The General Election will soon be fast upon us and has left much to the imagination in terms of policy, political manoeuvring and connecting with the general public. Billed as one of the most important votes in her lifetime, Theresa May has given off the impression in both her policy and passion that her actions do not meet her words.
Costings and Cults
If on the one hand we have a passionless, costless policy attempt to get into Number 10. On the other we have someone with 34 years of political experience and yet who can be accused of being a cheerleader rather than a leader. Wooing a crowd of your followers may be considered something of an achievement in a cult but in politics it’s neither here nor there.
In politics you must win over voters with persuasion, policies and personality. In my opinion, there are some good policies in Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto but on the other two points he is struggling to win the votes that he needs to become PM.
Refusal and Replacement
We must remember in the face of a lack of talent, the reason why this election is being fought. Theresa May wanted a larger mandate in order to give her more power in a negotiation with other EU nations. These countries build domestic politics on coalition rather than chaos. In an election that May has stated is “the most important vote in my lifetime”, to refuse to debate the leaders of the other parties shows not just a fear of facing the other leaders but also an underlying assumption that the general public can be taken for fools. Sending Amber Rudd to the leaders debate in your absence can be put down to the refusal to be accountability to the general public and the fear of things going from bad to worse in the polls.
Theresa May had the one up on her opponents in the sense that she could call the election via a U-turn (she said on numerous occasions that “now was not the time for a General Election”) and overturning the fixed terms act. The planning that went into the election before it was called will remain unclear but she knew well before her opponents what her plans were.
Corbyn’s past record on issues such as the Civil War in Northern Ireland and his voting record on issues such as anti-terror legislation have always been a point of attack for the Conservatives. However newly found Labour’s attacks have been provided by the Conservatives poor manifesto and assumption of a majority. These have been shown to have a lot more weight with the general public. Costings are not included in the manifesto and what was branded the “#dementia tax” led to a U-turn on what the cap would be. Every woman, man and dog saw this as a U-turn but May continued to insist that it was part of the manifesto. Attacking part of your core vote in a General Election campaign isn’t just unnecessary, it’s dire political manoeuvring.
Politics is a race to the finish and something of at times great entertainment to the commentariat and the public. What the General Election represents in its simplest form is a choice between the sorts of society you want to see. Candidates should be seen fighting to put their beliefs into action.
This General Election campaign has told us two things. Jeremy Corbyn is passionate to help people but does not have the political nous to help people. He appears to have some fight but seems to have left it too late to matter. Theresa May has neither the passion, the political nous nor the fight. May billed as a safe pair of hands by others even through a turbulent time at the Home Office is now seen as being less safe, less secure and who is not seen as someone to safeguard this countries interests during Brexit negotiations.
A Political Vacuum
I conclude with a call to see more talent and brain in politics, a return to orators and organisers and a move away from slogans and slander. What we need is not a nicer politics but a clever one. There is the occasional bright sparks within politics, look no further than the ‘Father of the House’ Ken Clarke in his speech post-Brexit or to Angus Robertson defending the rights of refugees. These sparks however are rare. They exist in a vacuum of political intelligence.
Ben is an economics graduate from the University of Manchester who has been involved for 4 years in the reform of the economics curriculum at universities.
He was formerly the Chair of the Post-Crash Economics Society and is now a Trustee at Rethinking Economics.
He is also currently working on a smart cities project at the University of Manchester called CityVerve