“Politics is important to all….” That phrase is on my twitter account and I mean every word of it! Everything we do in our daily lives has some type of connection to politics. Whether it comes to using public services like the library or the NHS, issues that mean a lot to the city, town or village you live in, your pension. I could go on and on and on….
My earliest memories of politics date back to the early eighties. It was the 1983 General Election where Margaret Thatcher leading the Conservative Party (Tories) was looking to be reelected to office. The country has just fought the Falklands War against Argentina and Mrs. Thatcher’s popularity was at an all time high. Quite ironic since before the war her popularity was waning, her government had no clear direction, but her strength in leading the country allowed her to a crushing win over the Labour party. Looking forward a couple of decades this reminds me of George W. Bush who was not making any impression on his first term in office but after the awful events of September 11th he went on to a massive lift in popularity and won a second term.
Anyway, I was only 11 and all I could remember was the disappointment of my father who was a life time Labour supporter. For weeks during the election campaign I could remember him complaining about “that woman” (as he would describe Thatcher) and how it would be a miracle if Michael Foot could defeat her. At this point in my life I did not fully understand the role of politics or the impact it has upon everything we do or our lives. I soon would though….
For eighteen years the Conservatives lead the country. First with Mrs. Thatcher leading the party until the coup against her in 1991 and then John Major until 1997. These eighteen years were some of the most difficult in modern times, although considering what the UK is encountering now I might be wrong. During this time interest rates rose to 15% (I remember this clearly since my brother and his wife had to sell their house to avoid losing their home), unemployment was over 3 million, crime was rising and there was not much of a feel good factor in the UK. The NHS was on the verge of collapse, and educational standards were falling.
Growing up I could remember most of this in one way or another. My heart condition meant that I was in hospital a number of times and I saw the state of the NHS. Studying at school and College I could see the limited resources my schools had, the low morale of my teachers and then we came to the “poll tax”. Instead of a household charge for public services there would be one based on each member of the household. This was deeply unpopular and led to the riots in 1991 and led to the downfall of Thatcher. My family struggled to pay this but we did. However our standard of living fell like many families.
Since my father supported Labour I took it upon myself to support them as well. Each election would come and I would hope that Labour would win but it wasn’t happening. Labour had no credible plans to run the country but most of all they did not have a credible leader. Then came Tony Blair and New Labour.
This is for me when I really began to understand and believe in politics. Of course at college I had learned the impact of politics and I knew the effects it could have upon society but finally in 1994 I had hope. Tony Blair and New Labour had a vision for the country that appealed to the nation and myself. After eighteen long years of falling standards, we were offered a credible alternative. Things could only better. Then in May 1997 Labour won a landslide victory and shattered the Tories for many, many years.
After the election in 1997 I joined the Labour party. I would read as much as I could about the party, about politics in general and I would make sure I would keep up to date with all the current events going on in UK politics. Now, no matter what you think of Tony Blair, at the time in 1997 he was exactly the leader we needed for the situation the country was in (in my opinion). I have no intention of discussing the invasion of Iraq; even now it is a divided issue within the UK.
During the years that followed Labour did a lot of good in the UK but also there were things that they got wrong. The constant infighting between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair was an embarrassment to me as a member of the party. When Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister I was not happy. I felt that this man was too angry to lead the country. He had coveted the job for so many years from Tony Blair and I had my doubts he could do the job effectively.
My deepest fears came true when in October 2007, with massive leads in the polls, the country thought we were going to have a general election but after one decent speech from David Cameron, Gordon Brown bottled it! There was no doubt if Brown had called an election Labour would have won a fourth term, the Tories were still rebuilding under Cameron and were not ready for an election. Instead Brown lost the respect of the press, most of his MP’s and he lost mine too.
Labour lost the 2010 election. While one party did not clearly win the election it was very clear that the people had lost confidence in Labour and Brown. I was very happy when David Miliband stepped up for the leadership election but he lost to his brother who was supported by the unions (now is not the time for me to rant about the unions). Ed Miliband became Labour leader. The day he was elected leader I ended my membership with the Labour party.
I felt for the first two years of Ed Miliband’s leadership there was no direction, no clear message of what Labour stood for and while I am not a Conservative I have to say that David Cameron made a better argument of what direction the country should be heading towards. Only now has Miliband started to make a credible argument; only now can I see a reason as to why I would vote for him. I am not ready to rejoin the party but if over the next two years I see a prime minister in waiting then I might just do that.
Now something that annoys me when it comes to politics is this need to mock or attack those in government that have had a high standard of education or went to private schools. So what? If people can afford to send their kids to private schools then that is their decision. On the other hand public schools should be just as good as the private sector. That is what we should be focusing on, not who went where. I don’t know about you but I want my elected leaders to be intelligent, able to understand the complexities of government, world affairs and are able to make the big decisions with an informed judgement. I want the world to know that my prime minister is a man who can hold his own on the world stage. There is no need for us to try to “dumb down” things. Let’s be proud that we have intelligent people running our country (perhaps not the policies but at least the people themselves). Let’s raise the bar, stop dragging things down to the levels of….well there are some things best left unsaid.
Politics is important to all. I believe in government, I believe in the good that governments can do. I believe that governments have the moral obligation to help those who have fallen on hard times but I also believe that we have to take responsibility in doing what we can to finding work, paying our way in life etc. We are stronger together than being apart from each other and by joining the debate I feel we can make things better. Perhaps a naive opinion but that’s what I believe in…
How about you?
Just to say these are my own opinions. I don’t mean to offend or disrespect anyone else’s opinions. Politics can be very divisive but can also be a force of good.