I would like to support Ed Miliband and feel optimistic about the concept of a Labour government, but I can’t. I think we lose which ever way it goes. I care most about economics and civil liberties. Both parties are incompetent on the economy, and both parties are malicious on civil liberties. It is hard to say which is worse on the economy as Labour is a bit of an unknown at this point, so while I am unimpressed by the Conservatives, I am in two minds whether the stability offered by another Conservative term is more valuable than the chance that Labour might be better.
Labour’s most visible policies are shallow and populist, and according to the polls, they are not even very good at being populist. Ed gives the impression of a man who reads newspaper headlines and decides policies based on what’s causing the most outrage today.
For example Ed keeps going on about NHS privatisation and wants to limit private NHS contracts, but NHS privatisation does not necessarily think what you mean it does. The company I work for does private contracts for the NHS and the alternative to this is that the NHS writes their own software, which seems a bit daft at best. It is not true that privatisation should be restricted as long as it is all still operating publicly as far as the general public is concerned.
Now take tuition fees and student loans. Student loans are a graduate tax in disguise. The repayment terms are so favourable that it is misleading to call it a ‘loan’; you only pay back while you can afford it, the debt doesn’t count against you in any way, and it gets wiped after X years. Ed wants to lower fees to £6k, but this is still double what people paid a few years ago so it’s not really a good deal, and the difference between £6k and £9k is small as per the repayment terms and the fact a large unseen bulk of loan is lurking in the form of the living cost allowance, so you’re not cutting your loan by 33% at all. Most people will not fully repay the loan whether the fees are £6k or £9k, and in fact, lowering it down to £6k is in many ways even sillier than leaving it at £9k because such a reduction will only benefit high earners, who arguably should be funding lower earners anyway. And let’s bear in mind here that we have Labour to thank for fees in the first place. (note: I went through at a time when fees were about £1k and I’m still unlikely to fully repay my debt before I’m 45 – which I might add is considerably more than £3k)
Now look at zero hours contracts (ZHC), which Ed wants to ban. ZHC are something that the Guardian likes to go on about but actual research into them showed that most people on a ZHC liked the flexibility. That’s not to say that ZHC should be celebrated, but it doesn’t make much sense to outright ban them if a majority of people on ZHC are happy being on ZHC. Ed is addressing a symptom, not a cause; the cause is a weak employment market, which will always lead to employers getting away with exploitation (not that I am a libertarian – I do think it’s ok and necessary to regulate a market, but in this instance it’s misguided and a new symptom will just manifest itself somewhere else). Instead Ed should be focussing on how he’s going to increase competition to hire workers, and the first step there is pretty obvious for a Labour government – you reintroduce the welfare state so employers are now competing with the state, and Bjorn Stronginthearm is your uncle.
Therefore I will be voting Liberal Democrat, but that’s another post.