The UK General Election of 2019 is a very curious beast. Brexit is of course the major theme of the election, but it’s influence is indirect, this election isn’t really about Brexit itself. However the traditional nature of UK elections has changed in similar ways to other Western democracies and is producing a very divisive election in an divisive atmosphere caused by the tribulations of Brexit over the last five years.
A traditional election in FPTP and indeed Western democracies is a battle between the two biggest political parties, a moderately left wing one and a moderately right wing one. FPTP unlike more modern systems discourages more than two parties as votes for other parties can distract from influence over which of the two big parties wins. Normally, the two big parties fight over the ‘centre ground’ stressing their understanding of economic life for average subjects and their moderate reasonable solutions to the issues of the day.
However, people have got fed up of everyday politics, they see decline, their decline in living standards and feel that ‘something needs to be done’ and have been more prepared to support more radical positions. People are not stupid, they see logn established well-run local businesses go under, their children struggle to afford their own home so continue to live with their parents much later, our bills keep going up, but our salaries don’t. I think we all know something is very wrong with the UK. Coupled with this is the development of electioneering and how modern media functions. So the traditional view that winning the fight over the centre ground is the way to win elections has lost popularity has gone.
Instead this ‘traditional’ fight has been abandoned to be replaced by an appeal to fundamentals of left or right wing dogma. Winning an argument is no longer important, but a simple three word slogan to demonstrate an emotional understanding of a simplistic view of a political situation has won the day, look no further than Mr Trump. Political parties now agonise about finding that killer three word combination, to reduce all debate to whether you prefer these three words or the other lots three words. For example ‘Take Back Control’ ‘Strong & Stable’ or ‘Get Brexit Done’. This has been successful as parties then no longer need to develop an argument or even coherent policy. Politically educated electors have worked out their position and it would take huge effort to get them to shift. Instead it seems better to persuade the less politically educated as gaining these votes requires a lot less effort, simply three words in fact.
Brexit is a great example of this. A few years ago it was thought that this issue would tear the traditions of UK elections apart as it was a non partisan issue. People of the centre tend to view membership of the EU positively, whereas those towards both Left and Right wings of the spectrum are more sceptical of the benefits of EU membership, or rather pick on different aspects to criticise.
We seem to have entered George’s Orwell’s 1984 for real. I saw an advert on the telly today for spinning sessions you can join online with an instructor barking out orders ‘Smith, Winston, a man your age should be able to touch his toes!” Despite the bleakness of the decline in our economy staring us right in the face, the ‘Party’ has managed to distract us and divide us with Brexit. We aren’t really discussing Brexit, it’s just become a political game where you have to pick sides and then lay the blame on the other side.
The future of the NHS has come up in this election, again it’s staring us in the face how chronically underfunded it is. We have to wait weeks to see a doctor, even if you have private medical insurance! Yet the Tories use their doublethink to allow people to believe that they care enough and blame the other lot who are against ‘our precious Brexit’ which, incredibly, at this late stage is still undefined.
The politically informed, under FPTP feel they must vote tactically. That a vote for the party that most represents your views is a ‘wasted vote’ and you must vote for the big party that you find least objectionable, that isn’t democracy, just as Brexit isn’t ‘democracy’. Wales has pretty much always returned a majority of Labour MPs, yet Wales has suffered mainly under Tory governments in Westminster. Continuing to vote like this isn’t working for Wales. However, despite this we are seeing the most tactical voting exercise ever seen before. Political parties have withdrawn candidates to let the ‘least bad’ option have a better chance of unseating the ‘worse option’. The Opinion Polls at the start of this election were somethign like 47% Brexit parties (Tories & Brexit Party), 53% Remain parties (National parties, Labour, Greens, LibDems). Despite Remain parties appearing to edge the popular vote, the vote is split more ways. As this election campaign has progressed we’ve seen two shifts. Firstly the Brexit party vote collapse, to the Tories favour and a LibDem fall to Labours advantage. It doesn’t seem as though the Leave:Remain split has shifted at all. No-one has had there minds changed by the election, but more people are voting tactically and that maybe how to bring the outdated FPTP system to an end?
It should be blatantly clear to the British electorate that Brexit isn’t the answer. Electoral Reform is what is needed to enable the UK to have a government that represents the population and is able to make good decisions, rather than bad but politically expedient ones. However as 1984 tells us ‘Ignorance is Strength’, and the British establishment/ Inner Party have successfully distracted us form what is in front of our eyes, for Brexit to be the answer.