This campaign has an air of unreality but danger lurks just around the cornerby Jonathan Lis / December 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
In case anyone hasn’t noticed, we are going to the polls in one week. Normally we would expect that to dominate the national conversation. An election is the ultimate expression of democracy. It is precious. The winner will govern vast areas of our lives for the next five years. The stakes this particular time could not be higher. And yet the country feels conspicuously disengaged. The papers are more interested in whether world leaders laughed at Donald Trump. How did we get here—and where do we go now?
In short, we have had to undergo a process of mass forgetting. We have apparently forgotten everything the government has done since 2017. We have forgotten the debacle of the Brexit negotiations under two different prime ministers. We have forgotten the policy to take us out of the EU with no deal. We have forgotten the implicit threat to deport three million EU citizens, which the government only withdrew in August 2018 and still signals for those who do not achieve settled status. We have even forgotten the Windrush scandal, the acme of the hostile environment, which saw black Britons deprived of their medical treatment, stripped of their dignity and in some cases removed from the country.
We have forgotten Boris Johnson’s own brief and dismal record: his unlawful prorogation, shameless politicisation of the monarchy, attempts to frustrate the will of parliament, and the chilling afternoon when he stood in the chamber to dismiss death threats against MPs as “humbug.” Nobody talks about it. Nobody remembers it.
We have forgotten, too, the low points of the Tory election campaign. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments on Grenfell, the prime minister’s inaction on the Yorkshire floods and the Conservative press office’s active disinformation, renaming its account “Fact Check UK” during the leaders’ debate: all have faded from view.
And we have forgotten Brexit. Not once has Johnson faced a credible attack for failing to take us out of the EU on 31st October, even though that was the central pledge of his premiership and the main reason we are in fact holding this election. We have heard almost nothing about the actual Brexit deal on the table. Almost nobody mentions the job losses and business closures from leaving the customs union; or the clobbering of our most lucrative industries which depend on regulatory alignment with the EU; or the harm to our society and…