I have been watching the US election run up with interest. It has a magic unlike anything we see in European Politics. Let me pluck an example for you from the recent debate between Messrs Obama and Romney.
In the UK prime ministerial debates, the three opponents sniped at each other, provided long, rambling and useless answers all the while taking part in a ‘who can shout the loudest’ contest. By contrast, the American pair were engaged in the most interesting method of debate. Listen, agree, expand – the middle word being operative.
The amount of times I heard the phrase. “Of course I agree with the president, but let me add” or “Of course we want what Senator Romney wants, not just this, but also that”. It was a pleasure to watch! Furthermore, the pair were not engaged in shouting matches, in fact the only person who ever interrupted either man was the moderator – the way it should be.
As you can gather, I am a little bit enamoured by the glitzy nature of the US political machine, but let me move on to the main conclusion of my piece. Nothing ever changes!
You have the incumbent and the competitor. The incumbent has to justify why the past term has been successful and clarify how much more successful he can be if re-elected. The competitor can simply pander to the electorate promising the world on the assumption that if he gets power, he can unleash his true agenda with gusto.
- Look at the French Presidente Hollande. Slandering the fiscal union and pledging his first act to be a withdrawal from the fiscal compact yet now he is his party’s biggest supporter of it!
- Take the Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg (and his hit single). His party was bluntly opposed to any increase in university tuition fees, yet this year they increased from £3k per annum to a maximum of £9k! Conversely, that mansion tax they pledged to bring in – torpedoed!
I’m so, so, sorry – Nick Clegg
Now you have Mr. Romney and Mr. Milliband, the competitors for the Lordship of both the USA and of the UK – what are their promises to the masses and what is considered reasonable?
Let me first say that I am a fan and if I were an American citizen, my vote will be going his way not because of his kooky religious policies or his ridiculous stance on Medicare but because I think he it the right man for the job. The man spent his working career restructuring broken companies and I would class the USA is exactly that. Gaffes aside, although his manifesto seems great (cutting income tax by 20% across the board, while cutting cap gains tax and other entrepreneurial taxes) he has not come up with a detailed solution of how to pay for it!!
Mr Obama continually spoke of how Mr.Romney’s tax reform would cost the US economy $5 TRILLION (neutral estimates come to around $3trn). Romney countered this by saying it would be paid for by closing loopholes and reigning in deductions and credits (Wait doesn’t a reduction in credits affect your wallet in the same way as a tax increase?).
Obama’s rebuttal to Romney’s ‘plan’ was to say that if his method or balancing the budget is so great, why wouldn’t he use it as a part of his manifesto? Guess what, he’s right! If you had an election winning economic plan, why wouldn’t you publish it to…..win the election. The only reason Mr. Romney’s plan isn’t being published in detail is because it adversely affects some voters a lot more than he is letting on.
Let’s move away from the specifics. My point is that he is winning over the electorate by baseless promises. Promises that he can make (being the untested man) which Obama can’t. If Obama came and said the same thing as Romney, the voters would ask, why didn’t you do that four years ago!
My first gripe with modern democracy. Competitors can promise the world and they never deliver – yet voters are blindly attracted to promises of change. This is because an election is won on glitz, glamour and money. Nobody is prepared to do their homework! When was the last time you sat in a pub/bar/coffee shop and someone said to you –
“If we assume they cut taxes 20% and the average person earns $35k and the work force is X million people large, I cannot see how the drop in government revenue could be covered by anything other than punitive tax credit removals”
Edward ‘Wallace’ Milliband
Mr. Milliband relaunched Labour last week with his idea of ‘One Nation’ - a suspiciously similar concept to his opponent’s ‘Big Society’, launched in 2010. The general consensus is it is up to us to guide ourselves to economic prosperity. The Tories wanted to give empowerment by moving government towards the people rather than elected officials. Labour want everyone to pitch in together to make Britain great again.
All of these grand speeches sound great in front of an audience but they can take an age to implement. The Tories big society is going at the speed of a big object and even though the idea is good, the fact that they haven’t got a serious majority in parliament means that any idea can easily be lost inside the House of Commons. This kind of politics is saying over doing.
Moving to another, more important, point, I take an extract of Mr. Milliband’s speech:
So what have we seen? We’ve seen recession, higher unemployment, higher borrowing. I don’t think that’s what people were promised. Now look there will be some people who say, ‘Well there is short-term pain but it is worth it for the long-term gain.’ But I’m afraid the opposite is true.
The longer you have low growth in our country the bigger the debt hole becomes for the future and the bigger our problems will be. The longer a young person is out of work that is not just bad for their prospects now; it is bad for their prospects for the the rest of their lives. And if a small business goes under during the recession, it can’t just get back up and running again during the recovery.
A lot of these problems he attributes directly to the Tory government when this is obviously not the case. If the Tories (not saying they are the superior party) caused recession, high unemployment, high borrowing, larger debts, and a terrible business climate, then why is every other (non Tory controlled) country experiencing EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEMS.
Politics today is by taking something bad that has happened, disregard the root of the problem (Tories could say that Labour created the bubble that burst) and then pin the blame on your opponent. It’s like having ten sunny days in a row and as soon as Little Boy Willy comes out to play, it starts raining. Just because Willy’s play time occurred at the same time as the rain, doesn’t make him the cause of it.
The problem is that the voter is not interested in chewing through the data to discover the mistakes attributed to the Tory party, they are happy to accept the sensationalist nature of 21st century politics!
Expanding this idea, we all know that for every policy there is going to be people who are negatively affected (the only universally good policy is a reduction of tax in the middle of economic growth, keeping revenues steady). The only way to avoid offending everyone is by making no policy decisions at all.
By implementing policies in a divided country, you begin the following policy cycle:
In other words, you can’t win! Because the PM cannot prove the opponent would do exactly the same thing (the constraints of government lead to only one direction) he cannot tell the people that the opponent is talking S%!t.
The points above are the reasons for me labelling Democracy as a joke and who is to blame? Unfortunately you need only look in the mirror. I will let off the Americans as they take politics a lot more seriously than my fellow countrymen.
The British public have grown tired of the endless drivel of promises and policies that are not kept, so they either don’t vote or vote for the same party as before.
I will add that although the US turnouts are lower than UK, the turnout rate is nearly as high as 1924 (plus they have six times as many people to vote). French turnout was near 80%.
Voters need to stop listening to rhetoric, speeches and promises and focus on the hard facts of each parties manifesto. If I could, I would like to see the removal of a ‘prime minister’ – no figure heads, just policies.
I would also cut all party advertisements, broadcasts and even debates. You wouldn’t think it, but even your conclusion of the candidates appearance and demeanor affects your vote.
In my opinion there should be a central election body which details in plain English the budget to work with and the revenues projected. People should be encourage to spend an hour or two to look at the manifestos and scrutinize them.
Unfortunately, this won’t happen – we don’t seem to be that bovvered.