Unlike the previous ‘Leaders’ debates I found this evening’s Election Uncovered: What They Won’t Tell Us programme on Channel 4 very illuminating and didn’t drop off once this time. I was initially concerned about an unexplained empty chair and the absence of Shirley Williams, one of my long time favourite politicians regardless of party (she was one of the SDP’s ‘Gang of Four’). Seeing her name as a participant was one of my reasons for watching. The other being that, as usual, there was nothing else worth viewing despite the myriad channels we appear to have on NTL plus Freesat, but that is another story. Fortunately the Baroness turned up half way through the programme having been caught up in a traffic accident.
Unlike the personality contest that the ‘Leaders’ debates had become, this programme looked at the hard choices that have to be made by the next Government. Four polls were conducted for the programme: Economic Recovery where 58% thought that we were on the road to recovery; Honesty in Politics where 60% thought politicians less honest than they used to be. On the question of believing the Party leaders telling the truth about the tough decisions about cuts, 38% trusted Gordon Brown, 36% trusted David Cameron and 53% trusted Nick Clegg.
On Pensions people were offered the choice between working for longer or having a higher standard of living. Of those polled 61 % opted to work longer and 23 % lower standard of living.
In what was perhaps the most surprising poll, 70% thought it perfectly possible to make cuts without harming Front line services. This was the most illuminating part of the programme clearly demonstrating that tough choices have to be made and how the parties have been reluctant to be honest with the electorate, hence the high vote.
Some people, including the Governor of the Bank of England, have suggested that whoever forms the next government will be so unpopular that they will not be re-electable. That would serve the best interests of no-one. A possible solution, ironically mentioned by Shirley Williams after her late arrival, was that there should be an inter-party unity team to agree a consensus for dealing with the financial crisis. The final show of hands vote was for a hung parliament which could be the best chance of achieving such a consensus.
What is clear is that the ‘Something for nothing’ mentality of many Britons, ancient and modern, is unsustainable. Services have to be paid for. Even with the planned efficiency savings tax rises are inevitable. For the sake of unity these must applied equitably to avoid a greater burden on the poor.