This election will be decided not by votes for political parties but by votes against them and their ideas. Students voting against the Lib Dems, Kippers voting against Europe, public employees voting against pay freezes, the rich voting against more taxes, the poor voting against the rich, the Scots voting against English parties, parents voting against school cuts, many voting against gradual privatisation of the NHS – there is a lot to vote against.
But what is there to vote for? There is the smaller state, but that has not been well articulated as a political philosophy. Continuation of the post-war social settlement; again not well articulated. It boils down to a battle between neoliberal and Keynesian economics and that is difficult to explain, especially in the rough and tumble of daily politics. This quote is worth considering:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.
The author is John Maynard Keynes in his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) and quoted on the website of Foreign Policy in Focus, a US-based think tank.
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have projected a vision of the future, which is the way politicians can assert their political philosophy. We can be sure that whoever becomes prime minister after Thursday will have substantially more votes cast against him (assuming either leader is able to form a government) than for him.
Both Miliband and Cameron have failed to tell us the basis of their policies. Boiled down to single phrases it seems to me Labour want a more equally paid society, while the Conservatives want to shrink the state and let the market provide.
By not presenting a clear choice they have left the electorate confused, uncertain and hostile to politics.