So, I was preparing for this to be a bit of a quiet day on the election front today. Local elections tomorrow, so the parties would be getting their ducks in a row for that, and perhaps the media would be paying a bit more attention to them as well. (Which prompts a thought, how do polling day reporting restrictions affect general election coverage tomorrow) I mean, there might have been some mileage to be had out of David Davis having a Nicola Murray moment as he stood in front of the latest Tory election poster, but not too much beyond that.
Then Theresa May decided to mark her formal visit to the Queen for the dissolution of Parliament with a speech in Downing Street. Now, having just done a formal, essentially apolitical duty of the Prime Minister, one would expect that the following speech would be of a similar nature. But these aren’t normal times, and this isn’t a normal election so instead we got what would probably be called a rant in many other times in which she accused the EU of apparently timing the release of information to affect the election. An election that’s only happening because she sprung it on us two weeks ago. An election that’s only happening because she insisted we had to activate Article 50 before the end of March, regardless of whether or not the Government had a plan for what they wanted out of negotiations. And an EU that apparently tries to influence elections in Britain by leaking information to German newspapers, which take almost a day for anyone in Britain to notice.
It’s scary stuff because at the same time as she ramping up the nationalistic rhetoric, she’s also running what’s probably the most personal General Election campaign everywhere. ‘Conservatives’ has been relegated to an insignificant blob in the corner of posters, while ‘Theresa May’ is plastered in larger and larger letters, and she calls not for a vote for her party, but for her personally to negotiate with an EU she seems set to spend the next five weeks demonising in the sort of terms that even the most ardent UKIPper might have thought were going a bit overboard twelve months ago. And with five months to go, and the way elections consume rhetoric and demand new spins, we’re only going to see it get worse. How long till we get opponents of the government being denounced as traitors? They won’t jump straight there, but I can see someone dropping in a reference to ‘aiding foreign powers’ in an interview (which the interviewer will miss picking up on because they’re too focused on their own script, of course). That’ll be followed up by a few more similar references, a few tame columnists dropping the T-word into their bloviation and who knows where we’ll end up? The idea of a speech like May’s today would have been unthinkable only recently.
In the face of this sort of rhetoric, you’d think the opposition might come together and set aside their differences. And if you do think that, hello and welcome to what must be your first exposure to British political parties. After nonsense from Lewes Greens last week, I can now share equal-opportunity idiocy with these piece from Liberal Democrat Voice and Progress proving that the ridiculously bad takes on the concept of working together are equally spread across the parties.
So, here’s one last pitch from me to various people on the left (including those in France who really want to stop the fascism of Le Pen but aren’t willing to vote Macron to actually do it). We understand that politics is about trying to solve collective action problems, where people have to do things that may not be favourable to them or they may not like in the short term (pay more taxes, use less resources etc) to achieve something that’s good for everyone in the long term (better infrastructure, stopping climate change etc). So if we want people to do that on a larger scale, surely we should be able to set the example by doing that on a smaller scale in elections. It’s conservatives who are meant to be searching for a ‘moral justification for selfishness‘, not us.
And finally, Election Leaflet Of The Day where, stung into action by Keir Starmer yesterday, another big hitter is having his face stuck through letterboxes. Nick Clegg’s back on the campaign trail in Sheffield Hallam, taking aim at both Tories and Labour as he waits to see which one of them turns out to be his main opposition this time. Tomorrow’s the last day for the local elections, so we should likely soon be drowning in general election leaflets, allowing this part of the daily roundup to reach its snarking peak as the more bizarre leaflets will start appearing.
Good luck (and a good night’s sleep the night before) to all of you in the local elections tomorrow. You might even get a day off after them before having to go into full general election mode.
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on May 3, 2017.