I’m a huge fan of Question Time and so when I heard of a special episode dedicated to the forthcoming general election, I was immediately interested. I recommend watching the program for anyone confused over the whole election as it was a much more efficient way of getting to grips with what each candidate stood for as opposed to the political ‘tit-for-tat’ we have witnessed on some of the previous panel debates – Question Time certainly picked a brutal audience and the range questions fired at the three leaders faced were both explicit and cut throat.
David Cameron’s initial contribution to the program was both alarming, and unsurprising. His professional ability to divert away from one of the most direct questions of the program conformed to some of the many criticisms contemporary politicians and the dismissal of key political issues at hand, in favour of a propagandist effort to boost their own stature . His resolve of the question concerning the status of the child tax credit in the next government was to denounce the contentious legacy of New Labour, and the “situation he inherited” which became one of many repeated expressions.
I’ve made reference in my blog previously concerning the difficulty for the electorate when faced with these scenarios, specifically when snide remarks regarding the failings of previous governments are used to brush off the inquisitive audience like we saw last night. I find it particularly aggravating when this happens during a discussion of a politically ‘hot topic’ such as child tax credit, which was dismissed due to its electoral volatility and the repercussions that a firm stance may have for the Conservative party; yes, Cameron most likely felt like he was treading on egg shells when responding to these questions which were testing at times, but reverting to the same reworked criticisms of a financially lax New Labour is tiresome and has no benefit to the viewer.
I found Cameron’s metaphorical analogy of the British government as a ‘building site’ where you need to ‘keep the team to finish the job’ particularly amusing; even more so was his analogy of the Blair and Brown governments as the ‘builders who destroyed it previously’ – I assume it was an electoral strategy designed to tap into the humour of the working class voters out there or maybe an attempt to boost the egalitarian image of the Tory party. Either way, I spent a brief moment trying to picture David Cameron skimming a few walls but I doubt occupations such as plastering have little relevance in the exclusive bubble our revered political elite habituate in.
Cameron’s discussion of the EU caught my attention since he declared it was ‘the red line’ to any negotiations regarding a coalition government. I have to disagree with Cameron on this issue and question whether he is supporting an electoral solution to the EU as a political tool to capture the interest of Tory/UKIP swing voters, as opposed to genuinely endorsing a referendum on EU membership.
The EU benefits us on an individual basis, and I am of the opinion that the British public is often misled by the scare-mongering of UKIP and their absurd predictions of 350,000-400,000 Bulgarian and Romanians who were planning to mass migrate to the UK. Healthcare benefits, free movement and the caps on mobile phone data charges all exemplify the advantages we receive as EU citizens which we can all commonly relate to and this needs to be communicated clearer – phone calls are capped at 15p as opposed to 19p per minute (2013), which although does not jump out as a huge saving, it is fundamentally more money in our pockets and works towards improving our time spent on the continent. Moreover, if you are unfortunate to fall over and break your leg whilst touring an EU member state, you are entitled to medical assistance either free or at a reduced cost. This is obviously a positive feature of the EU which we all may depend on at some point reiterating the idiocy of withdrawing our membership. It is as simple as that.
I would much rather commit to a legislative solution, as outlined by Cameron and Miliband in their pitches to the QT audience in Leeds, with the prevention of migrants immediately claiming unemployment benefit or enforcing English as a compulsory requirement upon entrance to the UK. Concerns over their status as a source of cheap labour as well as their perception as a cultural threat to British society can be tackled much more effectively with a legislative approach, as opposed to risking the benefits we enjoy being an EU member with an ‘In/Out Referendum’.
NOTE: I deliberately referred to the ‘perceived’ cultural impact because this is not an opinion I hold, however, I respect this is a tense issue which potential readers may be concerned with. I am firmly of the opinion that a multi-cultural Britain can only strengthen us as a nation, and so long as migration is considered within our national capability, I see no threat to our culture.
Cameron is ultimately being forced into a discussion about the EU by the right, manifested in the rise of UKIP and its exploitation of the EU and high immigration rates. The consequence of this referendum may eventually lead us to a scenario where we do not have access to the benefits we share as part of our EU membership, and Cameron should defy this political bullying and be more realistic. We, as the public, are not made aware enough of the benefits of being part of this institution, and it is this ignorance which could have significant repercussions for our nation – I support Miliband’s stance on this topic, and his refusal to endorse a referendum on the EU, and I think undecided voters should certainly take this factor into consideration.
What is noteworthy is that Cameron’s objective affirmation on the EU as the ‘red line’ for any type of deal essentially paves the way for a Tory-UKIP coalition – has Cameron indirectly disguised his coalition pact with Farage, and the British public have blindly failed to pick up on it?
I’ve focused predominantly on Cameron in this post, although I did intend to cover all three leaders but it would have been far too complex and incoherent. So keep an eye out for a follow up post regarding Ed Miliband’s performance on BBCQT.