War, fraud and feather-nesting: business as usual for the Tories, notes Lindsey German
The reactionary agenda in store for us all if Theresa May wins an increased majority is becoming ever clearer. She is refusing to say that she won't put up tax or national insurance. The pension triple lock is coming under criticism as unnecessary or too generous! She has deliberately pitched for even more Ukip votes by repeating the Tory claim that it will cut immigration to tens of thousands.
Under the mantle of campaigning for a hard Brexit there will be continued cuts, further privatisation of the NHS, grammar schools, and worsening living standards for working people. Even the fox hunting lobby are slavering at the chance of being able to reverse the ban introduced by Labour 20 years ago. The Tories will bring us racism at home and war abroad.
The imperial or presidential nature of her campaign is quite deliberate. It is all about her, her supposed strength and stability, her ability to negotiate a hard Brexit. It will translate into a strongly authoritarian attempt to control any dissent within her own party, to neuter all opposition under the first past the post system, to further weaken trade unions who present some defence of living standards for workers. Theresa May knows all about the Nasty Party because she is an organic part of it.
If the Tories succeed in consolidating many right wing or anti-Labour votes as their own, then they will achieve the majority that they want, and despite some narrowing of the polls, they are still way ahead, benefiting mainly from Ukip votes. The only way of defeating them has to be to mark out a very different political agenda. And also to take the attack to them.
Jeremy Corbyn's speech to launch his campaign challenged the rottenness and inequality of British society. It put forward ideas which you don't often hear even from Labour politicians, and it spoke in the language of class division. But there is talk that the manifesto will be quite muted, a compromise between the left and the Labour mainstream. That would be a mistake. Corbyn is known and respected as a socialist and as an honest politician. He should speak from the heart.
He should also turn up the attacks on the Tories. They are lying about the NHS and are openly planning to raise taxes and costs for working class people. They are themselves a cabinet of millionaires. They are a rotten party of privilege trying to get votes on the basis of fear, scapegoating and cheap bribery.
We have a month to get that message across.
Will election fraud stick to the Tories?
Looks like today we will know whether any of the Tory candidates or agents under investigation are to be prosecuted for election fraud. If they are, this can be a very big issue in the election. But don't hold your breath because there is a great deal at stake here. There should of course be prosecutions for wrongdoing but there are all sorts of practices which are legal but unethical.
Take Andy Street, Tory West Midlands mayor, who spent an estimated £1million before local spending limits came in. Or the current spending on wraparound advertising for Theresa May in local papers. It just isn't a level playing field, as anyone apart from the Tories will tell you.
Standing down or standing up?
The talk about a progressive voting alliance in this election is coming to an end as nominations close. I must say I can't say I'm sorry. Not that I'm against the left trying to cooperate or indeed a democratic election system which can express different political views more equitably than first past the post. But I have found the calls slightly disingenuous. Take the Greens, who are suffering from a scandalous (although by no means unique) refusal by the BBC to give them adequate airtime, and denying them a part in the party debates, such as they are.
The Greens have called for a progressive alliance where parties agree that one or more should step down to enhance the chances of the strongest challenger to the Tories. While there are some attractions in this idea, it was never going to happen in this election, and could only be agreed with serious discussions before an election. It also includes the Lib Dems who to my mind are in no way progressive. It takes away people's choice of vote. Greens may not want to vote Labour and vice versa.
However, the Greens themselves have been very partial in their approach. They stood down for the Lib Dems in Richmond, but wouldn't for Labour in Stoke where there was a big Ukip threat. In this election their main target is Labour held Bristol West. In Scotland their MSP Patrick Hervey is standing in Glasgow North, an SNP seat. And when Caroline Lucas talks of Jeremy Corbyn's betrayal of Labour supporters that is just wrong. He isn't betraying anyone, he just doesn't agree on it.
It is I suppose natural that smaller parties will want to attack Corbyn since they need to take votes off Labour, but it is a bit shortsighted. Nicola Sturgeon has been aiming her fire at Labour while the Tories are gathering pro-Union support in Scotland. The truth is the Tories are taking shots not just at Labour but at the other left of centre parties as well. Their aim is to weaken and silence the left, and to do that they aim their big guns at Jeremy. So talk of alliances should be about showing solidarity as well. Maybe that's too much to hope for this side of June 8th.
Vote May, get a war
Today Downing St is the scene of a meeting between May and the Secretary General of Nato. Apparently they will discuss whether Britain should send more troops to Afghanistan to join the 500 'trainers' and 'advisers' still there. The Americans are considering sending another 3 to 5k. Little mentioned is that 16 years of sending troops (US troops have never withdrawn) has achieved the amazing result of the Taliban controlling 40% of the country, record numbers of refugees, and no end in sight to the war. That's what is called success in the war on terror. But with May and Fallon in charge (Boris Johnson doesn't look as if he'll last long) expect more troops, more interventions, maybe even a nuclear first strike. At least we can't say we didn't know what we were voting for.
Voice of the people?
We are always told don't moan about the press. What do you expect, is the refrain from both left and right. In a way it's true. Since when have socialists got a good press? But one of the developments this time has been the extensive use of vox pops - interviews with the woman or man in the street - which have an air of faux democracy and involvement but which have one purpose: to denigrate Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. Journalists have an unerring sense of place, street markets being a favourite and miserable stall holders who don't like Labour an essential part.
I have lost count of the people who have said their parents voted Labour but they're not going to. I have seen none which say I always voted Tory but I'm sick of what they have done. Maybe try visiting food banks, unionised workplaces, colleges, or talking to young people and ethnic minorities and journalists would hear different ideas. As it is, anyone who attends a Corbyn rally is by definition 'converted' so their opinions don't count.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- The nasty parties unite to stop Corbyn - election briefing 12 November 2019
- The world turned upside down - election briefing 11 November
- Why have the Greens joined an anti-Labour alliance? - election briefing 8 November
- The mask keeps slipping - election briefing 7 November
- Rees-Mogg: the ugly face of class privilege - daily election briefing 6 November
- The battle that will shape a generation – weekly briefing
- Trump’s coming to London during the election