On Thursday, we’ll be asked to decide on the future of the UK. We must all decide what we believe, and what country we’d like to live in. But how? Based on the identikit slogans and forced passion we hear from the main political parties, it’s difficult to know what the differences actually are.
I’ve been frustrated by the lack of help from the media for simpler, more straight-talking explanations on what exactly we’re voting on. The best arguments (like this from Guardian or this from a political blog) assume a certain amount of basic knowledge, none of which was ever taught to me in school.
It’s no surprise we’re disillusioned with politics, 7 million are not even registered to vote. But it’s still imperative we sort through the slogans and get to the crux of the argument. Here’s my attempt.
I’m voting Labour… let me explain why.
Left vs Right (in theory)
The fundamental Left vs Right ideologies are useful in framing all other debate, so lets start there. (I’ve tried to be neutral, promise)
To our left we have Labour, and further left are the Greens. The Left:
- believe in a larger government who’s function is to have an expanded role in society.
- employ more people in the Public Sector (e.g. the NHS) and get more involved with how the country runs.
- believe that an equal society is better for all, and strive for the equality of wealth and equal opportunity.
Therefore big business is regulated, with laws such as the minimum wage ensuring money flows from business to workers. Taxes are high, particularly on the rich. Wealth is redistributed through larger public services or by increasing welfare (eg pensions, child benefit, disability allowance).
To our right, the Conservatives, with UKIP further right. The Right:
- believe in a smaller government who’s function is to play a more limited role.
- employ fewer in the public sector, and try not to interfere with society.
- believe that in a thriving society money will trickle down from big business to all, though social inequality is an inevitable by-product
Therefore individuals and businesses are un-regulated, encouraging the best performing to rise to the top, reap the rewards, and pass on to others. Taxes are low, meaning individuals have the freedom to spend as they please. Spending and welfare are low, as responsibility is placed on both business and the individual to work hard and prosper without the need for assistance from the state.
In the middle are the Lib Dems. The regional parties of Scottish Nationalist Party, DUP (N. Ireland), and Plaid Cymru (Wales) are generally left of centre. To keep this simple, I won’t go into depth here.
This wonderful infographic by David McCandless explains this far better. It’s daunting at first, but take the time to read the details, and consider how your beliefs compare. (click to enlarge)
Tory vs Labour in 2015
The ideological differences above are more pronounced in 2015 than in any election for decades. But what does this actually mean?
The Economy is a key issue, though not the only issue. The Tories have framed the argument as if cutting the deficit is all that matters, ignoring how it’s cut. Should we increase the amount coming in by raising taxes, allowing us to keep spending on those that need it? Or should we save money by cutting all spending, enabling us to lower taxes?
Wages are low and unemployment high. Will an increased minimum wage get us all spending more money, fuelling economic growth, thus creating jobs? Or should wages be decided naturally by the private sector? Will increasing wages make business less profitable, reducing the number of jobs?
There’s a housing shortage. Should government get more involved, encourage the building of more affordable homes, and regulate landlords to ensure renters aren’t mistreated? Alternatively, will the private sector build cheaper housing without being incentivised by government? Or will they instead build more profitable, more expensive housing? Left unchecked, will landlords look after the best interests of their tenants, or will they prioritise profits?
Of course, nothing is quite this simple. But it’s a good place to start, and shows how the different solutions fit into the party’s wider beliefs.
These decisions really do impact the country. The below is a crude way of showing how government have changed the size of the public sector – the Tories were in power from ’79-’97. Where do you want this graph to go from 2015?
Why I’m Voting Labour
I believe that our potential cannot be reached through hard work alone. We need the helping hand of a well run school, an NHS, and a safety net beneath us that will promise to catch us when we inevitably fall. Knowing it’s there will help us all to prosper, not just those with their own inherited safety net.
I believe that social inequality should be addressed. If you were born lucky, or got lucky along the way, we should help those who did not. We should not be OK with so many relying on food banks to survive.
I believe Labour will deal with the deficit in a fair way for all. No they didn’t “overspend” when last in power. It was a GLOBAL financial crisis, which hit the UK hard due to our large banking industry. What did we learn? That the banks need to be regulated. And regulation of business is a core left wing belief.
I trust Ed Miliband, and trust in politics is a rare seed to be cultivated. I agree with his fundamental beliefs. He’s a nerd who came from behind to out-fox his more popular brother, and I like that. He’s taken the time to engage with the young and the disenchanted. Yes it’s weird when he stares at you, but get him chatting comfortably and he shines. He and Labour are of course far from perfect, but they’re the best option.
I believe that together, we will succeed. That goes for staying in Europe, keeping Scotland part of the UK, and aiming for the rich and poor to prosper together. Leaving some behind is not an option. We as a country will succeed if we’re all, every one of us, succeeding together as part of the same society.
So, the key parties are not “all the same” as we often hear. These differences influence everything the ruling government does, and forms the country you and I share.
You must decide what you believe, and decide what society you’d like to live in. Your decision will impact the rest of us. Please think carefully, and vote.