I have lived my entire life under governments dominated by either the Labour or the Tory Party. When I was young, there were genuine differences between them – over public ownership of transport, utilities and strategic industries, over the rights of workers in their workplace, over Britain’s attitude to its Imperial legacy.
However in the course of my lifetime the political agenda shifted fundamentally to the right, as the Labour Party under a series of opportunist leaderships shifted its ground to the agenda favoured by the corporate media. So even our drinking water had to be privatised, the maintenance grants that had enabled me to go to university were abolished as the very principle of free education was abandoned, the NHS was increasingly given over to private provision and PFI introduced the opportunity for bankers and financiers to take the large majority of the total taxpayers’ money allocated to any public investment project. Council housing was sold off and not replaced. Foreign policy became entirely subservient to the United States and a neo-con model of continued armed attacks on poorer countries abroad.
What is worse, the scope for expressing policies that lay outside the increasingly convergent views represented by the main stream media and the Tory and Labour Party narrowed, to the point where dissent disappeared. The opposition to the Iraq War of the majority of people was reflected in less than 2% of total UK TV coverage of that war. The fact that consistently a substantial majority of British people want to see railways renationalised never has any corporate media reflection.
Both “main” parties supported giving over £60,000 per British household to bail out the bankers, which is why we are in this debt mess. Both parties support the fact that 99% of the bankers have maintained the same ultra-opulent lifestyles and income, with no price paid for their failure. The corporate media gave no voice at all to the policy alternatives around allowing bad banks to go bust. It would have been 8% as expensive for the taxpayers just to give to the public and companies the amount they lost in UK bank deposits with failed banks.
When Nicola Sturgeon spoke in the televised TV debates, it was the first time in a decade that I had heard opposition to Trident missiles – a view held by over 40% of the population – even mentioned on television. It had become that bad.
And that Nicola Sturgeon moment was an indication that something really has changed. The electorate have twigged that the Red Tory and Blue Tory parties offer no real choice at all. Whether you want the same Thatcherite cuts spread out over a slightly longer timescale is not a choice.
The political system has quite rightly fallen into disrepute. A pretend choice and charade of democracy is not going to fool the entire population. It is not just that Labour and Tory cannot get over 35% of people who vote. It is also that so many people don’t bother to vote through disillusion. They are not apathetic, they justifiably don’t see how it helps them whose nose is in the trough. Combined with the appalling FPTP system, you end up with a circumstance where Tony Blair’s “triumph” of 2005 was won with 22.5% of eligible voters. The system is bust. The legitimacy of government already does not exist – what is newly in doubt is the ability of illegitimate government to foist itself upon the people.
This is the first election of my lifetime where there is a chance really to give the rotten structure a substantial kick. Any human construct, including the SNP, is imperfect, but that Trident moment on TV represented the truth that the SNP is a real danger to the comfortable untouchability of the neo-con UK state. I urge everyone to vote SNP in Scotland as the surest way to start to force change. Many of the SNP candidates whom I know personally – Mhairi Black, Phil Boswell, Chris Law, Michelle Thomson, Tommy Sheppard – are definitely going to bring fresh air to parliament.
In Wales, vote Plaid Cymru. In England, I think Green is the way to go in general, and I wish all the best to Rupert Read in Cambridge. But if you have a good Independent candidate, consider giving them a vote. Citizen participation against the parties deserves encouragement. There are good people in all parties, and there are some sitting MPs – Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Flynn, John Hemmings, David Ward – who I would vote for; they transcend the moral stunting of party politics. Despite profound differences on Scotland, I do urge people in Bradford to vote for George Galloway, who has done so much to oppose neo-conservative wars, and been an obstacle to the cynical exploitation of Islamic communities for machine politics by the Labour Party.
But above all, today will be remembered as a day when Scotland took a giant stride towards achieving national independence. A vote for the SNP is a vote for Scottish independence and for the break-up of the UK state. It matters not what attempts are made to obfuscate that fact, opinion poll after opinion poll post September 2014 has consistently shown no statistically significant gap between the level of support for the SNP and the level of support for Scottish Independence.
This is a great historical trend which the SNP are surfing rather than controlling. The fundamental answer to the political malaise which I described at the start of this article is the break-up of the UK as the sovereign political institution. A vote for the SNP today is part of an inexorable progress towards that break-up. You would be nuts to be a convinced unionist and to vote SNP, and whatever the propaganda the truth is that almost all SNP votes are nationalist votes, and I for one am claiming every SNP vote as a vote for Independence. The utter panic of the entire Westminster political and corporate media establishment is in itself sufficient evidence that this really counts (I loved the description Scotterdammerung). Freedom is a great thing – get out there and vote for it.
This is the one day that we are all independent, in that whoever we choose today controls us tomorrow. I have lived my life under a rotten system which has got more rotten, more corrupt, more intellectually narrow, and more divided between rich and poor. Today is a great chance to shake that system. Get out there now and shake it!