Election campaigns that fail to deliver on the economy
Well we vote tomorrow and I can’t help feeling a sense of disappointment in the election campaigns.
The campaigns have been marked by a number of things. Their lack lustre nature, the advent of the prime ministerial debates, the rise of the Clegg phenomenon, the bigotgate storm in a tea cup, the prospect of a hung parliament and what that might mean for our democracy, the anticipated poor showing from Gordon Brown and yet his startlingly good performance in front of Jeremy Paxman.
More importantly this election should become known as the one in which the three main parties studiously ignored the cavernous holes in their economic plans post election.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies helped us realise that though each party said they would tackle the deficit of £166bn, all had failed to explain how they would make tens of billions in savings.
This election will be the one in which the parties pretended to have an economic debate. Which, when you think about it, is stupefying. The economy is the biggest issue on the political agenda. It is the central issue facing the UK and yet, we go into tomorrow not knowing how the parties are going to deal with a fairly big chunk of the problem.As one tax adviser said to me it is almost as if they are conspiring together to ignore the issue.
How can that be? How can we be so bereft of information and yet largely the parties remain unchallenged.
On Sunday Andrew Marr made an effort to challenge David Cameron (they are all guilty, by the way, Cameron is just an example) on this very issue. He must have come at the question three or four different ways. Cameron side stepped finally stating he did not believe any opposition had ever given away their full plans.
And we are supposed to vote for people who have this attitude? We are supposed to pick from three parties all of whom take the view that the voters are not entitled to hear what may be on their agendas. It is staggering.
Not only is this an insult, but it contradicts the very core of at least two of the main campaigns which are calling for change.
It contradicts those who demand we vote for them as “change” from Labour but also those who campaign on the idea that we need to vote for systemic change.
A refusal to tell us fully what we can expect on economic policy in terms of potential tax rises or spending cuts is a refusal to change at all (don’t worry, Labour are equally guilty of this failure). This refusal serves only to underline that we suffer at the hands of political arrogance and if these are professional politicians then politics 101 appears to be the course on economic obfuscation.
For accountants there are two key values which end up shredded on the floor in such as a result of such a political attitude – transparency and accountability.
Clearly the parties are not entirely transparent on their plans and as a result cannot be held to account for them. And this at a time when we are trying to lecture other nations on how to run their politics (Afghanistan, Iraq).
So my conclusion: we are left having to take a punt tomorrow when we vote because on the big issues of the day – the economy – the parties have failed to deliver enough information to know what will happen.
And perhaps that’s why there so many “undecideds” out there wondering who to put their mark against on the ballot paper. And as I sit here, I hope and pray that this is not a deliberate choice by the parties. I hope they had more integrity than that.
But that doesn’t solve my problem. My problem is that no one, even at this stage, has fully convinced me they know what they’re doing with the economy. And that, frankly, is quite alarming.