My good friend, colleague and Eaton resident is threatening not to vote next May. He is classic LibDem fodder (young, caring, pro-environment, basically a bit left wing but hates New Labour) but as I have scratched the surface of his beliefs he shows worrying signs towards authortarian Toryism.
Anyway, his complain was that the parties were "all the same these days." "Nonsense", I declared. I believe that is the lazy answer for people who don't want to think things through. Are you honestly saying, I went on, that all three parties have the same education policies, the same tax proposals or the same ideas on immigration?
"Ah-ha", he quickly rebutted, all of those things are about the micro-management of the system not about broad based ideological differences. Such an arguement got me thinking. In the 80s we had the classic Conservativism versus Socialism debate, personaified (if you like) by Thatcher and Foot. A classic cold-war battle being fought in British politics.
Name any three major party frontbenchers and I'd bet you they'd agree on the projected outcome for the country. We all want a strong economy, good education, a working transport system etc. However, where we disagree is how to achieve that - so politics is becoming about the means rather than the ends.
So, says my friend, he is being asked to vote for slightly differenent versions of management rather than for political leadership. Before he votes he wants to see a real battle of ideas - not the day-to-day policy of school funding, but of where we want British edcuation to go and do.
Maybe he has a point, I concluded. After all, Cameron, Blair and Campbell could probably draw up a "vision statement" on which they could all sign up to. So we, the voters, have no choice about where UK plc is going - just a choice of vehicle to get there.
Any interesting arguement and so much more worthwhile than guessing whatever happened to all those 80s bands you just don't hear of anymore.