We are barely two weeks into what will mercifully be a relatively short general election campaign and I’m already, as a bystander, suffering from election fatigue.
I suppose that, given my background, I ought to know better; I never cease to be amazed by how the parties are capable of manipulating the public consciousness with their staged ‘events’ and promises to do this and that and their unfailing inability precisely to explain how all of their proposals will be financed. It would seem that, if previous experience is anything to go by and judging by the various vox pops currently doing the rounds, many of the public appear to have fallen for this form of deception yet again.
The idea of a General Election used to be, in theory, to elect someone to represent you in parliament. The aim was that, after all the new MPs were assembled, they then voted to form a government; but we appear to have moved on from this idealistic position. Nowadays it would seem that, when most voters enter the polling booth, the first thing they look for on their ballot paper is the party logo. It’s pretty clear how the Tories and, to a lesser extent, Labour are playing this.
To all intents and purposes what our general elections have become is a kind of quasi presidential contest. Who leads appears to be far more important than who actually governs.
As far as Lincolnshire is concerned, this election ought to be a cakewalk for the Tories, especially now that the UKIP ‘challenge’ appears to be waning. The only seat that has changed hands in living memory around here has been Lincoln. What are the chances of it happening this time, given that the Labour candidate failed only last month to win a County Council seat?
I know that voting in general elections is not quite the same; but it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? At least, for a change, she is local as opposed to previous candidates having been parachuted in. Add to that the fact that the Tories finished 4/4 with Labour in the city a few weeks ago and given the unpopularity of the current Tory incumbent in certain quarters, you could have an interesting contest here at least. As for the other county constituencies, it seems highly unlikely under our present voting system.
It’s what may happen in the rest of the country that may prove more interesting. Various scenarios are on offer, in no particular order. Mrs May could sweep all before her, basing her campaign deliberately on Brexit. Mr Corbyn could turn out to be a Michael Foot Mark Two, drawing ecstatic crowds of true believers armed with a wish list of promises, which could prove to be the second longest suicide note in history. Mr Farron, with his Boy Scout enthusiasm, trying to hoover up all those Remainers, may manage to secure the odd extra victory despite his party’s rather stagnant opinion poll ratings; but there is still a mountain to climb for a party badly and arguably unfairly trashed in 2015 that will take more than one general election to conquer.
As you can see, I’m in a bit of a quandary. What I want from a political party is honesty. In fairness, the nearest I have seen at the moment is the proposal from the Lib Dems to put 1p on all bands of Income Tax to be spent exclusively on the NHS and Social Care. However, as it is the avowed aim of the party, according to its leader, to be the official opposition, how is this proposal to be achieved in the short term? Very few people are prepared, it would seem, to countenance paying higher direct taxes, so that is why so often indirect taxation such as VAT has been to go-to option for so many governments in the past. And then, of course, there’s the overseas aid budget, isn’t there?
What is there not to like about Labour’s plans? Why, they’re even kept Trident (subject to a proposed Defence Review)! In a world of motherhood and apple pie all this would be fine; but, unfortunately, the world in which we live isn’t like that. Clobbering the rich will simply not deliver the kind of programmes that most people would find desirable. Raising Corporation Tax when we will probably need to keep big business on board when HMS Great Britain faces the high seas of Brexit may not be a sound move either.
Unless something dramatic occurs in the time remaining, the cynic in me cannot see further than a Tory landslide, and not only in Lincolnshire. Whether this is deserved is another matter; but, given the state of the opposition, who would argue against it?
However, even if this happens, there are problems to tackle at home that will not go away whether we are part of the EU or not. They certainly won’t wait for Brexit negotiations to conclude. They need sorting out now, and the only way many can be sorted out is for us all, and I mean all except those who currently earn so little that they are exempt for Income Tax, to put their hands in their pockets and pay a little more. You can blame immigration, the EU, the bankers, foreign aid etc. if you want; but until a political party is totally honest with the electorate, we are going to have to put up with this tiring charade.
John Marriott is a former Lib Dem county councillor for Hykeham. A former Head of Languages at the North Kesteven School, he represented Hykeham Forum Division on the Lincolnshire County Council. From 1987 to 2011 he was a member of the North Hykeham Town Council and also served for 18 years on the North Kesteven District Council, finally standing down in 2007. He has lived in Hykeham since 1977.