May 2010 General Election Cambridge


Monday, April 19th, 2010. 12:15am

Over the weekend I went down to the river in Cambridge and made a video in which I talk about my views about the upcoming general election. I’ve listened to what the candidates from the main parties are saying and I’m not convinced that I should be voting for any of them.

Very few people in the city are involved in party politics. At the Cambridge Cycling Campaign hustings last week Conservative Candidate Nick Hillman noted that the Cycling Campaign is bigger than all the political parties in the city put together. Personally I don’t want to vote for yet more party politics but don’t so far have another clear option of an alternative to choose. The only independents who as far as I know are expected to stand hold quite extreme views.

Examples of national issues I’m passionate about and I’m thinking about in advance of the election:

  • The plight of younger people in this country struggling with huge debts for university tuition and struggling to find appropriate housing due to high house prices.
  • Our over reliance on imported oil and gas for our energy needs. I think keeping the lights on and having resilient and affordable energy sources is crucial. I think we need some new nuclear on the existing sites in the short term, and need to rapidly make the most of our world beating opportunities for tidal power and invest in that so it quickly makes up a significant proportion of our energy needs.
  • Civil Liberties. If Labour get back in we’ll see ID Cards for all, and the continuation of the national children’s database “Contact Point”. I think anti-terror and anti-social behaviour laws have been badly drafted they have potential to be, and have been, abused. We have CCTV in almost all our cities and automatic number plate recognition cameras covering almost all of our roads; often without appropriate safeguards.

Some might say that with those views I should vote Green or Lib Dem as a protest vote against the status quo; but with especially with the Lib Dems looking like they might end up having a significant say in the direction the country goes in I think that’s less of a legitimate option now than it has been in the past. I don’t trust the Liberal Democrats on defence, I don’t agree with their enthusiasm for a Federal Europe, and perhaps most critically think they’re far to broad a mishmash with some factions of the party having rather conservative views about free markets and a small state and others wanting quite the opposite with high taxes and a huge increase in social security spending.

If the Green’s protectionist and Luddite policies were ever enacted we’d be sent back to a previous era; protectionist policies would, I worry, result in food and fuel poverty for many. While we’re not going to see a Green government I don’t want to see national policy move in their direction either.

On energy policy I’d trust the “Labservatives”; on Tuition Fees the strongest of the main parties is the Liberal Democrats – though they have a weaker stance now than they did a few months ago. What I’d really like to see is someone free to pick and choose the best policies for Cambridge and for the UK.

I’d also like to see someone with a bit of a revolutionary spark sent to Westminster by the people of Cambridge. I think it’s wrong that only monarchists can be MPs in this country. I’d like to see Cambridge represented by someone who would promise simply to act in the best interests of the people of Cambridge, the City of Cambridge and in the national interest. If we did elect an MP prepared to do that we’d prompt a quiet, but critical, democratic revolution.

8 comments/updates on “May 2010 General Election Cambridge

  1. John West

    I appreciate your comment on Cambridge politics very much – so I start with a thank you. Your clear parting of reportage from comment is welcome and your own views, while I do not necessarily share all of them, illuminate the discussion of local and national issues.

    As a former Labour party member (now no longer there due to the failure to address inequality or energy independence, the imposition of tuition fees, the Iraq disgrace and the attacks on civil liberties), I sympathise strongly with your attack on the party sclerosis afflicting this campaign.

    However, having thought long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that a Lib Dem vote is the soundest way to get my views across in the absence of a compelling candidate likely to win support without fracturing a coalition that may let the poor Labour candidate Daniel Zeichner in.

    Your main criticism of the Lib Dems is that you do not trust them on defence. I trust them on defence a lot more than the other main parties. They will not renew Trident but will maintain an independent nuclear deterrent (lest we forget, this is the position of France, and – in any case – how independent is the Trident system anyway?) Savings will be transferred in part to combat operations. Yes they will not buy in to the next phase of Eurofighter, but this is no bad thing. The most important procurement programme – that for the A400M military transporter – is sadly out of any future govt’s hands. Airbus badly messed up the development (in part because European govts wanted the engines to be made in Europe, so a new engine had to be developed from scratch). A strategic/tactical carrier network is more important than Trident and not affordable without its cancellation.

    In addition, Nick Clegg is too much of a populist to leave soldiers’ equipment to chance – he has raised the issue of equipment several times in PMQs IIRC and his handling of the Gurkha affair suggests a greater understanding of military sensibilities among the ‘progressive’ parties than his peers.

    I am not a Lib Dem. Their approach to Europe is also not my own – though as they promise a referendum on Euro entry and are strongly committed to decentralisation, I am not worried about this stance.

    They are a fractured party – and I am generally unconvinced by the activist base – but the manifesto holds up better than their opponents and I have no desire to allow Labour to squeak back in by splitting a progressive vote, much though I may admire Tony Juniper or any independent.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    John,

    A vote for the Lib Dem’s Julian Huppert is a vote for no nuclear deterrent. While the Lib Dem policy is to say no to renewing Trident, but to leave the option open for an alternative deterrent Julian Huppert’s has made his personal stance clear: he does not support any nuclear deterrent.

    I asked Julian Huppert about this on Twitter, the below shows the exchange with the most recent contribution at the top:
    julianhuppert  @RTaylorUK I would scrap Trident. We don't need it, it costs too much and it weakens our moral authority with other countries.
    RTaylorUK So @julianhuppert  you wouldn't support any alternative nuclear deterrent either? That was my question.
    RTaylorUK On #newsnight  @ChrisHuhne suggested #LibDems want to keep UK independent nuclear deterrent; #LibDem Manifesto not so clear. @julianhuppert

    I think it is scandalous that the Lib Dems are not being clear that they are split on this issue; their manifesto fudges the issue stating, on p. 16 of the paper document (p.9 of the PDF):

    Saying no to the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which could cost £100 billion. We will hold a full defence review to establish the best alternative for Britain’s future security.

    The Lib Dems would also like to see us lose control of our currency; they want to scrap the pound and have us join the Euro. I have much more faith in the Westminster Parliament than I do in the European institutions.

    One think I like most about the Lib Dems is the fact they’re a genuine bottom-up party and individual members have a route to influencing policy; that’s a stark contrast to Labour and the Conservatives at the moment.

  3. John West

    ‘The Lib Dems would also like to see us lose control of our currency’

    …well, they’d advocate a yes vote in a referendum if they felt conditions were right. Not quite as emotively put. The fact they would have a referendum neutralises this ‘threat’ for me.

    You raise an interesting point re. your exchange with Huppert. Not sure how I feel about that – I certainly don’t agree with his position in the here and now. Parliament will have a clear majority in favour of deterrent – should it be my top priority when castimg my vote? I suspect it won’t be – as I say, I do think there are other more pressing military matters at play.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    While the Lib Dems advocate a referendum on the Euro when the time comes their policy still indicates the direction they would like to take the country in. That is they want us to be part of an increasingly federal Europe; they are by far the most pro-European of the main parties in the UK. Who’s to say how far they might have taken us by the time we’d get a referendum.

    The Sun has been running a series of articles over the last few days warning of the dangers of voting Lib Dem; today’s focuses on the nuclear deterrent.

    I don’t even trust the Lib Dems on what I’d have thought many would think were their core values – civil liberties and justice. Here in Cambridge we’ve seen local Lib Dems throw those away very rapidly when faced with residents complaining. We’ve got huge amounts of CCTV in the city, lots of it poorly signed; dispersal zones which criminalise people for disobeying a PCSO have been established and they’ve recently approved the use of anti-social behaviour laws to tackle speeding and careless driving – saving the police the bother of collecting evidence and denying those caught access to due process.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Yes, I tweeted on my result a week or so ago. I was unsurprised to find I want to pick and choose the best bits from each of the parties.

    Green Tony Juniper was really pushing that site at the Peterhouse hustings earlier this evening.

  6. John Ionides

    Re:4

    The thing is, Richard, that the bulk of Lib Dems believe that the state can target money and attention better than individuals (all funded by a high tax take), which is why many commentators consider them a fundamentally left-wing organisation.

    However, it is particualrly difficult to square the Lib Den position with a commitment to civil liberties (as most people would understand the term). After all, if the state is good then the more information it has then the more good it can do, right?

    So. I think there is always going to be a conflict for Lib Dems where civil liberties are concerned.

    But the flip side is that if we want civil liberties we have to take a hit somewhere. For instance, if we don’t want everyone’s DNA on a database then we have to accept that some crimes would not be solved that otherwise would.

    Personally, I think that freedom (and not having hundreds of government agencies breathing down your neck all the time) is a core component of quality of life, and that the benefits of centralised data systems are likely to be marginal, so we would be wise to oppose the aggregation of personal information in state hands.

  7. wab

    The Lib Dems are keen on road pricing (page 80 in their manifesto). This will allow government to massively increase its surveillance of people, but evidently the Lib Dems believe that such a huge loss of civil liberties is “a price worth paying”. (They are not the only political party to be keen on road pricing, of course. In fact, is there any significant party opposed to it?)

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