For far too often over the past five years it has felt as if we are in the cahoots of a two-party state. It is a compelling argument which make sense; the idea that our lives are run by a clique of people who were not only educated at the same universities and the same schools but who - far more importantly - hold a shared belief in the same creatively bankrupt, uninspiring ideology. Men who are coerced, manipulated and generally brought low by the corrosive influence of bankers, tax avoiders and by Messrs Murdoch, Rothermere and Barclay.
Dark Clouds Have Gathered Over Parliament (Photo: Bobby-Jo Dearnley)
Although it may sound conspiratorial, this argument resonates around street coroners, coffee shops and pubs with an incredible clarity and I admit I once fell victim to it as well. Successive governments have offered no answers to the problems which blighted my early life. Though New Labour invested money in rebuilding schools, as I argued in The Guardian newspaper, they also preceded over the creation of an education system obsessed by targets, Ofsted and exams, where riots and disruption were commonplace. Buses and trains are too expensive, too unreliable and, for all the apparent good of introducing competition in the form of academies, the axing of the Educational Maintenance Allowance means many people are unable to travel to the best schools. Then there's the greatest scandal of recent times: the introduction of tuition fees and their rise under this government to extraordinary, sickening levels. How can I ever feel safe and secure knowing I owe the government more money than the mortgage my parents took out for their house?
And what is there for people left behind? For those that decide, either by their own volition or because they don't make the grade, that university is not an option? Put bluntly, a cruel world awaits. There is a top-down culture of bullying aimed at people who legitimately have to claim Job Seekers Allowance. It is blindingly obvious that people are being unfairly sanctioned for minor quibbles or for turning down jobs that they know they cannot possibly accept because the transport costs outweigh the salary.
This is all so depressing. Is it any wonder people are fed up and are beginning to question whether voting can really affect change or how far any government can reasonably undo all of what I have described?
The Green Party's plans sound wonderful and their one MP, Caroline Lucas, is inspirational. But the chances of them winning must be a million-to-one. Furthermore, their plans are simply impractical. The Conservatives seem to have given up on even attempting to make the country work properly, the Lib-Dems must be voted out on principal for breaking their tuition fees promise and UKIP believe leaving the EU will solve everything. There is also no denying that many of Ed Milliband's shadow cabinet were ministers during the previous government and so played a role in creating some of the problems I have described.
However, as Albus Dumbeldore once said in the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 'soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy'. If doing nothing is easy then what is the right thing to do? What options do we have?
In the past week I've felt that perhaps there is hope after all. I've tried to watch all of the various election debates and interview specials, all of them as uninspiring as you would expect. But I was particularly moved by one interview Ed Milliband gave: his chat with Russell Brand. Just the mere fact of his agreeing to the encounter was a major turning point for me and made me reconsider spoiling my ballot.
Russell Brand is anything but a joke, one of the reasons he has so many followers is because he really understands how frustrated people feel.
But as soon as you start talking about tax avoidance and 'banker-bashing' people's eyes gloss over and you can see what their thinking: more of the same leftist crap. But is it really left wing to ask people to pay what they are already supposed to? If we really clamped down and ended the non-domiciled tax status, as Labour are proposing to do, then maybe we would not be faced with this choice of cuts, borrowing more money or putting up taxes. Isn't it worth giving it ago and seeing what happens? Isn't it morally right to attempt to clamp down on tax avoiders rather than simply shrugging our shoulders and accepting nothing can be done?
In short what I'm saying is that maybe the solutions to these problems are harder and more complicated, more nuanced than we realise. People understand that we need banks, that we can't live in a society in which rich people are taxed to an absurd degree and are castigated simply for being wealthy. But people want a government that at least attempts to solve the great problems of our time, that attempts to communicate and explain the complexity of addressing the issues. And it seems to me that every government of my lifetime so far has given up trying, stopped caring, maybe not out of corruption or malice, but simply because they have lacked the spirit, the inclination and the grit to tackle such huge problems. Ed Milliband's attitude towards Rupert Murdoch and his refusal to be intimidated by the shameful tactics of his newspapers shows he is not all talk.
But will Miliband be different? Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'll live to regret writing this, but for the first time in five years, I think he has something. Turning up at a famous celebrity's house for an interview might not seem like a big deal but the inevitable negative headlines it generated showed that Milliband was prepared to put his neck on the line to engage with people who had long given up on the system. So I'll be hoping and voting for a Labour victory on Thursday. #TeamMilliband