It’s just over a week before British citizens will quite unaccountably flood their local church halls to mark their papers.
Now everyone, say it with Boris: 3, 2, 1 … “This is the most important election of our lifetimes.”
Is it, though?
The Brexit issue is indeed significantly more consequential than we’re compelled to believe most election-time bugaboos are. It has been the overriding conundrum over the past five years, and for good reason. It’s the crux point, policy-wise, of the enormous Wensleydale wedge that’s emerged between the “men in the pub” and the “liberal elite.” Either “in” or “out” represents a direction for our country totally distinct from the other.
With every failed negotiation, every delay, every court case, I have become less and less enthusiastic about our prospects even if Brexit is achieved. What I have come to understand is that, like many, I’m pro-Brexit in theory.
I’m pro-Brexit if those in charge, by way of miraculous intervention, would both get a deal that is favourable to free trade and liberalisation, and then pursue a policy of individual empowerment and the opening up of markets at home. At the moment that seems as likely as the Independent Group for Change having any lasting impact whatsoever.
Decentralists will support even a hampered Brexit if it means regaining some control to the decision-makers at home. But what if those decision-makers are Harold Wilson with a blond wig, or Pol Pot 2.0?
Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson (with the Conservatives) has led with Brexit, promising a swift end to this laborious affair, provided his party manages to win a decent majority. Apart from that, the Tory manifesto is a host of spending pledges that New Labour might be proud of. They have dedicated billions to:
- Housing, mandating all homes must have modern insulation.
- Social care, with a vague pledge to eradicate the phenomenon of people selling their homes in order to afford care.
- 250,000 more extra childcare places.
- New hospitals.
- Continued rollout of Universal Credit and un-freezing benefit payment growth.
- A rise in pensions.
- Increasing the number of nurses by 50,000.
The party will be thankful that Labour’s spending plans are so utopian that they do not suffer the inconvenience of costing all of this. They have simultaneously promised no rise in income tax, VAT or National Insurance. Sounds good, but what about the debt? Why has that issue, so hot button for so long, been swiftly forgotten?
It’s by the by for parties to promise spending in exchange for a vote, and it seems like the Tories are trying to reach all the usual demographics here. It’s handy. It’s difficult to sell “austerity” – going the other way removes any opportunity for the opposition to accuse them of being evil misers hellbent on starving the poor.
Labour’s response is to go big. Under Jeremy Corbyn and John “Chavez is a hero” McDonnell, the party is not messing about. Their manifesto is like something from the post-war period, as if existing in a world where the Berlin Wall never fell, and Mao’s Great Leap Forward seemed like a solid idea.
They claim to want to remove all traces of privatisation from the NHS. Whether they want the stationary to be produced by Westminster is unclear. What they’ve put out in their manifesto is removing private provision of services within the NHS (which represents about 7%).
That would mean NHS could no longer refer to a private consultant. Patients must suffer the waiting lists. They also want to introduce a National Care Service, a NCS – free elderly care at the point of service for our increasingly aging population.
The pledge that’s really making me ill is the re-nationalisation of key industries. Yes, that’s right, the government, which we all know is awesome at running things, would take over the big six energy firms, the National Grid, the water industry, the Royal Mail, the railways and BT’s broadband services.
Again, in modern Labour’s world, the 1960s and -70s never happened. There were no blackouts, there were no mouldy trains that never turned up, there was no 3-day-week, and there were never any strikes. This is kamikaze policy-making. Nationalisation should have been ditched decades ago with the phlogiston theory of fire.
In their rush to pull together a manifesto for this snap election, Labour were also apparently drawing policy ideas from a hat – they want to make broadband free to everyone by 2030. There are too many questions to discuss this rationally – why so stingy, why not make it free now? Don’t most people have broadband already? And if not, given the rapid development of net tech, surely everyone will be covered well before 2030?
Labour’s plans are so comprehensive that there’s not enough space in this column to discuss them all. I would encourage you to take a look at this summary by the BBC, which by no means covers every imbecilic suggestion they’ve put forward.
It looks bad for the free market liberals, and the social libertarians – where’s the party looking to actually embrace capitalism and legalise the ganja already?