The local elections are approaching and today I received information from the local Labour party about Laboury stuff and the candidate standing for councillor. The best I can muster on looking at the information is a 'meh', I can't summon up much interest either in Labour or the local elections. And don't start me on AV. Despite having a law degree I can't fathom it further than the "I want wotsits. Oh but if they haven't got any wotsits when you go to the shop can I have some quavers. And if they haven't got any quavers or wotsits can I have some mini cheddars please?" argument. All cheesy snacks, all tasting different and all a bit, well, 'meh' again. Years of particular lifestyle choices mean I'm pretty much an expert at alternative shopping snack options but I prefer my politics to be a bit more cut and dried. Mind you, as I can't bring myself to vote for any of the candidates, choosing synthetic cheesy snacks is probably the most sensible plan to stick with. And frankly, I can't see cheesy snacks making a worse mess than any of the politicians. At least the crumbs would be easier to clear up afterwards.
Chatting to a friend earlier I explained my voting dilemma. I live in a constituency that is traditionally about as true Tory blue as it gets. When Labour won their landslide victory in 1997, even Wirral West ended up with a Labour MP, much to most of our surprises. Whilst we're not quite in the 'elect a slug if it wears a blue ribbon set' of constituencies we're not that far from it (1997-2010 being noteworthy exceptions) and there's certainly no point chucking a vote at the Greens or Lib Dems. I can't see AV making any difference to that situation - it's a straight Conservative/Labour fight here and will remain so even if we all get to stand in voting booths going "I don't want that one, I want that one, no that one"
I have voted Labour all my life. I had a huge dilemma when last years general election came around because I didn't want to vote Labour after their introduction of Employment Support Allowance led to the persecution of sick and disabled people, with even supposed left wingers such as Diane Abbott having praised the very un left wingers such as James Purnell for his desire to reintroduce the politics of the workhouse to welfare. Had we had a different Conservative candidate standing in the general election I possibly would have voted Conservative. Our sitting Labour MP had decided to step down, having been an excellent local MP. The candidate put up by the Conservatives is far from an excellent MP, local or otherwise, and whilst I considered voting Conservative there's no way I'd ever vote for that particular candidate. In the end I made my decision based on the fact that although I didn't particularly rate the Labour candidate his wife had spotted medical errors which could have cost me my life in the past and frankly that was good enough for me.
The local elections are a different matter. The local authority has also recently changed from a Labour led to a Conservative led council and has already cut 5 respite care homes which provided specialist elderly mental illness care, ie dementia care to the likes of you and me, and care for people with severe learning disabilities or mental health problems. After a murky history of overcharging severely disabled people and persecuting the whistle blower to try and prevent the details becoming public I'm less than keen on Labour being back in control.
Further complicating the matter is that whatever people think of our current Conservative councillor's politics, it's generally agreed that he cares passionately about the local area and doing the right thing for it. Which is a very underrated passion in today's politics.
I could abstain from voting, but that always strikes me as wrong. So when my friend asked if that meant I'd vote Conservative my gut response was to say that I can't. I just can't.
But I just can't vote Labour either. I can't vote for a party who's welfare policies are causing such fear and misery for disabled people. I can't vote for a party who won't even acknowledge this, who won't 'man up' and admit however well intentioned it may have been that they were wrong on ESA. I can't vote for a party who repeatedly side with the Coalition on welfare reform, who's leader* says nothing on welfare other than that he supports gateway changes to DLA and ignores the increasingly vociferous and terrified pleas sent to his team on a daily basis from disabled people. I can't. I just can't.
But what I can do, is point out to Labour that I'm far from alone in feeling that I just can't vote for them as things currently stand. Blue Labour, Green Labour, Red Labour, Purple Labour - it's all a load of crap as far as I'm concerned. Despite being a bit of a politics geek, I suspect a discussion about the merits of wotsits vs quavers vs mini cheddars would be more productive and interesting to the electorate than what colour Labour want to become and there would at least be faux cheesy snacks to eat at the end of it all.
Which is far more than most sick or disabled people and their carers are going to have if Labour don't get their act together and formulate some decent policies to oppose the current direction of welfare reform.
*even if I'm more likely to make it to Prime Minister than he ever is.