If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Five choices here in Preseli Pembrokeshire: Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and UKIP.

The Labour candidate is a lady called Mari Rees. She is a journalist (which could mean anything) and a community development worker. So, no experience of the world of real work, then. There's nothing on the Labour candidate's leaflet to make me rush out and vote for her - it's all the usual vague aspirations and apple-pie stuff that no-one could disagree with. Notably, there is no mention of Gordon Brown - the nearest Mari gets to a touch of stardust is a photo-op with Carwyn Jones.

Stephen Crabb is the sitting (Conservative) MP. He's a likeable enough chap, and is well-regarded in the area. His majority is tiny (a little over 600), but given the current polls, I don't think he will be having too many sleepless nights at the moment. He was guilty of a little 'flipping' in the expenses scandal, and he's a little too born-again Christian Right for my tastes, but he seems sound enough.

The Lib Dem chap, Henry Jones-Davies, I only heard of a few days ago when his leaflet landed on my doormat. I have to confess I haven't read it. I have a major problem with voting for the Lib Dems: however much they portray themselves as above the fray of petty politics, honest and straightforward, I always remember the dirty tricks they get up to at a local level (some that I have been aware of are hair-raising) and realise that they are fundamentally hypocrites. I'm attracted to some of their policies (the £10k starting rate of tax, for instance), but I could never vote for them.

Plaid Cymru are an interesting proposition. I support their desire for independence (although I am not too sure they would not regret it if and when it happened - the Welsh economy is not the strongest), and they have some good local spokesmen. They always give a good account of themselves on the TV news, and seem well-organised and professional. But fundamentally their politics are Old Labour - state intervention at every stage, and an over-reliance on the public sector as the driver of progress. If I were Welsh by birth, their nationalism might over-ride the politics temporarily, but I am not, so it doesn't.

And so we come to UKIP. I am fully in support of them over Europe - I think the very least we should have is a referendum on our continued membership, and I would most certainly vote to leave the EU. (To be clear, I am passionately pro-Europe. I love the place, and I consider myself European as well as British, and certainly closer to Europe than America. It's the institution of the EU that I can't stand, with its undemocratic and unaccountable structure and its corrupt and self-indulgent politics.) But I could never take them seriously as a political party. Nigel Farage seems a good bloke, but would I want him in charge of the NHS or defence procurement? There's not enough evidence that they would be competent, or even what the main thrust of their policies would be. If UKIP offered an immediate referendum on EU membership, and then promised to disband and force a new election for a newly-independent Britain, I might be tempted.

But there is only one real imperative at this election: Labour must be removed from office. Nothing is more important than that. If Labour get another five years, then all the liberties and freedoms that I have cherished since childhood will be gone, irreversibly. The economy would be in utter ruins, and (I hate to say this) one religion above all others will be granted special privileges and will dominate our public life. If my vote can stop that happening, then that is how I must use it.

So on Thursday I will be voting for Stephen Crabb, the Conservative. David Cameron was saying all the right things for me in the leadership debates, and with his recent remarks on a Great Repeal Bill and a contract with the people to clean up politics, get the economy going again, and reform welfare, I will do so with more enthusiasm than I might otherwise have done.

I'm hoping for a Tory Government with a modest majority of, say, 20 seats. As Margaret Thatcher said, large majorities are rarely a good thing. A government needs to be kept on its toes and not become complacent. But a hung parliament would be a disaster. All the deals would be done behind closed doors, principles would be jettisoned in favour of shady bargains, and the markets would probably pull the plug.

So that's me. Tory Boy.

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