Thomas Rowson offers a lighthearted exploration of the positives and negatives of each political party.
Not that long ago, my brother George and I were talking about politics. Jokingly, we worked our way through all the political parties, and could find one major reason not to vote for each and every one of them. We laughed about this. Besides, it was just a bit of hypothetical banter, as the Prime Minister had stated, categorically, that there would be no general election until 2020. Two days later, Theresa May announced we would be having one in June this year. Suddenly, our jokes didn’t seem so funny.
Looking at it again, but with serious hats on this time, we faced a problem: we still had a major issue for each party. Serious political commentators will have been through every word of every manifesto from every party, but the average voter will have just looked to see who wants to do what on the big issues that affect them. They take a wider view and find the overarching problems that stop them voting for certain people. Often, that’s not to do with what’s in the manifestos, and more what they feel in their stomachs. Rest assured, they will all tell you the same thing; this is no normal general election.
More than ever, it seems that everything is all about personalities. The old ‘Remain’ bus from the Brexit campaigns last year has been given a new lick of paint, and has been trundling around the country with ‘Theresa May: For Britain’ emblazoned on the outside. Of course, it also has ‘Strong and Stable’ on there somewhere, just like the advertising van that fell over on the M6 from intense winds; oh, the irony. Many Conservative candidates have the phrase ‘Standing with Theresa May’ on their campaign boards. This isn’t an election for the Tories; it’s for Theresa. The problem here is that, just a few days before Britain goes to the polls, a YouGov survey found that, whilst the majority of those asked see the Prime Minister as ‘Strong’ and ‘Competent’, they also see her as ‘Out of Touch’, ‘Dishonest’, and ‘Dislikeable’. If this vote comes down to a personality contest, that might not bode well.
” Of course, it also has ‘Strong and Stable’ on there somewhere, just like the advertising van that fell over on the M6 from intense winds; oh, the irony.”
Here’s another issue: history is not on their side. Sure, the election was called because the opinion polls insinuated that the Conservatives would, in all likelihood, be increasing their majority if there was an election in May, but it’s a lot closer now then it was then. Theresa May did not win a general election to become Prime Minister, and the past suggests that unelected Prime Ministers don’t tend to do that well in the election that follows. James Callaghan was destroyed in the ballot by Margaret Thatcher, and Labour underperformed in 2010 under Gordon Brown. Even Sir Winston Churchill fell foul of this. He was appointed Prime Minister in 1940, led the country to victory in the Second World War, and was decimated by Labour and Attlee in the 1945 election. Now it isn’t the case that every unelected PM fails; Eden, Macmillan, and Major all triumphed, but the odds aren’t good for Heads of Government that come in part-way through a term.
For Labour, they have focused, as you might expect, on the party rather than Jeremy Corbyn. Compared to the Tories, there is very little of their leader on their publications. Some candidates have not put him on their leaflets at all. There’s a very good reason for this: he is a Marmite person. Normally, when people say ‘I’m a Marmite kind of person: people either love me or hate me’, what they mean is that everyone hates them. Corbyn is genuinely the most Marmite person in the world, in the proper sense of the phrase. People either seem to really love the man or really hate the man, with no middle ground. Interestingly, this appears to be the case at public, party, and supporter levels. Those who support him will vote for him no matter what he says; those who are against him will vote against him no matter what he says. Given this very dramatic and stark divide of opinion, you’d expect that this could be Labour’s biggest problem as far as individuals go.
Dianne Abbott had other ideas. In the week running up to the election, she has made a number of media appearances, almost all of which have gone extremely badly. The Shadow Home Secretary has got confused over Labour’s proposed budget for funding extra police officers on LBC, repeated refused to give a ‘yes or no’ answer to Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain as to whether a Labour government would use Trident if necessary, and was well out of her depth in a Sky News interview following the atrocities in London and Manchester. That last one was a complete debacle. The day before the election, she was removed from her position on the Shadow Cabinet, replaced by Lyn Brown. Allegedly, this is due to ill health, and we have nothing to prove otherwise. Politics being politics, rumours will be rife that the party leadership considered her a liability, and that this handily removes the problem.
The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, don’t have a personality problem. They have a leader in Tim Farron who appears genuine and who the public seem to have warmed to. He did pretty well in the TV debates too. In fact, there’s more than a few parallels to be drawn to the 2010 election, when Nick Clegg was seen as likable and the Lib Dems a genuine alternative to the two main parties. And this is where their problem lies. Like many students back in 2010, I voted for Clegg and the gang. The vast majority of my friends did too. They’ve always attracted the student vote. The worst thing for the party, in the end, was getting a taste of power through the coalition government. According to YouGov, 38% of people who voted for the Liberals in 2010 who don’t plan on voting for them this year won’t do so because of the broken promises from 7 years ago. Voters, it seems, have long memories.
UKIP have a bigger, more existential problem than that, and it has little to do with Nigel Farage no longer being at the helm (like him or loathe him, you can’t deny he galvanised his party). Following last year’s EU referendum, Britain has ‘reclaimed’ her ‘independence’, so what really is the point in the United Kingdom Independence Party? Yes, Brexit has to be negotiated, but the party has achieved what it set out to do. Many former voters and supporters have defected to the Tories, and the latest poll from Opinium has them securing 5 seats, on par with the SNP but behind the Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats. They also did not pause campaigning in the wake of the recent London terror attack, unlike every other party which did, because leader Paul Nuttall described this as ‘precisely what the extremists would want us to do.’ For a lot of people, that misses the point. The other parties stopped as a mark of respect to the victims; continuing to campaign does make it look a little bit like UKIP making the most of an opportunity. Thankfully for them, President Trump responded far worse in the aftermath, which probably stopped it from becoming a bigger issue.
Here in Essex, we don’t really have to factor in the Scottish National Party, but in the Land of the Brave they are very much stirring the pot to make sure it isn’t two-party politics. We can expect to see a few Scottish MPs in Westminster, but the divisive issue here is another independence referendum. Some people desperately want another one, others really don’t, and some just want to have a definitive answer. The SNP want to have this referendum, and won’t rule out a third one if they do it and again don’t get the result they want. This ‘neverendum’ could prove to be their undoing. And as for the Greens and the BNP, they remain peripheral parties; the problem for them is that they aren’t adequately in the mainstream for enough voters to consider them an option, which is a vicious circle that is difficult from which to escape.
“Thankfully for them, President Trump responded far worse in the aftermath”
So, we can find a reason for every party not to vote for them. But don’t let that discourage you, as there are multiple reasons for every party as to why you should vote for them. It might be that you think that the current foreign policy is a problem as far as terrorism is concerned, or you might think that the NHS does need £8 billion more in real terms over the next five years, or it might just be tactical to stop a different party from winning your seat; whatever it is, whilst there are reasons for any party not to vote for them, there is no reason not to vote. Don’t forget, there’s always the option of spoiling your ballot. You’re still taking part in the process, it still counts, and you show that there is no one for you worthy of your vote. It’s an option. It’s your choice. It’s a perfectly valid thing to do. You still are having your say.
There’s lots of ways to choose how you vote. Still stuck at the point of finding problems with everyone, I took a new approach. I looked back at the work of Animal Oracles, including Maggie the Monkey and Flopsy the Kangaroo. In 2010, at the football World Cup, Paul the Octopus made a series of amazingly accurate predictions for most of the games. As such, every time we got a political leaflet through the door, I gave it to Gracie, the family dog. This way, I could educate her more about this election that everyone was talking about, and see if she could help me decide who should get my vote. Over the course of the campaigns, I made sure she had something from every party, and the party whose leaflet she destroyed the least would be the winner.
She destroyed all of them. Completely. Oh well, back to square one.