Thursday, May 06, 2010

General election 2010: David Cameron eyes the prize.

Britain goes to the polls today with most predictions stating that Cameron will have the largest number of seats without having an overall majority.

The Conservatives appear to be on the brink of regaining power at the end of one of the most tumultuous and tightly fought general election campaigns since the second world war.

A Guardian/ICM poll shows the Conservatives with an eight-point lead over Labour, just short of what they need for an overall majority. The survey put the Conservatives on 36%, Labour on 28% and the Liberal Democrats on 26%.

There is no sign of Labour or the Lib Dems closing the gap on the Tories – and at least three other polls have come up with similar results. Only one of the four polls projected Labour gaining the largest number of seats.

It is being suggested that Cameron will gain enough seats to be able to govern with the help of the Ulster Unionists.

Astonishingly, we have arrived at this day with most of us still utterly unaware of what exactly it is that Cameron proposes to do.

I watched another one of his speeches on TV last night and it was a master-class in saying bugger all. It was peppered with calls for "change" without giving any specifics of what that change might look like. Likewise, we keep hearing that he is going to have to make "tough choices" but there is no indication of what those choices might be.

Johann Hari reminds us of what Labour have done for us over the last thirteen years:

When you remember the country that we voted to leave behind on May 1st 1997, what do you see? I remember the science block in the sixth form college I was studying at, where they couldn't afford to fix the roof, so every time it rained, water seeped through, and lessons had to stop. I remember my friends who earned £1 an hour, because there was no legal limit on how little you could offer a human being for their labour. I remember one of my closest relatives having to decide whether to buy nappies or heat her flat, because there were no tax credits, and single mothers were the subject of a Tory hate campaign. I remember how it felt to grow up gay and discover I could never have a legally recognised relationship. I remember my elderly neighbour waiting two years for a hip operation on the NHS, crying every night with the pain.

None of those things happens in Britain today, and it's not by fluke. Spending on public services has risen by 54 per cent since 1997, paid for by higher taxes. The result? Nobody is on a waiting list for more than 18 weeks – and the average wait is just a month. Nobody goes to school in buildings that are falling apart. Nobody can be legally paid less than £5.93 an hour. The poorest 10 per cent receive £1,700 in tax credits a year each – meaning their children get birthday parties and trips to the seaside, and parents who aren't constantly panicked about how to buy food at the end of every week.

Labour didn't get everything right, but they did at least set out trying to make Britain a fairer place.

They have invested record amounts into health and education. We now have a minimum wage. They recognised that we have human rights. Gay couples can now enter into civil partnerships. Tony Blair negotiated peace in Northern Ireland. I could go on and on....

Today, it looks like all that is coming to an end. That's not to say that any of those achievements will be shelved, but it does say that our strides towards a more progressive future ends today.

And none of us know what Cameron is proposing because he won't tell us.

But they have hinted already at slashing social services and making the poorest members of our society pay for the sins of our greediest bankers.

Labour made mistakes, many of which I have written about, but they did start out with the best of intentions.

The Tory plans for inheritance tax show where their true colours lie:

The Conservative’s plans would cost the Treasury an estimated £500 million in 2010-11 and up to £1.5 billion in 2013-14 with over half the benefit of the change going to the richest 3000 people in the UK.

Commenting Mr Williams said:

“The Tory party are eager to tell us they believe in building a fairer society, yet these figures clearly show the damage they would do while seeking to help only a tiny minority of the richest people in the UK.

“Instead of looking at ways they could help lift the burden of our unfair tax system on the poorest in our society, they are focusing all their energy on ensuring that bankers and other multimillionaires can keep their fortunes.

Today it looks like we are heading back to the days of Conservatives looking out for their own and finding ways to make life harder for those who have bugger all.

Every single positive change Labour made to this country over the last thirteen years was bitterly opposed by Cameron and the Tories. That should give us some indication of the direction in which Cameron will lead us, even if he is too coy to tell us himself. And, even today, as he looks likely to assume power, we must never forget that some 60% of us will not vote Tory.

That's why I still hope that anyone planning to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat looks at which of those parties has the most chance of beating the Conservatives in their own seat and votes accordingly.

We can't stop Cameron coming to power, but we can limit the amount of damage he is able to do once he gets there. Enter your postcode here to find out how best to "Stop Dave".

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