So, there is a general election tomorrow. Maybe one of the most critical elections in the post-war period. If you are reading this blog, the chances are that you deeply care about the NHS, schools, universities and believe in having a fair, safe, democratic and equal society. You also were probably concerned about the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the way this process is being handled by a Conservative Government headed by Theresa May. Even with the narrowing poll leads, it is still an almost racing certainty that the Conservatives will be returned with an increased majority on Friday
The most surprising feature of this election has been how badly Theresa May’s campaign has gone. The hubris of the Tory Manifesto launch, with an unprecedented U-turn over social care, set the tone for the campaign. This was compounded by May’s almost phobic shyness, with a refusal to engage directly with her opponents, cancelling interviews that might be uncomfortable and only appearing in front of invited audiences. Where she has encountered voters, things have not gone well.
In an age before social media, a Prime Minster might just have got away with this behaviour. But today she has been exposed as someone who is hapless, unable to think on her feet quickly, and who appears evasive, scared and incapable of answering even simple questions without using meaningless platitudes. Is this the person who is going to be able to lead complex negotiations over Brexit with a highly competent EU team in Brussels?
And speaking of platitudes and Brexit, the most important subject of the campaign has barely been touched on by either of the main parties who may form the next government. With over a year since the referendum, May’s plans for Brexit are still unclear and shambolic. While the EU seems well prepared, the UKs position is dire:
While the EU27 have approved a detailed negotiating mandate for Mr Barnier, London has yet to respond in kind on policy, or assign responsibilities for the negotiation. That has reinforced a sense in other EU capitals that Britain is ill-prepared; one senior EU figure involved in Brexit talks called it “a shambles”.
If Brexit is going to managed by May, and her three Brexiteers, then economic catastrophe awaits the UK, with the UK already slipping to the bottom of the GDP growth table of advanced economies. Under these circumstances, the continued decline of public services, such as the NHS and education are likely to accelerate.
So, what can be done?
- If you want to prevent a Tory landslide then vote for whoever stands the best chance of defeating the Tory candidate in your constituency. Need some help to do this try this site or this article on the Daily Mirror. Now is not the time for tribal political loyalties.
- Most of the polls that suggest a close race or a hung parliament rely on younger voters voting. Traditionally this is the group least likely to vote. So, if you know a younger voter, whether family, friend, neighbour or workmate, get them to vote. Remind them, plead with them or even take them to the polling station.
- Don’t lose heart if the Tories do win (as is likely). May has been badly damaged by this ill-conceived and unnecessary election. When the ‘wheels start coming off’ in the weeks and months after the 8th of June the hidden divisions amongst Tories will become apparent. Be prepared for this, and the best answer to Brexit platitudes will always be empirical facts. We can turn this around.
So the prediction above proved to be incorrect and far from increasing, the Tories actually lost their majority. Never before have I been as happy to be proved wrong as I was on Thursday night.
We may now get a more honest political discussion on the real costs of Brexit and the implications of these costs for the future of the UK, its economy and its public services.