Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A question of mandates

From the bastion of factual accuracy that is Wikipedia; the definition of 'mandate':

"...a mandate is the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative."

To explain with more words and perhaps a few choice metaphors; a political party states their planned policies during the election campaign, let's say to ban the wearing of Uggs out of doors, and to promote a three day weekend. Enough of the electorate are fed up with the sight of Uggs (they're missing the 'ly', surely?) and even more are fed up of the seemingly endless grind of a 40 hour week (who really has time to enjoy life in two days, 48 weeks of the year?) and, crucially, there's enough in both groups to secure this party a clear majority in Parliament. They duly come to power. First thing they do, is attempt to ban the wearing of Crocs.

This was not in their election campaign; they don't have a mandate for that.

The Conservative party did not get a clear majority of the electorate to vote for their policies, therefore they do not have a mandate for them. You could interpret 'mandate' as the will of the people. While it would be ridiculous to suggest that this government put every new policy they wish to implement to referendum (as they are doing with AV), it would be ill-considered of them to get carried away making all the ideological cuts they've been itching to make since 1997 and think they can get away with it. The deficit is getting to be like the proverbial dog that ate the homework, and to mix metaphors, we all remember what happened to the boy who cried 'wolf'.

The Conservative manifesto from the election campaign is a long-winded affair (as all the main parties' are; the Tories' clocks in at 131 pages which is the longest by 20 pages. Admittedly there's a lot of padding because TL;DR isn't an accepted part of politics as yet, so breaking it up with photos makes it easier.) but thanks to the Metro (yes; The Metro) here's some of the headline policies they were standing for last year:

:: Safeguard Britain's credit rating with a credible plan to eliminate the bulk of the structural deficit over a Parliament set out in an emergency Budget within 50 days of taking office.
:: Create the conditions for higher exports, business investment and savings, while cutting youth unemployment.
:: Reform the regulation and structure of the banking system.
:: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the UK's share of global markets for low carbon technologies.
:: Cut a net £6 billion of waste in departmental spending in 2010-11.
:: Freeze public sector pay for one year in 2011.
:: Cut ministers' pay by 5%, followed by a five-year freeze.
:: Reduce the number of MPs by 10% and cap public sector pensions above £50,000.
:: Reverse Labour's planned National Insurance hike for anyone earning under £35,000 next year.
:: Create a single Work Programme for everyone who is unemployed.
:: Boost small businesses with automatic rate relief.
:: Cut the headline rate of corporation tax to 25p and the small companies' rate to 20p.
:: Set an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK.
:: Block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick, while starting work on new high speed rail network.
:: Freeze council tax for two years and scrap plans for a revaluation.
:: Re-link the basic state pension to earnings and protect the winter fuel payment.
:: Give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider which meets NHS standards within NHS prices.
:: Stop the "forced" closure of accident and emergency wards, and commission a 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England.
:: Raise standards in schools by enhancing the status of teachers and allowing state schools the freedom to offer same high quality international exams that private schools offer.
:: Give parents the power to save local schools threatened by closure.

You might also recall the billboard campaign that introduced a bizarrely smooth and shiny David Cameron to the general public. Such was the impact of the campaign, it spawned

The vital point to remember when looking at their manifesto is that not enough people voted for them, for their proposals, to secure them a victory. It took a coalition with the Liberal Democrats to get Dave into No. 10. He could've tried to form a minority government, but perhaps even he knew that he'd never get anything past a Commons' vote. Which makes me wonder what a Tory majority government would have been like.

And then I wake up screaming.

I saw Jeremy Hardy's show in Glasgow recently; he was talking at length about the incumbent government amongst other things. He spoke about how there was so much hatred of the Lib Dems, not so much for the Tories. Probably because those who voted Lib Dem (including, possibly, my own mother) never dreamt they'd enable the Tories to get in, and all those voters feel cheated an disappointed. We expect this sort of thing from the Tories, especially those of us who can remember Margaret Thatcher. What's strange and terrifying is that that also happens to be the era in which Dave and Gideon chose to become Tories. As someone tweeted a long time ago, they looked around the political landscape of the mid-80's, saw the Conservatives under Thatcher and thought 'Yes. These are my people.'

Jeremy also suggested that a sort of inbetween generation; those a bit young to really be politically aware in the 80's, a bit too old to be undergraduates mostly, might not be too upset by the actions of the Conservative-led government. I enjoyed Jeremy's show, I feel that I share many opinions with him, but on this one I disagree. I'm 32 and feel it's vitally important that we the Electorate remind Dave and 'George' that they didn't win.

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