Opinion: The view from here

When I originally sat down to write this article, I was going to urge a vote for the Conservatives. I may not like their policies, I thought. I may not like their leaders, I may not like the party, but at least they’ll get Brexit done. However, I have now shifted to what I suspect is a minority view.

Let’s look at the Tories and see why this one string to their bow is more of a rubber band. Boris Johnson is, if nothing else, untrustworthy. Not only did he notoriously write two completely opposed articles on EU membership for the Telegraph, and publish the pro-leave one on what seems like the flip of a political coin, but he also has had a less than impressive record in government. This is the man who, as Mayor of London, spent £43 million of taxpayers’ money on his failed garden bridge project, and his carelessness as foreign secretary set back the case for the detained British citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff. He now refuses to release a report on Russian interference in UK elections.

Then there’s his claim that he will get Brexit done without any further “dither and delay”. Depending on what you mean by “Brexit”, this is likely not true. What Boris has now is a withdrawal agreement, and while this could be passed in a Tory majority government, it won’t settle the issue. We will still have years of negotiation before we settle our future relations with our main trading partners. Leaving the EU will actually create more, not less uncertainty. So a vote for the Conservatives to get Brexit done, will not actually resolve Brexit and the UK’s global trading relationships.

Many readers in this constituency will be Conservatives, and feel that this election will finally be the chance for a Tory majority government after years in compromised relationships with the Lib Dems and then the DUP. But the Conservative Party is no longer the party it once was. It is no longer the party of caution and centrism and scepticism and practicality, but the party of Brexit at all costs. We have seen the purge of the 21 MPs trying to stop a no-deal Brexit. These were loyal Tories, including Ken Clarke, the most loyal of all in his 49 years in the Commons, but they were cast out because they refused to be as dogmatic with regards to Brexit as their leader wanted. The Tory party has changed.

For many moderate Labour voters, however, the prospect of a Corbyn leadership makes them uneasy. But there are other reasons to think twice about backing blue. The Conservative manifesto has its fair share of problems, such as its lack of focus on anything not Brexit, as well as its lack of actual policy and beliefs. Helping to secure a Conservative majority will not just allow Boris’ withdrawal agreement to be passed, it will open the door to five more years of Tory policy.

What about Labour then? It is undeniable that in this election, Labour is more radical than they have been for years. But is Brexit any less radical? The question is what type of radical change would be better or worse.

The constant refrain is that Corbyn would “ruin Britain”. But would an actual Labour government really be all that bad? Labour’s policies promote a compassionate kind of government that we haven’t seen in this country for years. Their proposed National Care Service and pledge to build more council housing will do real good. Yes, the charges of antisemitism levelled against party members give pause. I would argue, however, that public outrage has done much to force the party to take action. Let’s hope the Equalities and Human Rights Commission investigation will shed light on this pressing issue. Labour is at fault here, absolutely, but this doesn’t absolve everyone else of blame. Discrimination and bigotry are not just the failings of Labour, and we should address the problems within all parties. The Conservatives have not done anything to stem the growing xenophobia and Islamophobia in their party, while racism scandals have already surfaced within the short life of the Brexit party.

Corbyn is less popular now than in 2017, and this time he is facing off against the Brexit Party and a charismatic Conservative leader. Labour will likely not win a majority, but if there was a tactical vote to block the Conservatives, there might not only be a better chance for a proper (delayed) Brexit deal, but also a coalition government that will execute the compassionate policies that distinguish Labour’s platform.

I am not yet old enough to vote in this election, so my future lies in the hands of an older generation. I have to hope that others will make the right decision for the future of all young people.

Saul Agar Ward
December 4, 2019