Shortly after Theresa May took over from David Cameron, a friend and I had a disagreement, which I am sure was replicated up and down the land. He felt strongly, that as an ‘unelected Prime Minister’, May was, or should have been, compelled to call a general election. Though no Tory, I took the opposite view. I pointed out, the for better or worse, the United Kingdom is a parliamentary, rather than a presidential, or even semi-presidential (like France) democracy. It is quite straightforward, we, the electorate, vote for a candidate to become our MP, not PM.
My friend stated that he believed most people, these days, voted for the candidate belonging to the party whose leader they wanted to be the next Prime Minister. I countered that I believed this to be overstated, that there were many voters who held a particular candidate, more often than not, a sitting MP, in high regard, and/or affection.
Similarly, there are, I argued, a great many people who have always voted for, and will continue to vote for a particular party. That being said, party loyalties perhaps are not what they once were. One only has to look at the demise of the once dominant Labour Party in Scotland. Then there are those in the middle, for whom the like of Blair, Cameron, Clegg and the like, are pretty interchangeable. Today, not yet a year later, I find myself reconsidering.
It seems to me, that the media, and many politicians, are keen for this general election to be fought largely as if it were a presidential election, with the personalities (or, lack thereof) of the two main rivals given more prominence than ever before. Somewhat ironically, whilst we have become used to, and now even expect, the leaders’ debates, which we first saw here in 2010, and again in 2015, Theresa May is not taking part, and because not, neither is Jeremy Corbyn.
Despite attempts from politicians, including Boris Johnson (just this morning on Peston on Sunday), ably assisted by much of the media, to make #GE2017 all about May versus Corbyn, thus making this general election the most presidential in style yet, the only two people with a realistic chance of being Prime Minister after June 8th, are not taking part in head to head debates, with each other, and with the leaders of the other ‘major’ political parties.
Theresa May’s decision not to take part, could be construed as arrogance, or cowardice, or both. With a consistently commanding lead for the Tories in the polls, one can see how she might have come to the conclusion that it is an unnecessary risk for her to take part. Although Corbyn has repeatedly challenged May to take part in a debate, I cannot help but find his refusal to do so, unless the Prime Minister does, downright disrespectful to those of us who vote for alternatives to the Labour and the Tories.
How depressing, that in this general election, arguably the most important in a generation, all that the mainstream media seems to want to do is sow doubt about Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to Britain’s nuclear Viagra, and repeatedly cast up his refusal to unequivocally condemn the IRA, whilst mostly glossing over Theresa May’s many deficiencies.
Indeed, they appear to be doing everything they can to talk up the Tories chances, nowhere more so that here in Scotland. Ah, well, at least we have our leaders’ debates to look forward to, though something tells me that talk of a second independence referendum will take up more time than it probably ought to.
It is official. This afternoon, the Prime Minister, standing outside 10 Downing Street, let there be no doubt, Brexit has driven the British Establishment batshit crazy. It was bad enough, when late last year, the Daily Mail labelled three high court judges “Enemies of the People”, for ruling that the Government could not use royal prerogative to invoke article 50, and those still opposed to Brexit as “Bremoaners”, accusing them of a plot to “subvert the will of the British people”.
Things got even more sinister, when failed, former Tory leader, Michael Howard claimed that Theresa May would go to war to protect Gibraltar. But at least that could be more or less written off as an unhelpful intervention from a daft old duffer, craving attention. Not so today. Today’s madness came from the Prime Minister, Theresa May, herself. She said,
“In the last few days we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be. Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press. The European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on June 8.”
It seems as though Theresa has gone all Trump on us, imagining interference, where there is none. It may well be that Team Theresa, do in fact believe, as the Daily Mail (again) would have it, that the EU are “ganging up” on them. What did they expect? The EU and the UK were never going to be negotiating on equal terms. One is a supranational union, a members only club, among the world’s largest trading blocs, made up of 27 nations, the other is not. The other, having decided to leave the EU, is just an ordinary medium sized country, made up of four nations, the largest of which still harbours a strong (if utterly deluded) sense of exceptionalism.
The British Establishment have no cause for complaint. If they were in a position to bully and berate, to domineer and dominate the EU, then they would not hesitate for one minute to do so. It is what they do, and what they have always done, whenever they have been in a position to do so. You do not have to look any further than here in Scotland to see that. We are told not only what we need, what we want, and what we will get, but that we must also be grateful for it.
Unless the EU, by some miracle or other, can bring enough influence to bear upon the British public, as to deliver a Liberal Democrat government on June 8th, there is little or nothing to be gained by making “threats” and “misrepresentation”, as the Theresa May, rather hysterically suggested. I strongly suspect that her words were deliberately designed to infuriate Brexiteer Little England, resulting in voters rallying behind the Tories at the ballot box. If so, it is contemptible, cynical, and not at all clever, though it will most probably work (with readers of the Daily Mail and the like, at any rate).
Though the British Establishment, deluded and lacking self-awareness, have yet to accept that they are just not going to get a better deal out of the EU, than in, Team Theresa perhaps have. As ever, the Tories are utterly incapable of seeing beyond the immediate to short-term. This, as far as I can recall, has been the case my entire lifetime. It partly explains why the UK is in the state that it is in. Do we, in Scotland, really need to be saddled with such short-sighted stupidity?