It was always going to be a grim election campaign; that it became one punctuated by nauseating outbreaks of death-cult terrorism only added to the sense of freefall. Rolling news: eyewitness testimony and blue flashing lights, then it’s irony-addled oldies, bemoaning food bank existence and cuts in public services whilst proudly declaring an intention to switch from Labour to Tory (because Corbyn refuses to nuke anyone, and that family from Romania three doors down need deporting).
Yup; there’s something profoundly depressing about all of this. An election prompted by political expediency – the strong Commons majority for when Brexit goes tits up – and the cynicism powering the Conservative message has been pungent. Vacuous sloganeering isn’t a substitute for political discourse – not unless you view the electorate with contempt – but that’s how chief spinner Lynton Crosby has chosen to play it. That, and avoiding substance in the manifesto…
And going back on policy decisions…
And having a leader with all the charm, warmth and sincerity of Magda Goebbels…
And smearing Corbyn for having had a threesome with Ulrike Meinhof and Gerry Adams or some such…
And Jim fucking Davidson, standing in the rain outside a frozen food store with his shitty placard, wearing an expression that suggests he’s about to whip out his scissors, fashion a hole around the candidate’s mouth, then coax ‘little Jim’ out of his trousers for a little impromptu street pleasuring…
The concern here is that the Tories think the electorate are idiots. And should we vote for them in the numbers suggested by the polls, then we undoubtedly fucking are. Their campaign may have been – to be charitable – uninspiring, Theresa May cold and aloof, yet the nation’s collective hard-on for the hardest of Brexits appears to have trumped fears over the NHS, social care, education funding, and the simple fact that the Conservative party always have been – and always will be – the embodiment of evil.
Sure, we chuckled when Paxman called May a “blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire,” yet I fear any laughter will be pyrrhic come Friday morning.
In other news: here’s Jeremy Corbyn. I quite like the chap – it’s just a pity that he lacks the primary prerequisite to become leader of a country: leadership.
Or maybe that’s a little unfair. He may have spent the last 22 months presiding over a political entity that’s been very publicly self-immolating, but now that his parliamentary party has temporarily ceased with the backstabbing – the expectation that defeat at the ballot box will see him voluntarily exit, perhaps – we’ve been treated to a very different Corbyn. Yes; there’s been warmth and compassion (plus the occasional gaffe). Yet above all else, there’s a coherence hitherto buried beneath Labour’s internecine bickering. Keynesianism may be passé (and Nye Bevan isn’t on Instagram), but the party’s manifesto performs a remarkable impersonation of a costed, left-of-centre, neo-liberalism handbrake.
This was meant to be the Brexit election; the one in which the Prime Minister demanded our prayers and our Maundy coinage as she rode into battle with Brussels, and like genuflecting serfs in some Monty Python skit, we gladly presented her with all we had. And maybe it’ll still turn out that way, even if few are now talking landslide win. Yet Labour chose not to make exiting the EU the hill its own troops perished on – in part because its collective thinking on Brexit is as muddled as its views on Trident. Instead, Corbyn’s campaign has been a more of a meditation on recalibrating the relationship between the individual and the state – therefore appealing to leftist sentiment – whilst cannily (and subtly) acknowledging the fact that the British public aren’t ready to face up to the fact that Brexit is going to be one almighty clusterfuck.
Not too long ago I publicly pondered why Tim Farron has the demeanour of someone taken hostage in a urinal, resigned to the fact that there’ll be nothing for dinner except urinal cubes for the foreseeable – so I’m not going to be too charitable about the Liberal Democrats. That said, I suspect that the party’s position on Brexit – a referendum on the EU exit deal, just to make sure we’re fully conscious of the repercussions of we voted for in 2016 – will be proved the prudent stance, in retrospect. It’s just a shame that the Brexit-as-panacea crowd are still in full-on denial mode. Buy now, pay later. And don’t expect the 48% to ride to the rescue; call it referendum fatigue – or the misguided view that a slim majority voting to punch themselves in the face must mean that punching yourself in the face is suddenly collective wisdom – but if there were a strong enough conviction amongst all that voted Remain that the Brexit vote needs to be challenged, I rather suspect that the Lib Dems wouldn’t be flatlining in the polls.
I’ve never really understood the point of the Liberal Democrats (and I’m old enough to remember when they were plain old Liberals; any ambivalence way pre-dates their sordid acquiesce to the Cameron administration). I mean, vote for them if you must (although only if you live in a seat where the Lib Dem candidate is the one viable Tory challenger… and even then, I can’t guarantee that the ghost of Nick Clegg won’t visit you at 3am to do a little sick in your mouth, purely on principle…).
If the lack of a Lib Dem resurgence is looking like a safe bet, what else does this ridiculous and unnecessary clown’s arse of an election have up its magic sleeves? With the intellectual heavyweights who’ve previously voted Ukip deserting ship for the iceberg-headed SS Conservative, leaving but a rump of racists, nutjobs and Nick Griffin nostalgics to struggle to carve their x in a box (as opposed to, say, across the face of someone who looks a bit foreign), we can probably expect the party to be finally dispatched to the knacker’s yard, even if Gruppenführer Farage will still appear on TV more than ever. Caroline Lucas will still be a rare voice of sanity amidst the ambient political effluence. Much of Wales will turn Tory. But at least Northern Ireland will predictably be Northern Ireland (a DUP cheerleading for a stony-hard Brexit? Nope; no irony here. Especially not along the border. Move along, please).
But when it comes to dramatic tension, it’s Labour that I keep coming back to. A maverick socialist with a ragbag front bench and vilified by many of his Commons comrades won’t win the election (even if I hope I’m wrong, here). Yet Corbyn’s old-school approach to electioneering – alongside the retro flourishes to his policies – seem to have awoken something in the young, who may even get out of bed early enough to vote this Thursday. Of course, his intransigence over the merits of a Progressive Alliance sticks in the craw, his attitude to Brexit discombobulated, but he does something that Theresa May could never do – appear human. I even like it when he gets a little tetchy; it’s the type of thing we all do, in the real world.
Yes; much to our surprise, Jeremy Corbyn has had a strong campaign. Except for viewers in Scotland, who get their own programme.
Ah; yes; Scottish Labour. Is it possible to have a minus number of MPs? Minus not in “here’s how many MPs we’ve temporarily misplaced from our incredibly robust number,” but an actual, negative digit? Because the Scottish Labour party are on course for minus 48 MPs this time out.
Labour’s sworn enemies are greed and injustice and intolerance. Unless that greed and injustice and intolerance resides north of the border, in which case the genuine enemy appears to be the SNP.
In England and Wales, the airwaves ripple with grey-haired intellectuals – often in poverty-stricken constituencies – crediting Brexit for their sudden conversion to the Conservative cause. The view that Brexit is going to make everything alright, and even if it doesn’t, at least the do-gooders and the travellers and the Latvians and the European Court of Human Rights can fuck right off.
The Scottish twist is that the grey-hairs are migrating rightwards not-so-much to get their country back; instead they want to offer up their country’s future to the shysters and the hustlers at Tory HQ in Westminster – because self-determinism is a concept far too harrowing to contemplate, and powerful women such as Nicola Sturgeon should be dropping sprogs and doing the ironing, not governing a Scandinavian-style social democracy.
I’d love to chew the cud with Kezia Dugdale. I’d love to understand what truly motivates her, off the record, without the harrumph of electioneering. I’d like to think that she detests the politics of Ruth Davidson and Theresa May as much as any Labour supporter should do. I’d like to think she balances the Unionist inclinations of her party with the fact that – just like every SNP MP/MSP – she’s a centre-left politician aghast at the prospect of damage the Tories will merrily inflict upon society as a matter of course.
But Kezia Dugdale isn’t saying that.
Old, white, heterosexual men are horrifically over-represented when it comes to the political arena; voices that aren’t old, white, straight or male are desperately needed (and it’s to Scotland’s credit that Holyrood’s leaders are far more representative of society than the Westminster homogeny). So why is it that every time I see Kezia Dugdale speak I have the mental image of an old soak in a Govan boozer proudly pledging his new-found allegiance to the fucking Tories?
(Answer: it’s because if you uphold the patriarchy that is Unionism above all other considerations, your party deserves to be wiped out).
Yes/No referenda are dumb to the point of absurdity. They negate nuance; replace spectra of opinion with binary configurations of black vs white, right vs wrong, victors vs vanquished. Yet once released into the atmosphere – via a plebiscite on EU membership, for example, or a Yes/No independence offer – there’s a sense that the electorate get locked into that mindset. It’s already happened in Scotland – with the result that this election pitches SNP against the Conservatives. And now it’s happening in England and Wales, where Brexit is the facilitator for the Tories stomping over Labour’s aspirations.
So, there you have it. Another election, and another opportunity for the fine, upstanding citizens of our glorious nation to demonstrate they’re as fuckwitted as many of us had long suspected.
The next few years aren’t going to be a great deal of fun. I’m going to get drunk now. And keep drinking until November.