Wednesday, May 05, 2010

General Election

Tomorrow, the UK goes to the polls to elect a new government. Whichever of the main parties wins, the prospects for education, and especially in the Classics, are not good. Both parties are agreed that universities must bear their share of the cuts necessary to take the country out of a recession which was not of the universities' making (nor of the making of most of the sectors of the country that seem to be bearing the brunt of the pain). I did catch Gordon Brown saying how he was dedicated to ensuring that everyone's potential and ambitions in education be fulfilled, but it's pretty clear from the statements of Labour education minister after education minister that if your potential and ambitions lie in the arts or humanities, that doesn't really apply. Nor are the Conservatives likely to be any better, as that sort of narrow-minded utilitarianism is part of Margaret Thatcher's legacy, and too many Conservatives still revere that. I might feel differently were Boris Johnson still Shadow spokesman for Higher Education - for all his buffoonery, he believes in education for its own sake, and the value of the humanities and the necessity for them to be supported. But he isn't.

On a wider scale, I don't really want either of these parties to win. Labour have sunk into the sort of excessive authoritarianism that has ruined many a socialist revolution, whilst the Conservatives remain, under the skin of 'caring Conservatism', dedicated to the self-interest of the rich and powerful. A Labour government will be slightly better than a Tory one, but it is a bit like havoing to decide whether you'd rather have Nero or Caligula as emperor.

The only encouraging thought is that we might be heading towards a hung parliament, and that the Liberal Democrat vote might be sufficient to make the argument for electoral reform unassailable. There is much talk of the danger of a hung parliament, and how it will prevent 'strong government'. Good. Strong government brought us the Poll Tax and the Iraq War. A hung parliament will get us closer to consensus government, rather than the 'elective dictatorship' (Lord Hailsham's phrase, I believe) we have at present. 'Strong government' really only means that a minority of the population can impose its will upon an unwilling majority. If you're wondering why so many people feel disenfranchised, that's why.

In the constituency I live in, only the Liberal Democrat candidate has a hope of displacing the incumbent Tory (who actually is quite a decent bloke). In a proper proportional system, I would probably vote Green (as I do in the Euro elections). As it is, I will vote LibDem, in the hope that this will initiate a change that will allow me to vote Green next time. And I encourage you to do so too.

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