Politics is a precarious path for a career, that’s for sure. Not so long ago, Theresa May was flavour of the month. The new strong woman, adored by many of the rank and file supporters, a better option than Thatcher; less abrasive, no annoying children, and smartly dressed too, in designer clothes.
Even though she hadn’t supported leaving the EU, she boldly threw her hat into the ring to succeed Cameron, emerging as the new leader with her own catchphrases, ‘Brexit Means Brexit’, and ‘Strong And Stable’. Even her enemies had to concede that she had a handle on things, and that she epitomised the Conservative ideology in a way that the public schoolboys preceding her never could.
Somewhere along the way though, it all went very wrong. Perhaps she was badly advised, or maybe the whole thing just went to her head. She could have waited out the term of the government, got on with the job, and led the negotiations around leaving the EU. But she wanted more. Personal approval, public affirmation of her leadership, and the possible destruction of any viable opposition.
So she called an election. One she was expected to win. One I thought she would win. I expected a Conservative landslide, the end of Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader, and successive Conservative governments ruling unhindered until my dying day. All she had to do was to keep her nerve, and not disclose the reality of their policies. Say a few nice things, meet a few real people, including some who didn’t agree with her. Get her hands a little dirty on the campaign trail, and try to come across as someone behind the mask, and that iron grey hair.
But no. Instead, she decided to tell us what was best for us. The rich would continue to get richer, the poor could stay where they belong, and everyone in the middle would just do as they were told. She scolded her greatest supporters, the elderly, by taunting them with the prospect of selling their houses to pay for social care. She would not increase their pensions, and would means-test them for every benefit and allowance. As for the young, they wouldn’t vote anyway, so they could all shut up.
Why bother to appear on national TV debates, to argue her point? Why meet people in deprived areas that she didn’t want to associate with? Better to travel to nice comfortable places, where she would be welcomed by the wealthy and unconcerned. Better to give solo interviews to reporters than to face questioning from plebs about her policies. She didn’t need to do any of that, she was certain. Her victory would be enormous, the insiders and the pollsters had all told her, and she believed them.
They got it wrong, and so did she. She emerged with a tiny majority, and had to seek support of the far right DUP to prop up her government. Anyone else would have admitted failure, and resigned. At the very least, they would have gone back to the country with another election, apologised for their previous errors, and sought a bigger mandate. But she decided to cling on, to become an embarrassing figure, a female John Major, going from ‘The Grey Men’, to ‘The Grey Woman’. Then came the additional mistakes. Refusing to meet the victims at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire, and refusing to give interviews to the BBC journalists at the scene. As her political opponents showed their chops by hugging homeless victims, and helping to shift boxes of aid, she hurried back in her car to the studios of the BBC, to give a ‘personal’ interview with one chosen reporter.
She then threw away any chance of redemption via that interview, by harping on about the same things, boasting about the £5 million in aid for the victims, but unable to tell the reporter when and how it will be given out. She refused to accept any government responsibility for ignoring safety warnings after similar fires, and repeated her prepared quotes like a broken record. She looked older already, the signature eye-bags bigger than ever, her posture slumped and defensive. The reporter eventually gave up, her voice tinged with frustration at the attitude from the leader of Great Britain.
Mrs May is on her way out of politics, that’s for sure. And she only has herself to blame.
Next Thursday, there is a General Election here in the UK. It has been hailed as the most important election since 1945, mainly because no party is expected to win. I don’t get the comparison at all. Labour swept to victory unexpectedly after the war, winning the 1945 election with an unheard of majority of 146 seats. They nationalised industries, inaugurated the National Health Service, and greatly improved the lot of the ordinary people across the UK.
Whatever happens next week, nothing momentous will happen as a result. If either of the main parties secure a working majority, it will be nothing short of a miracle. Whoever wins will be compelled to arrange shaky alliances with parties that they would normally never get into bed with, no doubt making promises that they will break, and doing deals that they will renege upon. The rise of UKIP was talked up a lot, but it is unlikely that they will get many seats. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is so ineffective that even traditional party supporters are reluctant to vote for him. The Conservatives promise much, and may sneak ahead at the last minute, with the voters worrying about the economy, and embracing the politics of self-interest. But even if they win, getting enough seats to form a government seems unlikely, so the deals and back-door negotiations will begin on Friday.
Some will use their votes as a protest, or not vote at all. Turnout in many areas is expected to be low. New powers have emerged in Scotland, with the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon getting much praise for her determination and fighting spirit. Her success could mean the end of the Labour Party as a national force, as it is far too dependent on its many seats in Scotland. The gloomy outlook is that we could see Conservative governments long into the future, further reducing the value of the working classes, and heralding a return to the bad old days before that 1945 election. They may need those shaky alliances to keep going, but as long as the opposition provides no alternative, the hung parliament, propped up by underhand deals, looks to become the norm in the UK.
Here in the UK, we are soon to have the chance to elect our members of the European Parliament. This is one of the elections that gets the least attention from the Great British Public, and the only one where proportional representation is used to determine the winners nationally. Like many voters, I am not a fan of proportional representation. We don’t really understand it, and we don’t like the idea that our vote might be transferred to someone completely different, in a second round ballot. There is a lot of coverage of the forthcoming elections on TV news, both nationally, and locally. If you didn’t know better, you could be forgiven for thinking that the average person is remotely interested.
The constituencies for members of the European Parliament from the UK are very large. It is impossible to see how the elected person could possibly hope to represent the diverse interests of the electorate from such a wide area. The costs of paying salaries and providing expenses for these members is well-known to be ridiculously high, and the fact that many of them just sign in and then go home again, is also well-reported. It is little short of a scandal that it exists at all, and the constant increases in running this European farce are unjustified, and unnecessary. We should all be very angry about it. We should be behind barricades, burning tyres in protest, We are not though, because we are just bored with it all. We cannot get out of it, and nobody in a position of power seems to genuinely want to escape the clutches of the Euro-monster that has us in a death-lock. If you are told enough times that there is nothing that you can do about it, then boredom sets in, along with its usual bedfellow, apathy.
The various parties are parading their platforms on TV news. Labour want to stay in, at all costs. Lib-Dem want to stay in at all costs. The Conservatives want to stay in at all costs, but add that they will promise a referendum on continued membership. But not until 2017, and only if they are the sole party in power. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) have gained ground, with an anti-European stance, and a pledge to keep the pound, and to oppose further immigration. Pundits predict that they will do well in these elections. So will this fervently anti-European party get us out of the EU? They can’t. It takes the government in power to do this, not the members of the European Parliament. Will they refuse to take their seats in protest, decline the salaries and expenses, to protest and to highlight the problem? Not a bit of it. They will take the wads of cash, turn up in Europe, and moan about being there. They can rest easy, knowing that they are unlikely to ever be in power in the UK, leaving them with the luxury of blaming the traditional parties for keeping us in. Hypocrites all. More members for the club of greed, opportunism, and hypocrisy that is the European Union.
Those other smaller parties, what of them? The Extreme Left is virtually non-existent now. The Greens want to stay in Europe, and the Extreme Right want out of it, but will never be in a powerful enough position to make that wish come true. So, after the election, we will see a list of those elected, with parties claiming victory, or conceding defeat. We will forget the name of our MEP as soon as we hear it, and the whole circus will continue, with this under-elected crowd getting rich from the system. Nothing will change, except for a few faces, and the sound of some speeches.
Is it any wonder we’re bored?