There are two kinds of Labour billboard at the moment. One is garish warning signs - WARNING The Tories would charge for hospital operations - the other has a Labour and Tory figure to compare (Gordon Brown and Oliver Letwin captioned 'Who Do You Want To Run The Economy?'). All the posters have the utterly vacuous tagline 'Forward Not Back'.
The selling point, then, is not how good they are but 'for fucks sake at least we're not the Tories'.
They make no mention of the LibDems, who are seeming to become a force to be reckoned with. I've spoken to more than one intelligent person who's become enthusiatic about the LibDems. People with a big enough imagination, sense of hope and level of media literacy to criticise the Labour 'at least we're not the tories' campaign. Yet the enthusiasm for the LibDems is precisely that kind of thinking.
A higher top range of income tax and whatnot sounds great, as long as you compare it to the stuff Howard Flight told us about. But the LibDems find it easy to promise things and say they'd be fairer and less beholden to vested interests if they were in power, cos they know they'll never be tested on it.
The LibDems are no different to the other parties, it's just that because they haven't been in government in living memory they can pretend they're cuddlier. The hope for them is like the hope people had for New Labour in 1997.
They're oppotunist professional politicians, same as the others.
They claim to have always been against the war, but go check. They were not against the war, they just wanted a second UN resolution. Kennedy specifically said they were 'not the all out anti-war party'.
On the day the war started he declared opposition to the war should cease, saying 'now is the time for silence'. If my next door neighbour was planning mass murder and I opposed it, once they actually went out and started killing I wouldn't think it was the time to be quiet.
He talked of British forces in Iraq doing it 'for their country', when in fact they're fighting to get someone else's country.
Even now they support the occupation of Iraq, only asking that there should be a parliamentary vote before any more troops are deployed.
They also love to portray themselves as all cuddly and green. Easy for an opposition party to do. Check their environmental record in power.
On the day the government said GM crops might go ahead, LibDems in Westminster were officially opposing it but in Scotland, where they have power and could do something about it, they weren't blocking it, they were unanimously supporting it and merely saying they'd ask farmers not to plant GM!
The infamous Newbury Bypass, a scheme now conceded by the then Tory Roads Minister as utterly unnecessary, was rabidly cheered on by those with local power - the LibDem council and the LibDem MP.
In the case of Manchester Airport's second runway - an equally destructive project taking nearly three times the land of Newbury - in Stockport under the flight path they opposed it but in Manchester, where their power was, they were in favour!
The Kingston Poplars tree protest was for mature trees being felled to improve the view for new luxury flats. The council that gave planning permission? LibDems.
As they ascend in the polls and get closer to power, so they quietly move to become another Big Business party. It's a flipside to the way that as the Tories move away from power they start saying there should be good student grants and in-house hospital cleaning, conveniently forgetting who invented student loans and privatised hospital cleaning in the first place.
Power itself is the problem.
The LibDems 'Alternative Budget' last year was full of privatisation, they've issued a statement saying, and I quote, 'Liberal Democrats start with a bias in favour of market solutions'. They believe that unsustainable economic growth is somehow a self-evidently good thing.
Put them in power and they're the same as the rest, neo-liberalist big business power-loving fuckwits. Bugger them and the tory-lite horse they ride in on.
Yes, it'd be great to have a massive LibDem turnout insofar as it'd make the Tories keel over and die like the dinosaur that they are. It would shift the grounds of national debate away from Tory racism and the like.
But if they're just a slightly fluffier version of Big Business politics, and become more so as they gain greater power, then it's certainly nothing to enthuse about. It's just that, well, at least they're not the Tories.
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Update 16 April 05
There's a new Labour billboard near my house. In another 'we're not like the tories were' thrust, it has a small child with 'I remember the day my dad came home from work and never went back'.
Not like now, as the workers at MG Rover in Longbridge will tell you.
Their bosses, incidentally, bought Rover for £10 five years ago and paid themselves about £10,000,000 each as the company collapsed. As Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary said of those Rover vultures at last year's British Motor Show, 'Company directors who take big risks and achieve big success deserve big rewards'.
Keep this in mind whenever Labour do anything to suggest they still have anything to do with their workers origins.