TL; DR: Vote Against the Tories
This is long, and I’ll understand if you don’t want to read it. So, a summary.
The election should never have been called; Labour should have resisted it when it was. But now that it’s here we need to take advantage of it to protect the NHS. And maybe hold out some hope for stopping, or at least softening, Brexit. Because with the Tories we’ll only get a disastrously hard crash out.
Vote to stop the Tories and save the NHS.
And now, a table of contents. Yes, this is that long.
Calling the Election
Calling the election at all was at best a cynical ploy by Theresa May. Labour looked weak. She thought she could get a hugely increased majority for relatively little effort. So despite her repeated promises that should would not, she called a general election.
Now, however, it might have backfired on her. The polls have shifted (though we know we can’t trust polls). Quite dramatically by some measures. It’s looking like she might end up with a reduced majority. Or even — dare we hope? — a radical change. A Labour majority seems implausible, but a hung parliament? That’s beginning to look a lot like a real possibility.
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act
But what of the act that was supposed to remove prime-ministerial whim from the choice of election date? It turns out it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 contains a clause that allows the current government to call an election if it has the support of the house.
Not, I note, with a simple majority. Obviously that would be ridiculous for anything really important. No, a two-thirds majority is needed.
And was easily obtained, owing to the failure of the opposition to oppose; and now May wants to repeal it anyway. But more on both of those later.
When the election was called, my initial reaction was that it would be all about Brexit. Nothing else loomed so large. And that was why I had concerns about Labour, because Jeremy Corbyn seemed committed to carrying on the madness that the referendum started.
I wrote then:
[P]eople will be torn between voting on the normal things they care about: health, security, homes, welfare, the economy… — and the big thing of our time: Brexit.
I can’t in conscience vote for a Labour party that won’t clearly place itself against Brexit. I just can’t. This means I have to leave the party, I guess. Corbyn called today for “A Brexit that works for all.” No, no, no.
I didn’t leave the party, and though there’s still some truth in that, things have changed. I’m not entirely sure when, or how; but somewhere along the line — the publication of the manifestos was certainly part of it — the normal things began to matter again. They never stopped mattering, of course, but they came back into focus.
One of the normal things in particular: the NHS.
Saving the NHS
The Tories — modern Tories, at least — have never really supported it. They have always pushed privatisation of it, or as much of it as possible. Though to be fair, the last Labour government at fault there too, with their public-private partnerships.
Tories, of course, have pushed for privatisation in everything, not just the NHS, at least since Thatcher. But even Thatcher kept her hands off the NHS. Not so this lot. Thatcher didn’t leave much to privatise, so their eyes are firmly on the last great publicly owned body.
I fear that if May’s lot get back in, especially with an increased majority, we could see the beginning of the end of free universal healthcare in the UK. We are in that much danger.
Thoughts on Corbyn, past & present
I voted for Corbyn as leader twice. I had my doubts, but he always seemed to be on the right side; and as well, there was no good alternative (not the second time, anyway).
Around the Referendum
Then I felt totally let down by Brexit & after. To be fair, his “trigger Article 50 now” comments were slightly misinterpreted, but expressing himself like that just added to the idea that he couldn’t handle himself with the media.
And that was certainly true in the first several months. It was like he — the party as a whole — had no media management at all.
And at no time did he resist Brexit.
Then there was a series of mistakes, or bad decisions:
- The three-line whip on the first Article 50 vote.
- Not resisting the invocation of Article 50 at all, even when criticising it.
- Waving through the vote to have the election. Because even if he didn’t want to stop it, how much better would it have been to make the Tories call a vote of no confidence? If only for the schadenfreude.
- Then he chose not to join the debate because May wasn’t involved? That’s what we call missing an open goal.
The Big Improvement
Things have — and he has — got so much better since then. Somewhere along the line he started to come across as the dignified, statesmanlike man of principle that we knew he was. What changed? Was it better media management, or did the media actually start to give him some proper time?
I don’t know, but the result is that the polls have turned round dramatically, giving rise to a measure of that most terrifying of things: hope.
Everything in the Labour manifesto is better for the country than everything in the Tory one. It’s as simple as that. “For the many, not the few” is the tag line they’ve been using, and it’s great. Simple, to the point, meaningful. And accurate.
Not to mention costed. No “magic money tree” here.
Back to Brexit
Although they haven’t said so, I could see a Labour government offering a second referendum. At least you can imagine them being more open to considering the possibility. Especially, of course, if they were in coalition.
Now that takes us to the next question: if it’s a hung parliament, can we trust the LibDems not to back the Tories again?
I mean, surely, this time… But that’s what we thought he last time, and look where that got us. So it’s a worry. But the LibDems are likely to get some of their old seats back, and Labour almost certainly can’t get a majority with the way things have changed in Scotland, so a coalition is our best hope.
Now let’s turn our attention to our gloryless leader.
Theresa May has presented an increasingly bizarre face to the world over the last few weeks:
- Her “Me, me, me” approach to presenting Tory policy (“If I lose six seats…” you only get one); that’s not how politics in the UK works.
- She wants to reverse the country’s stumbling steps toward better voting systems, such as the proportional system for the London Mayor.
- Politicising the terrorist attacks:
- first troops on the streets, as I discussed;
- and now she wants to tear up human rights legislation. Next it’ll be internment, I shouldn’t wonder.
- She was seemingly scared to debate the other party leaders on TV. Debates may not be quite standard in British elections yet, but that is the way the world was moving.
- Oh, and along with voting reversals, she wants to repeal the fixed-term parliaments act, for what little use it was.
In short, it seems like she just wants to go backwards to an imagined Little-England past.
It won’t surprise you in the slightest to hear that I’m strongly advocating voting against the Tories, in whatever way you can have the most effect. I will be voting Labour, of course, but then I live in one of the safest Labour seats in the country, so that doesn’t have a lot of effect.
However, I’ll also be joining other Labour members from Hackney tomorrow in heading over to Westminster North, which is a Labour marginal. I’ll be helping to get out the vote there.
To you I say, please vote. Vote to stop the Tory mayhem. Vote to save the NHS.