Wednesday, 7 June 2017

General Election 2017: All political parties are the same. Discuss.

It's the morning of polling day and, as always, I'm wondering who to vote for and whether voting at all will have any effect on anything, it's doubtful. Where I live it's predominantly Tory so if I vote for any other party it probably won't do much good – or so I'm told. I'm not going to vote Tory because I don't believe they in any way serve my interests as an individual. It's a principle too; after reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell you could say I've seen the light, although to be honest I voted Labour before I read that book. If anything, the RTP cemented my views and kept things in the right perspective for me. It's one of those books that sticks with you. But listen here, the Tories are the 'party of business', they're the party for those who earn over £100,000 per annum or run a small or medium-sized enterprise: fine, vote Tory. I'll never understand why people who live a normal semi-detached life with two kids and a mortgage make the decision to vote Conservative. I know there is that big misconception that the Tories are the only people capable of running the country because they've all been to public school and have an Oxbridge education (although that's true of most politicians); or that the Tories are the party of law and order, the only people who will get tough with the criminals in an old-fashioned way (people who vote Tory lean to the right and, therefore, are probably in the ballpark of wanting capital punishment back on the statute books) but it doesn't rub with me. They're also the party where racists lurk, or people, again, that swing that way, who are xenophobic and probably harbour a Corporal Jones attitude towards foreigners, particularly those of a different skin colour: "Those fuzzy wuzzies, Mister Man'ring, they don't like it up 'em!" I mean, you get my point here, don't you? They'd probably re-introduce national service if they could and, well, just pick up a copy of the Daily Mail and you'll see for yourself what I'm talking about.

So I was never planning on voting Tory, although, despite what I've just said above, there is a part of me, certainly after the terror attacks in Manchester and London recently, that says the Tories are the only option, they'll keep us all safe. I mean, Theresa May has promised to abolish human rights and slam potential terrorists in gaol (that's 'jail' if you're reading in the USA) to serve long prison sentences. Lock them up and throw away the key! But that feeling of the Tories being the only sensible party, full of politicians that look like politicians (think Michael Fallon, people with 'British' written all over them) lingers. The Tories to me are the men in bowler hats and pin-stripe suits working in the City in the 1950s, they represent a kind of Midsomer Murders Britain that people who voted UKIP and who wanted (and got) Brexit voted for; they are, for want of a better word, 'the establishment'.

Labour on the other hand is supposed to represent the worker, the man in the street, the cannon fodder of World War One being instructed by their Tory superiors, epitomised by Stephen Fry in Blackadder, to go over the top and fight the Hun. Labour represents the working classes who are supposed to 'know their place', although the Labour Party has changed. Back in the day it was (and probably still is) the working classes that waved flags when they saw a member of the Royal Family or would happily fight for 'King and Country' but not any more. Today the Labour Party – even more so now under Jeremy Corbyn – is a little more subversive, a little more 'anti-establishment', the party of 'political correctness' that welcomes mass immigration, likes to say that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, believes in equality and workers' rights. Those traditional working class voters, the ones who wave flags at royalty, the World War One cannon fodder, they've been let down by the Labour Party, certainly by 'New Labour' under Tony Blair, he who realised that the only way to get into power was to ape Tory policies and be more dog, only to take us all into an illegal war that has led to the current terrorist outrages (although the main blame lies at the feet of George Bush and American foreign policy in the Middle East). But let's not digress here. Traditional Labour voters have been deserted by Labour and have been wooed instead by UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) which is a one-trick pony designed to get us out of Europe and back to the dishwater years of the 1950s where we belong. It's anti-immigration (so that the British working classes can get their jobs back from the nasty foreigners who stole them) and, well, it was winning votes from traditional working class Labour voters and, it must be said, Tory voters too (those who wanted a harder line taken on all the big subjects, such as immigration). UKIP, then, is further to the right than the Tories, but not as far right as the BNP and, therefore, a little more respectable ("it's not racist to want curbs on immigration," UKIP supporters say – and yet there are plenty of closet racists lurking about).

Today's Labour Party, then, is a bit more middle class, it's a haven for 'Champagne socialists' and so-called Middle Class Bohemians who are doing very nicely thank you and tend to vote Labour out of a sense of 'morality'. Today's Labour Party – although it's always been there, to be fair, it's just more pronounced these days as the party moves away from it's traditional voter base – is the party of protest, it's the religious education teacher with an acoustic guitar, sitting on the desk strumming Streets of London by Ralph McTell, it's the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, remember Bruce Kent in the 80s at the height of the Cold War when Frankie Goes to Hollywood rode high in the charts with Two Tribes and Thatcher and Reagan ruled the world? But then it's been that since the 1960s and, you could argue, hasn't really moved on. Jeremy Corbyn, of course, is the flag bearer of this kind of Labour politics and that could be his undoing today as people go to vote because, I think, the default setting in this country, by and large, is to vote Tory. Fine, not everybody reads the Daily Mail, but I think (I might be wrong) that a lot of 'ordinary' people who regard themselves as sensible and don't like the X Files probably vote Tory and watch GMTV. Corbyn is proper left wing. He supports unilateral disarmament and he's all for peace, not war, something that people in this country get a little twitchy about; they don't want a leader who refuses to push the button and kill millions of people, they don't want a leader who looks at terrorists and thinks, 'well, perhaps they've got a point worth listening to', they don't want somebody in charge who is going to be more lenient with criminals and all these things are seized upon by the predominantly right wing press, particularly the Daily Mail, which will write headlines the day before Election Day stating "Apologists for Terror" referring to Corbyn sharing a stage with extremists in the past; but, of course, while the whole thing is taken out context most of the time, it's enough to make people stop and think.

The only other party we should be talking about is the Liberal Democrats who, let's face it, have lost the plot. Scarred by Nick Clegg's student fees U-turn back in 2010, the Lib-Dems have limped from defeat to defeat, losing badly in the last General Election and are now under the stewardship of Tim Farron who has great difficulty answering the questions. I've already had a go at Farron for his abominable interview with Andrew Neil on the BBC and that interview has given me (and many others) a very low view of the party, which is a shame because there are politicians like Vince Cable who has always been one of those 'voices of reason'. I often think it would be good to bring together all the 'decent' politicians from all parties and form another one. All the parties have decent politicians. I've always liked David Davis, Vince Cable, Hilary Benn, Nick Clegg, Michael Portillo (when he was a politician) Alan Johnson and others, who seem to have more sense than those on the front line.

The 2017 General Election was characterised by a lot of left-leaning 'also-ran' parties: the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and, I suppose, the Lib-Dems, all of whom turned up for the television debates and railed against the only right-leaning 'also-ran' party, UKIP, but none of these parties are going to get anywhere today, meaning they're not going to form a government, although they have provided food for thought for the electorate and probably influenced the vote in Labour's favour (it's always been a battle between left and right). Yes, the UK is characterised by 'see-saw' politics: if it's not Labour it's Conservative, one party spends all the money, the other party saves it, there is no middle ground.

The Tories thought they would have an easy ride and, writing this at almost 0700hrs on the day of the General Election, that might well be the case, but Theresa May hasn't projected herself in a good light. She did a bad interview with Andrew Neil, she's opened herself up to major criticism, particularly surrounding the so-called 'Dementia tax' and her record on reducing immigration (a key election issue) has been poor. Corbyn, on the other hand, has had a good campaign, so much so that some pundits are predicting either a Labour landslide (unlikely in my opinion) or at least a hung parliament, although that might mean Sturgeon and the SNP and nobody wants Jeanette Cranky in a position of power.

A lot of people, of course, are disillusioned, and who can blame them? Most people have grown cynical towards politicians, they don't like them, what with the expenses scandal, which continues to this day, and the fact that they don't answer the questions fired at them and tend to make promises they have no intention of keeping, it's not looking good for the political classes.

I don't know what to do, other than not vote Tory. But then 'round here' where I live it's Toryland. There are lots of Daily Mail readers hiding behind the net curtains or kneeling on their front lawns doing a bit of weeding with one of those little mats to protect their knees. A vote for anybody else would be wasted so I'll have to resort to tactical voting, but what does that mean? Some say vote Lib-Dem to reduce the Tory majority and to be fair, the last thing we want is a Tory landslide.

Ultimately, though, whoever gets in – with the possible exception of Jeremy Corbyn – nothing will really change. Theresa May won't reduce immigration 'to the tens of thousands', she won't this, she won't that and in about a year from now the BBC will run clips of her promising this and that long after those promises have been broken; and the politicians will wriggle out of answering the questions and we'll all realise that the whole thing has been a charade (as it always will be) and that when there's another terror attack, the same old establishment response will be wheeled out: sombre statements from the politicians, a shrine to the fallen, the culprits being already 'known to the police' for many years prior to the attack, suspects rounded up but released without charge...and there's a load of other stuff too, but it's getting late and I need to take a bath and get down the polling station. Coalition of chaos, anybody?

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