Notes on the 2017 General Election Campaign

In his latest column, Jon Bigger muses on one of the weirdest general election spectacles in living memory.

This has been a remarkable general election, whatever the result (I’m writing this the day before the UK votes). In my adult lifetime there hasn’t been such a difference between the two main parties and there hasn’t been such an exciting election. I feel amazed and dismayed by my adoration at the entire wretched spectacle. This month I’m going to focus on various thoughts about the last few weeks and also do some speculating on what might happen next.

  • The Polls — May called the election saying she wanted to have a stronger hand in the Brexit negotiations. Since the local elections on 4th May where Labour did pretty woefully, they have risen in the polls. All the polls have shown a rise for Labour but there have been massive differences. This, we are told, is pointing either to a hung parliament or to a massive Tory victory. The latter being most likely. I told myself at the start of the campaign that I wouldn’t look at the polls each day as they’re often wrong but I found them compelling. The fact that some pollsters are actively suppressing the youth voter intention is very interesting. If they come out and vote then the hung Parliament option is the one we could be looking at.
  • The Corbyn Factor — he’s been in his element as a campaigner. He may be shit in the Commons and rubbish on TV but out on the stump and more free flowing debates he’s on safer ground. After all this is what he’s been doing for decades. What this means after the election depends very much on the amount of seats Labour get. If the Tories lose seats and Labour gains then the calls for him to stay will be loud, despite the inevitable calls for him to go and go quickly. The rebel MPs lined up against him have been quiet for the last few weeks presumably so they can say they gave him a fair chance, expect them to make other noises early on Friday morning, unless Labour gets a majority or is able to form a government in coalition with others.
  • The Two Party System — well in England at least, the support for parties other than the Tories and Labour appears to have reduced dramatically. The polls indicate that in the early part of the campaign the drop in UKIP support was going to the Tories but as things have developed is appears that Labour is gaining ground on the Tories, UKIP, the Lib Dems and the SNP. In Scotland taking away seats from the SNP is obviously good for Labour but in a situation where the Tories could be the largest party in a hung Parliament it changes the maths only slightly. The loss of support for the Lib Dems and there subsequent drop in seats is bad news for Labour as it has generally meant an increase in Tory seats.
  • Maybotch— the robotic campaigns disaster who happens to be prime minister doesn’t very well understand politics. She might win a massive majority tomorrow but in the process she’s made herself look weak and wobbly (to coin a phrase). Brand new tactic for this election — perform a U-turn on your manifesto when it’s only just been printed. I’ve heard of broken promises but normally they wait until they gain power to perform them. Not being willing to debate with others, holding every press conference in a deserted warehouse or factory, the dementia tax, having to relaunch your campaign – all failures and if this had started as a closer contest they might have totally destroyed her chances.May has also managed to go through an entire campaign for seven weeks without actually saying anything of substance. The Tory manifesto is a set of bland policy slogans and statements and a frankly bizarre re-imagining of the conservative ideology which must really piss off large swathes of May’s party. Likewise in interviews and in speeches she talks in sweeping grand statements but with no detail, no costings and no firm pledges. We can only guess what the Tories will do in power again. The fact May will likely still be prime minister on Friday should terrify us all.
  • Terrorism — the depressing and disgusting sight of people deciding that the best thing to do is to kill others while they’re having fun hangs over this election. We live in such a grim and sad world right now. The answer, as always, is anarchism. What has struck me, not just in the last few weeks but over a long period of time, is the way ‘leaders’ are often bereft of even half decent ideas to change the world. As someone once said “statists gonna state” and we shouldn’t be surprised that the answers politicians come up with fit the narrow debates of official politics. More police from Labour and ripping up the Human Rights Act from the Tories. Labour have talked about a different foreign policy, which is an improvement to arming countries that support ISIS obviously. But my overwhelming feeling is that none of them really knows what they are doing and so knee jerk reactions and political points scoring are the order of the day.
  • May poll — if the polls are correct-ish and a hung parliament is possible or even if the Tories lose seats, what then is going to happen? Be in no doubt the Tory Party will not be thanking May for reduced power when she said the election was about strengthening her hand. They will want her gone, which is easy if they have a majority still, albeit a reduced one. We could have Boris as PM this time next week, for fuck’s sake. It gets more complicated if it’s a hung parliament as she has to stay in post until a government is formed. If the Tories can form a government but they don’t want May as leader things could get very messy. So, Bexit negotiations start in the next two weeks, possibly with a new unelected prime minister and without as strong a mandate as the one May had a few weeks back. All very messy, all very chaotic but that capitalism and liberal democracy for you. Lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories. I’ve resisted the urge but there’s no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of people will be materially better off with a Corbyn government. I can see why some anarchists are going for it. In two days time a new government will form based on the new parliament and the number of seats each party has got. Our surreal times have been brought on by and are symptoms of the financial crisis which is still rumbling at us from 2008. We are all still in crisis. We can’t ignore official politics entirely so I’m not surprised by people wanting to influence it. But we’ve got to start thinking about ending our part in this crisis that seems to drive everything.

Check out Jon’s extended election blog here

Pic: Jeremy Corbyn at one of his huge rallies at Gateshead this month, by Ren (Creative Commons)

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