Despite having a very good local constituency MP in Pauline Latham, here's why I won't be voting for her party on Thursday.
1. The Tories have fought a negative and uninspiring campaign characterised mainly by telling lies about Labour's tax plans, lies about Labour's 'relationship' with the Scottish National Party, and a complete lack of candour about their own plans to slash welfare benefits in the next Parliament. Apart from a brief period around their manifesto launch, when David Cameron brought his 'sunshine' agenda back out of cold storage, the party's campaign has focused almost exclusively on spreading fear rather than hope. Such an approach is unworthy of a major political party and does not deserve to succeed.
2. David Cameron has failed to engage with the public at any level, turning the campaign into a series of carefully-managed photo-ops rather than the conversation with the voters it should have been. His disdainful treatment of the regional press - for instance keeping local journalists in a room while he toured a factory - has been well-documented on HoldtheFrontPage, but is symptomatic of a wider reluctance to engage, of which the scrapping of the morning press conferences and his refusal to debate Ed Miliband head to head are also part and parcel. The British public deserve better than a Prime Minister who is seemingly afraid of the voters, afraid of legitimate questioning by the media and afraid of what an opponent he has repeatedly sought to denigrate as not up to the job might do him in a one-on-one encounter.
3. The Tories cannot be trusted with the National Health Service. Having pledged not to introduce a top-down reorganisation of the NHS at the last election, they then passed the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This provides a route-map towards a nightmarish future in which the NHS ceases to exist as an organisational entity, with health care commissioned by GPs from a panoply of mainly private providers. Once the profit-motive becomes embedded in our health service, it will be impossible to maintain it as free at the point of delivery. Private providers have shareholders to please and profit margins to meet, and this will inevitably get passed on to patients.
4. George Osborne's management of the economy has led to an uneven recovery which has widened the divide between the haves and the have nots and kept wage levels depressed while the cost of living has increased. The economic statictics may tell a positive story for the Conservatives, but the experiences of people at the sharp end tell another and small business people, public sector workers and anyone living north of Watford Gap have seen very little evidence of recovery at all. For all the Chancellor's talk about creating a 'Northern Powerhouse,' the economic divide between the North and South of the UK has grown over the past five years, with potentially baleful repercussions for the unity of the British state.
5. The Tories' reckless promise of an in-out referendum on European Union membership in 2017 will create two years of uncertainty in the business community which will further paralyse already sluggish economic growth in the UK. The Europe question was decisively settled by a previous generation in 1975 and millions of British jobs and livelihoods now depend on EU membership. The issue does not need to be reopened now just so Mr Cameron can appease his recalcitrant backbenchers or seek to win back a disaffected, xenophobic minority who have temporarily deserted his party for Nigel Farage and UKIP
Tomorrow, I give my five reasons why I'm backing a Labour/Lib Dem coalition as the best election outcome.