Your say / Bristol

‘Strong, safe and not mad’

By james lancaster, Thursday Jun 8, 2017

This has the potential to be Theresa May’s one and only General Election at the helm of the Conservative Party.

The relatively quiet former home secretary has demonstrated that she lacks many of the vital ingredients that are required to be a good leader. The Tory party are often unkind to under-performing leaders and expect her to suffer for this, anything under a 50 majority is doomsday in the long term for May.

Over the last 12 months, she has morphed from strong and stable into the Conservative Party’s very own Gordon Brown. When the election was called it was pitted as presidential because many thought that May vs Corbyn was a no brainer – and it is.

Corbyn is a better campaigner and has a stronger ideological barometer than May which has meant this election has done some good for his personal profile and rating. Much has been written about Labour’s improving position in the polls, but it is worth noting that there are few, if any, marginal seats that Labour can gain and the incumbent party usually witnesses a big bump in support on election day- remember the 2015 silent Tories.

However, watch Bristol North West which I think could be the only major national success and surprise for Labour – a seat that voted remain but is represented by an MP who voted leave. Ironically, in the Midlands and the North the reverse of this is likely to finish many Labour MPs.

Jeremy Corbyn’s improved profile has been declared a huge success. It isn’t. He has been leading a major UK national party for nearly two years and, I might be wrong when the results are in, has only managed to reinforce support in existing Labour strongholds.

However, I expect Labour to lose many critically important seats, such as Edgbaston. The party’s message is going down well in cosmopolitan London and parts of Bristol but it appears to be falling apart in the Midlands and further North – the Midlands the home of the marginals and the Worcester woman and the North Labour’s natural home territory.

Corbyn can stand up tall and give some fanatical speeches because he feels he’s in a better place but the party is still in complete ruins.

This election presents our country with one of the most depressing choices we have had to make in decades.

Theresa May has been an adequate Prime Minister but a disappointing candidate. However, she is pitted against a man who would be truly dangerous for Britain.

Labour has sunk to new lows and the party, I say this with a pinch of salt, that was once promoted by high profile individuals such as Straw, Mandelson, Blunkett, Jowell and others is now represented by hard left figures like Paul Mason, John McDonell and Richard Burgon.

In the Conservative Party, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson represent the  tragic divorce from liberalism within the Tory party but these two divisive figures are still not as dangerous as Corbyn’s prospective cabinet.

The Parliamentary Labour Party on the whole does not want to serve under Jeremy and this has meant a lacklustre team surrounding him. It has resulted in meteoric promotions for mediocre politicians such as Barry Gardiner and Emily Thornbury, backbench second rate MPs who shouldn’t be at the forefront of British politics.

The reality of a Labour Government, which is going to be electorally difficult, is hard left figures in significant national leadership positions….that, accompanying a menu of naive policies and questionable relationships, should be enough to affirm that anyone who claims to be “progressive” (vacuous think tank speak for slightly right economically but support gay rights) that they cannot support Labour candidates.

Whether you’re backing them because they are a good local MP or they opened your kid’s school, your decision locally has a big impact and it means that voting for a Labour MP is choosing to endorse a man who won’t denounce his support for the IRA, has shared a platform with terrorist sympathisers, won’t make the tough international decisions when required and would place his soviet union style ideological belief above economic competency.

Michael Fallon, defence secretary, doesn’t sound sexy when he says it, but Jeremy Corbyn is a horrifying, dangerous and illiberal prospect for our country – Michael usually just says dangerous, very slowly. Theresa May is not. It is that simple.

May has been caught out over the last few weeks because, quite rightly, her expectation was that this election would be all about Brexit. She is undoubtedly the only leader, of any of the main parties, who won’t do something mad during the negotiations.

During the election, the tone has shifted and Corbyn has promoted a big bold unaffordable vision. It has some nice ideas but is financially reckless and would harm economic growth.

May has promoted a number of policies that don’t sync with the electorate including the social care plans (which are actually a bit left) and the promise of holding a vote on repealing the fox hunting band, which is actually not as bad as everyone who lives in Wimbledon would think.

May wanted this election on her terms but it hasn’t been. Corbyn should be credited for shifting the debate and for some, the few not the many, normalising the hard left as a credible force in British politics which they should never be.

Over the last 12 months May hasn’t been so much strong and stable, but steady and present. The economy continues to grow and she is leading the country through complex negotiations which are some of way down the line.

This election should and is all about Brexit. We need to get our departure right and how we do that will be the most dominant and important policy area for the next few years.

The question this election throws at us is could Corbyn or, let’s be kind and include the cosmopolitan and anti-democratic UKIP reverse tribute act Tim Farron, do a better job? The answer is absolutely not. Corbyn now and perhaps always did back Brexit but can’t take a leadership role on this issue.

The nine Lib Dem MPs and many from within Labour still want to reverse Brexit. Their grand plan would be to backtrack on democracy and hold another referendum ignoring the fact that we had a referendum last year and that an unprecedented 70 per cent of our country turned out to vote.

How we leave Europe is what this election is all about. May was right to call an election but wrong to spend a year saying that she wouldn’t, again this isn’t the most satisfying choice to make and the calibre of leaders is poor.

This election is about electing the only current competent party. One that has governed relatively well during the last seven years, I refer to growth, gay marriage and income tax allowance etc etc, and who will honour the democratic mandate to leave.

The choice for me still remains a no brainier and that is that Theresa May is the best candidate and the Conservative Party are the best for Britain in the immediate future. But please take Boris off TV, the charlatan deserves no air time, and replace Fox with somebody who isn’t a right wing lunatic.

This election might finally bring to an end the disgusting narrative,adopted by Wallander watching liberals, that the people didn’t understand what they were voting for during the referendum. It was in or out, people chose out and it was backed by the majority of our country. Quietly and with a lack of enthusiasm supporting strong, stable and not mad.

James Lancaster is a director at TFA, a political consultancy with offices in Bristol, Leeds, London and Reading.


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