Electoral outlook

As widely predicted Gordon Brown has set May 6th as the date for the UK General Election. The campaign promises to be the most exciting since Labour came to power in 1997, since there are significant policy differences between the main parties, and it is far from clear who is going to win.

I expect that the main issue will be the economy, specifically the speed and severity with which public spending needs to be cut to bring the deficit under control, though all the mainstream parties are agreed that cuts must be made. As a public sector worker I have a keen interest in this of course, but even those not directly employed by the government will feel the negative effect of reduced services.

While our sorry excuse for a democracy does entitle me to cast a ballot, I, like a large part of the population, live in a constituency that is not going to be closely contested, so my vote doesn’t really count for anything. As with the US elections a couple of years ago I will be reduced to blogging ineffectually from the sidelines.

I, and my like-minded comrades, may be unable to greatly influence the outcome of the wider election, but we should be able to use the increased interest in politics generated by the poll to do some community organising, with a view to getting ready to oppose whatever cuts may be on the way. The problem is that the electoral process, while theoretically an expression of the population’s ability to control the executive, is in practice a demonstration of the illusionary nature of that power, and this tends to have a demotivating effect.

Still, these are interesting times. The financial crisis has caused a lot of people to question the nature of our economic system, in a way that hasn’t really happened since the end of the Cold War, which opens a door for progressive politics. The left may not make a huge impression in this election, but we can plant some seeds for the future.

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