Nelson’s Column

When I was young it was simple. Working people voted Labour, posh folk and farmers voted Conservative, “teuchters” voted Liberal and a collection of various academics, bohemians and lunatics voted for the Nats. There were a few commies dotted around and the odd independent, but that was it. Simple.

Then the 80s happened and it all went topsy-turvey. White collar became blue collar, blue collar became unemployment, unemployment benefit became income support, greed became good, and red flags became red roses.

Now here we are in 2010 – the future. (We were promised hover chairs by now.)
The Labour government are encouraging trust funds, a historically upper class concept. They build schools and hospitals with private money so it is a building management contractor who runs them and not the teachers or doctors. Not what you would expect from a traditionally leftist party.

In the run up to this election David Cameron has been using phrases like “Power to the People” and “We’re all in this together.” He advises us that if we don’t like the way our school or post office is run then we should take it into our own hands. Get the community together and enjoy all the benefits of a local service that you run yourself. Is the Tory leader really encouraging the workers to take control of the means of production?

It gets weirder. When Northern Rock got itself into trouble the government had to step in with public money to save it. This was only a prelude to the massive bail-out to the banks that was about to happen. We the tax payers have been encouraged for years to get private pensions, mortgages rather than social housing, and private care rather than rely on government institutions. Then government institutions had to bail out the private ones we had all been coerced into relying on.

Then there’s the Lib-Dems. Going by the first prime ministerial debate on ITV Nick Clegg was the coolest new kid on the block. For a long time his party have been laughed off as an irrelevance. Now suddenly everyone wants to be his mate. It is not though that Brown or Cameron sees him as a threat; it’s because they would need his support in a minority parliament. If this was an American high school movie Brown would be the bulky quarterback, Cameron the preppy rich kid and Clegg the chess club geek that nobody likes but who Brown and Cameron woo when they discover he has an awesome pool and a hot mom.

The Scottish branch of the British National Party uses the thistle as their logo, and in Wales the cross of St David. If Britain, a union of three nations and a principality is, indeed, itself a nation then why recognise the separate national symbols within? Are they now The British But Scottish Too and Maybe Welsh But Not English ‘Cos That’s British Anyway Innit Party?

And it looks like the United Kingdom Independence Party want us to be independent of a union we are not actually part of but are happy for us to be in union with each other, sending a clear message to Europe that we can stand on our own 6 1/2 feet. And that’s just the start of the doublespeak with these two.

Meanwhile the SNP, the party in government who will “never get in”, sit hoping that England will vote equally for everybody and the arrival of a hung parliament will make independence look a bit more consistent and reliable.

So, the leader of the left is using socialism to save capitalism, the leader of the right is spouting concepts in Marxist philosophy, the centre party are just as important whether elected or not, we have British parties who don’t know what Britain is, and a Scottish party forming their campaign strategy around English voting patterns. We are through the looking glass.

It would be so understandable to just have stayed home at this election. But how could we have? How can we justify sending our troops halfway around the world to enforce democracy if we don’t embody those principles ourselves? We are lucky to have so many options, unlike one party sates, or the US with its two party system (that’s only one away from communism!).

So let’s not waste our votes. Let’s not allow ourselves to be seduced with tiny bribes or scared stupid with insubstantial horror stories. It is not a horse race where we vote for the one we think will win. It is not a protest where we follow the loudest voice. It is the foundation of our society and we should own it. Let’s think about what we are doing.

I hope you didn’t have too much trouble picking someone out of that mess.

Sandy Nelson


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.