I am not going to try and predict the outcome of tomorrow's general election in the UK, as the polls are the closest they have been for years, and for the first time as far as I am aware of it's actually a three horse race. Recent polls have shown that the three parties are all within a margin of 3-5%, which means that we literally have no idea of what the outcome will be. Add to this the fact that apparently 40% of the population is still undecided and likely to change their minds, and there is not a fortune teller around who could accurately forecast the result.
The last few weeks have seen the Liberal Democrats break into mainstream public consciousness, and their surge in popularity has helped to push Labour down into third place in the majority of polls. This has been encouraging not only from a personal point of view, but also from the view of someone generally interested in politics, as it's always healthy for the status quo to be turned on its head from time to time. No section of the political class should ever expect the right to govern, or believe it's their turn to rule.
With the first televised debates in UK history, much of the public has seen the real face of the Lib Dems for the first time, and many liked what they saw. Whether this will transfer into votes tomorrow or not is another question, but even if the Lib Dems only achieve their usual 20% of the votes, they have changed the face of politics forever and helped re-engage a disinterested public who had all but given up on the political process after the recent scandals at Westminster.
Personally, I have no real affinity with any political party, and I have probably voted for as many different parties as there have been elections in which I've been able to vote. Along with many others, I think the recent expenses scandal and the earlier peerages for sale fiasco has shown our political system for the corrupt club of old school boys it really is.
The bailouts and the banking crisis has shown that when it comes to making a choice between the public and big business, those with money always pull the strings. Our first past the post electoral system is likely to be shown up tomorrow as totally unfair and undemocratic, especially if Labour come third in the popular vote but manage to hold on to power.
Whatever way you look at it, the current Labour administration has had 13 years to make the country better and they have spent billions in the attempt. Yes, Labour has done some very good things for the country, such as bringing in the minimum wage, recourse in the UK courts for the Human Rights Act, helping to get peace in Northern Ireland, the introduction of civil partnerships, the Sure Start program and the building of many schools and hospitals.
However, they have also been responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many tax increases, the failure to hold a public inquiry into the 7/7 bombings, driving up a huge national debt, and most of all they have destroyed our civil liberties and turned this country into what many people legitimately feel is a high tech surveillance state.
I feel their time has come. The question is who do you trust to reverse these attacks on our civil liberties, the Tories or the Lib Dems?
The Lib Dems have a brilliant reform bill called the Freedom Bill which aims to reverse many of the laws brought in by Labour. The Tories talk about creating a UK Bill of Rights and rolling back some of Labour's surveillance state apparatus, but they have not made this a campaign issue. The question is who do you trust to actually implement anything? Have the Tory noises on civil liberties simply been anti-Labour spin, or are our liberties actually a priority to the Conservative party? If you remember the 90s like me, you will find it impossible to trust the Tories with anything. I hope, whoever wins, that the Lib Dems get enough seats to be the only logical choice for a coalition partner, and that they then use their influence to pass through their Freedom Bill at the earliest opportunity.
Labour is calling the Lib Dems and the Tories soft on crime for their pro-civil liberty perspective. However, we must realise that if our society is broken then a bigger stick is never the solution to fix it. You can build as many prisons as the budget allows for, and you can put CCTV cameras on every wall and in every shop as well as GPS devices on every citizen, but as long as we live in a divided society that rewards corruption and misuse of power, there will always be crime.
Civil liberties are not a far fetched idealistic theory to be discarded whenever the government wishes, but until people realise this and make more of an outcry over those we have lost already, nothing will change. There will come a day when even the most ignorant of the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" brigade has had enough, but by then it will be far too late to do anything about it and the ability to protest will just a far-fetched dream of the past.
It's already hard enough to protest without being labelled a domestic extremist and being logged on the new police database. Even if you do get your permit, the wise will avoid going too near the police in case they get slapped, battered and even killed. Try to take a photograph of the police brutality at hand and you are in breach of anti-terrorism laws (or so the police see it) and it's only a matter of time until groups of people who complain about concepts such as liberty, freedom and excessive government power are treated like the terrorists the laws were supposedly brought in to combat. Don't believe me? Just look over the pond to the USA and see how Tea Party members, Ron Paul and Bob Barr supporters, ex-servicemen and libertarians are being labelled as just that by the media and the establishment.
So our liberties are not just a theoretical concept that come way down the list of priorities - they are at the core of our national being, and what separates us from the terrorists we are supposed to be fighting. The fine line that needs balancing between security and liberty has been pushed way too far in the wrong direction by the current government, and tomorrow we actually have a chance to rectify it. Please don't waste this opportunity.