The (absolute) state of the nation: #GE2017

So…where to start?

Firstly – the fact we are having this election is simply down to a cynical calculation by Mrs May and her ‘team’ that they were so far ahead of the opposition that they could increase their majority to well over 100. Brexit was a clear excuse, as article 50 had not been held up by parliament, and there was nothing to suggest that parliament would not allow the government to proceed with the negotiations. For that reason alone, the narrowing of the opinion polls is welcome, and (should this narrowing be reflected in the voting) highlights that both taking the electorate for granted, and trying to just ‘run out the clock’ are bad ways to organise a campaign.

But yet, we have an election, and need to consider who it is sensible to vote for. It certainly is not the Conservative Party. Over the last 7 years they have enacted their austerity agenda, without meeting any of the objectives of it. We still have a sizable deficit and growing national debt. It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot maintain the level of services people expect (and require), with current levels of taxation. Mrs May has not tackled either of these issues head on, instead hiding behind the ‘record levels of funding’ and ‘magic money tree’ soundbites. Both are demonstrably nonsense, and the electorate deserve a Prime Minister who is honest enough to level with them about the state of their public services, and what would be needed to ensure they remain as we would hope.

In this regard, Mr Corbyn and the Labour Party have had a successful campaign. He has managed to get across a plan for both how to raise money in a sensible and pragmatic way, and to ensure that some of the recent cuts be reversed. Yet there are huge issues here. Free tuition fees, at a cost of £11bn. a year is neither progressive nor fiscally sensible. If there is £11bn to be spend on education, funding all schools fairly, and reinstating programs such as sure start would be a much better place to start. However, Labour have at least shown themselves to be a party willing to defend their manifesto, debate why they feel strongly about it, and to argue their case. There are still huge reservations over Mr Corbyn and his historic links to groups like the IRA, although I am not sure whether the activities of an 80s backbencher are more or less concerning than those of a home secretary who cuts 20,000 police at a time of increasing domestic threats, or of a Prime Minister who will cosy up to dictators and sell them arms as it is good for business.

A Brexit election should have offered the Liberal Democrats a chance to claim some seats in pro-remain areas. And any election should offer them the chance to begin to rebuild their support after the 2015 drubbing, but they have been squeezed by a combination of a return to the Con/Lab tribalism and a fairly poor campaign from Tim Farron. I am convinced that there is a place for a true party of the centre, but it may need a Macron-style insurgent campaign to truly inspire it.

One bright spot in this election is the demise of UKIP. This brightness is dimmed by the fact they were successful in pushing the EU referendum into the Tories’ collective consciousness, leading us down a Brexit path which is full of uncertainty and, however it ends, will result in us being worse off than we were before the vote.

Choosing who to vote for remains a challenge. As a passionate liberal elite remoaner, it will almost certainly be the Liberal Democrats who will get mine. However, I would be very tempted to lend Labour my vote should I live in a seat where a Labour vote could stop a Tory candidate.

And finally, some wishes for the next election: People are not called ‘dicks’ by other members of their profession simply because they are going to vote for one party ahead of another, politicians engage with the debate and do not simply regurgitate soundbites and, finally, those of us on the centre-left have a legitimate candidate to rally around. I don’t hold out much hope for any of them.