Or, second best, those on the left should forgo tribal loyalties and unite under an anti-Tory flagby AC Grayling / April 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
By far the smartest thing that MPs of opposition parties can do in response to Theresa May’s call for a general election is not to give it to her. A general election out of fixed parliamentary term requires a 66 per cent majority of all seats in the House of Commons. She has a majority of merely 12. Her general election call can easily be beaten. Her attempt to capitalise on the weakness of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, the early-days of the Lib Dem recovery, and the turmoil and uncertainty of a Brexit process going wrong, should be resisted; because this is her only chance to win an election, and if Labour and the Lib Dems give it to her, they will be fools.
Corbyn’s credentials in that regard are already well-established; doubly so, because if he supports the general election call he will be signing his resignation letter—a year too late for the future of the UK, alas—but his more sensible Parliamentary Labour Party colleagues should do him a small favour and vote against the election, and let him resign anyway.
If, however, opposition MPs walk into what May hopes is her trap, they will then need the guts (they have so far not shown) to make sure the trap closes on her instead. This they can do by forgoing the tribal loyalties and shibboleths that are so disastrous for parliamentary government in this country, and uniting under a common anti-Tory flag. The chief aim is of course to stop Brexit. A majority of currently sitting MPs are against it, everyone can see that it is an unfolding disaster, a train-wreck in not-so-slow motion, and the urgent need is for the country to be saved from it.
There are added reasons. A Tory victory in a June election would not only give May and her Brexiters a further spurious reason to claim they have a mandate for Brexit. It will also further the privatisation of the NHS, ensure more cuts in welfare provision for disabled and elderly people, further cuts in housing benefit, further faith-based and selective schooling—and all this as hors d’oeuvre for a post-Brexit (if it happens: Remainers will never give up fighting it whatever transpires) bonfire of regulations protecting employees, consumers, the environment, and more. This is May’s Turkey election; she is seeking to entrench the dictatorship of the Brexiters; give her another millimetre and it will take years to win back our country from the disaster she is leading us into.
So a Tory victory in June would be an exacerbation of the frightful position that the UK is in now. To prevent it, the opposition parties are going to have to show imagination, comradeship, a war-time pulling-together to defeat the right-wing coup that is trying to steal our country from us. For a short period of sanity recently, a coalition government saved us from the worst excesses of Tory ideas. The electorate thanked the Lib Dems for that by punishing them. They did not see that the tribal loyalties of party politics have been one of the main barriers to intelligent politics and government for decades. MPs are meant to be representatives, independent-minded, informed, reflective, who reach considered judgments in the interests of their country. The party whipping system makes them mere lobby fodder, nothing but cyphers, no better than slaves, in an elective dictatorship.
Alas, all the parties have become elective dictatorships, capturing MPs by the system of party discipline which should only apply in relation to the manifesto promises on which MPs were elected. Let MPs be whipped into fidelity to manifesto pledges, yes; but otherwise we are paying them to do a job on our behalf, not on behalf of their party machines. In the Article 50 legislation Tory MPs were whipped to break election promises: they were elected last time to “protect our place in the single market” and to support membership of the EU. This is how degenerate our parliamentary system has become.
But now is the time, really the time, for that to stop. Now is the time for principle. Now the opposition parties should put country first to stand against the folly of Brexit. They should do it by denying May an election. But if they don’t do that, they should do it by combining across the centre of politics to stop the re-election of May and the Brexit cabal.
We are in a time of national emergency. Not just the opposition parties but the voters who are against Brexit and all that this current right-wing of the Tory Party stands for should come together in a national coalition. Do not divide the anti-Tory vote in any constituency. Where tribal madness prevents opposition candidates from making way for each other, let voters punish the more intransigent of them as well as the Tories by tactical voting.
Best—if there is an election—is for a United Front. Second best is constituency by constituency deals to deprive the Tories of the seat. Third best, if neither happens, is tactical voting. The first two can be done by the parties; the third by the voters. Let us now see where the country’s head, heart and guts are genuinely to be found.