2017 General Election Diary Day 2: Into the valley of death rode the 650
A small piece of history today as Parliament voted to dissolve itself for the first time. Like all momentous historical decisions, it was taken after a 90-minute debate that they’d only had twenty four hours notice of, but that’s still actually more democratic than just making dissolutions solely at prime ministerial fiat. By such small steps do we stumble towards democracy, and then canter into a general election that’s been called specifically because the Prime Minister doesn’t think that a Parliamentary majority gives her enough unchecked power to do whatever she wants.
And with that, everyone went off onto the campaign trail. Learning the lessons from yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn ventured outside and found some Labour people to stand around him on a street in Croydon. Tim Farron went to Richmond Park to do the same, while Theresa May remembered one good thing she learned from David Cameron — how to make it look like you’re at a big event when you’re not. I guess we can expect seven weeks of her giving very similar speeches in front of Tory activists holding up signs, while no one in the media points out that these campaign rallies aren’t even vaguely close to the size of the American events they’re trying to emulate. In so many ways we are now just the Poundland America.
Today’s potentially interesting development is that the broadcasters intend to carry on with having debates and are threatening to empty chair May if she continues to say she won’t take part. Given her current track record on election promises, I think we can safely expect that she will decide to do it in the end, and the press will all tell us how it’s actually a masterstroke of leadership and decision making, not a hasty U-turn. Either that, or they’ll just remove the whole empty chair thing and let the other leaders bicker amongst themselves without her there as someone to focus on. Which would probably fit with the giant circular firing squad this election’s turning into for everyone but the Tories.
Aside from that, the main election news so far is about who’s standing and who’s not. George Osborne’s down to just five jobs after announcing he’s not running again, and so traffic jams should be expected on the M6 as wannabe MPs descend on Cheshire trying to work out exactly where Tatton is so they can claim they’ve always known about the area and would love to represent it. (There are similar queues on the southbound M1 as Lib Dem wannabes turn away from Sheffield Hallam after Nick Clegg announced he is standing again) Gisela Stuart’s joining the ‘we broke it, but we don’t have to stay around to fix it’ club and not standing again, and with Alan Johnson going as well, it means the heads of Labour Leave and Remain will both be missing from the next Parliament.
Two days gone and the election’s definitely on. There’s no stopping this seven week ride towards whatever strange destination we end up in, but from the signs of the early polling it’s probably not going to be a pretty one.
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on April 19, 2017.