silliness isn’t much better). Me not wildly excited by Charles Kennedy either. Of course, no-one thinks the Lib Dems can win, but they hold the balance of power in a lot of constituencies.
So, what to do? I will tell you who I voted for next week. In the meantime, I solicit your advice. Here’s a chance to influence the British election! Please participate in my blog poll. The choice for me is between the Tories and the Lib Dems. In the constituency where I vote (Worcestershire West), Labour has no chance. There is a sitting Tory MP and the Lib Dems are the only people who have come close to beating him. A vote for the Tories helps them in their effort to win back Parliament. A vote for the Liberals either helps Blair (by hurting the Tories), or helps the Lib Dems in their effort to hold the balance of power should neither of the Big Two have an overall majority. The former is more likely.
So vote! Keep Blair or oust him?