Friday, 12 May 2017

None Of The Below - The UK Parliamentary Election, Questions for Candidates

Less than a month to the election and to date I've received two leaflets from the Conservative Party and nothing from any of the other 4 candidates, but that may be due to the leaflets not yet having been printed as the deadline for candidates to announce their standing was only yesterday. The Parliamentary seat I live in is a marginal; in the last 4 elections, two have been won by Labour and two by Conservative. Currently it's number 46 on the Labour target list, which they would need to win a majority at the election. So there's very definitely something to play for in this seat. Yet I suspect the odd leaflet aside, as for the past 4 elections I will not see hair nor hide of any Party court my vote in person. I work part-time, so it's not even a case that I am always out when the canvassers are on the trail. No, this is just the faceless nature of UK politics in the twenty-first century. I've had more visits across the years from jehovah's Witnesses than Parliamentary party candidates. And this is in a competitive seat remember...

So I'm just going to offer you the questions I would pose each candidate from the 5 standing parties were they actually to show their face. I am not going to offer their responses, if they want, their parties or supporters can respond in the comments section. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm not going to proceed along my belief that the election result is a foregone conclusion.


When did you cease being a progressive party? Everything about you is reactionary. It's as if you yearn for a return to a vision of 1950s Britain, certainly your leader seems to come from that age (which is odd as she was only 4 years old when the sixties commenced). Mrs Thatcher was a reaction to the politics and freedoms of the 1960s (as was Ronald Reagan in the US). May seems to be a reaction to 1970s Britain, which no longer exits (not even in Labour Party leader's Jeremy Corbyn's vision for Britain), yet that is the picture the Conservatives are painting of the current Labour leadership. I see no progressive policies or aspirations, other than a vague notion of Britain getting its identity back once Brexit is concluded. But can you define what that identity actually is? The notion of a singular identity in our culturally diverse 21st century nation is obsolescent. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major's appeal for a return to 'Family Values' was an unmitigated disaster and contributed to his defeat & the Conservatives' exile during the Blair years, partly because no one could define Family Values and moral hypocrisy by Conservative MPs undermined any possible notion of it being instituted.

So what apart from an all out assault on the Welfare State, the NHS, and a reinstitution of selective education do you stand for? A reaction to the post-1945 Labout government which set up the modern Britain in other words. All under your mantra of balancing the books, instead of going after corporations and rich individuals who are not paying their fair share of tax. I think part of the reason for that is you don't want to drive such 'patriots' into tax exile, just in case Brexit turns out to be a disaster for the economy, so your sole response will be to set Britain up as a tax haven, so you need these people to stay onside in the interim.


 You know Jeremy Corbyn's policies such as nuclear disarmament, greater equality of pay, certain re-nationalisations of  some failing industries such as rail and energy provision, are ones I could fall into line with very easily. However there is no way I could bring myself to back a man who has palpably shown no leadership qualities and surrounds himself with political cronies of no ability whatsoever, such as John McDonnell and Diane Abbot who hold shadow cabinet briefs in two of the most important positions, the Treasury and Home Office. No matter how visionary (or not) you are, without a great slice of political nous and the powers to persuade not your core voters, but those who are in two minds, your ideas will not take the day. Corbyn showed a complete lack of leadership during the Brexit referendum, Now I understand why Corbyn did this, after the disastrous consequences of the Scottish Independence referendum campaign, where Labour were slaughtered by their supporters for appearing on the same platforms as Conservatives, Corbyn didn't want to be seen making the same mistake for the Brexit vote. But it was a miscalculation; Labour voters were left without any rallying point, allowing UKIP to turn some of them and once you've made such a drastic move once, it's not so difficult a second and third time. Finally, his commitment to allies has seen a lamentable failure to deal with anti-Semitism within some parts of the party, his support of Ken Livingstone being testament to that. Labour has failed to either appreciate, or make clear the differences between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. In doing so, it has managed to alienate one of its steadfast support bases of London Jews who are split down the middle as to their current disposition.

So much for political praxis, what about the ideals of this visionary? In some ways the Conservative Press is right, that the programme is an echo of where Britain stood in the 1970s, which after all was the crucible from which Corbyn's ideas were formed in the field of local politics. So far from revolutionary, Labour too seem to be reactionary and hanker after a past golden age. They want to, not unreasonably in many cases, turn back many of the Conservative policies from the 80s and last seven years. But there is not much forward thinking behind these declarations of intent. I also suspect that the manifesto represents a fairly watered down version of Corbyn's true political vision, which in itself is not a criticism, since it does at least nod its head to the art of the possible and appreciating that winning power first is a key requisite to any radical change. Is Corbyn anti-capitalism? I suspect he is, and his right hand man John McDonnell is a confessed anti-capitalist Marxist. But this manifesto seeks to work within capitalist free market, merely filing off some of its rougher burs. This cuts against Corbyn's impassioned ideals and echoes so much of the failed last campaign of Ed Miliband. I see very little difference between the two and it didn't exactly go well last time round now did it?

Liberal Democrats

What do you actually stand for? The oft asked question of many recent elections. An anachronism, a vestige of a once proud party in the nineteenth century that provided us statesmen like Gladstone and Lloyd-George. Historically the Liberal Party was a rigorous free trade/ free market party, a role subsumed by today's Conservatives. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the definition of Liberalism changed; no longer freedom to do such and such, but freedom from being prevented to be able to do such and such. That is it became reactionary, defending and upholding rights that were under threat. A vital function, but one that has been unable to sustain them as a meaningful party of power. So much so that they jumped into bed with the ideological antipodes of the Conservatives in 2010 to form a coalition, in which their only claim was that they managed to shave off some of the rougher burs of socially punishing austerity measures. The party of putting your finger in the dyke to hold back the flood...

But now as they look to rebuild after their massacre for joining up with the Conservatives, they have eked out a genuine position, the only one of the three parties to commit to reversing the Brexit decision. A reactionary position disguised as a radical one. They want a return to the status quo previous to June 2016. I was a Remainer. I would never vote Liberal on that one policy. First the people have spoken, however misguidedly I credit it to be and it is fundamentally undemocratic to go against their popular will formally expressed in a ballot. Many other feel like me, or just accept that we've got to get on with Brexit and so the numbers do not stack up for the Liberals in their calculations. What else do they stand for? I couldn't tell you and even if I could, their recent record is they could tear it up in an instant if they make a similar political calculation to participate in power sharing through a coalition. Besides, it's never sharing, and the junior partner always gets punished in the following election - either your claimed strength for moderating the majority party's nastier ideas is taken as interfering and preventing the business of strong government, or people just think why vote Liberal, we may as well vote Conservative and get a proper government rather than a half-baked coalition, which is exactly what happened in 2015.

Green Party
I almost voted Green in the last election and in a way they most closely match my personal vision of society. except, like Labour I'm not quite sure how much they do. Are they a fully anti-capitalist party, which in truth is really the only way a genuine environmentalist party can be, or are they plying a gradual transformation to build up support? A genuinely Green economy would be so radical a shift from our current state of affairs, it would be a revolution of values, of employment, of well economy. Have they articulated that end point of their vision at all, let alone the manner of the transition to that? No, is the answer.

UK Independence Party
(They're not getting their party logo, I despise them so).
Now that Brexit has been secured, with the two main parties committed to delivering it, what reason do you have for even existing? None. Your spurious claim that you are needed to steer through a satisfactory vision of Brexit is a) subsumed by the Conservatives who can act without concern for your views and b) would you then just fade away after Brexit is complete in March 2019, no of course you wouldn't, cos unlike the outsider politicians you claim to be, you still lust after hanging on to what moderate power and influence you wield.

This purposelessness is doubly so in London, which being a cosmopolitan, diverse, outward facing city, has consistently rejected your inward, homogenous, chauvinistic values. Then there are the personal beliefs of your leader, who baldly states that the NHS should be privatised, that climate change does not exist, that the endemic sexism expressed by former (ie "sacked) members of the party is also shared by your glorious leader.

So, there you have it, the sort of discussion I might engage in with any party candidate were they to show up at my door. If they did, do you think they'd engage me in a debate of these points? No, me neither. They just want to tick or cross your name on their voting intention list. They're not going to devote/waste twenty minutes it would take to even skirt these issues. Even Jehovah's Witnesses will take the time to engage me in discussion of their beliefs for twenty minutes (in fact it's hard to break off debate with them, but that's my fault for engaging with them in the first place)> So I will most likely spoil my ballot paper by writing "none of the above" across it.


Political theory in 153 words blog post

1 comment:

Denise said...

We are a safe Labour seat. We have had leaflets from Bridget Philipson through the door. Plus one through the post addressed to my husband and one of my sons. Nothing from any of the other parties. I don't particularly want a doorstep conversation with any of them, but I would expect some kind of contact. If the candidates can't be bothered to campaign, it's hardly surprising people don't vote...