Forgetting the forgettable, there are three parties we can choose from. They represent, so far as I can see, the Same, Another Same and something New and Untried. There are powerful, in my opinion, reasons for believing either that the last thing we need now is discontinuity or for believing that we need fundamental change. In other words, I can see why we might want to plough on through the debt crisis that faces us with a reliable, if unexciting administration and I can also see why we might want absolutely to alter direction and experiment with new ways of hammering out consensus, compromise and pragmatic reform. What is harder to envisage is a new driver in the same car, a change that satisfies tribal loyalties but actually achieves nothing.
Britain is in dire straits financially. We are, not to put too fine a point on it, shafted six ways from Sunday. As always, those who will suffer most will be the already disadvantaged. No matter who wins or commands a majority on Thursday there will be appalling cuts in public services, terrible depredations made that will hit first and hardest those who can least afford it. Twas ever thus, you might think. But the ripples in crime, discontent, infrastructure decay and quality of life degradation will affect all, even those who least care about the destiny of the destitute.
If there is a way out of it, it will require dullness, concentration, probity, focus, geeky financial fanaticism and an almost horrible obsession with economic detail and technique. Sound like anyone we know? The last thing that is wanted, this vote might suggest, is an untried chancer who makes promises that we know, with the best will in the world, he cannot keep.
Hands up anyone, anyone who believes that the Osborne/Cameron nexus will honestly punish or regulate the City as they need to be punished and regulated? Whatever noises they make about it, you know, you know as surely as you know that turkeys would never vote for Christmas, that somehow, by perfectly reasonable and unforeseeable routes, any manifesto promises to be tough on financial impropriety will somehow get lost and the smarting chastisement that the short-selling creeps who got us into this mess deserve will never be forthcoming. (In fact you can pretty much guarantee that even a Labour vote will not guarantee the regulation that wise financial insiders know is necessary ) ‘Oh it will just cause a mass exodus from the City.’ ‘Oh, alienating the wealth creators is the surest route to bankruptcy.’ ‘Germany hasn’t done it, nor has the SEC in New York.’ ‘We have to compete. Cut our banking houses off at the knees and you hobble the British economy, perhaps fatally.’ Gosh, how convincing that all sounds. As a result insane bonuses and horrific financial instruments will rise again, a debt dependent economy will boil once more into life and dozens of journalists and commentators will rise to their feet to applaud.
I don’t mean to be sneery or negative about this, it is what the Tories stand for and there are arguments one can subscribe to which convincingly defend their nature and their instincts and their outlook. Goodness knows there’s a huge part of me that is libertarian and contra-dirigiste enough in outlook to look with longing at the certainties of the Reasonable Right. But you would have to be naive or dishonest to deny the certainty of the outcome of a Conservative government in terms of its friendship with bankers, financiers, fund managers and those who manipulate and massage capital for a living. I do not for a minute concur with some visceral Labour views of Tories as being automatically and genetically uncaring or socially illiberal. True, there are dozens and dozens of Conservative candidates whose repellent stupidity and vulgarity would make even a Daily Mail reader blush and stammer, just as there are dozens and dozens of Labour candidates whose bigoted, dull-witted asininity would embarrass a Guardian reader into dribbling delirium. And there are plenty of Tories whose hopes for the poor and the dispossessed and the outcast are as sincere as that of any socialist or liberal. Vote One, if I were to cast it, is all about a belief that – despite the rather obvious and predictable PR choruses to the contrary – continuity, solidity, sound management, a lack of interest in anything but the economy and a bone-headed refusal to pay much attention to image makers and spin doctors is what is required now. Far from All Change, let’s go for No Change and weather the storm that is coming with a dull, intelligent, responsible, proven and determined pilot at the helm. One who won’t ask for relief when the waves batter but will plough on, head down, until we find calmer waters and sunnier skies. That is Vote One. In case you’re very very dim, that would be a vote for Gordon Brown and Labour. It isn’t very exciting, you might think, but it might just see us through.