Tuesday, 2 June 2009

What to do on Thursday

I usually have a pretty clear view of which way I am going to vote some time in advance of a European or general election. (I have to say, no doubt to my shame, that I rarely bother with local elections unless they happen to coincide, as now, with another one. I simply don't know how the local parties' policies stack up for my area and there seems little easy way of finding out.)

This time, with two days to go, I am still unsure.

I think what in the end will guide me is that on this occasion we have a European election, and I should therefore vote on European issues. On this, David Cameron has disappointed me. The Conservative party policy of holding a referendum on whether to attempt to renegotiate an international treaty (the Lisbon treaty) after it has already been ratified by the UK government seems to me to be madness. My worry is that he is still at least partly a captive of the loony right wing of his party which has forgotten that Britain has lost an empire and which harbours the vain hope of re-establishing special trading areas with its former members, and an even more loony group who think the UK should apply to become a state of the United States. Possibly David Cameron calculates that Gordon Brown will not call an election before next May, and that in the meantime the other EU countries remaining to ratify it (principally Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland) will do him a favour by doing so, thus conveniently making it a done deal.

Or even more worryingly, perhaps David Cameron really means it. I would not despair of a referendum being lost and reason prevailing, but the political atmosphere is so febrile at the moment that rational debate is likely to be drowned out by a "sod the lot of them" attitude which will take the opportunity to say no to anything. On such little things are great issues decided.

I had hopes, but also some suspicions, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. My suspicions seem to have triumphed: what is left of the Labour party seems to be the old municipal machine of closed-door fixers who think the ends justify any means, exported to the national scene. We have councils on this, conventions on that, consultations on the other, all carefully stage managed so that the only outcomes which will emerge are those which have already been decided. We have had behind-the-scenes filth coming from political aides within 10 Downing Street itself, turned on other members of the government. We have an ever more centralist and directive party which will only consider pretend devolution within England lest it cede any powers, and which is incapable of dealing with the anomalies which their devolution policies have created within the UK. We have a database government which has lost a clear vision of human and civil rights.

Oh dear. Many religions and early societies have purification ceremonies with which adherents may cleanse themselves after carrying out some unpleasant but necessary duty. Someone should provide a ceremony for those answering the call to vote on Thursday.

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