Two years ago, when Russell Brand was all over the general election campaign, telling people he has never voted and never would, I found myself vehemently disagreeing with that position. I’d traditionally held the view that if you didn’t vote, you were poorly placed to complain when things weren’t to your liking.
Since then though I’ve found myself doing a complete 180 on that position. Those of you who follow me on social media – or have the misfortune of sharing a pint with me from time to time – will know I’m fairly politically engaged. I’ve realised that I am a shining example of the notion that not voting does not equal apathy. That said, I still think it’s important to register my disapproval of the current crop of politicians in some way, which is why I shall be spoiling my ballot on Thursday. Allow me to explain why.
The current Conservative government is arguably anything but. The manifesto Theresa May has put out this time around borrows far more from Miliband than it does from Thatcher, with it’s energy price controls, minimum wage hike, and controls on boardroom pay and representation. Hardly indicative of a guiding free-market philosophy traditionally associated with the Tories.
Moreover, May is spectacularly authoritarian. Her time in the Home Office saw the introduction of the Orwellian Snooper’s Charter, the freedom of speech threatening Extremism Disruption Orders, and the later deemed to be unlawful Data Retention Investigatory Powers Act. In the wake of the terror attacks the UK has suffered over the past couple of weeks, May has outlined her desire for further power grabs by the state with the goal of increased internet regulation and surveillance.
And then there’s Brexit. It is the defining issue of this campaign that almost nobody has talked about. What’s become increasingly obvious as May has carried on is she and her team have completely failed to grasp the size of the task at hand. The idea that we can not only divvy up the family silver but negotiate a bespoke deal within the two year timeframe allowed by Article 50 isn’t just misguided, it’s flat out lunacy.
So too is the notion that we can walk away from the EU without a deal. We’re not haggling over the price of a Led Zeppelin vinyl in Camden market, we’re establishing a framework by which we preserve our current global trading arrangements. Reverting to WTO rules, which a no deal scenario would represent, would be singularly catastrophic. Advocates of that position are guilty of not realising what they’re advocating.
Moreover our starting position isn’t one of no deal. To use the vinyl metaphor again, if we walk away from that copy of Led Zeppelin II, we’re no worse off than we were to start with. It shouldn’t need spelling out, but the opposite is true when it comes to Brexit, to the tune of £240bn. May’s insistence that no deal is better than a bad deal is indicative of her incompetence.
Had she opted to pursue an EFTA/EEA arrangement as an interim measure, that trade would be safeguarded and we could set about establishing our new relationship with the EU from a secure position. But the Tories’ failure to grasp the magnitude of the task at hand puts our economy at serious risk, for no discernable advantage.
A reckless Brexit approach, authoritarian social policies and reheated Milibandism mean the Tories are out so far as I’m concerned. So what about Labour?
Where to start. As an advocate of limited government I cannot find common ground with Corbyn’s political philosophy whatsoever. But even putting aside arguments from principle, Labour currently represent the sort of economic illiteracy only found in socialism.
Take, for example, their plans to raise the corporation tax level to 26%. Corbyn repeatedly describes the corporation tax cuts that the Tories have implemented as a tax cut for millionaires. What he conveniently neglects to mention is that those tax cuts resulted in higher tax revenues.
That’s the Laffer Curve in action. Corbyn’s ‘hammer the rich’ approach wouldn’t result in more money for public services, it would result in less.
Our economy no longer resides in vacuum. Corbyn’s approach is firmly rooted in the 70s, and it didn’t work then, never mind in an increasingly globalised 21st century. If you hammer businesses they will take their business – and their taxes – elsewhere. Ireland currently has the lowest corporation tax rate in Europe and as a result has experienced faster growth than more punitive nations such as France and Germany.
Furthermore, in the wake of Brexit, we should be looking to make Britain as attractive a country to do business as we possibly can. This means lowering tax rates in order to compete, not raising them. Lower rates will attract more business, resulting in more jobs and higher wages, and higher tax revenues. It truly is the kind of stuff an A Level economics student could tell you, but is lost on these Marxists.
Add in the fact the country is already £1.8trn in arrears, yet Corbyn sees no problem in adding to that mountain of debt with a £250bn ‘investment’ fund (as if using the sort of weasel words Gordon Brown was fond of makes it something other than borrowing), the £30bn cost of wiping out student debt, not to mention the costs of gobbling up industries like a fat guy at a buffet – conveniently absent from their ‘fully costed’ manifesto – and the economic illiteracy is enough to exclude Labour alone.
But there’s no denying that despite being seen in some quarters as a nice old chap, if a bit misguided, Corbyn is in fact a nasty piece of work. He has a long history of siding with, and praising, mind bogglingly unsavoury characters.
His sympathy for the IRA is well known. From taking a part in a minute’s silence to commemorate IRA terrorists shot dead attempting to blow up a police station, to inviting members of the IRA to Parliament days after the assassination attempt on Margaret Thatcher, his attitude towards these terrorists, and refusal to condemn them, cannot be conflated with efforts on the part of the British government to bring about peace through dialogue.
Nor are the IRA the only terrorists the leader of her majesty’s opposition has an inordinate amount of time for. He has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah both as friends, and despicably took part in a wreath laying ceremony for the terrorist responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
As if that weren’t enough, he also has a history of praising brutal dictators. Following the death of Fidel Castro last year, Corbyn praised the despot’s ‘heroism’ as a ‘champion of social justice’, marvelling at the fact Castro had lasted longer in office than any American President. A feat he achieved of course by never holding elections, and locking up and murdering his political opponents.
Not that this lack of decency is restricted to the Labour leader. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is equally culpable when it comes to the IRA, having previously said that; “it’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”
The mathematically challenged Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is also on record in saying that Chairman Mao, who murdered 60 million people, ‘did more good than harm.’ The current Labour leadership is frankly, morally repugnant, and I refuse to cast a vote for them on that basis, regardless of how badly the Tories are approaching Brexit.
And the rest
Elsewhere we have the Lib Dems. Some issues, such as drug legalisation, they make sense, but in their current leader Tim Farron (brilliantly described on Radio 4’s News Quiz last week as having ‘the intense chumminess of a man approaching tables at a Harvester to perform close up magic uninvited’) they have a man who can’t quite bring himself to say homosexuality isn’t a sin. Hardly liberal.
Furthermore, their entire approach to Brexit is that we shouldn’t be leaving the EU whatsoever. Their calls for a second referendum on the Brexit deal offered to us, in order to avoid the catastrophic hard brexit the Tories are ploughing towards, would have much more credence if their policy wasn’t to campaign to remain in the EU regardless of what that deal is, and thus overturn the referendum result. Hardly democratic.
On the UKIP front, they can’t exactly be accused of competence at the best of times, yet following the referendum, have completely and utterly imploded. Rather than emerging as the alternative to Labour as the champions of social mobility, they’ve turned inwards and attempted to shore up their core vote with things like a Burqa ban, an utterly unworkable one-in one-out approach to immigration, and the Monster Raving Loony Party sounding policy of scrapping VAT on takeaways. They’ve shunned evolving into a real electoral force in favour of returning to ‘bloke in the pub’ politics. It’s a no from me.
That just leaves the Greens, who are as equally bat shit as they’ve always been. Sweeping nationalisation, a universal basic income, rent caps, and a four day week belie the rampant statism their platform advocates, not to mention the economic incompetence sweeping the left in today’s Britain. Scrapping our nuclear deterrent in an age where North Korea is increasingly belligerent and Pakistan becomes ever more hardline in it’s Islamism is equally crazy.
To put it frankly, I refuse to legitimise any of these appalling platforms with my vote. There isn’t a single party advocating the sort of politics I believe in: low tax, limited government, personal responsibility – nor is there one close enough to that to earn my vote despite disagreement in some policy areas.
I live in a traditionally Labour constituency. As I’ve outlined above, I find the current state of the Labour party utterly, utterly abhorrent on a moral level, never mind on a political one. With May’s rampant authoritarianism and the apparent trainwreck she’s determined to make of Brexit though, I shan’t be voting blue either. They cancel each other out.
The only wasted vote is one you don’t truly believe in. I cannot in good conscience endorse any of the options on the table on June 8. All that remains is how exactly to spoil my ballot. A simple ‘None of the above’ doesn’t quite convey how dejected the lack of competence or conviction in our current crop of politicians makes me feel. Regardless, the articles and blog posts I write, and the debates I have on social media, stand as testament to the fact it is not apathy afflicting this non-voter, but sheer disillusionment with our political class. The only way to register that on polling day is with a spoilt ballot, so spoil it I will.