An excerpt from my latest column for the International New York Times, on the upcoming election in Britain. It was published under the headline ‘The Foregone Conclusion of Britain’s Election’.
This could, and should, have been a vital election, the focus for a great debate about the kind of post-Brexit Britain people want, a fierce contest over issues from austerity to immigration. But the void where an opposition should be means that little of substance will be debated.
To be sure, there will be shouting matches over Brexit, and many will try to use this election to rerun last year’s referendum. But after June 8, a Conservative government will enter into negotiations with the European Union with its policy and strategy barely tested in public.
Britain’s surprise general election comes amid a series of highly charged and unpredictable national votes — from the Brexit vote and American election last year, to the Dutch general election and the Turkish referendum this spring, and with the first round of the French presidential election next weekend imminent, before the German federal elections in September.
All such democratic soundings should provide an important platform for public debate and a vital gauge of the popular will. A pity, then, if Britain’s election becomes the one that matters least.
Read the full article in the International New York Times.
The image is from the Daily Telegraph.
Foregone conclusion ? I bet May wishes it were.
Leave won the referendum because they were angrier – but now, the Remainers are. What if they back the Lib Dems – a truly pro-European party ? What if anger among young voters prompts them to switch off their music systems and actually to vote (against the Tories) ? What if nervous Tory voters back the Lib Dems for fear of a Hard Brexit wrecking the economy?
All this suggests the Lib Dems may sweep Middle England.
And what if Labour voters faced with voting Tory (now that UKIP seems to have sunk) decide to return to their old allegiance, Corbyn or not ?
In normal times, May and the Tories – with a 14% opinion poll lead – would walk it. But at risk of stating the obvious, these are not such times.
Theresa May is setting her stall out as the only leader who can successfully deliver a Brexit that will be the best for the UKs interests. This is being being pitched, with the help of media, alongside a caricature resembling Corbyn, The Tory machine will present a “strong leader” against a clown being character assassinated against a backdrop of the defining political issue of the day. But is May’s “Brexit strategy” anything but a mirage of bluff and bluster? Within less than 48 hours of her announcement I have seen Brexit secretary David Davis and leader of Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson both ask interviewers to read May’s Lancaster house speech from January as a something which indicates the negotiation plan for exiting the EU. I expect that the manifesto when it is published will largely borrow from that speech, if not even cut and paste from it. The problem is that in that speech the expectations about the future relationship between the UK and the EU are hugely overdrawn and are at odds with innumerable statements from EU officials going back to summer 2016. Sector specific deals for the motor industry even though last summer the EU said that there will be no sector-by-sector style arrangements like the Swiss have. Free and friction-less trade between the UK and EU/EU and UK despite the fact that the principles of EU single market have been held up as non-negotiable since the end of last June. “The customs union holds us back from doing our own free trade deals with the rest of the world” coupled with “but I also want tariff free trade with Europe…..and not be subject to the common external tariff”. I’m pretty sure the rules of origin or some such might scupper that one. “We don’t want to pay into the EU budget” (translation; we want one part of what Switzerland has got, but we want something better than Norway). In fact its like being a kid in Woolworths and shoplifting the pick n mix in front of staff and saying “hey mister I know you’ve told me a shouldn’t be doing this but I’m doing it anyway”. The EU on multiple occasions: “No special deal for The City” Theresa: “We want our financial services industry to thrive across borders”. Hmmmmm…got sufficient banking regulation sweetie?
But if you really want to stuff yer face with the shop-lifted chocolates and sell have your cake and eat it to the British people as the only credible negotiator for a Brexit it don’t get any better than talking about “trade-offs”. Theresa(17/1/17): “So however frustrating some people find it, the government will not be pressured into saying more than I believe it is in our national interest to say”. Despite, Michel Barnier(5/4/17) “This historic negotiation will not be held in secret”
I’m sure she’s got all this stuff all planned out though, there’s no vainglorious internal party management going on, nor any interests involved other than “The National Interest”. Maybe even its true that Corbyn is a clown, that Norway doesn’t exist, or Geneva. Who knows? we are all in the hit movie La La Land now.