Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Some thoughts on the general election

The story of the last election, in 2015, was the collapse of the Lib Dem vote with the result that the Tories gained a majority - and we've all seen the consequences of that over the last 2 years. The story of this election may well be the collapse of the UKIP vote, and it could mean the Tories picking up even more seats, exactly as happened in the recent council elections.

There are many constituencies where UKIP will not stand this time, a tactic intended to deliver more Tory MPs. My hope is that this will fail, and Theresa May’s opportunistic gamble to try to get a huge majority will have been in vain.

So I want as few Conservative wins as possible, and I’d like to see the Liberal Democrats picking up seats again because every win against the Tories is a further restriction on what Theresa May can push through.

In the context of negotiations with the EU, “strong” means refusing to listen and “stable” means refusing to compromise - leading, in my view, to the worst possible Brexit deal. And in domestic politics “strong and stable” means being able to get away with so much more of what we’ve seen from the Tory government in recent years.

There are a few excellent Tory MPs who have opposed the worst excesses of their government since the Conservatives gained a majority 2 years ago - for example, Heidi Allen - but if Theresa May gets her landslide victory even that will no longer be possible.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has, I believe, run a highly effective and positive campaign, and I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if most of his MPs had been consistently behind him instead of opposing him.

With regard to this election, anyone who hasn’t seen him working a crowd of cheering supporters and speaking with passion and spontaneous humour should really take a look - it’s a different Jeremy Corbyn from the lacklustre leader appearing at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. There are policies I disagree with in the Labour manifesto, mainly because I think they are unrealistic, but I do not fear the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn’s party doing well.

A general election is about individual candidates, though. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader, has been an excellent MP and I hope she wins her seat. There are also many Liberal Democrats, including former ministers, who paid the price for getting the country through the worst years of the financial crisis and, if re-elected, would serve their constituents and the country well in opposing the policies of a Tory government.

Overall, it is only by voting for the candidate most likely to beat the Tory in each constituency that we can deprive Theresa May of the huge majority she is seeking.