Friday, 21 April 2017
How do we reactivate lost voters?
No prizes for guessing the issue that has headlined in the Media over the last week. I suppose it's typical, you wait 5 years for the General Election in 2015 and then two come along within two years.
Prime Minister May who promised that she wouldn't have an election until 2020 has now decided that she will and it's everyone else's fault. Apparently the general election will be about giving the UK a stronger hand in Brexit negotiations as it would appear that the tricky negotiating tactic of saying "Brexit means Brexit" and then staring into the middle distance isn’t making much progress. Plan B of saying it’s going to be "a red, white and blue Brexit" and then and staring doesn’t seem to be getting very far either. So what else is there to do apart from go to the nation in a general election and say trust me with everything. That's not just Brexit negotiations but other key issues and policies that will affect us all over the next 5 years as you can bet your bottom dollar that May's commitment to a fixed term parliament will return if she is able to secure a working majority.
Over coming weeks we can no doubt look forward to those old cheery Tory election campaign 'one-liners' such as: "The NHS is safe in our hands." Or maybe we will hear the one about controlling energy prices in the industry they privatised or rail fares in another industry they privatised. They could tell us about putting £2 billion into Social Care and forget to mention that they've taken £4.6 billion out. We could also hear how they are being tough on Tax Dodgers and big business. We may be told again that older people and pensioners will fare better under the Tories despite the total inequity created by the 2012 Pensions Act, cutting the State and public sector pensions link to RPI and driving down the value of any savings older people may have through a constant process of quantitative easing to keep interest rates low.
There will be much talk of May's strong leadership but based on what? She was last woman standing as Gove and Johnson stabbed each other in the back amidst Tory leadership in-fighting. No doubt much will be made of Theresa May's dazzling achievements as Secretary of State for Home Affairs since 2010. Erm, then again maybe not. Her track record was observed as follows by Alan Travis of the Guardian:
"Her six years at the Home Office were marked by an instinctive secrecy, a talent for 'going missing' or delegating when things went wrong, and a too careless approach to civil liberties.
"Her capacity to make herself scarce at key moments of political danger peaked during the referendum campaign. Her minimal public contribution not only failed to defend her record on immigration but instead focused on her personal pledge to withdraw from the European convention on human rights to demonstrate that she was a wafer-thin remainer."
A track record based on personal survival as opposed to public responsibility and achievement is hardly the best qualification with which to support her claim to be a 'strong leader'. How many in the media will test May on the reality of her record in public life? If anyone has the guts to do it you can guarantee that her lack of achievement will be everyone else's fault. Now where have we heard that before?
Of course more recently May has pledged to help those 'Just about managing' or 'Jams' as the media describe people in work who are struggling to make ends meet after 7 years of Tory Austerity policies. That will be the Tax Credit cuts will it, or maybe the pay freezes or minimalist 1% often unconsolidated pay increases in vast swathes of the public sector? MPs have borne the weight of austerity as well with their salaries only increasing between 2010 and 2017 from £65,738 to £74,962. But none of this has anything to do with Theresa May; it's not her fault.
Criticisms that the Tory Cabinet decision to call for a General Election simply amount to blatant political opportunism have been rebuffed. However no political party worth its salt can resist the opportunity to take its policies and its candidates to the voters and ask us to decide. Of course that requires us to vote and in 2015 there were 15.9 million people who were entitled to vote in the General Election who did not - that's 34% of the 'voting population' and much more than any one political party received in 2015.
What we can predict is the vested interest in much of the mainstream media will continue to attack and undermine the opposition to the Tories and in particular the Labour Party as the main opposition party. They will endeavour to ignore the policy commitments being promoted by Jeremy Corbyn and instead focus on attacking the image they have created of the man. In truth it is the policies that matter but the media won’t want to focus on them particularly as many will be aimed at tackling those vested interests that the media serves. We will see febrile attacks, sensationalism and attempts at character assassination all designed to take our eye off the real issues about what an incoming Government will do that matters to us and our families? It's up to us to see through that and to talk to friends and neighbours about what is at stake.
2017 may well be the year where we have clear policy differences on offer and if we haven't liked what has been done by past Governments then we have the chance to change that. The argument posed by some non-voters that 'politicians are all the same' will not stand up and so it is up to those people who haven't voted in the past to vote for real change in the society we live in.
Well, we have 7 weeks to look forward to and we will have the opportunity to question those candidates who are standing across the United (at least for the minute anyway) Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Members will no doubt have a lot of questions for all the candidates but as well as keeping in touch with developments in the media we will post thoughts on this Blog about those issues you may wish to probe candidates on in particular. We would also welcome your thoughts.
We welcome your views on all of this. For example how are we going to convince the 15.9 million people who didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election to at least play a part in the society we live in?