Well, well, well!
I usually start my blog posts by saying nothing’s happening in the UK, and, with regard to exiting the EU, that’s probably still true. Nothing’s happened. Yet! As a consequence, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has taken it upon herself (and wow, was everyone blind-sided by this – journalists had not a sniff) to declare a General Election for June 8th. And I say that this election is a consequence of nothing happening, because, indeed, why not have an election when the economy is good, big companies have not left for Europe, and the idea of controlling our borders is waiting to be organised, with the full consequences of Brexit little understood?
However, I might just add that there’s a wee little hint that it wasn’t just about the above, nor was it about Corbyn giving us some insight into Labour’s policies on free school meals for primary school pupils, a £10 an hour minimum wage and a crackdown on late payments by big business to small businesses. (All of which, I am totally in favour of. It’s not that I don’t want socialism – I do. I just don’t think Corbyn is the right person to lead a party) No, apparently, some Tory MPs are being investigated for breaking strict spending limits at the 2015 general election. 14 police forces have sent files to the Crown Prosecution Service and it is alleged that up to 20 Tory MPs might face prosecution, and consequently, have to stand down, and that would be the end of Theresa May’s small majority.
OK, whatever. We’re having an election which needed, btw, a vote in Parliament on Wednesday to agree this, because she’s going earlier than the statutory 5 years.
And would you believe it? Yes, probably you will. Our sainted Labour leader totally supported May and told his MPs to vote with the government on this. And why? The reason he gives is that we must accept the will of the people. And the real reason? He was always lukewarm over the EU. Which, consequently means he is not putting up a fight against the result of the Referendum. Which means we really do not have any opposition. Which I think is just the pits, seriously I do.
And note the tone of May’s speech. I’m sorry but a healthy democracy needs healthy debate – but May has said:
“The country is coming together but Westminster is not. Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach. The Lib Dems have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. Unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”
Well, yes, and good. Because May should not expect total acceptance from every Member of Parliament for every single thing she does. If we have to leave the EU then, at the very least, we need a good exit – if we can get one! So, there absolutely needs to be a rigorous analysis of the way she conducts our exit from the EU. But she seems to be stamping on free speech and any opposition to her way of conducting this exit. So, a general election has been called to ostensibly boost her small majority, obtain a stronger Tory government, and get approval for her government and everything she stands for. Because of course our last election in 2015 centred around Cameron, and his manifesto, which has all gone to the shredder. As Enoch Powell once said, “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.” And that certainly happened to our David Cameron.
And how will the Labour Party fare in this election? Sadly, this will not be an opportunity to vote Theresa May out and get Corbyn in. No way, whatever Labour HQ says. I’m afraid Labour could be decimated. But, I stress the ‘could’ as this is no ordinary election and May might not get what she wants. First and foremost, much of the country is sick of elections summed up by the wonderful Brenda, who, when asked by the BBC what she thought of May’s declaration, said ‘What another one!” Do watch this clip because not only does she speak for us all, it’s really funny.
Then again there could be some tactical voting as this election is primarily about Brexit and people are being reminded to vote for the candidate that either is against Brexit or for it (fools, if they are). I’ll give you an example. In 2015, there was a swing away from the Lib Dems to the Labour and Green candidates in my constituency. As a consequence, the Tory candidate got in with a majority of 1083. That is such a small margin. If just a few good people of Lewes return to voting for the Lib Dems we have one less Tory MP. Theresa May, be careful for what you wish.
But the intriguing thing to note is that voting patterns within the UK are no longer strictly divided between our two main parties, and here below, I repeat a couple of a paragraphs from an earlier post where I looked closely at an opinion poll from Opinium.
In effect, the UK can be divided up into eight political tribes, of which two add up to half the electorate. These two tribes are mainly right-wing Brexiters who want immigration reduced pronto. One of these tribes, the Common Sense tribe (26% of those polled) are predominantly older Conservative voters from the south of England. The other tribe, called Our Britain (24%) are mainly older working-class UKip and Tory voters from the Midlands and northern England.
A little closer to the centre are the Free Liberals (7%) and New Britain (6%) who agree with a small State, but are more pro-business and therefore more likely to be pro-immigration and Remainers. But these voters are also predominantly Conservative voters who are going to stay loyal to the Tories.
On the left are the Democratic Socialists (8%) who are fine with immigration and the single market. They also want higher taxes for the wealthy and live in urban areas. Is that my tribe? Or maybe I’m a Progressive (11%) who are mainly professionals living anywhere around the UK who believe in immigration, the single market and are also pro-business. And then there’s what the polling company dub the Community tribe (5%) who are mainly working-class voters based in the Midlands and northern England who want a socialist redistribution of income, but are strongly against immigration. And finally there’s a Swing Voter tribe (7%) who are could vote either way.
Now the thing is never, ever accept the results of just one poll, but, just crunch the numbers. Although, 6% of the poll could not be put into any of these tribes, the left is going to have a very difficult and challenging task to move the electorate away from the right and centre.
But note that the majority in this poll wanted a change in our immigration laws and that isn’t happening quite as fast as many expected. There is some awareness now that negotiations for Brexit might actually be quite complicated and that immigration isn’t going to be halted immediately. Alongside that, there are people who regret their vote to leave and/or were surprised by the result of the Referendum. So, on June 8th, with the Lib Dems the only party that has said categorically they will fight against a hard Brexit, voting along traditional party lines isn’t a given.
Penny Kocher, 22nd April 2017