Thursday, 1 June 2017

General Election 2017: Where are the statesmen?

Last night I found myself fidgeting uncomfortably while watching Andrew Neil interview the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron. Mr Neil deserves a medal for not undoing his microphone and storming off in last night's television interview, one of a series of interviews he is conducting with the leaders of UK political parties competing in the 2017 General Election.

Churchill: a proper politician

Farron not only refused to answer any of Neil's questions, he instead just kept on talking and spouting his party's manifesto rather than engage in sensible discussion with, arguably, our only proper heavyweight political interviewer.

Andrew Neil's interviews have highlighted the perceived dishonesty of MPs through their unwillingness to simply answer the question. Theresa May's interview with Neil was described as a 'car crash' and so it was as she too refused to be direct with the electorate on certain issues, and while he wasn't as bad, Jeremy Corbyn also let the side down by simply not answering the questions politicians should be answering. He went on to attend his own 'car crash' interview on the BBC's Woman's Hour when it was revealed he didn't have the figures for one of Labour's key policies.

In fact, only two politicians interviewed by Neil have answered his questions: Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, and Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP, although Nuttall, while 'a nice bloke', let himself down with his extreme views on certain subjects, such as the war against terror, although it could be argued that all he is doing is saying what most people think, but don't blurt out.
David Cameron: a career politician

The political debates on television have also been very poor, mainly because the two main party leaders – Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May – have arrogantly refused to be involved, giving the general public the impression that they are 'running scared' of public debate, particularly with one another. Furthermore, the debates in question have not only been biased towards the left (everybody against the Tories and UKIP) they have also been slanging matches which, again, haven't exactly been good for the reputations of this election's 'leading' political figures.

In fact, odd as it may sound considering the student fees issue back in the 2010 general election, the only person who actually got to the root of two of the big (and linked) issues dominating the 2017 campaign was Nick Clegg on last night's Question Time on the BBC.

Immigration is a big, big issue and a central plank of the reason behind Brexit, and Theresa May is campaigning on reducing immigration to the 'tens of thousands' if she gets back into Number 10. Fair enough, you might say, but she's been saying that, both as Prime Minister and Home Secretary for some time and has consistently failed. The latest way of, if you like, 'getting out' of answering the question is to say that once we have control of our borders, ie left the European Union, then we can start getting serious about reducing immigration. Not true! Not only has May consistently failed to meet her own targets on immigration, she is deceiving the electorate by claiming that leaving the EU will solve most of the problem. It won't. Not only are the Tories being very careful with their words – trying to confuse aims with objectives and vice versa – they are constantly ignoring the issue of non-EU immigration which, by and large is the bit that is 'changing the face of British society'. As Clegg quite rightly pointed out yesterday, loud and clear, Theresa May has been capable of reducing non-EU immigration for years but has not done so, and all Brexit will achieve is the reduction, say, in the number of Danish engineers coming into the UK or German scientists and so on. Thank you, Mr Clegg, for getting that point 'out there'.
Farron: a very poor interview

The problem with British politics is that there are no longer any 'great statesmen' out there. Back in the day we used to have Ted Heath running the Conservative Party and Harold Wilson running the Labour Party and both had some seriously 'proper' politicians behind them. But somewhere down the line something happened and politics became dominated by what is known as the 'career politician', a type of politician not interested in the greater good of the country but only concerned about the success of his or her own party. David Cameron springs to mind. Running scared of UKIP taking votes from the Conservatives he offered an in/out referendum on Europe, which was characterised by mis-information on both sides of the debate and now, of course, as David Dimbleby said at the time, 'we're out!' Theresa May talks of 'no deal' being better than a bad deal, but, again, as Clegg pointed out on Question Time last night, the bad deal is not being in the EU and all we can possibly achieve in the forthcoming exit negotiations is to get the best 'bad deal' on offer.
Andrew Neil: patience of a saint

I've always had a theory that virtually everything is deteriorating rather than getting better; pop music has gone from the likes of the Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and so on to Simon Cowell and the X Factor, boy bands and the like – in other words, it has deteriorated and surely can't get any worse. Literature has gone from Shakespeare and Dickens to Dan Brown, and politics has gone from George Washington to (ahem) Donald Trump or from Churchill to Theresa May. I'd like to say I'm optimistic for the future, but I'm not.

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