A general election inevitably brings party manifestos landing on our doorsteps. Much time is spent by all parties on dreaming up ‘new’ ideas, and the production costs must be enormous.
Yet how many of us read them? Sadly, I do.
The problem with manifestos is that they try to promise everything to everyone. But politicians forget that it is income from the plethora of taxes, visible and hidden, paid by taxpayers that they are spending. So they are profligate with ‘our’ money, and if their plans don’t work out we foot the bill. Then there are the ‘big ideas’ – like Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways – among other key industries.
But if having a nationalised railway – or other nationalised industry – was so great in the past, why was the idea abandoned? No doubt Labour will argue that the Tories sold off the railways to make money, whereas the Tories will say that privatisation meant greater efficiencies and reduced public funds to support the industry.
Both are no doubt right in their own way. But the biggest problem with the railways recently, especially on Southern Rail, has been never-ending strikes over technical issues bringing misery to thousands of working men and women who rely on trains to get them to and from jobs in London.
I would, in principle, enthusiastically support renationalisation of the railways – but only if strikes were outlawed and disputes settled through compulsory arbitration via ACAS. You won’t find this in Labour’s manifesto.
Another problem with manifestos is many that voters may not always agree with every aspect of a party’s ideas and proposals, but like some of them. But when voted into power, politicians immediately claim that they “have a mandate” for ALL of their manifesto proposals.
For example, although the SNP has encountered problems in some key policy areas, they nevertheless have some excellent ideas with regard to social care, and I would probably trust the SNP with the NHS in Scotland more than any other party. However, I am decidedly against Indyref2. As long as Nicola Sturgeon continues to claim that she “has a mandate” for another referendum on independence, I couldn’t vote for her or her party.
So, even though this election is not an American-style presidential election, most of us will probably vote based on the qualities of the party leader, taking into consideration who we like and trust most with our economic and political future.
There are currently only two strong leaders in the UK who can command the trust and respect of the electorate, Ms Sturgeon and Mrs May. Unfortunately for Ms Sturgeon this is a UK-wide election, so Mrs May will be Prime Minister.
If only they weren’t at opposite ends of the political spectrum. They would have made a formidable partnership!
John Maguire is a retired UK diplomat. He lives in Kelso.