Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Mrs May not

I was amused by the spoof news item 'Elections off', says May.' It sums up the campaign over the last week as the PM has seemed to shun any responsibility for the unravelling of the campaign whilst making the election about her rather than the Conservative party. She has then refused to engage in any debate, avoided answering any questions during interviews, not allowed most of her cabinet to share responsibility for the campaign and adopted a vindictive and nasty tone about her opponents, particularly Jeremy Corbyn.

She was rattled by questions from the public in the Sky/Channel 4 'Battle for Number 10' debate. The audience laughed at her claim that the Labour policies do not add up when she hadn't even costed her own policies. They also gave her a hard time about elderly care,  the NHS and education. She was visibly shaken by Jeremy Paxman's accusation that she was "a blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire." It had some substance after her change of decisions on care for the elderly, calling an election, tax on the self employed, not to mention Brexit. She does not seem very strong or stable preferring to obfuscate and seems unwilling to spell out her policies or their cost in any detail. 'Trust me I'm Theresa' isn't cutting the mustard anymore.

Owing to the unwillingness of Labour MPs to take shadow ministerial posts, Corbyn has had to take Lion's share of responsibility for the Labour campaign. The shadow cabinet he is left with are largely inexperienced and untested and only John McDonnell and the supercilious Emily Thornberry appear to be trusted after Diane Abbott's sleepy abacus disaster over Police funding. Nevertheless, Corbyn has been the perfect antidote to Mrs May. He does not indulge in personal insults, he focuses on the issues. He has principles that are sincerely held over many years and there is a modesty about his integrity. He does not claim to be strong and stable but he has been far less chaotic than Mrs May. If he does not know an answer he does not obfuscate, he apologises and says he will come back on that. His handling of questions from the public and the other Jeremy (Paxman)was assured and unruffled. He seems to be strong and stable.

Suddenly the presumption of a landslide Tory victory is being reassessed. The awakening of the younger generation using social media to challenge Mrs May may just trigger a greater likelihood of the young to vote and, just maybe, there could be another election shock in the offing.

However, it is an election to provide a government and that means a team of people who have the competence to steer the UK through troubled waters. Not just Brexit and the need to establish a trusting relationship with the EU but reinvigorating an economy that is fragile, tackling environmental and climate change issues that must be addressed sooner not later, taking positive action for greater social justice, providing more and better housing as well as supporting schools for all children, not just those in academies or grammar schools. NHS and social care must be funded and the centralising tendency of central government must be reversed, giving power and responsibility for spend and taxation to localities.

The Tory cabinet before the election was one of the weakest I can remember and operated in a defensive mode that echoes Mrs May's preferred style of governance. The dilemma if the Tories were not to win an overall majority is who of the Labour MPs would be asked or willing to serve in a Corbyn led government. And will other parties be prepared to work with Labour to provide a more progressive government? It is not the sort of possibility that was being contemplated a few weeks ago but it is beginning to appear an option that Mrs May may have inadvertently prompted by her aversion to answering questions, excluding others from the campaign and her habit of obfuscating at the first sign of gunfire. Even if she does win, her reputation as a latter-day Boadicea unshackling us from Europe has been shredded by the election that she probably wishes she had never called.

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