Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Without doubt, this General Election campaign is the worst I have ever experienced. I would hope that the way the truth has been dispensed with in favour of a rhetoric that will not stand any scrutiny is an aberration, but I fear it is simply a foretaste of the future.
The BBC and other broadcasters struggle to be ‘impartial’ because there doesn’t seem to be a neutral place left to stand. In the face of deliberate lying and deceit, how does one offer balance without calling out dishonesty? It is often said that the electorate say they don’t like negative campaigning, but it is the most effective form of campaigning nevertheless. In other words, we don’t like it, but we respond to it. I struggle to find much in the way of positive campaigning this time around, especially from the Tories.
Much of the coverage of the last few weeks has focussed on personalities rather than policies and is much poorer for it. The endless scrutiny of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn’s previous statements and behaviour has replaced much by way of debate about the future direction of the UK. I am not opposed to holding individuals to account, but this obsession with who will occupy Number 10 fails to do justice to the parliamentary democracy in which we live. If politics since 2015 has taught us anything, surely it is that the will of the Prime Minister can be thwarted. We do not have government by fiat - yet.
Having said that, I have been fascinated (and disappointed) by the debate around how Jeremy Corbyn would lead in wartime. Given that he has often been on the right side of history in opposing armed interventions by Britain and the US in the recent past, I am confident that a government led by Jeremy Corbyn, will truly only use military force as a last resort. For those who uphold Just War Theory, much of which is enshrined in the Charter of the UN, that policy is the only one sanctioned by international law.
Then there is the use of nuclear weapons. Rightly, nuclear weapons are now described as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) because they are only effective when deployed against population centres. Whereas international treaties and conventions prohibit the use and stockpiling of other WMDs - chemical and biological - the use of nuclear weapons are currently exempt. Again, from a Just War Theory perspective, such targeting of non-combatants is outlawed and is, by definition, the use of WMD for any reason is a War Crime and a Crime against Humanity. Why then, are we asked only to vote for those who would contemplate war crimes?
Those who do not see the so-called nuclear deterrent as immoral defend it on the grounds that its existence is the deterrent, not its use. The deployment of Britain’s nuclear weapons would be an admission that deterrence had, in fact, failed. It seems to me, under those conditions, Jeremy Corbyn will be deploying the nuclear deterrent each day he does not push the button ….
Character is an important aspect of any politician but we cannot make windows into their souls. The only real evidence we have to go on is their past conduct and, in those terms, I think Corben stands up well against Johnson. He has spoken up for the poor and vulnerable in Britain and worldwide and won accolades for his integrity. He has fought tooth and nail against prejudice of all kinds and for fairness and equality. He has never flinched from holding government to account, Labour, Coalition and Conservative. In comparison, Johnston has openly lied and used racial, sexist and homophobic slurs in his public pronouncements. When he has talked about the importance of trust in this campaign, people have laughed in his face.
And what about antisemitism and islamophobia? I am totally ashamed of the way the Labour Party has handled the incidents and allegations of antisemitism., and I acknowledge that it is a problem for the whole Party, not just the leader. The internal investigations so far conducted have not been good enough, but at least they have happened. This episode speaks to me of incompetence within the Party structures at dealing with anything disciplinary, as well as the vile poison of the antisemitism that still lurks in parts of the Left, not to Jeremy Corbyn’s own antisemitism.
The islamophobia in the Conservative Party has not even been acknowledged by a good number of its senior members, and a promise of an independent review is frankly laughable. We are now at 8th December and we are told a review will be set up and begun before December 31st. If you believe a Tory leader who has referred to Muslim women as letterboxes will follow through on this ….
I want a government that will end austerity through a concerted attack on poverty and its causes. I want a government that honours the Good Friday Agreement and believes in public services. I want a government that has a track record in constitution reform that has returned power to ordinary people and sought to diminish the influence of the privileged. And I want a government that reaches out to the rest of the world, including our nearest neighbours, with a hand of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. All of this I see in the ambitious plans offered by Labour.
And finally to Brexit. I am a remainer and nothing has emerged that contradicts the idea that the UK will be worse off outside the EU. I admit that I was sceptical about the ‘Better-deal-second-referendum-Corbyn-neutrality’ proposal, but I’ve changed my mind. The idea that the Prime Minister of the day should facilitate a referendum but not actively campaign for one outcome or another seems to me to offer the possibility of a leader who can then implement the result with real integrity. I want the Brexit nightmare to end and this is the best offer on the table.
For all of the reasons above, I am STILL voting Labour on Thursday.