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  Europe
UK Election Juggernaut Begins to Roll
Campaigning and Palm Pressing Begins
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster better known as the Houses of Parliament in London. Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world.

It’s that time again. The general election in the UK looms on the horizon and the electioneering and mud-slinging has already begun. Labour is pointing the finger at the Conservative Party because one of their biggest contributors and party Deputy Chairman Lord Ashton, is non-resident in the UK for tax purposes. This means that this member of the House of Lords, who makes laws that affect the UK population, pays no tax on his overseas investments, thus making minimal contribution to the system he takes so much out of.

Needless to say, in the children’s playground of UK politics, the Conservatives are now pointing the finger at one of Labour’s major contributors, Lord Paul, who is also what’s known as a “non-dom” – non-resident in the UK for tax purposes. The Conservatives are questioning his appointment to the Privy Council. I understand Labour’s response to this will be something along the lines of, “My dad can beat up your dad.”

With Labour cutting the gap between them and the Conservatives to two points, there is a real possibility of a hung Parliament in the UK – no party having a clear majority. With this in mind, the Conservatives are going into overdrive, backtracking on policies and promising the earth in a bid to gain as many votes as possible.

In return, Labour – as the party in power for now – is banging the drum and drawing attention to all the good things they have done while they’ve been running the country, and pointing out how bad things will get if the Conservatives come to power. The sound-bites are coming thick and fast, and Gordon Brown is smiling more than ever, to try to dispel the “myth” that he is a dour Scotsman.

As for the electorate, we are sitting back and watching as this leviathan gathers momentum, moving towards that point when the only way to escape this election fever is to take up residence in a cave somewhere in the Himalayas. It’s the same old story of every general election. We the voters are struck with a sense of déjà vu as we are subjected to the same old clawing and scratching, the same old accusations and denials, and the same old promises that will surely be broken when the dust has settled.

There is one new factor to this election, however. There’s a dark shadow, lurking in the background, waiting to strike. The shadow is the British National Party – the BNP. This neo-nazi party has gained approval from a disillusioned public that feels both overwhelmed and betrayed by a seemingly uncontrollable immigration problem. The BNP has already won two seats in the European Parliament, the question now is how many seats are they going to win in the UK Parliament? What kind of damage are these racist xenophobes going to inflict? With neo-nazism on the rise across Europe, this is a chilling question that requires consideration.

At the end of the day, what it all amounts to is each political party telling us that they have all the answers and solutions to this country’s problems. However, when the cat-fighting has stopped and the election is all over, it will be back to the same old routine. I think The Who said it best when they sang, “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.”



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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