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.