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General Election 2017: Two Alternative Visions
Since Theresa May called a snap election, we have witnessed the Conservative Party reveal their true face; that of the ‘nasty party’. No doubt encouraged by her large lead in the polls, Theresa May announced on April 18, that the people of Britain would be heading to the voting booth for the third time in three years. Hiding behind the explanation that she required a larger majority in order to successfully negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the reality appears to be that the Conservatives also saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of their huge lead in the polls and to assert their authority by assuring a further five years of Tory rule. No doubt they believed it would be an easy victory, but Labour, and Jeremy Corbyn’s performance has defied the odds.
The false confidence gained from the polls has resulted in a manifesto of callous, and cruel proportions. The Conservatives are no longer offering an image of themselves as a more liberal party, as Cameron aimed to do during his premiership, because they believed this election would be much easier than it has proven to be. Despite his cruel policies, he was slick and confident behind the camera’s gaze, and this was enough for him to con voters, distracting them from the Tory acts that reduced opportunities for millions. Along with the Tory message in 2010, and throughout their rule, their repetitive slogan was that we were ‘in it together’. This was hardly true as corporation tax was decreased from 28% to 19%. Furthermore, the Conservative record shows cuts to public services, sure start centre closures, tuition fees increased, and as a result we now see a more divided, and unequal Britain. It is safe to say the Conservative legacy will certainly be negative.
Delving further into the Tory rule over the last seven years, their record reveals that they have been anything but liberal or progressive, despite the image Cameron aimed to present to the public. The London mayoral campaign run by Lynton Crosby in 2016 was nothing short of racist, and slanderous against Sadiq Khan, playing on fears about his religion. The benefit cap, and welfare reforms were counterproductive, though they claimed they were introduced to reduce the burden on the tax-payer. Its real consequence was rising homelessness, increased use of food banks, and greater pressure on the poorest in society. The government claimed these austerity cuts were necessary to improve the economy, however the debt is now even larger than it first was upon their victory in 2010. Yet, they claim to be the party of economic competency. The reality is that whereas Labour have released a fully costed manifesto, the Conservative Party has no explanation for how they will afford to pay for their policies.
Despite their cruel rule since 2010, this manifesto indicates that the Tories will be moving further to the right. The Conservatives new manifesto is a throwback to the early 2000s under the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith. The cruelty is plain to see; the Dementia Tax, the vote offered on fox hunting, caps on social care, and their dishonourable campaign, show that the Conservative Party offers no progressive vision of the future. Their campaign has consisted of slander, and smears against Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Labour Party. Theresa May’s boasts that she would present ‘strong and stable’ leadership appears now to be an empty slogan. The laughter of the crowd during The Battle for Number 10 was indicative of a public that see her instead as weak and wobbly; I struggle to think of any competent leader who has ever been in such a humiliating position. The campaign has consisted of U-turns and blunders by politicians, including the Chancellor Phillip Hammond forgetting the extra £20bn required to pay for HS2. Theresa May has now also refused to join Jeremy Corbyn in the BBC leadership debate, showing that the Tories have once again been outflanked by Labour. Such a move proves her weak leadership as well as her lack of desire for public scrutiny.
In stark contrast to the Conservatives, the Labour Party has offered a coherent, progressive vision. The slogan ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ is reflected in policy. This can be seen through the promise that tuition fees will be removed, an increase in corporation tax, 1 million houses to be built, and the investment in childcare. The Labour Party has offered an inclusive vision of Britain from 9 June onwards. Corbyn has offered a resilient performance in contrast to Theresa May, capably answering questions regarding past associations with Sinn Fein. Doubts remain over the unity of the party, and whether Corbyn would be able to keep the backbenchers united if he were to win. Nevertheless, he has channelled the same approach that won him the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015. Corbyn appears as a man of the people and approachable, an image which has proven to be successful in the past, and seems to once again, be working in his favour.
What is clear in this general election, is that there is a clear choice between both parties. The excuses used by many for the low voter turnout in 2015 was that there was not a large enough difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Ed Miliband sought to showcase his economic competency by arguing he would impose cuts as they were necessary. However, Corbyn has shown economic competency through uniquely costing the Labour manifesto, as well as the fact Labour have managed to set the agenda and focussed attention towards social issues and investment. It is now obvious that this is not the walk in the park the Conservatives expected.