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What are we voting for anyway?

April 25, 2017

 

It’s just one week into campaigning and the so-called ‘snap’ election is already a drawn-out yawn.

 

Maybe that’s because as we wade through the soundbites and saturation coverage, something is very evident – and that’s how this democratic exercise has absolutely nothing to do with the well-being of the nation.

 

This is not a contest to decide if we’re saddled with the strictures of austerity for the rest of the decade and beyond. There is no great moral question at stake and (let’s be honest) the fight is too uneven and too unbalanced to achieve a change of government.

 

Nor, in case you were wondering, is it going to be a reaffirmation of the Brexit referendum, although there are some who would dearly have you sign up to that belief.

 

No siree, this election is entirely about political manoeuvrings.

 

For the Conservatives, it’s about an ability to exert parliamentary control without hindrance; internal or otherwise. For the Lib Dems, it’s a chance to regain credibility among alienated electors and for Labour it signals another bout of succession-planning, once all the dust has settled.

 

For the rest, well I guess it’s a matter of pursuing a single-interest agenda and achieving political survival – or both if you’re leader of Ukip.

Mrs May attempted to sell us the fatuous notion from her Downing Street doorstep that she is somehow hamstrung in her efforts by external forces. This is absolute nonsense, of course.

 

All the u-turns suffered on her watch have been down to threatened revolts by nervous Conservative backbenchers afflicted with a bad case of the marginals. That’s what inevitably happens when slender working majorities become unworkable.

 

Things could get even tighter if alleged electoral transgressions from last time around see sitting tory MPs forced to stand down in the near future.

It’s my guess that a brisk walk in the Snowdonian air helped put all these things into perspective - and like Moses, she descended from the mountain top with a new set of plans. 

What should never be underestimated either is the manner in which a personal mandate is such a big thing in the Westminster village.

 

Ever since her accession, the PM has seldom been regarded as a true Brexit believer. The referendum result was not one she expected; or supported for that matter.

Her tactics so far have been to equivocate over jettisoning EU legislation whilst leaving the tiresome stuff to the unlovely trio of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davies who gather around the cauldron, fending off scrutiny with eye-of-newt and whatnot.

 

This is clearly unsustainable and she has convinced herself that an emphatic personal win will not only stamp her authority on what happens next but also consign a tiresome Nigel Farage back into his box.

Mrs May clearly has little time for her predecessor’s manifesto. I think we can expect the 2017 version to be the rough guideline variety, and therefore mostly observed in the breach. In other words, Brexit will basically mean that you never have to explain yourself in any detail.

You could argue that the basic strategy is sound even if the tactics smack a little of expediency. Beneath it all you can also detect a flavour of the same hubris that David Cameron allowed to obscure his judgement at critical times when balancing party with the national interest. 

Back in the real world, prices are rising, inflation is headed for 3% and the market is pondering what a half percent hike in interest rates might do to record levels of personal debt.

All of which adds up to the conclusion that there’s probably no time like the present for an election - even if most of us have no idea what we’re voting for.

 

 

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