What a difference a month can make. When Theresa May broke her own pledge not to call an election I thought that yet another political calamity was about to unfold. The justification for the election was that parliament was ‘blocking Brexit’ and that a new mandate was necessary to allow May to negotiate Britain’s exit from the UK more effectively.
Like so much that comes from May’s mouth and from the Tory party in general these days, this was a bare-faced lie. Labour had accepted the referendum result and allowed May to trigger Article 50 entirely on her own terms. May’s real intentions were more sinister and devious: in seeking a bigger majority and appealing to the ‘will of the people’, she intended to remove the entire Brexit process from parliamentary scrutiny altogether and ensure that the electorate gave her a rubber stamp to enact a ‘plan’ that she was not and is not prepared to reveal to the public, most likely because she doesn’t actually have one.
Instead, showing a gall and an arrogance rarely seen in British politics, she asked the public to vote for her without explaining what they were actually voting for. All this was supposedly for our own good, but like the referendum itself, it was entirely dictated by the interests of the Tory party. May clearly calculated that the economic impact of Brexit would be kicking in by 2020, and decided that now would be a good time to destroy a divided Labour Party and ensure that her own party was able to ride out the storms that will certainly ensue over the next three years.
This is what the Tory papers clearly hoped for too when they applauded her Machiavellian brilliance. Like May, they believed that a massive Tory majority was a fait accompli. All that was required was for May to intone ‘strong and stable’ and ‘coalition of chaos’ before hand-picked audiences and the glassy-eyed voters would stumble towards her with their hands outstretched in front of them. A good plan – in theory – but now, astonishingly, it has unravelled to the point when May may not get the massive majority she wants, and there is even a discussion taking place about whether she will actually lose the election.
What explains this incredible turn of events? Firstly, there is the deeply unattractive and unappealing figure of May herself. When she first put herself forward as a successor to Cameron last year she presented herself as a safe pair of hands, a competent non-ideological technocrat surrounded by buffoons and conniving chancers who ‘ wear her heart on the sleeve’ and ‘got the job done’.
That carefully-cultivated image has now dissolved. Again and again throughout this campaign May has shown that the reason she doesn’t wear her heart on the sleeve is because she has no heart at all. The best that can be said of a woman who says that ‘people use foodbanks for complex reasons’ when asked why nurses are using them, or who tells a nurse asking why she hasn’t had a pay rise in years that there is ‘no magic money tree’ is that she has something of an empathy deficit.
The worst is that she is as callous and uncaring as the Tory governments that she has been part of have shown themselves to be these last few years. Either way it’s not a good look, especially for a politician who has placed herself at the centre of the campaign. Like the Wizard of Oz, May would like the outside world to see what she wants them to see, but she has already shown the public more than even many Tory voters can bear, and the more she has revealed of herself, the more she has shown herself to be a callous, reactionary, dishonest, vacillating, opportunistic, cowardly, conniving control freak.
All this would be bad enough, but it has been compounded by the most arrogant, lazy, and incompetent campaign that I can remember, which offered voters nothing but a back-of-a-fag-packet manifesto, ‘coalition of chaos’ messaging and shameful sarcasm about ‘magic money trees’ in response to every question about the manifold social failures that are unfolding before our eyes and the ongoing collapse of public services.
In contrast to this, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party have exceeded the expectations of many, including myself – and fought a superb campaign, based on a positive message and a return to genuine social-democratic principles. Corbyn, unlike May, is a natural campaigner, with a warmth, humanity and sincerity that neither May nor any of her crew can ever match. He has shown tremendous courage and good humour, in enduring one of the most vicious onslaughts ever directed against a British politician.
Place someone like that against a woman who sends her bereaved Home Secretary into a tv debate because she hasn’t the guts to appear herself, and voters will take notice, even if May assumed they wouldn’t. But character isn’t everything. For the first time, Labour have presented the electorate with a genuine alternative to the neoliberal austerity model which has wrought such havoc for the best part of a decade.
The result is that against all the odds, and despite the opposition of the majority of his own MPs, Corbyn has slashed the Tory lead in the polls. Personally, I have had my reservations about the Corbyn project and the Labour party in general, and still do. I don’t like the lack of clarity on Brexit. I think there should be another vote on a final deal. I also think that a Labour government will struggle to implement its program outside the single market. I don’t agree with Labour’s position on free movement.
Despite these caveats, I will most definitely be voting Labour tomorrow. I will do it because this zombie government cannot be allowed to have a majority that will enable it to inflict even more damage on British society than it already has. I will be doing it because Corbyn has courageously raised the possibility of a different kind of foreign policy to the endless Groundhog Day horror of the ‘war on terror.’
I will do it because if May gets the majority she wants, it will leave the country in the hands of people like Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davies and – offstage – Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks. The result will be the hardest of Brexits, and a national disaster that will most likely result in the UK crashing out into WTO rules. A May majority will transform the UK into a corrupt banana republic – a deregulated tax haven flowing with Trump hotels and Saudi money and ruled by men and women without a trace of humanity or concern for anyone except a narrow wealthy clique and the Tory party itself.
If May wins then more schools will be asking parents to pay for their children’s education, as many are already doing. It will mean the destruction of the NHS and the collapse of social services. It will mean reactionary clampdowns on civil liberties. More stigmatisation and persecution of migrants. The rolling back of rights for EU nationals.
In short, a Tory majority will accelerate and continue the ongoing transformation of the UK into a dystopia, and I will vote for anyone and anything that can prevent this. Can Labour prevent it? Could a Corbyn government cope with the immense challenges of trying to implement a social democratic program and stave off the disaster of a hard Brexit?
I don’t know, but right now it seems a possibility worth voting for, and that’s something I haven’t felt about Labour for a very long time.