Out of the blue, Theresa May has called a snap general election for June 8. For reasons that are beyond me, Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed the decision and says Labour are ready to fight. Maybe he’s looking forward to his inevitable pasting so he has an excuse to return to being a minor nuisance on the back benches, who knows?
For those of us that would like to see the Tories held to some sort of account, this isn’t particularly great news. Given her 20 point lead over her opposite number, it would be something miraculous if the Conservative party didn’t emerge on June 9 with a huge majority. Whilst a few backbench MPs could band together to defeat the government’s slender majority now, post election they’ll find themselves without as much clout, giving free reign to May to implement whatever policies she fancies.
Whilst the Tory faithful will be cock-a-hoop at this, those of us who find May’s particular brand of authoritarianism somewhat troubling should be concerned. From her time as home secretary onwards, May has shown a proclivity towards big statism bordering on the downright frightening.
Whether it be opting us back into the egregious European Arrest Warrant – something yet to be ruled out of Brexit talks – the introduction of the Data Retention Investigatory Powers Act, later deemed to be unlawful, which sought to restrict internet freedom, or the Snooper’s Charter which may just be the most Orwellian piece of legislation this country has ever seen, the affronts to individual liberties are numerous.
Throw in Extremism Disruption Orders, which are so vague and poorly thought out they represent a real threat to freedom of speech, and the changes to pornography laws, for example, banning certain acts being depicted in films produced in the UK, and it’s clear that our current government believes it knows what’s best for you, and it should be able to make sure you’re doing what it says.
It’s not just in the realm of civil liberties that the Tories are a party of big government though. Hammond has all but abandoned austerity, and May’s speech when she became PM was positively Miliband-like, with talk of cracking down on executive pay and putting workers on boards.
The proposed hike in National Insurance was abandoned after it flew in the face of a manifesto promise, but you can bet there will be no such promise this time around. So much for the Tories being the party of the self-employed, working man aspiring to a better life. Who do we vote for if we want low taxes and constrained public spending?
And then there’s Brexit. It’s increasingly clear that the Tories are essentially winging it when it comes our withdrawal from the European Union, and don’t really have a firm grasp of the sheer amount of work involved. The hard brexit favoured by May’s approach is likely to result in a sub-optimal situation once we leave, but where are we supposed to turn for an alternative?
Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that Labour will respect the referendum result, though bar some confused messaging on the customs union (to put it charitably) there’s no real indication what a ‘Labour Brexit’ would look like. Indeed, following the triggering of Article 50, the official start of Brexit negotiations and the largest diplomatic and political undertaking this country has seen in decades, Corbyn chose to hold the government’s strategy to account by announcing a nonsensical free school meals policy. Hardly feet to the fire stuff.
As for the Liberal Democrats, they may well find themselves in a healthier position than they currently do as they hoover up those ultra pro-remain votes, but as their approach to brexit is that there shouldn’t be a brexit at all, you can hardly rely on them for proper scrutiny either. Meanwhile UKIP are wandering around virtually headless, and the Greens make Jeremy Corbyn look like a paragon of economics.
This could very well be the most one-sided general election in quite some time, but for those of us that value fiscally responsible government, an orderly brexit process, and strong civil liberties, there is virtually no-one enticing us to put our cross next to their party come polling day.
This leaves three options: don’t vote, spoil your ballot, or go for the Monster Raving Loonies. You can’t argue with a summer ice lolly allowance for OAPs.