The audacity of hope vs the cowardice of fear

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June 11, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith


The 2017 General Election campaign involved the rejection of Theresa’s May view of what 21st century Toryism should be. It is ironic that she asked voters to look over the precipice and visualise a Britain led by Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘madcap’ vision of socialist utopia involving a hatred of the West and the electorate and instead 40% of us looked over the precipice at what SHE was proposing and said “help us Jeremy!”

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Theresa May’s manifesto was almost like saying ‘come on, I dare you to vote for us’. The idea that people who had worked all their lives and paid taxes and national insurance to build up a nest-egg to pass onto their children and grandchildren should run down that nest-egg to the last £100,000 to pay for care they thought was part of their social contract with the state in return for those taxes and that insurance? A return to a grammar school system that might look superficially advantageous to poorer children but with no clarity on how it wouldn’t once again abandon 75% of the population to the mental slavery of under-education? A free vote on fox hunting? A determination to insist that the ‘will of the people’ had been clearly expressed for the hardest of Brexits including withdrawal from the Single Market and customs union and immigration controls that include the preposterous 100,000 a year immigration cap? 

Let’s add that to the person delivering this, it turned out, far more madcap scheme. Theresa May came across as arrogant, complacent, prickly when challenged, and downright mendacious when insisting ‘nothing had changed’ during her unprecedented manifesto u-turn on social care. Then there was the refusal to engage in TV debates. I wonder if any leader will do THAT again. Her refusal to properly involve her Cabinet in creating that manifesto left them hung out to dry when defending it, as they were reduced to constant ‘dead cat’ strategies of shouting ‘IRA’, ‘MARXIST’ and ‘TERRORIST SYMPATHIZER’ at Jeremy Corbyn, because they had so little positive to say.

Then look at what she was up against. Every night I would watch the news with Mrs G. We are not, and never will be ‘Corbynistas’, but by g-d did he look good compared to the Prime Minister. Mrs G often said it herself “every night he seems like the only person in this election who really believes what he is saying.” 

Whatever was thrown at him, he came through. His links with the IRA that actually came about through his insistence that somebody should talk to and have sympathy with the republican cause. His terrorist sympathies that were actually an insistence that any military aggression can breed aggression in response. His economic policies that might have been difficult to deliver but would go some way towards salving the wounds dug by a seven year austerity programme in which national debt has continued to grow and the stories of the vulnerable being hurt have become louder and more worrisome with every passing year. He came through.

They accused him of taking the country back to the seventies. Well Theresa May’s manifesto would have taken the country back to the 1950s, when we so arrogantly thought we didn’t need Europe as much as they needed us, so sent a civil servant with strict instructions not to agree to anything to a meeting of Foreign Secretaries to create the European Community. The 1950s, where if you were unfortunate enough not to be able to get into a Grammar school you were left to rot in a secondary modern until you left with very little qualifications to go down the mines or toil away on low incomes at the bottom of the burgeoning service industry. The 1950s, where aristocrats happily hunted foxes and our population was mostly white and homosexuality was still a criminal offence. 

Many right-wing commentators have pointed out that all Jeremy Corbyn was doing was bribing people with other peoples’ money. One said that the election could be summed up in six words: ‘young people vote for free stuff’. Yes, there is an argument for both. But this is why it was incumbent upon Theresa May and the few people she takes advice from to present an optimistic picture of the benefits of the free market, or maybe stepped back, considered that if you keep on cutting spending per pupil in education the country will pay the price for generations, and changed course in a way that stays true to the now normal Conservative consensus that instead of spending a load of money to manage demand, money should go towards increasing productivity and supply, and demand will take care of itself. 

But no. Instead we got the cowardice of fear. Fear of proper debate, fear of the demands of those on the Eurosceptic right who  will not stand for a single penny going to the EU and who insist with no justification that the world will simply dance to our tune, and fear of antagonising those who fund her party. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn offered the audacity of hope, a hope that economic theory might be turned on its head, a hope that people who would be milked for money would turn it over quietly, but more importantly a hope that no-one in this rich country will live in desperation anymore.

We know it was successful because of how many former UKIP voters went back to Labour instead of using UKIP as a stepping stone to the Tories as we thought they might. Many had thought Corbyn’s whip to invoke a Article 50 then insistence we keep the Single Market on the table was a 0% strategy, in that it would upset Leavers and Remainers. Instead, it made both feel comfortable voting Labour. Many had thought his continued insistence that there are no problems with immigration but some controls might be necessary to freedom of movement would upset Leavers and Remainers, but it made both feel comfortable voting Labour. When you add the fact that at last Labour were offering a radical economic programme that showed these people that they might have a Government that didn’t leave them behind, it is no wonder they went back.

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win this election. But neither did Theresa May. May asked for mandate for a dystopian vision of the future. Is it any wonder why the country said ‘No, thanks’.

I am no political partisan, nor will I ever be. I have voted Conservative before and I will no doubt vote Conservative again. But as I walked to the polling station with my nine year old daughter she almost tripped over a homeless man asleep on the pavement, and I knew then I was about to do the right thing.  

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4 thoughts on “The audacity of hope vs the cowardice of fear

  1. Kjell Bengtsson says:

    I really appreciated reading your “facts” analysis of what influenced the voters in the general election. I was then somewhat disappointed coming across the ending where you share your personal (emotion evoking and possibly made up?) anecdote of “tripping over a homeless on your way to voting” and “knowing you did the right thing”.
    Knowing the polls suggested a tight outcome and describing Corbyn’s visions as utopia, how can your vote be described as “doing the right thing”. Is a hung parliament really in the best interest for the country going into the negotiations with the EU at this point?

    As for Leaving the Eu the Remainers have “cleverly” come up with the description of a “hard” and “soft” Brexit. As a projection the word “soft” obviously comes across as far more palatable than “hard”. Perversely though, in my mind, the “hard” Brexit label should be used (if at all) for signing up to be a member of the “single market ” or the “Customs union”. Those alternatives in practice makes you a “member” of the EU but without a say.
    The “soft” option is to make a clean brake. Rely on the WTO agreement (the average WTO tariffs the EU imposed in 2013 was 2.3.%) and then negotiate a MFN (most-favored nation) position with the EU. The EU has many of those preferential trade arrangement in place already. A lot has been written and said about how long and cumbersome it is to set up those trade arrangements but as most of it is about conforming to EU regulations and not the tariffs themselves it should be an easier task.
    This is what I would call a “”soft” Brexit.

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    • Kjell – you may want to buy “Brexit – what the hell happens now” by Ian Dunt – who whilst he is clearly a Remain supporter is very useful on the nature of the WTO relationship you talk about. As for you thinking my story is made up….like with food banks these things are not just things you can wish away and pretend you don’t see. It may be convenient to think I am making it up, but sadly this is the country we live in now.

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      • Kjell says:

        I wish I hadn’t put in “possibly made up” as it distracts from my point. If Corbyn’s vision and economic policy in your opinion is a mixture of empty hopes and promises that does not address food banks and homelessness (in a wider context). This election should have been about forming a government that can robustly and speediently negotiate a trade deal with the EU. A deal which will affect us all for years to come. The political choices about how to divide the cake equitably comes later. This was a bad outcome for the country regardless of which side of the in/out argument you supported.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps. But I think Brexit negotiation and the outcome of Brexit should have cross party approval for it to be successfully implemented. You think the cake should be divided later, but Brexit bakes that cake and could decide to make it a lot smaller. I don’t share your optimism about the no deal outcome and so I didn’t want May to have a mandate to provide it

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