Thursday, 5 December 2019

General Election Commentary - We are all grown ups, so why can't we act like it when we talk politics?

There is a prevailing view that we need to view people with opposing political views as the enemy and in some way evil. This is not only sad, but it is corrosive and devalues us all. I do not believe that either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn are intrinsically evil or bad people. I disagree with things both have done, and to be brutally honest, I wouldn't fancy an evening in the pub with either. They have also both made mistakes as leaders of their party, they both support policies I disagree with, but there is far more that they have in common than you may realise. Lets have a look at what they have been demonised for. Boris has been demonised for not being a very faithful husband, having been divorced several times. Jeremy Corbyn has also been married three times. Both are pet owners, Boris has a pooch and Jeremy has a cat (he had a dog previously). Both have children. They both have siblings. They are both mavericks and outsiders who have made it to the top of their party. Both had a private education. 

It is interesting to note that both are not fans of their predecessors in the role. Boris has criticised the austerity policies of David Cameron and Theresa May, whilst Jeremy disagreed with just about everything Blair and Brown did. Both are not afraid to say unpopular and inflammatory things. Whilst those on the left state that the Conservatives are responsible for the deaths of people who's benefits have been cut and removed and see this as a sign of evil intent, sadly it is far more likely to be caused by complete ignorance of life on the breadline in the UK in 2019. As to those who claim Corbyn is an anti semite, I am pretty sure that the likes of John Bercow would not state Corbyn is no such thing, if there was any evidence. There is a parallel with the Tory denial of the misery of benefits sanctions. I believe that Corbyn simply doesn't understand how his actions are seen by many in the Jewish community. He believes he hasn't got a racist bone in his body, so he dismisses his critics, without realising that the Labour Party hasn't dealt either swiftly or appropriately with many instances of anti semitsim. 

The reason I mention all of this is because the ever rising levels of abuse and insults are not healthy. We should not excuse politicians of  bad behaviour. When Boris talks of "Bum boys" or Jeremy refuses to kick out anti semites, we should call them out, but in reasoned and calm tones. There is no need to be hysterical in our conversation. One of these two men will most likely be Prime Minister, unless there is a very unpredictable result. You may not like it, but that is democracy and we will all have to accept it. 

There are people on the fringes of politics, especially on the hard right, who do need to be vigorously opposed. The previous century showed exactly what happens when we don't, but neither Corbyn nor Johnson are extremists. When people call Corbyn a Marxist, they simply do not understand what a Marxist is or what the Communist Manifesto actually proscribes. If Labour fully implemented its manifesto, there would be far less nationalisation than there was at the end of the Ted Heath era in 1974, when everything from steel, to coal to airports were all nationalised. Even his plans for rail, would have virtually nothing in common with the pre privatisation BR. 

As for Boris, he is a Chameleon. I genuinely have no idea whether he is a one nation Tory or a demagogue. It is interesting to note that Joseph Stalin gained power in the USSR by conning his colleagues that he was  a nice, reasonable chap, ignoring Lenins warnings. I don't think Boris is a Stalin (but then neither did the Communist central committee when they selected him). I think he's more of a Ted Heath and I think he's likely to be equally successful in power. He is definitely not a monetarist, so the Thatcherites are in for a big shock. Boris is an old Etonian, so he has been being prepared for power all of his life. He will intrinsically understand how the levers of power and the British establishment and class system work. He doesn't want to take a wrecking ball to the establishment and he doesn't want to address inequality. I would imagine that what he does want is a successful economy, geared so that himself and those in his social bracket can do very well thank you. 

You may dislike this fact, but does it make Boris a monster? I believe that we ultimately get the Prime Minister we deserve in a democracy. If we get Boris, we know what we are getting. A man who is 'economical with the truth', a man who believes in inequality and the class system. We don't know what sort of shape that will be, but I don't believe that those who oppose Boris will be too surprised. Or we could elect Jeremy Corbyn. Again, we know what he stands for. He wants to take a wrecking ball to the class system and the establishment. He stands for an economic package that the Yes Minister civil servants would describe as "rather ambitious and very brave". I suspect that should Jeremy confound the critics and opinion polls and win, his administration and policies will bear little relation to what the Sun has predicted. I fully expect him to be far more cautious than anyone expects. This is as much because he is a ditherer. I believe that the main cause of his problems with Labour antisemitism is down to dithering and inability to make a decision. I expect the same paralysis to hit when the civil service put the bare facts of what his policies mean before him. I think it is likely that he'll resign within a year and John McDonnell to be the PM. John isn't a ditherer.

The big fly in the ointment for Boris and Jeremy is that they have to not only win opinion polls, but have to command a parliamentary majority. I believe that all of the smaller parties will have more seats and we'll be back in coalition/ minority government territory. I expect the Lib Dems to pick up 25-50 seats and the SNP to knock out a few Scottish Tories, now that their charismatic leader Ruth Davidson has gone. I also expect the Greens and Plaid Cymru to pick up a few seats.  There have been reports of 2 million young people registering to vote. This may well save Jeremy Corbyn from the sort of drubbing that the press has been predicting. I believe that quite a few seats will change hands unexpectedly. Today the Brexit party more or less imploded, with several MEP's defecting to the Tories. I don't think this will play as well with Brexiteers as the Tories would hope. It has simply shown that Tory Brexiteers are up for sale. In the Labour heartlands, where Labour Brexiteers were considering voting for the Brexit Party, they will see that this is simply a sham to secure a Tory government. This may have the opposite effect than that hoped for by Jacob Rees-Moggs sister. 

Ultimately though, we are all grown ups. We have to debate these issues like grown ups. This means being polite and respecting other peoples opinions. Last week I grabbed a pint in The Bridge Tavern with Mill Hill Tory Councillor John Hart. We thought that seemed like a better option than standing in the cold and rain. We don't agree on much in the sphere of politics, but we had a pleasant and interesting chat, mostly about things totally unrelated to politics and the election. That really is how it should be. 

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