Voters are being kept in the dark by all three main political parties in failing to disclose the scale of tax rises and public sector cuts required to tackle the financial crisis, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. They claim that the parties have black holes of up to £52 billion in the economic plans they have published as part of the election campaign, and need to be frank with voters. Not having enough information to make an informed decision based on non-transparent party policies will not engender trust, something members of parliament lost with the expenses scandal. Votes may be cast without thought of the consequences or there may be a “why bother” attitude, dissuading people from voting altogether.
As for being caught saying things behind apparent “closed car doors”, Gordon Brown seriously damaged his election campaign by describing a staunch Labour supporter he met in Rochdale whilst out canvassing as a “bigoted woman”. The comment, made in his car after a meeting where he publicly praised her, has been broadcast across the nation and subsequently he has had to call and visit the woman in question to eat humble pie. He may convince her or maybe not but whatever the outcome of her vote next week, millions of others may have changed their allegiance today. If Cameron or Clegg had done this the outcome would probably be the same……..but a salient lesson in how to “damage the brand” instead of “managing the brand”.
The best news in the last week for the political parties in the run up to the UK election has been the Icelandic ash cloud that has engulfed most of Northern Europe over the last few days. Apart from causing travel chaos to thousands of people and costing the travel and ancillary industries millions in lost revenues, there have been enormous “green savings” due to reduced carbon emissions.
The Liberal Democrats have benefited the most as the opinion polls seem to show they possibly have potentially a bigger influence in the next Government than expected by the Conservatives or Labour, following the first live UK election television debate. However, the big issues still remain and also the uncertainty of how anyone in power will tackle them, especially as many of these will not be resolved during the next five years.
Whatever the outcome of the election, hung parliament or a majority winner, addressing UK debt, public sector spending cuts, tax increases, health, education, decline of sterling, interest rates and inflation indicates a slow recovery plan over a number of years to bring prosperity back to businesses and consumers.
For those with mortgages or loans last weeks decision by the Bank of England to keep the UK base rate at 0.5% is good news, but for net savers it is now a year of exceptionally low returns with inflation more than cancelling out any interest earned. Indeed, it is also lucky that UK Plc’s debt mountain is only attracting low levels of interest, as the Bank for International Settlements, (BIS), has stated “Interest payments on the UK’s public debt will double from 5% of GDP, (Gross Domestic Product), to 10% within a decade under the bank’s “baseline scenario” before spiraling upwards to 27% by 2040 – by far the highest among the OECD club of developed countries.” With the political parties currently parading their manifestos, none have managed to look beyond the next five years, (the next term of government), but the austerity measures we all will face indicate that their policies will only half the current deficit at best if all the public spending cuts, tax increases and efficiency initiatives deliver. The recession is over………………..?
At last the 6th May 2010, a date for the nation to decide on the next few years of Government. Which party, if any, will have the majority of the country’s vote and more importantly what will be the turnout level. The media have already done enough in the first few days since the announcement to put off would be voters by smothering us with their coverage and opinions on the state of each major party and the main issues as they see them.
Forget the nuances of tax and pensions for the top earners, it is the average and lower paid, unemployed, pensioners and businesses that need convincing on how politicians will deal with long term UK national debt, employment, interest rates, sterling, healthcare etc. Local authorities not delivering and high council tax levels are where the majority of the public see Government in action, (or not). Hospitals, education, re-cycling, road maintenance, (potholes and line painting), emergency services are a few of the issues to be addressed.
This is probably the most important election in decades and the media and politicians have the opportunity to engage with the nation and get everyone interested in the recovery of UK plc, but delivering change will involve some pain for all.