One day to go until the Election and most of the parties will be wishing they could wind the clock back and start again. Led by the Conservatives, with the worst campaign in memory and about as interesting as toothache, most of the parties set low standards, failed to achieve them and have been in defensive mode from the get-go. The Liberals seemed to wandering around in a baffled daze wondering where the buses went. They were left behind at the start line when they put all their eggs in the basket marked, ‘cross about Brexit,’ without it having dawned on them that most of the ’48%,’ had moved on. (Tim Farron incidentally is rumoured to be vulnerable tomorrow). UKIP’s engines blew up when they turned the key while the SNP charged off at 100 miles an hour but in the wrong direction, having made the same miscalculation as the Liberals and subsequently went back to start again focusing on public services while under unremitting pressure for Ruth Davidson. The clear campaigning winner is Comrade Corbyn who has successfully rewritten the narrative of his personal support of terrorist groups over 30 years and presented a platform of reasonable unreasonableness by promising lots of free stuff to anyone with a hand out whether they need free stuff or not. As one member of a Question Time audience described it, ‘your manifesto reads like a letter to Santa Claus.’ It is easily the most mendacious, devious and manipulative campaign by Labour that I can recall. But clever nonetheless. So, May will win tomorrow but hasn’t really earned it. But why has CC done so well and May so badly?
The Conservative campaign has been described as ‘presidential.’ My view is that the Prime Minister initially set out to attempt to be anything but presidential. I believe her aim was to restore some gravitas and dignity to the office and to do so by avoiding electioneering stunts with hi-vis jackets and hard hats or rolled up sleeves with a pint in hand being a ‘man of the people,' as every PM since Mrs T has at some point attempted and mostly failed to do. The approach has failed though. She has come across more as something between a sub post office mistress and a doctors receptionist. Worse, until this week those ministers with a strong intellectual belief and understanding of their departments and policies, and a charm with which to communicate them, have been hidden from view. The manifesto was, I thought, much better than the press it received suggested. Despite being more 6 null Left wing than I would like I think I understand what the intended broad thrust was. In fact, it was woefully undersold and there were plenty of points which have resonance with the electorate that deserved some flesh on the bones such as the aspirations to build out the digital infrastructure so that every home has access to hi speed broadband by 2020.
The Conservative manifesto also suggests a policy of student debt forgiveness for student nurses but is limited in its scope. The Conservatives should listen to Crumble, expand it and make a noise about it. I have long argued against the current loan regime, (how can a compound rate of 6.5% be justified in the current low rate environment? It is usury, plain and simple. A £42k student debt with compound interest at 6.5% will be £80k in ten years time). At a minimum, HMG should be offering students electing to do courses which have a direct benefit to the country, (computer science, medical, social work, teaching etc) and where there is need, discounts which increase with length of service. This should be extended to those who subsequently go into a government job where they make a career sacrifice to do so. Further, young people who engage in voluntary work on either a charitable or local government basis, join initiatives such as Teach First, or serve in the Reserves should also benefit from a discount. Given most loans will anyway remain unpaid HMG may as well attempt to derive some benefit from them for the national good. In committing to this the Conservatives would lay the foundation for some sort of vision for the under 30’s which has been the biggest miss of the entire campaign. In fact, the Tories have been watching a completely different movie and have left the young with little incentive to vote for them. Usually, when people start talking about ‘the vision,’ it is time to switch off and walk away but in this instance, a better articulated view of how the UK is going to come to terms with accelerating developments in computer power, automation, robotics and biotech against a backdrop of rapidly changing demographics would have been a good thing. A simple statement such as ‘All primary school children will be taught elementary coding by part time students and graduates who will enjoy a level of student debt relief commensurate with commitments made,’ would at least put a marker down and be duly noted by the young vote. Oh and while I am on the subject of students it’s about time HMG shook down the universities and tackled head-on the weak value proposition that so many students are paying for in terms of poor and sporadic teaching on three year courses which, in many subjects, could easily be done in two.
The Dementia Tax episode was just woeful. Again, there is some good rationale to it which would leave most if not all better off than they would be today but the delivery was mistimed and misunderstood. The big, (and getting bigger), problem we have in the UK is that since Labour years ago weaponised the NHS the chances of having a rational discussion about it are round about zero. Back in 1978 my geography teacher, Mr MacKay told us that with the then rate of growth by 2027 we would all either be working for the NHS or be patients of the NHS. Mr McKay was a lot smarter than most of our politicians. Their selfish and infantile thinking precludes debate about potentially innovative and creative solutions to a growing problem and 6 null is contemptible. The other big problem for the NHS is that it has become the default dustbin for everyone in society with any kind of problem, medical or not. That, with a galloping sense of entitlement encouraged by idiot politicians from its users produces unsustainable and unreasonable demand. If citizens in Ireland pay for GP’s appointments what makes us so special that we shouldn’t do the same? The whole national approach to the NHS, and the expectations that we have of it are in heavy need of recalibration rather than the national state of denial which exists. A general election though, is not the time to do it.
Tory strategists clearly thought they were being clever by occupying the centre ground and edging slightly to the left, presumably with the intention of pushing Corbyn further out to the extremes of policy. Unfortunately for them, they were left looking flat-footed when Corbyn outflanked them and has had the bare faced cheek, as someone who has voted against all Anti Terrorisim Acts, to start selling himself as a friend of the police and security services and a bastion of law and order. I am left incredulous that some believe the outrageous nonsense he has been promulgating. Fortunately, the electorate are not as stupid as Corbyn needs them to be in order to win. Let’s though, just remind ourselves of some of the things that would disappear if Comrade Corbyn actually won, (I'll see you all in the hills then....)
The 'Five Eyes' Intelligence Sharing Agreement
Low Interest rates
High Net Worth Individuals
All the Regimental Silver (to be returned to its original owners)
The Elgin Marbles (and everything else cluttering up the British Museum)
Public Schools, Grammar Schools, Academies
The House of Lords
Our International Reputation
Statues of famous statesmen
Premium of the pound over the Euro