The count down to the British general elections has started in earnest and with just over two months to go we are all preoccupied with who will be the next Prime Minister.
For their part, the politicians have laid out their stalls and are doing their best to convince us that their offering is much better than the other party’s.
Our challenge is to choose between them. How do we do choose between the parties? This was the question that preoccupied my friend Shirley and I one day last week.
Shirley kick started the discussion by asking me whom she should vote for. She said,
Ida it is all too confusing for me. I can’t decide. Who should I vote for and why?
Ida: I am struggling with that very question Shirley. The ideological gap between the parties has narrowed so much that I can’t tell them apart
Shirley: So how will you decide whom to vote for?
Ida: My strategy is to identify the issues that I care about and then work out which party is most likely to deliver on those issues
Shirley: And what are those issues Ida
Ida: The National Health Service (NHS), Britain’s membership of the EU, the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and finally Foreign and International Development policies
Shirley: Why those issues?
Ida: Well all those issues are connected in some way but I am not convinced that political parties are being honest with us with respect to what their implications are for ordinary folks like us.
The Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Under the TTIP agreement, it will be easier for companies based in the European Union to access US markets and vice versa. This is not such a bad thing I hear you say, you will be right until you consider its implications for the National Health Service.
As argued by Patients for NHS website, if agreed TTIP will open up the NHS to further privatisation and that the rights of private companies will come before those of the patients and that the NHS will be the biggest prize under TTIP.
The implications of this, are that the NHS may cease to be free at the point of delivery.
In addition to, Members of parliament stand accused of selling off the NHS through their connections with Business that supply into the NHS. How does one therefore decide which party is most likely to protect the NHS?
This got us talking about Britain’s membership of the EU.
If the UK left the EU, the NHS would not be subjected to TTIP. As African women that grew up in Uganda and South Africa respectively, Shirley and I do not take access to health care for granted.
We agreed that any party that would protect the NHS from the TTIP agreement would get our vote.
But is leaving the EU, a good thing for the UK? That rather depends on whether Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the US under TTIP, would lead to the economic isolation of the UK and whether or the UK’s economy is large enough to withstand this sort of competition?
A further question for consideration is, how the UK’s economy outside of the EU would fare against, the US, China, Brazil and India?
A question for you and me, relates to whether the cost of living go up/down?
As far as I can work out, none of the political parties are explaining this in terms that the ordinary man on the street can understand and instead there is a lot of scare mongering about increased immigration as a consequence of being part of the EU.
And this leads us to Foreign and International Development policy
As I previously argued, the reasons why people immigrate are complex but we couldn’t help but wonder whether some countries compound the effects of immigration by their actions.
For instance the German broadcaster, Deutche Welle (DW) has argued that African countries have been left out of the TTIP talks. If implemented, TTIP rules would have implications for African countries effort to add value to their produce before export and as such reduce poverty on the continent.
One of the unintended consequences of such a policy is increased unemployment as well as the number of people in search of better prospects for themselves and their families.
Following this conversation with Shirley, I was left wondering whether, political parties care about African women in diaspora as a segment of the electorate or what influences the way we vote.
I reached out to some of the women I follow on Facebook and here is what they had to say
How I can get a widowed elderly parent to stay. That is all I care about and don’t understand why I have to wait for them to be completely incapacitated before they qualify for a longer stay (even that can lead to a disqualification)
Better opportunities for affordable child care. Look, I know we have it great in the UK however cost of living and child care are somewhat disproportionate to actual earning power!
The refusal to pay just 1 % pay rise to the nurses and yet continue to splash out on agency wage rates.
Emphasis on supporting businesses in employing young people through apprenticeships.
Listening to the professionals in whatever field it is before deciding to change anything as they kind of know better.
I would like to see a greater access to great schools for bright students from deprived boroughs
Not taxing on Remittances to highly indebted countries. Will give Diasporas more money to spend in the UK. Currently fees to high.
Reduction to the cost of flights to many of our countries
So there you have it folks, please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below