Chalk & Cheese – The Real Left/Right Divide.

“Politicians are all as bad as each other. They all make promises they don’t keep, and say whatever they think will get them elected”. That’s the refrain time and again from all but the most loyal party supporters.

It’s easy to understand why they feel this way. David Cameron couldn’t answer a straight question on whether he could “live on a zero hours contract” – after some prodding he finally admitted he couldn’t*. While Ed Miliband refused to admit that Labour had spent too much money despite the head of his finance team leaving a note that “there was no money left”.

So for the independently minded and swing voters among us, we need to look behind the rhetoric and blatant self-promotion if we want to find tangible evidence to support the choices we are about to make in the next few weeks.

It seems to be that, while on the surface the two main parties (Conservatives & Labour usually share between 60% and 70% of the vote) can be tarred with the same brush, if we look under the bonnet it is clear that they are as different as chalk and cheese in terms of what they believe in and how they go about running our country and our government.

One party believes in small government characterized by individual rights with a safety blanket of collective responsibility, as lower taxation as reasonable, fiscal conservatism and free markets.

The other believes in a large state and public sector funded by a larger tax take, a generous welfare state that mitigates the need for greater personal responsibility, and heavily managed and in some cases subsidised markets.

The consequences of the latter, in terms of the debt and financial well-being of the country, is well illustrated in thus report from the Independent Office of Budget Responsibility. It shows very clearly that the level of debt and the country’s net worth became unsustainable during the 13 years of the last Labour government. This debt was built on the back of a massive surge in public sector spending.

So while politicians continue to confuse, obfuscate and in many cases intentionally mislead us  (sic the NHS has not been privatised under the coalition government, and the move toward ‘marketisation’ started under Labour), the divide between the politics of the right and the left is very clear.

We can either choose fiscal and personal responsibility backed up with by a safety net for those who truly need society’s help. Or we can choose a party that left the country bankrupt and believes the answer to most problems is not ‘people power’ but more government.

Those on the ‘left’ often point to Sweden as an example of an economy and society that has a large well run state sector, yet on any rank of wealth, health & happiness Sweden comes close to the top.

Their government is very much a coalition of centrist parties, and their PM makes a clear indictment of Labour’s stewardship of the British economy when he said Labour didn’t have the fiscal discipline that all Sweden’s main parties preach. “If you want to run a big welfare state you need to run surpluses in good times,” Mr. Borg says. “That was a huge difference between the Swedish Social Democrats and the Labour Party. Ours were far more prudent in terms of fiscal policy.”

I would vote for smaller government and ‘people not politics’ every time. Furthermore, if we are to have another coalition government as seems likely, then it must be a coalition built around the political centre and not one dragged to the extremes of the left wing which is invariably what will happen if the two Eds get to form the next Government.

The difference between Left & Right really is like chalk and cheese. What will you choose?

*As an aside I think that zero hours contracts in the hands of ‘responsible employers’ are a very smart way of giving both employers and employees the flexibility to work as and when they are needed or want to.