At the previous election in 2010, the author of the Mutualist endorsed the Liberal Democrats primarily due to ideological sympathies alongside a desire for a freshness to be brought about in British politics. The hope for the Liberal Democrats was for them to become the party of opposition, relegating the Labour Party to third party status. Alas, such hopes were based on political fantasy rather than a realistic expectation that Cleggmania would result in a significant increase in the number of seats held by the Liberal Democrats. Since then they have been the junior partner in a Conservative led coalition government in which they betrayed the student vote, while the author was a student at the University of Nottingham, and many anti-Tory protest voters. They have seen a humongous drop in their support, which is deserved in terms of betraying the student pledge.
The dismissal of the student pledge was concerning for two reasons. First, it signalled that the Liberal Democrats weren’t going to refresh politics by making it more transparent and honest. Breaking the pledge ensured they weren’t being honest and coalition negotiations behind doors could hardly be called transparent. Instead they did what Labour and the Conservatives have mastered, just in the plain idiotic fashion of doing it in the public light with many opponents gladly looking for the kill.
Second, it meant that the Liberal Democrats abandoned a long term aim to get young voters in the habit of voting for them by given them a mightily good reason to be pissed off (unlike the other bloc of voters just referred to). Evidence suggests it just takes three consecutive votes at a young age for the voter to become aligned to a particular party in the long term. Keeping hold of this bloc would have given the Liberal Democrats the foundations to use the coalition as a opportunity to become influential enough to be deemed a satisfactory contender to be the official opposition, and eventually the sole party of government. Instead they are now a bland centrist party hated by many but hoping to have enough seats to still be parliamentary kingmakers over and above the SNP.
Politically, the Mutualist couldn’t care less if anti-Tory protest voters got pissed off for voting for a party that “enabled” them in government. Those who vote to stop someone else coming in deserve to be pissed off at the very least when their vote doesn’t have the desired effect. Such forms of voting create information disformation in which it becomes unclear whether an electoral “victor” actually has an endorsement from the public (which the winner is gladly willing to claim to have been granted to serve their own interests), in the same way market liberals deem price controls a distortion of the information prices tell us about the market.
The Liberal Democrats are not as liberal minded as the Mutualist would like them to be, Political Compass has shown they’ve moved into the lower echelons of the right authoritarian quadrant rather than the right libertarian quadrant they occupied in 2010. They sacrificed a bloc that could have given them a big long term support boost. They have watered down their principles in the name of pragmatism. The defining attribute of liberalism is its basis in ideas and principles, to water them down is to water down the identity of the party.
The rich liberal tradition of the Liberal Democrats matches the core principles of the Mutualist position. The Mutualist deems the Liberal Democrats the best major platform in which its ideology can be promoted within overall. Entering power has had the negative influence of letting the party’s identity wane, yet the party has much more steel which can be used to implement the identity in actual terms. The Liberal Democrats are no longer a protest party.
The Liberal Democrats have shown they can be a responsible party of government. Their political immaturity has cost them dearly in terms of vote, but based on a purely centrist agenda the Mutualist would not consider any government that didn’t contain the strong influence of the Liberal Democrats. The deficit would be cut in a responsible way, while acknowledging that tax rises would be necessary to help cut the deficit. Further moves would be made to make Britain greener would be implemented ensuring influential climate sceptics in the Tory party are more muted. A coalition with Labour would result in a green government for sure.
The Mutualist, however, doesn’t accept the terms of the political debate from any point of the political spectrum; whether that be the left, the right or the centre. The focus on the nations balance sheet over structural reforms to the economy alongside the pressing need to get a green economy to help tackle climate change shows how out of touch the whole nation is to solving the problems of the two biggest problems facing us in the early 21st century: what a post-2008 financial crisis economy should like and anthropogenic-caused global warming. Despite the positive track record in government and natural sympathies the Mutualist at core has to the Liberal democrats, they do not get our endorsement.
Likewise the Mutualist can declare my lack of enthusiasm in both the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP. All the parties share this problem facing the Liberal Democrats, making pledges based on the wrong premises of the political debate. Though each one shares in its unique deficiencies.
Beginning with the Conservatives, they are the party that set up the political debate within the terms I find disagreeable. The focus on the deficit rather than the causes of the mess we are in (even to the point of stating that the mess we’re in was caused by the deficit) just had never computed with me since 2008. The agenda for the Tories is fundamentally regressive at heart, the implementation of further welfare cuts will only increase the number of people who’ll enter structural poverty in the UK. Welfare “cuts” are best implemented through the systemic reform of the market so as to make th underlying forces provide better standard of living so that significantly less need exists for the welfare. Cutting the welfare state doesn’t count as a systemic reform to the market mechanism as lack of will power has little to do with why so many workers are on low incomes, or why they can’t get a job in areas of the country still depressed from the crisis. Systemic reforms that undermine the necessity of such a large welfare state due to a rise in affluence for those on low incomes is the superior way of slashing the welfare bill than simply cutting it.
Far more concerning is the general lack of empathy many of their MPs have to those who end up being worse off due to the cuts. The story of an MP scoffing at a struggling disabled person hungry on the streets for not finding any work underlies that fact. The Conservative party cannot be trusted to look after the vulnerable in society, an economy in which we all are increasingly vulnerable.
Labour face the problem of being an old fashioned progressive party with a gaping hole in their agenda. Promoting predistribution during a time of austerity seems Ed Miliband’s ambition. By shaking up monopolies, Miliband would like to make the markets suitable for a fairer capitalism. Capitalism for the people is the goal for Ed Miliband, but I have no clear vision of this other than a hyperactive state willing to unwisely interfere in markets the wrong way. Rent controls and energy price fixes are not the way to go to reform markets. Admittedly the energy price freeze is a stop gap for a much broader reform within the energy markets, to help bring competition within the trouble. Alas, trying to make a natural ogliopoly a competitive market is a sure fast way to fail to deliver a capitalism for the populace.
The same applies to rent controls. Rents are too high because the value of land and housing throughout the country is too high. This is down to two factors: lack of supply for housing and, more importantly, the widespread phenomena of rent seeking in the economy. Rent controls will do nothing to change either of those two factors, instead they will distort prices in a dysfunctional market. Distorting prices when they’re already distorted is one thing, but not when they’re communicating valuable and correct information (that the housing market in the UK is fucked).
The Mutualist favours liberalising trade union regulation to help give workers more bargaining power in the labour markets. Labour are not a vehicle for that any more. The Coop party is in favour of mutual organisations but are far too socially democratic minded, rather than liberal minded, for the Mutualist’s liking.
I take the label of left libertarian because the label left liberal wouldn’t accurately describe my beliefs. Too call yourself a left wing market liberal lacks a certain elegance the position deserves. Yet I’m not opposed to state interference when it is deemed necessary and done in a compotent manner. In the case of the energy and housing markets Labour are right to think interference is necessary. Labour though want to interfere too much and in an incompetent fashion.
The Mutualist doesn’t question the heart of Ed Miliband; but he hasn’t got the analysis, vision and plan to address the concerns that should worry us all. Labour need to become the spearhead of a new left, Ed Miliband hasn’t done that. Alas, in taking Labour closer to their traditions he has helped resurrect the spirit of statism.
UKIP are a xenophobic party that cater to the ignorance of those hit hard by the financial crisis. Improving the lot of reactionary white working class men may disgust some on the left, if a progressive social outlook in which xenophobia and homophobia are to see there fires extinguished the source of their anger must be dealt with. Improving the economy so it works for them is a must. If after all this is accomplished and their bigotry still is hyperactive, then fuck them. The focus on the EU and immigration are red herrings in the election debate. They deserve to be treat as such.
Given the lack of interest in nationalist policies, this leaves us with the Greens. Like Labour they are statists when it comes to the economy, even more so. Rent controls seem to be fetishised by some on the left as the Greens wrongly think they can help. The revival of council housing, though, seems to be the primary weapon the Greens wish to launch in the war against unaffordable housing. This policy is attractive though I’d prefer a more mutual solution in which emphasis on common/shared, rather than state, ownership of such houses existed. Likewise I think mutualising, rather than nationalising, the railways is the way forward.
Yet the Greens wish to tackle anthropogenic global warming head on while wanting to introduce the Land Value Tax. Sadly the implementation of the tax is in addition to the income tax rather than its replacement as the primary form of taxation. The Greens are the only major party that also propose a Universal Basic Income, which is a fantastic policy to simplify the welfare state while providing the means for people to have a sufficient basic standard of living. The Mutualist also share the convictions of civic libertarianism that many Green members support.
With reservations the Mutualist would recommend, out of all the “major” parties, the Greens in the 2015 General Election. Key policies the Mutualist deems essential to the future prosperity of the country are advocated by the Greens. Yet they lack the conviction in the theoretical benefits policies like the land value tax can provide overall to the economy. This is a consequent of being too drawn to a face value analysis as to why markets fail to deliver equality, resulting in a party that is not as economically literate as it should be to solve the problems the Greens rightly see as being important in the current scheme of things.
The Freedom Party, the Pirate Party, the Liberal Party and the Young’s People Party would all have been strong contenders for our endorsement if they were national parties, i.e. they had candidates competing for almost every constituency. If any of their candidates are up for election in your constituency, though, give them your vote. We are particularly attracted to the Liberal Party which offers a more centrist version of what the Mutualist would like to see a political party offer while in government. The others are all great choices as well, though we have reservations about the YPP’s stance on climate change. The Freedom party supports a basic income scheme and the Pirate Party is strong in wanting to reform copyright law while protecting civil liberties. The YPP is a geolibertarian party that wants to tackle the housing and land crisis many are afflicted with.
Otherwise, the Mutualist recommends either spoiling the ballot paper for those more repelled by the Greens statism, those completely sceptical about the democratic process, or for those that see nothing but malovence in the existence of a state. The Mutualist advises spoiling the ballot as it is a proactive, rather than apathetic, form of protest.