Make Your Vote Count!

The Politics of Business, Immigration and Skills  (as seen on ITV News)

A month ago ITV London got in touch asking about what I thought of the upcoming elections. At that point, I mentioned that I could vote, but was not planning to. Like many people in Britain, there were matters that needed clarification.

So I accepted ITV’s invitation to a special election series with 4 episodes where I would get to meet some of the leaders of the UK’s most influential political parties as they battled it out to reach the forefront of public attention. The most pressing issues surrounded the deficit, education, the NHS, immigration and the economy – which of course includes small business.

SMEs account for more than 99% of all UK business and nearly half of all private sector employment which makes small business and entrepreneurship important. As someone who moved to England less than five years ago and has an obsession of making a difference, I decided to ask questions about immigration as well as business. I engaged on social media to ask other business owners, professionals and tax payers on what it is that they wanted clarified from the political parties.

There were two other non voters on the program, Sabeela Yamin and John Watts, along with the renowned ITV Journalist Ronke Phillips. We visited the candidates in a special ITV cab with a hidden camera.

The Appetiser:
Having been in the UK for less than five years, I started to whet my appetite for politics and reading up on each of the parties. As the manifestoes came out, I’d make it a point to go through them. Now I was curious.

Day one with ITV News, we spent interviewing the candidate from the newly formed United Kingdom Independent Party more popularly known as UKIP.

UKIP - Darshana UblWe met Keith Fraser from UKIP who explained how his party was for ‘positive immigration’ but not for those who came in to the UK to exploit UK’s benefits system. When it came to the controversial question of immigration where UKIP’s Nigel Farage had previously said that he wants an Australian Point System for all immigrants from the EU coming to the UK, Keith said , “it’s like Britain is having a party and we don’t know how many people are coming”. Put it that way, it sounded more rational than racist to me.

For the summary of UKIP’s manifesto click here

Next I met up with the Labour candidate, Harriet Harmen. She has championed the cause of more female MP’s in Parliament and for that and her thirty plus years in politics, I do respect her. She was warm and friendly and her intentions seem genuine. She shared with us her party’s objectives of creating more welfare.

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For highlights of Labour Party’s Manifesto click here.

The only thing I couldn’t get my head around was her party’s views on the UK’s budget deficit (Total National Debt). When it comes to life – and politics – I’ve been told there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. A free lunch maybe today, but at the cost of the future generations drowning in a soup of debt and HUGE interest payments? That’s isn’t fair.

The Soup:
Let me explain …

In 1997, the Conservative government balanced the books under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher (in other words, our tax revenues covered our expenses and the government wasn’t carrying debt) and our economy was strong. Our taxes are used for the betterment of Britain – infrastructure, housing, education, the NHS, etc. We did not have to borrow from other countries or be indebted to other political agenda’s other than Britain’s. Great Britain was truly great.

Then comes the Labour government and in the 13 years they rack up a huge amount of debt even during the Boom years. Now don’t get me wrong… a little bit of debt can be good if it’s invested and it generates a return, as long as you can pay it off along with the interest.

We all know that debt on a personal level beyond a point is bad. It can lead you to lose all your wealth, security and also push you to bankruptcy if you’re unable to pay your debts as they fall due.

Similarly it works on a company level and a country level.

When countries go bankrupt, it’s a very big deal and history is littered with examples of once economic titans falling on hard times that they never recover from.

From balanced books in 1997, Labour grew government debt to £800 Billion in 13 years. They handed over a situation where they were running horrendous deficits each year and the Conservatives have been trying to cut back on ‘expenditure’, like any prudent household that is spending too much.

Take a minute to just read the sentence above again. Now, imagine how much the interest payments are on that debt! It works out to £2000 per household per year of our taxes are used to pay the interest alone. Put another way, the interest is more than we spend on defence, and almost as much as the education budget.  If we keep borrowing more money, these interest bills will keep getting bigger, like a credit card that we eventually will not be able to pay back. If we weren’t paying that interest, those tax pounds could be put to better use!  Total Government debt in 2013 equaled £15,000 for each individual in Britain. You think you have debt already, well, add another £15k to your figure because that’s really what you owe … with interest.

The government takes this debt from several foreign investors.  Over 30% of them are foreign investors which means our taxes go towards making countries like China even richer.

The Main Course:
The more I know, the more I want to know. By the third week my curiosity had turned into a slight obsession with researching articles, polling the questions on social media and looking at everything from a macro-economic perspective (implementing some of what I learnt in university).

pic3We met up with the ex-environmental secretary Ed Davis. We spoke of what sets the Liberal Democratic party apart. He spoke about how they would focus more on issues of mental disabilities, creating a cleaner and greener environment and increasing tax. His eyes lit up as he talked about renewable energy. At this point, I asked him what he thought of electric cars such as Tesla? He said he aspires to have one too ..currently he uses a hybrid vehicle. I too can’t wait for a world where we have clean air, water and a planet that works on renewable sources of energy such as solar, tidal, wind and electric.

For highlights on the Lib Dem Manifesto click here

The Dessert:
The cherry on the cake was to meet the Chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, in person who represented the Conservative Party. It was a privilege especially since I was on BBC News following his Autumn Statement and UK Budget earlier this year. On both occasions I represented the views of the Small Business community.

pic4In real-life, George Osborne was a lot more approachable than what one may think of him when on TV. He knew the numbers, figures and the projections on where his party wanted to lead the nation. The Conservative party created 2 million jobs and their measures resulted into UK being the fastest growing economy in the western world. He echoed David Cameron’s views that the party has reduced the budget deficit to half within 1 term. They want 1 more term to get the job done and balance the budget. Once again Britain can be truly great allowing us to have further security, growth and not leaving the next generation with lesser jobs and more debt. This is needed so we can start chipping away at the accumulated Government Debt.

Highlight of the  Conservative Party’s manifesto click here

Digestif:
You may share my views or you may completely disagree. The point is not ‘who is right in politics? or ‘who I think you should vote for’.

The point is to ‘be curious and take an active part in voting for the government you want’.

– To all the women voters, please do vote as many women sacrificed their lives to give us this right. I’m going to use mine.

– Get involved with you local communities or use the power of social media.
I met up with Jane Ellison the Conservative candidate for Wandsworth, Battersea and Balham, as she has done some wonderful work in my neighbourhood. Besides helping Wandsworth small businesses access the £1000 govt. rate rebate,  she supports the Wandsworth Chambers of Commerce, campaigned and introduced Boris Bikes in the area amongst other things.

pic5I thoroughly enjoyed this political journey through ITV and writing this blog. One more day before polling day.

I hope that you too vote .. and make your vote count!

Darshana

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