musings > politics

'Twas the night before the election

11 Dec, 2019 · 8 min read

We are coming to the end of another Conservative government. Within the next 48 hours we will likely know the results of the 2019 General Election. It is one that, moreso than any other in our recent history, will come to reshape and redefine what our country looks like.

At the eleventh hour I wanted to get down a few final thoughts, reflect on this government, straighten some things out in my head, and maybe leave you with a couple of things to think about.

On Tactical voting, a short re-reprise

I’ve come to the conclusion that I was too on the fence about tactical voting. It’s an imperfect solution to an imperfect situation, but it’s the best chance that any one individual has of making a difference.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are, in my humble opinion, reckless for not making more of tactical voting. Swinson seems intelligent, she can’t possibly believe she’ll be Prime Minister. If she really believed in stopping Brexit, and in delivering on her environmental agenda, she knows she needs to be in power to do it. The only way of the Liberal Democrats getting any power is as part of a coalition. Are they hoping the Tories will go to them again if they don’t get the majority?

Visit https://tactical.vote/ or https://mypollingday.com/ to understand more about how you can vote tactically.

On the Conservative party

The Conservative party feels toxic to me. It seems incapable of telling the truth about anything - a recent investigation found that at least 88% of its ads on social media were inaccurate. The constant drive for disinformation doesn’t stop there. Someone can’t even walk into someone’s hand without a senior politician going DEFCON 2.

Today saw concerted attempt by Labour activists to intimidate me and my team. This is completely unacceptable at any time, particularly around an election. We will not be daunted. We must defeat this aggressive intimidation. The best way to do that is #VoteConservative

Matt Hancock, December 9, 2019

Regardless of whether there is any substance behind the thoughts of fundamentally nullifying democracy in the UK, just the idea that a party leader could suggest it is troubling. To quote directly from the Conservative Manifesto (page 48): “After Brexit we also need to look at the broader aspects of our constitution: the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts; the functioning of the Royal Prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice for ordinary people.”

The last part of that quote perhaps makes the rest of it seem palatable. But I don’t know of any time in my life where I’ve felt that a political party is so disconnected with the electorate. Even when the Liberal Democrats fully sold students up the river, they at least had the grace to address it (there is a fair point to be made that this was too little too late, but it happened, is my point). I don’t believe that the Conservative party understands what an ordinary person is, let alone what justice looks like. And putting that to one side, the idea that after lying to the Queen and illegally proroguing Parliament, Johnson’s Conservative party should be trusted to examine the relationship between itself, Parliament, and the courts seems ludicrous.

The idea that this Conservative Party should be trusted to examine the relationship between itself, Parliament, and the courts seems ludicrous.

On the key players and key issues

It concerns me greatly that anyone can look at Boris Johnson and believe that he is fit for office. I agree that Corbyn has faults. Many many many faults. But we have actual documented verifiable proof that Johnson is inept in office. Not just inept, but a vile, toxic, homophobic, racist. This man is not a statesman. He has been fired from damn near every job he’s had. I don’t know about you, but if I’d been fired from all my previous jobs for incompetence and/or dishonesty, I’d find it very difficult to get another job.

Corbyn is not a leader. In any other scenario he’d have been laughed out of the building by now. But I think it’s important to remember that we don’t live in a presidency. The Prime Minister is the leader of the government, but his power is not sovereign - the office does not give unilateral power to do whatever the leader wants. This is also true of Johnson, of course. But the difference is that when his cabinet disagrees with him he simply fires them, replacing them with people who are more likely to do his bidding. If this happened anywhere else in the world, we’d have a different word for it than “democracy”.

The Tory manifesto doesn’t seem to address the environmental concerns that everyone knows are upon us. It seems strange to me that a party so apparently concerned with stability doesn’t want to address the giant melting iceberg in the room.

While we’re on the environment, I found Michael Gove’s attempts to derail the Leader’s Climate Debate reprehensible. Speaking dispassionately, it was a very clever move. Send a non-leader to a leader’s debate, safe in the knowledge that they will not get on air because - well, because they aren’t a leader. You don’t have to engage in a debate about climate change, which protects you from fallout from your major financial backers, and as a bonus you get to spin a sob story about how you are being excluded from the table by a left-wing media (despite the fact that, as we know, the media is very much not left-wing).

I find Matt Hancock’s assertions that the Conservatives need a majority government to provide, amongst other things, free parking at hospitals utterly patronising. Does he think that a motion like that won’t pass a commons vote? Is he confused in some way about how laws are passed? His near-constant Twitter pleas about requiring a majority government in order to provide the most basic of election promises is laughable.

Lastly on this, there seems to be a narrative that the Tory party will be able to provide us with a strong and stable economy. There is no evidence in the last 9 years that can convince me of that. I don’t buy the argument that Labour would have been worse. Apart from the fact that idle speculation seems pointless, we have a number of examples globally of what a left government can do post-financial crash. Portugal, for example, is doing really quite well under a full socialist government (and let’s remember that Labour is far from a full socialist government) and was in an undeniably worse position than us even pre-crash.

On issues closer to me

As someone who suffers from a sometimes debilitating mental health condition, the thought of another five years of Tory-run NHS services genuinely terrifies me. Poor provisioning of services meant that under a Tory government I once had to wait 6 months to be seen by mental health professional (I couldn’t afford to be seen privately). Six months is a long time, and my condition only got worse, ultimately leading to a suicide attempt. I’ve relied on the NHS for counselling, for therapy, for medication. I’ve relied on it under Labour and under Conservative governments. I sometimes use hyperbole to make a point, but believe me when I say that I fully believe that a Conservative government poses a real threat to my life, and to the lives of others. The NHS in general, and mental health provision in particular, has been strangled by poor governing. There is plenty of evidence to support that statement, if you want to look for it.

While it is true that the Conservatives have pledged to ring-fence around £20 billion extra spending by 2024, I don’t believe their wider portfolio of policies is in keeping with a government that understands how nuanced the situation is. What good is extra money (by the way, less money than the average amount put into the NHS up until 2010), if your policies are designed to stop the immigration of the medical professionals that those services rely on? And all of this just talks about the hospital side of things - there are many more facets than need to be considered.

If you're interested in how the parties all address mental health, this is an interesting view from Centre For Mental Health.

You can also read what all the parties are looking to do with healthcare.

What are we supposed to do?

You wake up in the morning. The paint’s peeling, the curtains are gone, and the water is boiling. Which problem do you solve first? None of them - the building is on fire.

Do we solve Brexit, the bloated and underfunded NHS, a lack of public services, rising poverty? Do we stitch the curtains back together, or do we first put out the fire?

I’m going for the fire extinguisher. It’s the red one.


Thanks to Ishita Ranjan for her editing skills, and to a wealth of friends who told me I should post this.