Why I'm voting Labour on Thursday, no.1
Over to Johann Hari:
Revealing Policy One: Today, 1,600 British people are killed every year just doing their job, putting us behind many poorer countries for workplace safety. They are people like Michael Adamson, a 26-year-old electrician who went to his job one day and was given a massive electric shock because his employer hadn't bought a £12 piece of safety equipment.
Yet David Cameron is promising to dismantle the very weak protections currently in place, and replace them with a system where corporations will be able to "organise their own inspections", carried out by a team of their choice. Cameron's people justify this by pointing to made-up stories in the right-wing press claiming health and safety inspectors spend their time stopping children playing conkers. UCATT, the astonished construction workers' union, has been protesting outside Tory HQ, with members dressed as the Grim Reaper. Michael Adamson's sister, Louise, who is a lawyer, says: "Cameron's proposals are outrageously dangerous. They will end with a lot more people dying. It takes the very light touch regulation that gave us Lehman Brothers and Enron, and applies it to workplace safety. This time it's not money you lose, it's lives. This isn't about conkers, it's about people like my brother, who could have been saved for £12." This policy suggests Cameron instinctively puts corporate profits ahead of the the safety of ordinary people – a dangerous habit to act out in Downing Street.
Revealing Policy Four: Cameron says he is demanding spending cuts not because he has a theological belief in a small state, but because they are necessary to pay off the deficit – but this claim is undermined by the fact that he wants to strip funding from state programmes that actually save us money. Look for example at SureStart, the network of 3,000 children's centres across Britain built under the current government. They are based on a fascinating series of discoveries. It has been proven that most poor children fall behind in language skills and stimulation long before they ever walk through the school gates – and they never catch up. The first few years of life are crucial for the formation of a child's mental abilities. Get them early and give them intensive encouragement, with expert advice for their parents, and you can change their life.
This isn't speculation. In 1964, they launched the first SureStart-style project in Michigan – and Dr Lawrence Schweinhart and a team of academics has been monitoring the kids ever since. Did it work? Well, they were 50 per cent less likely to become teenage mothers than their siblings who weren't put in the programme, and by the time they were 40, they were 46 per cent less likely to have been to prison and 26 per cent less likely to be on welfare. Their incomes were 42 per cent higher. So for every £1 you spend on it, you save the state £7 further down the line. Yet Cameron, on becoming Tory leader, dismissed SureStart as "a microcosm of government failure". Now he says he will keep it in some form, but already he says huge chunks of its budget will go to other things, and few expect it to survive long. If he can't keep the single best policy for reducing inequality – one that costs less than nothing in the medium term – what shreds of progress can survive his rule?
You don't have to scrape off much of the glitter and gloss to get to Cameron's less-than-fluffy Bush. Who really wants this cocktail of market fundamentalism, Europhobia, and haranguing of the vulnerable for the next five years?
The long answer over the next few days, if I can find the time.