With only a week to go until the UK election, there’s little to delight the Sovereign Professional.
When she was Home Secretary, Theresa May always struck me as worryingly illiberal. Yet, in the turmoil of the post-Brexit leadership contest, she stood out (largely by not falling over) as the only adult in the room. Intellects I had come to admire over previous years fell by the way, stumbling over the dogs of immigration and insularity that they had so eagerly whistled up. Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister was the least bad option.
But, her speech to the Conservative Party Conference made my skin crawl.
But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.
With her nakedly tactical appeal to disaffected Labour and Leave voters, the supposed Left Behinds, it became clear that business, especially international business, was more the “predatory tiger to be shot” than the “strong and willing horse” of Churchill’s analogy.
May’s “good that government can do” looked rather too much like meddling than medicine, as a subsequent string of ill-conceived “goods” confirmed.
However, when at last the temptation of Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity, ineptitude and unelectability became too great to resist, we could at least hope that she had simply been lying. That once a gullible electorate had swallowed the tosh and swept her to (greater) power, she would wield her massively “strong and stable” majority and forget the idiocies of her advisers.
But, then came three calamities.
Firstly, the last minute addition to the manifesto of a promised kick in the teeth to the core vote. The proposed policy on care funding may have been warranted. Why, after all, should those with wealth (in the form of an owned home) expect the state to pay for their care? How have we reached the stage where passing on your home (i.e. your wealth) to your family has become an inalienable right? When did the safety net of social welfare need to protect houses, even as it struggles to protect healthcare? The sad, but obvious and time-proven fact is that you don’t promise to mug people just before ask them to vote for you. People never vote for tax rises.
Calamity Two – far worse than the first – was the panicked U-turn. Even as some candidates reported that Calamity One wasn’t that big a deal, Calamity Two was unleashed. It was a little like felling an ancient sequoia because it cast a shadow on your picnic. Suddenly, all that was strong and stable washed away. People recalled other U-turns, not least the previous insistence that there wouldn’t be an election. A fragile mask fell away and a campaign hitherto almost entirely about May’s strong and stable leadership was in tatters.
And, compounded by Calamity Three: that the inept and unelectable Mr Corbyn turned out to be a nice and reasonable chap. His unflappable avuncularity, aided by a Santa-sack of unaffordable promises, became a welcome contrast to the shrill maiden aunt.
So, here we are with polls suggesting that May’s majority may even be reduced. The prospect of a Corbyn premiership is no longer laughably remote.
But, for all that, we need to grit our teeth next Thursday, vote for the least bad option and hope that in the inevitable post-mortem, wiser counsels prevail.
P.S. Interestingly, as I move this post from draft to final, I see that the Economist is voting for the Liberal Democrats, rather than support the pull-up-the-drawbridge approach of both the Conservative and Labour parties. I’ve also received a flyer from the UK Libertarian Party (who knew?). Perhaps there are other options after all.