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Election letters 2019 / Slightly less Tory than the Tories

I do hesitate to say anything complimentary about the Lib Dems, because the last time I acknowledged that they had achieved some things for Shetland, they quoted me on one of their many leaflets as if it was an endorsement.

But for example, I acknowledge Mr Carmichael’s constituency work and I respect his stance on human rights. I say this because I think we should acknowledge common ground and resist further polarisation of our politics.

Most of us want similar things, like a fairer society and better public services. More often than not, we disagree about the means of achieving these things, rather than about what we want to achieve.

So while I do not set out to demonise our incumbent MP, I am absolutely convinced that the UK Government has been too right-wing for too long and that Mr Carmichael has to take his share of the responsibility for this.

The Liberal-Tory response to the 2008 financial crisis was to slash public spending while pumping hundreds of billions of pounds into the financial institutions that caused the crash in the first place.

Between 2006-08 and 2012-14, the wealthiest 10 per cent of households saw their measured real wealth increase by £350,000, compared with £3,000 for the poorest 10 per cent.

A 2017 study in the British Medical Journal and a 2019 study by the Institute for Public Policy Research have both linked over 100,000 additional deaths to the UK Government’s austerity policies.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report on Report on Extreme Poverty in the UK makes it clear that austerity was a political choice, not an economic necessity.

This is the problem with beige liberalism: active cruelty is not required; you can just go with the flow and then express dismay at the results.

As deputy chief whip in the Liberal-Tory coalition, Mr Carmichael voted for Universal Credit and against increasing benefits in line with prices, but now he laments that people have been forced to use foodbanks as a result of Universal Credit and benefit changes.

Mr Carmichael voted for the pensions “reforms” that robbed 1950s women of their pensions, but now he supports the WASPI campaign for pensions justice.

Mr Carmichael voted to privatise Royal Mail and deregulate ownership of the Post Office, but now he complains when they take decisions that are not in the public interest.

The climate crisis is the biggest threat we face and I welcome support for more action from wherever it comes. But Mr Carmichael voted against greater regulation of fracking (three times), and we’ve had Liberal representation for 70 years, yet we still haven’t made the investments needed to tackle fuel poverty, create green jobs, or build fixed links between our islands.

Westminster decides how much money is available (in total) for such things. The blinkered Liberal-Tory version of capitalism has consistently put private profit ahead of investments in public infrastructure and public services like our NHS.

The UK privatised the oil profits while Norway banked them. Westminster allowed UK fishing quota to be sold to foreign owners. UK power plants are now largely owned by foreign state-owned energy companies like EDF.

It doesn’t have to be like this: we know it doesn’t, because it isn’t like this in countries next door to us. We can run our economy in the public interest.

Any MP worth their salt will pursue issues raised by their constituents and, whilst I hope not to be quoted on another Lib Dem leaflet, I acknowledge that Mr Carmichael has done so.

However, as the middle ground of UK politics drifts rightwards, so are the Lib Dems under Jo Swinson. Being slightly less Tory than the Tories is not going to cut it anymore. A vote for Robert Leslie and the SNP is a vote for us to choose our own future, with the blinkers off.

Tom Wills
Shetland SNP Branch Convener