And so it begins…the alarming prospect of five more Tory years

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And so it begins…The general election campaign kicks-off officially today with when the current parliament is dissolved. As it currently stands, we face the alarming prospect of five more Tory years taking us towards a hard Brexit, with continued austerity, and the underfunding of our public services.

Calling the election has been a cynical, and well-calculated step by Theresa May. She knows things will get ugly as Brexit day approaches. I predict that she will not have secured a good deal (if any deal at all), the pound will fall further, inflation will be rising, and international companies will begin pulling out of London and elsewhere.

But she knows she has a massive lead in the polls, due in part to the continued in-fighting within Labour ranks; and a media, including it seems our BBC, that presents the Tories in a favourable light . Not only that but she will also avoid the embarrassment of a potential 20 or more by-elections if  Tory MPs are prosecuted for alleged election fraud.

And if this wasn’t cynical enough, Theresa May is refusing to debate anything on TV with the leaders of other parties. Instead she will settle for soundbites, and pro-tory articles in right-wing newspapers. Public accountability it seems, is not her thing.

Sadly, this unwillingness to engage in democratic debate will end up being to her massive advantage. She has everything to lose from debate, and nothing to gain. Indeed, in our flawed first-past-the-post democracy she will, unless there is some real shift in opinion, likely win well over half of the seats in the new parliament, with much less than 50% of the vote. What’s more, she will claim a mandate to pursue her hard Brexit with far fewer total votes than the number who voted “leave” in the referendum. Meanwhile, the majority of us – the ones who didn’t vote Tory – will have five more years to endure.

 

 

 

 

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if only it was just a bad dream…

If only it was just a bad dream. Five long years of a Tory majority government is a shocking prospect. It’s not as if there was a massive increase in Tory support as their share of the vote only went up a very small 0.8%. So why is Cameron in Downing Street?

Well I guess there are a combination of reasons. A loss of people from the electoral roll following the new voter registration rules can’t have helped (presumably a large number of young people were excluded in particular). A fall in the Lib Dem vote coupled with only a small rise in the the Labour vote was pretty crucial too. This, I put down to the Tories effective fear message against an imaginary SNP-Labour coalition; and a lack of clarity as to what voting Labour would actually mean  (For a good analysis of the Labour and Tory approaches see this article in the New Statesman). But perhaps the main reason is our out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. Maybe people will at last recognise that the system is broken. It can’t be right that 25% of the electorate, 37% of the popular vote, and 51% of MPs results in 100% of the power?

And what will these long five years bring us?

Well we can certainly look forward to more austerity. This means more cuts, falling as before on the most vulnerable in our society. What’s more, the promised £12 billion of welfare cuts is surely just a start, especially if the Tories raise the 40% tax threshold.

No doubt we’ll also see the accelerated privatisation of NHS services as American health companies eye up lucrative contracts, and the gradual erosion of our NHS being free at the point of use..

Our schools will face yet more interference, with further burdens on the teaching profession and more private sector control of local schools. And despite all their promises, there will be a real terms cut in expenditure. Tuition fees in higher education will be raised yet again, while further education (always the poor relation) will struggle to survive the inevitable further cutbacks. (I really wouldn’t want to be working in our education sector that’s for sure).

With Gove’s new appointment, our justice system will no doubt be privatised, whats left of legal aid will be cut; and of course our human rights will be put at risk when they abolish the Human Rights Act and introduce increased surveillance measures previously blocked by the Lib Dems. We can also expect major new restrictions on trades unions and strikes, with public sector workers in particular being singled out for further  attack. Plus, whose to say we wont also see further increases in tribunal fees? Then there is their support for TTIP and Trident.

As for the environment, Tory hatred of onshore wind farms and removal of solar subsidies will mean a big blow for renewable energy. Instead fracking rigs will start blighting the countryside as they reward their friends in the oil companies. And speaking of rewards, while other European countries introduce a Robin Hood tax, the finance sector here will enjoy business as usual. We’ll probably also see a vote to reintroduce fox hunting and there will be a prolonged, bitter and damaging lead up to an in-or-out referendum on Europe.

Clearly this is all very depressing (and I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’ve forgotten to mention). So what can we do? Do we just keep our heads down, wait for Labour to rebrand itself, and in the meantime grumble to friends and family?

Personally I think the Labour ship has already sailed; and if I wasn’t already a member, I’d be joining the Greens today. But as well as political activity I think we we’ll be seeing a lot more community protest, industrial action, demonstrations, petitions, blogs, social media campaigns and so on. Indeed, however much or little someone can contribute, I think that this time, people will become more involved. The 63% who didn’t vote Tory are surely right to feel robbed. If they don’t then I fear this bad dream will seem much longer than five more years.