The United Kingdom’s upcoming General Election is a chance for the people to make one of the most potent democratic statement since the first General Election after World War Two. The choices available to the electorate are clear. The mainstream parties have polar opposite approaches and policies to what they feel is best for the country. Conflict politics is certainly alive and well.
The British people are faced with the choice of returning Theresa May’s Conservative party back to power or electing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party (whether it be as part of a coalition or majority government). The Scottish people are also faced with a choice of whether to continue the SNP’s iron-clad hold on the number of Scottish MPs or whether they feel other parties represent their beliefs and can achieve what they want. The approaches being taken by the two main parties; i.e. Conservatives and Labour are very different. The positioning that these parties are taking on nearly all matters are the farthest apart we have seen from them since the General Election of 1983.
On one hand, we have the Tories who are positioning themselves as the party of strength and stability and the best choice to guide the UK through Brexit negotiations. On the other hand, we have Labour who are positioning themselves as the party for the many and not the few and putting out policies ranging from Health to Education to Tax and Spending. These differing approaches make for interesting observation. The Tories taking the tough approach, putting emphasis on a vote for them will give Theresa May a strong hand in Brexit negotiations and Labour focusing on how the whole system is rigged and only works for those privileged few. How these different approaches will resonate with the voters won’t be known until after the election but it makes for interesting thought.
What is actually more important to voters in modern UK politics; having a Government appear tough and strong or having a Government that seeks to implement new policies and reform current laws? This relates to previous work published about how in contemporary politics in the UK, personality is much more important than policy. But in this election things are slightly different. While the focus on personality and policy is present, the way in which it is being manifested is different from what has been seen in the past.
What is happening now is that there is a divide; the Tories are focusing on personality and Labour are focusing on policy. Thus far, no significant policy announcements have been made by the Tories and Labour have not once made a big deal about electing Jeremy Corbyn so that he can be in a position of strength. This is certainly not by mistake, the Tories may fear that their policies are so dreadful they have to promote Theresa May’s personality and Labour feel Jeremy Corbyn’s personality is so awful they have to promote policy, who knows?
Having looked through a Tory campaign booklet it makes for interesting reading. The phrase ‘Strong and stable’ was used a staggering 10 times, the phrase ‘Coalition of chaos’ was used 5 times. Within this booklet there are no proper policy initiatives; just generic campaign rhetoric, nothing of any substance. But what is truly worrying is that this kind of campaigning the Tories are doing I think will resonate with the electorate more effectively as a whole. This is because catchy small sound bites such as ‘Coalition of chaos’ and ‘Strong and stable’ are more appealing to a lot of the electorate as it’s simple. A large portion of voters in the UK don’t want to think and take a look at policy anymore.
Furthermore, with the whole issue of Brexit, this ‘Strong and stable’ mantra is pandering to people who have dangerous nationalistic ideals, which the Tories are fobbing off as patriotism. This election has so much more than Brexit.
This is in comparison to Labour who have already (even before the leaked Manifesto) put forward policy proposals of abolishing tuition fees, created of a National Education Service, no tax rises for 95% of workers, no rise in VAT, no rise in National Insurance, maintain the triple lock on pensions, raising the levels of corporation tax, an increase in health spending, the creation of a National Care Service, extending the right to claim Housing Benefits to 18-21 year olds, lowering the voting age to 16, the list goes on.
Labour are also not putting a massive amount of emphasis on that if you vote Labour, Jeremy Corbyn will become very strong and powerful. Their basic emphasis is about changing the way UK politics and society is structured and works and having a complete rebalance of power and influence that is concentrated in the hands of the few and placing it in the hands of the many.
Since this General Election has been called and approved by Parliament there has been some good things. It is estimated nearly 1 million 18-24 year olds have now registered to vote. This is excellent as it is this age group that are often the most disenfranchised with politics as a whole and yet it is mostly their future that is at stake. Overall levels of political participation have been on the rise too and I sincerely hope that this is a platform on which UK democracy can grow and can maintain in the future. Jeremy Corbyn made the excellent point of saying “our ancestors laid down their lives so we could vote” and this is a point that is often forgotten throughout western democracies. Not only here in the UK but all across the world, literally millions of people have died to protect and preserve people’s rights to vote freely and frequently.
Democracy itself is not perfect by any means. There is a paradox within it, so far as that you have the freedom and right to take part in political processes and vote but alongside this you are also free to not take part and to not vote. Normally I do not have too much of an issue with people not voting as that is a democratic right in of itself. However, this election is different. So much is at stake, the future of our nation is not certain and not stable. It is essential that people take part and vote on June 8th
Finally, I say to those people that aren’t going to vote in the upcoming UK General Election that you are insulting the memory of those who have given their lives so that you have the right to vote.