Naked Politics Blogger
Manifestos? They’re so 2015, darling.
The Conservative Party need not bother producing a manifesto for June’s election. Policy is taking a backseat for this one. The whole Tory narrative – which you would have to live on Mars to have not heard such is its ubiquity – rests on the mantra of ‘Strong, Stable Leadership’ through the Brexit turmoil. Everything hinges on this, the whole campaign is framed around it.
To sustain this narrative, the Tories have had to construct certain truths. But are these truths fact or fake news? Let’s take each one in turn.
The UK needs ‘strong’ leadership through Brexit.
This is true to a degree, however strong leadership is not the same as good leadership. Kim Jong-Un is a strong leader, but his leadership has led the country to economic ruin and on the verge of a war that they cannot possibly hope to win. You can be as fearless, uncompromising and resilient a leader as you like, but if your vision and goals are completely unrealistic and short-sighted, such strong leadership is meaningless.
What the UK needs far more than strong leadership, is intelligent and nuanced leadership that is prepared to balance the national interest with what is realistic and sensible. Theresa May’s zealous and fanatical desire for a hard Brexit that will almost certainly hurt the UK economy and her complete lack of comprehension as to the complexity of what lies ahead may be strong leadership, but it is neither intelligent nor nuanced. Her rigid and brazen approach to these negotiations may actually do more harm than good, as evidenced by the president of the EU commission – whom keeping onside is vital to achieving a successful Brexit and fruitful trade deal afterwards – suggesting that her negotiation approach and aims are delusional. We have to face facts: we are in a very weak position in these negotiations. It is 26 against 1. The EU owes us no favours and will probably scrape by without us going forward. We need them more than they need us. Therefore to antagonise them is most unwise. We need intelligent, nuanced leadership. Theresa May has hitherto demonstrated she will not deliver this.
‘Voting Conservative will strengthen Theresa May’s hand in Brexit negotiations’
This is quite an astounding leap of logic. A hundred or so more Conservative MP’s in the House is not going to loosen the resolve of the largest economic union in the world. I mean you can literally hear the 26 other member states quaking in their boots. We are talking about the collective interests of 26 major economies, they frankly will not care less how large Theresa May’s mandate is at the negotiating table. It is complete bluster, and laughably blasé. What the Tories really mean, and desire, is that by giving Theresa May a larger majority in the Commons it will strengthen their hand in pursuing their own Brexit agenda that will heal the divisions within their own party. But, I hear you say, the opposition is trying to block Brexit and renege on the will of the British people…
‘The opposition is trying to block Brexit and renege on the will of the British people’
Again, this is patently false. It really is fake news. The bill that triggered article 50 had cross-party support and passed by a huge majority of 384 votes in the House. The Labour party even put in place a three line party whip to ensure that the bill passed, of which 80% of Labour MP’s obeyed. It is true that the Liberal Democrats are hell-bent on reversing the result of the referendum and are calling for a second one. All 9 of them. The scoundrels. But is parliamentary opposition a genuine threat to Brexit? No. Unless you live in the world of Theresa May. I prefer the world of facts myself, but that’s just me.
‘No deal is better than a bad deal’
Wrong. Wrong. Staggeringly wrong. This may be an effective slogan, but it is shoddy economics. No trade deal means an economic relationship with the EU based on WTO trade laws, resulting EU Tariffs on exported goods. No free trade. No single market access. Nothing. Generous estimates of the total costs of these tariffs put the cost at £40 billion. Tariffs are so overrated.
‘The Tories will provide stable leadership in the national interest’
The fact that this statement appears to be so universally and uncritically believed has to go down as one of the most effective PR jobs in political history. But, as a number of commentators have already pointed out, it could not be further from the truth. The Conservative leadership of this country has been a wellspring of instability.
This is the party that decided to hold the most misinformed, poisonous and dishonestly contested referendums in British history in order to heal the divisions within its own party, producing a result that has steered the UK into the most uncertain decade of its modern life. Whose leader initially backed remain, and now wants a hard Brexit and has potentially derailed negotiations with the EU before they have even started due to a reckless and rigid negotiating stance. Who promised not to hold an election, and then called one a matter of weeks later. Who since 2015 has undertaken a major U-turn on a key piece of economic policy at every major Budget statement. Who is systematically dismantling the NHS and has demoralised its entire workforce to unprecedented levels with one single policy. Has stood and watched while schools scramble around to find savings to plug a £3bn hole in funding whilst classrooms burst at the seams and yet can afford to put aside £500m to fund Grammar Schools. Who has doubled the national debt since 2010 and failed to meet its aim to achieve a budget surplus by 2020. Who has overseen a crisis in social care, and allowed homelessness to double under its tenure. Who has entrusted the discernment of our foreign relations in this perilously complex world…to Boris Johnson. The list goes on.
Despite the slogans and the buzzwords, there is absolutely nothing strong or stable about a Tory government led by Theresa May. On June 8th, vote with caution.