BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
When David Cameron took over the leadership of the Conservative Party I was very much unconvinced. History records I wasn’t alone. For when he first faced the electorate in 2010 (and doesn’t that seem a very long time ago), he was unable to persuade enough of us to hand him sufficient majority. It is often forgotten that the Conservative Government of 2010-2015 was in actual fact no such thing. In what may yet prove to be an act of suicide, Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats were required to form a coalition, finally putting an end to Gordon Brown’s disastrous tenure.
Cameron’s premiership was not a happy one. Though he was able to cut free of Clegg in the 2015 election, the year that followed will forever be remembered for the cavalier attitude he took to negotiating reform with a recalcitrant EU, a catastrophic misjudgement of the public mood and ultimately for his post-Brexit resignation.
When Teresa may took the helm just eleven months ago, it appeared at first that we were in for a period of relative calm. It was on that basis, with a promise of continued ‘Strong and Stable Government’, that she decided to go to the country. Her campaign, and that of the Conservative Party en masse, has been appalling.
What remains of the Liberal Democrats, an embittered Clegg still railing against Brexit and a new leader unable to connect with the electorate at all, never really posed any threat. Jeremy Corbyn languished twenty-four points behind in the polls. With a front bench that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jim Henson production and a range of policies firmly rooted in the seventies, Labour shouldn’t have had a chance either.
What a spectacular turnaround. Arrogance and complacency, so often bedfellows, are an unappealing combination for the voter to contemplate. Continually repeating a mantra might have worked for Tony Blair, Barack Obama or even David Cameron, gifted orators all, but it has absolutely failed for Teresa May. Corbyn has surged in the polls.
Inadequate explanation of policy has been disastrous too. Take Social Care as an example. Under current legislation, a dementia sufferer requiring residential care will forfeit assets (including property) over the amount of £23250 to their local authority. This is not well known; most only find out when it is too late. The Tories should have researched this, because when it was clumsily announced that this ‘floor’ would be raised to £100k there was widespread misunderstanding. Labour pounced on the policy change, calling it a ‘Dementia Tax’ – wholly disingenuous, but that’s politics. A spectacular own-goal for the Tories.
And then Manchester happened. And London. The country was under attack. The Prime Minister made a tough speech: enough is enough, she told us, standing sternly at the lectern.
Enough, Mrs May, was enough ten years ago. The public is angered by the phrase ‘XYZ was known to the authorities’, which we hear with sickening frequency. The Prime Minister, Home Secretary for six years, has dropped the ball. Luckily for her, she is not alone. The entire political class has dropped the ball, playing fast and loose with the security of our nation. It has to end here. This must be the absolute last call for those in charge to tackle the problem of Islamist Terror. Real action is required. If emergency powers are called for, so be it. We are at war. We, the public, understand this. Why the hell don’t our representatives?
Which brings us back to Thursday and the original question: which way to jump?
At this stage of the campaign, they are all telling us whatever we want to hear. Put another way, they are lying. Anyone who doesn’t get that is either an idiot or a first time voter. Let’s shatter a myth: no one party has all the answers. I’m entirely unconvinced by Labour’s economic policies, which I firmly believe would see the arrival of the IMF within twenty-four months. On the other hand I dislike Mrs May’s penchant for authoritarianism (this might appear to contradict my earlier call for emergency powers. It doesn’t. Emergency powers, by their nature, should be temporary. Too often have we seen freedoms permanently removed in an impotent attempt to fight the ‘War on Terror’).
Choose, however, we must. In the cold light of the booth, it’s going to come down to which of the imperfect options in front of us can steer us through the dangerous waters ahead.
I consider the Conservatives. A leader who is all too keen to curtail the hard-won freedom of the innocent. A woman who has made mistakes and who only now, at this desperately late stage, is starting to make the right noises about how to deal with those who kill and maim on our streets. Can she take on this enemy? Furthermore, can she, shorn of the campaign’s necessity to always say the right thing, step up to the plate in Europe? I am not entirely filled with confidence.
So to the alternative – the only alternative on offer. I look at Labour and see a leader who preaches mainly to the converted. An idealist who has spent his life protesting, kept some terrible company and has a highly questionable attitude to the security of our nation. I see his economic illiteracy and his choice of front bench. I see the sinister machinations of the ‘movement’ behind the parliamentary party. I’m afraid I have no confidence at all.
This has been the strangest, most worrying election I can recall. I am scared of the uncertain future we must face. I am therefore going to cast my vote for what I believe to be the best of a bad choice. I am going to choose the safest option for our country. I am, albeit not without reservation, going to vote Conservative.