A few weeks ago, I wrote a satirical piece on the electoral choice facing British voters during this election. As much as I cynically grumbled about being uncertain, I was actually in fairly good spirits, confident that, over the coming weeks of manifestos and speeches, I would soon know exactly which party to vote for.
Now, the good spirits have gone, but the cynicism and uncertainty have remained – and indeed deepened. To be honest, I am somewhat depressed by the miserable state of British politics as it faces us today.
The manifestos came out, and I read them – yes, there is somebody sad enough to actually read the party manifestos. However, I almost wish I hadn’t bothered. All of the documents, regardless of party allegiance, were thoroughly uninspiring – written in the same irritating Westminster style of prose, vague and full of cheap shots at their opponents. There were a few gems in each, but nothing which screamed out at me as being a clear winner. For every good policy proposed, there was an awful one, in every single manifesto.
Of course, elections are not just about the soon-to-be-broken promises of the manifestos – it is also, as the Tories have been keen to stress, about leadership and credibility. Unfortunately, none of the current candidates on offer have much of either.
Jeremy Corbyn remains lacklustre. He continues to expound a tired, outdated politics – it’s not quite ‘back to the 70s’, but in general it seems very backward-looking and based on ideology rather than pragmatism. Labour appears to be running on a general principle of ‘throw lots of money at the problem in the hope that we can drown it’; quantity over quality is the order of the day with their promises. Semi-coherent policies are mixed with fairly nonsensical, ideologically-motivated ones – their obsession with nationalisation, for instance. Also worrying for me is their dubious vagueness on many issues, but most especially defence – the latter barely gets a decent mention, and considering Jeremy Corbyn’s record on foreign policy, I would expect an even darker period for HM Armed Forces under his tenure, at a time when they need all the support they can get.
Labour’s much-vaunted cost sheet is, frankly, a load of nonsense – people are acting as if it proves the party is credible, when if you actually look at the document it misses off key elements and is wildly optimistic on the figures it does provide. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour strikes me as neither fresh, nor modern, nor credible, nor competent.
However, I will give it to Mr Corbyn, at least he seems to be giving it his all and is really fighting for an election he knows he will probably lose. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, seems to be treating the electorate almost with contempt in her secrecy and refusal to engage. I have lost a lot of respect for Mrs May over the last few weeks; she has been cagey, hard-to-pin down and almost arrogant at times. While I couldn’t give a damn about the televised leadership debates – they are always a farcical brain-melt of practiced quips and soundbites – it is still poor form of Mrs May to not even bother to attend, or debate Mr Corbyn on an equal footing, especially as she is the one promoting herself as the stronger leader.
Her manifesto was mostly fine, though there were a smattering of idiotic policies which really stood out – stupid populist ideas like freezing energy prices (something Labour was condemned for proposing two years ago) jostle with half-baked social care reforms. The fact that the Conservatives changed their position on the latter only days after launching the initial manifesto strikes me as neither strong nor stable. The party’s lack of a costing document is not super worrying per se, but it does add to the impression of the Tory campaign being overly secretive and stage-managed.
And then we come to the Liberal Democrats, the usual recipient of my vote – and the party despairingly endorsed by The Economist this week. I would love to feel secure enough to vote for them, I really would. They are far more moderate and likeable than either Labour or the Conservatives, and their manifesto was generally quite decent. However, there are two major turn offs for me. First is their irritating refusal to truly accept that Britain voted for Brexit, and their continued attempt to ignore the fact that the majority of voting Britons did indeed vote Leave. At this stage, their whiny attempts to stay bolted to the continent at all costs just seems rather pathetic – and this is coming from someone who voted Remain. Secondly, the problem of leadership. As per usual, the Lib Dems have found in Tim Farron a leader who seems like a decent chap, but who is otherwise a complete non-entity. He almost entirely lacks credibility or any sense of gumption as a leader, and usually comes off as rather weak and tacky.
The Greens’ manifesto was barely worthy of the name, being more of a bulletpoint list of vague ideas than concrete policies. They are proposing a form of universal basic income, which I have found intriguing for a long time, but otherwise their policies are fairly predictable – and forgettable. Caroline Lucas gets a lot of respect from me in general, but I’m not voting for her party this time. They still seem amateurish when they really shouldn’t, having seemingly ditched most of their old environmental credentials (on which I have already written) to become just another ‘lefty-liberal’ party. It’s a damn shame that at this election they have stayed on this course, and not changed in any meaningful or positive way.
I’m not even going to bother with UKIP.
So, I have an awful array of choices to make next week. The parties and their policies all seem either incompetent, secretive, half-baked or just plain stupid. I honestly don’t know who I’m going to vote for – there isn’t even any point voting tactically because both of my potential constituencies are solidly safe seats for Labour, where my vote doesn’t matter anyway. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m strongly tempted just to spoil my ballot on the 8th of June. Sod ‘em. I don’t like any of them, so why the hell should they get my grudging stamp of approval?
I’m feeling strongly anti-Westminster at the moment, as you can probably tell. Sometimes, I half-jokingly muse upon whether or not Guy Fawkes had the right idea.