Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Random Election Reflection

In no particular order:

The Conservatives don't deserve to win this election. Why not?
 - Calling the election was clearly an opportunist grab for a bigger majority, barely discussed within the party, and in nobody's interest but those of the Conservative party
 - May disappeared for most of the first week of the campaign, and has avoided any meaningful engagement with the public, running away from live election debate, appearing at ridiculously controlled local appearances, and providing insultingly trite answers in interviews.
 - The election was supposedly about Brexit and giving May a mandate for negotiations. But a mandate for what? I don't recall her saying a single thing about what she'd actually negotiate for. The sum total of her public statements on Brexit is "who would you rather have negotiating for you, me or Jeremy Corbyn?" Well, we already had her doing it before the election, so what was the point of calling it?
 - The manifesto: where do we start? Very little detail, even fewer costings, the magic money tree of economic growth providing any extra money that was promised, and policies which seem to have been put together with minimal thought and consultation. Yes we do need to deal with social care, but it could have been done by consensus, or by serious engagement with Dilnot.
 - Boris Johnson
 - 'Strong and Stable' leadership, which deserves a place higher than the Ed Stone for failed election pitches. For all Jeremy Paxmans failings as an interviewer, he summed up what most people were thinking by the time he sat down opposite Theresa May, and ran through a list of her u-turns, hesitations and changes of mind. She would have saved herself a lot of that by being open about things, rather than pretending that, for example, she hadn't changed the policy on social care, or trying to persuade us that the Lib Dems were such a powerful parliamentary force that she'd had to call the election simply to stop them blocking Brexit in the house of Commons.
 - Using Brexit as a pretext for the election, and for a personal vote for Theresa May: it's almost as though the Tories thought the electorate would happily write them a blank cheque for everything else, and so there wan't much point thinking through the other policies. That sort of contempt for the electorate doesn't deserve a reward.

Tim Farron: unfortunately image counts for a lot. Great line about Bake-off, but it might be an idea to cut out some of the matey grins
 - Maybe the UK electorate just isn't grown up enough to cope with someone who thinks gay sex might be sinful, but is still liberal enough to back a law which lets them marry. Or who thinks that maybe we do need to question UK abortion policy and practice, rather than cower to the 'choice' lobby. 200,000 abortions a year? That's a very big failure in other birth control methods (if you think abortion qualifies as birth control rather than an emergency medical procedure), potentially a big trauma for each of those 200,000 women, and a big cost in time and money to the NHS. And that's before we've got onto whether we're dealing with 2 lives or 1.
 - Going along with the Conservatives claims that this was the Brexit election didn't do you any favours. There are much better policies in the Libdem manifesto than the second referendum, but we never heard about most of them until last week. You should have challenged May from day 1 that she'd called the election on false pretences. The collapse of the Conservative campaign, lurching from 1 reactive response to another, the ditching of 'strong and stable', shows just how thin and poorly planned it was in the first place.
 - Cannabis? I thought the Libdems were the party who talked most sense on mental health, but maybe not.

- I wonder what Caroline Flint, Yvette Cooper, and Andy Burnham are thinking right now? Corbyn has had a storming campaign, visibly growing in confidence, pulling off some very savvy moves (the last minute appearance on the Leaders debate), and getting enough airtime that bypassed the right wing press to show people what he was actually made of. But just imagine Yvette Cooper instead of Diane Abbott with the home affairs brief. Just imagine having people with the experience of Flint and Burnham to send into bat  - Emily Thornberry has surpassed expectations, and almost managed to get Michael Fallon banished from the airwaves in case he is ambushed again. And again. Labour might even be ahead in the polls.
(update: Abbott is unwell and has stepped back, and there's a suggestion she's not been well for a while, which might explain a few things.)
- Full marks to Labour for producing a set of genuinely radical policies, which didn't just tweak the direction of government but wrench it round in a dramatically new direction. The question has not been over the popularity of the policies, but the competence of the team delivering them. Corbyn is a highly competent campaigner, but hasn't shone as a leader who can inspire confidence and build a team, and the quality of his team doesn't reflect well on the quality of the leader.

Meanwhile, 1 million children grow up with no contact with their fathers, and 2m more see their parents split up during their own childhood. Family breakdown is a cause of misery for the children and the adults caught up in it, and can be a major factor in low educational attainment, drug use, criminality, future relationships breakdown, poor mental health and poverty. Use the Search tool to see how many times terms like 'love', 'relationship' and 'marriage' crop up in the 3 main manifestos. It won't take you very long. Where is the love?

UKIP; cheerio.

Greens: the irony of British politics at the moment is that of the 3 most able political leaders at the  moment, one leads the SNP and the other two lead a party that very few will vote for. Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley are both excellent communicators (e.g. watch this from 41:50 in), but get very little time on air or in print.

All the small parties have been squeezed this time round, which reflects the ridiculous first past the post electoral system. Our politics is too short on experience, expertise and good minds to leave the governing all to one party. I was stunned to find myself debating on Twitter with an MP, who argued that having a bigger majority would enable the Conservatives to deliver legislation that was better thought through, and would give more clout to Conservative backbench voices. Huh? A majority of 100 will enable the Tory leadership to steamroller parliament. If the social care proposals are indicative of how well thought through the rest of May's policies will be, then her majority needs to be as small as possible.

If I could vote for a minority government, I would. Realistically, the best outcome would be the Conservatives just short of a majority, and needing to work hard to build consensus and work with the other parties to get legislation, and Brexit, through.

Aside from Farrons one-liners the other night, the moment of the campaign which most struck me was Jeremy Corbyn on the first of the two-header leaders nights. He spoke about listening to people, and directly challenged a small businessman who didn't like the captial gains tax rise or the prospect of VAT on private school fees. Rather than pandering to him, Corbyn challenged him about what sort of society he wanted to be part of, and whether he could have a bigger vision of being a citizen that included the needs of others. It was superb, and a reminder to me of when the church can be at its best: challenging people to aim for something higher than self-interest or narrow partisan politics To have a vision of others, ourselves, and community which we seek to serve, rather than a calculation of what suits me best which I seek to advance.

If you're reading this, please vote on Thursday, even if it's wincing and with gritted teeth. We have a great privilege. We don't always have great politicians, but maybe we get the ones we deserve, or pray for.

We can wonder how different history would have been if David Cameron hadn't botched both the Scottish, and the Brexit, referenda.  But this is where we are.