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Monday, 12 July 2010

The UK General Election. A (delayed) point of view.

This general election was hugely important to me. It was the first general election that I could participate in by voting (I’m 20 years old), though I have voted in the Welsh local election of 2008 and the European Parliamentary Election also. But this election was different. I became politically active towards the end of 2008, not long after I had started university and joined a political student group. My political alliances have strengthened since, and from campaigning for Julie Morgan, the former MP for Cardiff North since September 2009, I became quite attached to the idea of Labour winning the general election from working with such a dedicated MP. 

People always say that politicians are all the same, that they earn too much money and don’t care about people. Well that’s the message I’ve often received when knocking on doors and telephoning people. However, when we’d ask people about their MP Julie, the overwhelming majority of her constituents would say how much she has done for them, and how much respect they have for her. I find that most of the politicians I have met don’t actually live up to the ‘uncaring and money-grabbing’ careerist image that the media often declare. This, along with my strong socialist values, and pride of what the Labour Party has done for not only myself but for the country (hate to sound all national pride-like) has led to my strong attachment for the party.
Myself and a few others from the Cardiff Labour Students society stayed up till around 7:30am the night of the general election. It didn’t start off too well when we saw the swings to the Conservative Party, but at least the first few announcements were Labour holds. The night progressed and the mood saddened for us, seeing so many losses was depressing and also disheartening. When we saw that Julie had lost her seat by a margin of 194, the atmosphere was awful. I had this huge sense of anger after all the campaigning we had done, and the amount of support we had received from constituents. Why did people vote for the opposition candidate who had hardly campaigned and appeared to assume he had it in the bag? It’s still hard to think of now, but after going to sleep at 7:30 then waking up a few hours later to see the headline of BBC News- ‘Cameron trying to form a government’ was very depressing. Friday, May the 7th was a horrible day.
How do I feel about this new Cameron/Clegg love in? Weird. I can’t watch them for long, the smarmy and smug press conference in the garden of number 10 was unwatchable for me. Brown’s resignation was difficult to accept (I’ve met him briefly a few times and have huge respect for him), but seeing these conflicting party leaders on what I can only call the ‘Nick and Dave Show’ really made me angry. Nick Clegg’s wonderful quote in 2008- “Will I ever join with the Conservative party? No. I refuse to be merely an annex of another government.” - is all too fresh, and the hypocrisy of the new cabinet makes it difficult for me to take it seriously. An equalities minister who voted against most gay rights? 23 millionaires out of 30 ministers? Only 4 women? I could go on. It feels like we have gone back in time. After all that Labour did for Britain (yes I know there were mistakes, I don’t agree on many things they have done) how have we ended up with this?
When people thought the Liberal Democrat Party were some sort of saviours after the Leaders Debates I knew they were wrong. I’m obviously very biased, I know that. The Lib Dems are the dirtiest campaigners in my experience. On average, they had the highest expenses, but due to their silence on the subject, people thought they were the angels of the scandal. Their campaign literature is often shockingly inaccurate. They attempted to ‘steal’ Labour votes in Cardiff North by telling people it was a race between them and the Conservatives, that they were the only ones who could keep the Tories out. It was actually between Labour and the Conservatives, the Lib Dems had no chance. They’ve also used similar tactics in my home constituency of Pontypridd. Although the Labour Candidate Owen Smith lived in Surrey, he promised to move to Ponty if he got elected. The Lib Dems jumped on this. They also wasted space childishly saying about Kim Howells ‘drinking tea in his big house’. Umm what has that got to do with how good a politician he was? He was an excellent MP and minister. All of these tactics allowed me the common sense to know that they would form a coalition with the Conservatives if there was no clear winner. And they did. And now? They have compromised on many important issues, e.g. the economy, university tuition fees, and electoral reform, amongst many other issues. I wonder how long it will last. 
Opposition is probably good for Labour right now. We can create a new, fresher image with a new leader and hopefully, a stronger sense of support if the new membership numbers are anything to go by. But I do worry about what will happen as a result of these major cuts. I graduate next year, and the future is not exactly bright. Hmm we shall see.

Katie Murdoch

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