March 29, 2005

Politics: Any point? Much difference between parties?

The world of politics has never had much appeal to me, but in the light of the new found ability to vote and the impending general election, now is as good a time as any to pay some attention to the major parties.

Michael Howard had been attracting media attention over the dismissal of MP Howard Flight. It came to light that Howard Flight suggested that cuts in government expenditure under a Tory leadership could potentially exceed the official figure of £35bn put forward. Considering this a breach of the official line, Howard has barred Mr Flight from representing his constituency in the forthcoming election. Naturally, Mr Flight has chosen to fight the decision and the outcome of the process will be seen in the near future.

Now on aggregate, the Tories are simply proposing to spend £35bn less than is planned by the Labour party, with the savings coming through the elimination of unnecessary or marginally useful components of government such as the Department of Trade and Industry. Far from cutting front-line posts, the party has promised to match the Labour partyís proposed spending on services such as the NHS and education.

At present, there seems to be little ideological difference between the two parties. Labour are proposing to spend lavishly, whilst the Tories are promising to spend moderately. All the while, the media is rarely short of stories regarding the failing school system, plus bed shortages, MRSA and missed targets within the NHS.

By simply promising to spend less than Labour, the Tories pass up the opportunity to spell out how the NHS and school system will be reformed. Obviously, the party wouldnít risk alienating the public by straying too far away from convention, but failure to put forward alternatives to the state management weíve come to know and put up with, they imply that mediocrity and poor returns on investment are the publicís lot. The implication is that Labourís system of operating via hierarchy and targets is indeed the best alternative.

Is it any wonder people donít think a change in government will yield any substantial gains in quality of public service provision? Why on earth would Michael Howard dismiss a fellow MP, an MP with proven constituency support, for merely suggesting that the Tories would look for ways of saving money? That show of strength has obviously brought you party and public respect, Michael.

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