The British Election — and now…

It seems I was wrong about the election. Like many, I was predicting a landslide win for the Conservatives and a catastrophic wipe-out for Labour. I berated Theresa May for calling an election just because she was in the position of strength to destroy her opposition and secure her tenure as Prime Minister. I was equally critical of Jeremy Corbyn, for being so utterly un-electable that he would hammer the last nails into Labour’s coffin. I worried about the state of our democracy under a Conservative government enjoying a huge majority and little opposition.

But now it looks like this election has become a closer race than expected. But it is a race to the bottom — which party can be marginally less crap than the other. Even right wing rags like the Spectator are angry with Theresa May for her dismal campaign of an over-confident and lacklustre leader who is only in her position by default, as the best of a very bad lot. She is fighting the campaign of a politician used to facing no opposition, and reasonably so given Labour’s record. Far from what she wanted, she is coming across as frightened and arrogant, and looking like her big gamble may blow up in her face.

Labour, meanwhile, has surprised us. Despite agonising performances by their leader and his friends, who look like an amateur pantomime troupe doing a charity performance of a comedy about a political party, they pulled a rabbit out of the hat by leaking, and then publishing a manifesto that promised ice cream and bunnies to everyone. How could you criticise pledges to abolish tuition fees and offer proper childcare support? For an electorate who mainly skim headlines and get news from their Facebook feed, this all sounds fantastic. One woman interviewed by the BBC said ‘he’s offering free childcare, and I have a child, so I’ll vote Labour.’ She said it with the confidence of someone who actually believes that if she votes Labour, Labour will win, and if they win, they will magically offer her free childcare, overlooking the complexities of our electoral process, and the need for all these promises to be funded.

Labour will not stop Brexit, and May’s first engagements with the EU have shown that her own promises of a ‘good Brexit’ are just the political flatulence of a deluded woman who refuses to hear things her European counterparts are yelling in her face. So Brexit will go ahead, pulling us out of a major trading block, and starving our businesses of the immigrant talent they need in order to perform and grow.

It’s now almost universally agreed (isn’t it? I suppose there are still some followers of Farage and Davies who continue to believe otherwise) that Brexit will damage the economy. Personally, I am anticipating a 10 year recession, or just a slow demise of the economy. Even if the most idealistic Brexiteers are right, and sometime in the distant future we become a booming independent tax-haven, we are surely entering a downturn, or a very uncertain time economically. Yet Corbyn is committing to spending tens of billions renationalising everything. I think that is unforgiveable dishonesty or at best political fantasy, but it sounded good so a lot of people now want to vote for him.

Frustratingly, in the already fabled television debate, everyone was right in their criticism of the other. May deserved everything she got for not even turning up. It’s impossible to see her as a strong and stable leader when she is afraid of open debate, and it is an affront to the electorate to call this election then not engage openly in the campaign. Yet her understudy, Rudd, was also right in accusing Corbyn of making promises that assume the existence somewhere of a money-tree.

Anyway, Labour is now catching up, and the Tories are losing votes in the polls. The Polls… we all know how reliable polls have proven to be, but they give newspapers something to write about, and us something to talk about, so we carry on scouring them for meaning, and grilling politicians about their predicted outcomes. Perhaps we should get political leaders to have their Tarot cards read live on TV and discuss that.

The problem is that a Tory defeat is something to imagine with delightful anticipation, if only to see the grotesque, arrogant, smirks wiped from the faces of May, Davies, and Johnson. The more May says ‘strong and stable’ the less strong and stable she seems. She sounds like an estate agent frantically repeating ‘bijous pied-a-terre!’ whilst standing in a 12m studio flat with toilet adjoining the kitchen-bedroom. A Tory defeat, as an isolated outcome, is to be desired, apart from what it means by association — a Labour win.

A Labour win means Corbyn leading the country, negotiating Brexit, with Diane ‘numbers’ Abbot as Home Secretary. It’s really difficult to decide what is worse, Johnson or Abbot as our representative abroad. That British politics has reached a point where we’re having to choose between two such painful clichés as our Foreign Secretary says it all. The fear with Corbyn is that he just can’t quite bury his true, hard left, ideals. Brexit, a potential recession, and a politically created immigration crisis, on top of the world dealing with Trump, is not the time for an idealistic leader. We need, but sadly don’t have, a brilliant, pragmatic, global statesperson.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has accused both parties of making up the numbers in their manifestos and misleading voters. Neither’s stack up. They are both offering more than the economy can pay for, and are doing so without acknowledging what Brexit may do to that economy. Both main parties have lied to us, are selling us snake oil policies based on shoddy numbers. May patronises the electorate and undermines grown-up political discourse with her nonsense mantras about strength and stability, whilst Corbyn offers us a cornucopia of everything that sounds good, despite most of it being totally unrealistic and unattainable. One assumes he thinks he’ll lose, so he can promise whatever he wants without ever being called out on it. Sadly, the Liberal Democrats are talking quite a lot of sense, but through a leader that just doesn’t smack of leadership, let alone statesmanship.

Corbyn has got Labour to a point that not being totally annihilated in the election will be seen as a good outcome. The tragedy is that he may do not-so-badly enough to avoid a putsch. Labour’s only chance was to bottom out and see someone sensible take over as Leader. I assumed, if only because of his vocal denials, that the infinitely smarter and wiser Sir Kier Starmer was the leader in waiting, once Corbyn had died a death. But if he manages to carry on as walking wounded, Labour will have to limp on painfully before it can recover back to being actually electable (not losing an election as badly as expected is not the same as winning one). Sadly, we still have a long way to go before Sadiq Khan becomes Prime Minister.

However, in the end the outcome I had hoped for looks like it may now happen; that the Conservatives win, because that is inevitable with the state of Labour, but that they do not have the resounding mandate Theresa May wanted in order to claim the people’s support for her ensuing disaster.

Whoever wins will have been deemed slightly less awful than the others. May might not get the huge majority she expected when she called this stupid election, because Corbyn has stolen her thunder by having a personality and offering policies he’ll pray he won’t have to deliver. Both are offering the kind of performance that in normal times would have them forced to resign. Corbyn and Abbott unable to answer basic questions about their economic promises, and May not even willing to face off her opponents on TV, as well as fluffing a core manifesto pledge. It’s really pathetic stuff.

Somehow though I feel this has to be our fault. This is a democracy, and we get what we vote for. We have allowed the Murdoch press to muddy politics, trivialising serious policy debate and vilifying anyone who stands up to be heard. France has shown what can happen when you have a more balanced media, and one which takes the national interest seriously. The Macron email hack and subsequent leak did not dominate the French news, let alone influence the election, because the French media chose not to splash it all over their front pages without having bothered to check its veracity. In the UK we lap up the trash we’re fed, putting off any good politicians, and attracting the egotistical half-wits we’re lumbered with now. There is no good outcome in this election but at least it looks like May might have a worse night than she’d bet on.

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