OPINION: British politics is polluted and unsellable

When the general election comes - and Tony Blair would be lacking

any judgement if he went to the polls on 3 May while the foot-and-mouth

epidemic is broadcasting his government's incompetence by the hour - it

will become known as the 'empty election'. As I have indicated in my

previous two columns, New Labour is owt for tuppence, as they say in

Hebden Bridge. Loosely translated, it means it will do anything for

votes. The Tories have failed to tell us what they stand for, assuming

they know while the new touchy-feely Michael Portillo is anywhere near

to helm. And as for the Liberal Democrats... ye Gods!



They aren't liberal. They stand to the left of Labour on taxation, which

is a curious definition of liberal, free market economics. And they most

certainly are not democratic. Their dearest wish is to secure

proportional representation. Indeed, their pursuit of this Holy Grail

has put them so in thrall to Labour that they have abandoned any chance

of convincing the people by use of the PR which normally preoccupies us

in the magazine that they are different. So why vote Lib Dem? In fact,

they are so pathetically subservient to Labour that Mr Blair plays with

them like a cat with a mouse. He offers them their PR lifeline - then

only a review of it - only if and when he thinks he is going to lose

power.



This explains why proportional representation is a denial of democracy.

In ensuring a mathematical relationship between votes and seats, it

would rule out any prospect of getting rid of a bad government. By its

proliferation of parties, it would ensure for all time that we, the

voters, could never completely ditch a lousy cabinet. All we could hope

for is a reshuffling of the rascals. Look at what happens in Europe.



This is why I maintain the next election will be dubbed the 'empty' one.

If ideology - a belief in something - is not yet dead, it is hibernating

and shows no sign of rising from its slumbers in time to invigorate the

election. The result is a reliance on spin which, as Labour demonstrates

daily, is useless when 500,000 animals go up in smoke before our very

eyes - or more likely don't because of the Ministry of Agriculture,

Fisheries and Food's hamfistedness.



In a curious way, the Lib Dems under Charles Kennedy, their lovely,

laid-back Celt, tell us what British politics has become: a shoddy

manoeuvre for office and to hell with principles. Indeed, it's worse

than that. So long as Keith Vaz remains in politics, Clinton's Law

prevails: it's not what you do, but what you can get away with. One

thing is for sure, politics as it stands today is beyond the help of our

PR. It is unsellable. Instead of an election, we should put the whole

damned lot of them on trial for denying us real choice and polluting

democracy.



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