Trust is being severely strained by the General Election in the United Kingdom
Does it matter when former Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Nicky Morgan goes on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and brazenly claims that 50,000 new nurses will be recruited when that number includes trying to stop 19,000 from leaving the NHS or Prime Minister Boris Johnson dodges being grilled by the BBC’s Andrew Neil?
Or that Facebook had to delete a Conservative election ad after the BBC objected that the material had been used out of context in a way that “could damage perceptions of our impartiality”.
Have voters been so bamboozled by political leaders and their spin-doctors about whether we should be in or out of the European Union that they have already made up their mind about the future direction of the country?
Perhaps! But there is hope that the electorate is starting to wake-up to the nightmare of what a Boris Johnson led Tory majority government would mean.
If the Conservatives get the big majority they seek, watch them tear up any promises to end of austerity. The risk of “getting Brexit done” by the end of 2020 without any sensible agreement on how to handle future trade and people movement with the European Union would threaten jobs, including those at the giant Nissan car plant in Sunderland.
And as a former cancer patient at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, I really worry what any trade deal with Donald Trump’s American government would mean for the National Health Service.
But all is not lost! Tactical voting and a late swing towards Labour, despite Jeremy Corbyn being such a ‘Marmite’ personality particularly for older male voters in the North of England, could still scupper Tory plans.
But it would probably need Labour voters to hold their noses and vote for the Liberal Democrats (or Greens / Independents) in southern seats where they have the best chance of beating seating sitting Tory MPs – and for LibDem supporters to do the same and vote Labour in the North of England.
This could be crucial in constituencies in the tactical-voting frontline, such as Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland which Jeremy Corbyn visited on the eve of the General Election. It voted in 2017 by 49.6% for the Conservatives to 47.5% for Labour, with just 2.8 opting for the Liberal Democrats. If most of the Liberals vote tactically and support Labour because their candidate has no chance, it could be a Labour gain.
Things are just as close in neighbouring Stockton South, where Labour won the seat back in 2017 with 48.5% of the vote, compared to 46.8% for the Tories. There the Brexit Party is standing this time (UKIP got 2.2% and the Liberal Democrats trailed with just 1.8% of the vote in 2017).
Of course, no seat is safe in this general election dominated by Brexit & the National Health Service and the impact of independent candidates may play a massive part in the outcome!
Price worth paying?
So will enough people be convinced that tactical voting for the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservatives and their “Brexit at any cost” mantra is a price worth paying to get an alternative government? That government would probably a Coalition led by Jeremy Corbyn that would cool some of Labour’s more ambitious spending plans.
Such a government would open up the prospect of a better Brexit deal to protect access to the European single market and customs union.
If a fresh agreement could be negotiated with the EU, it would need to be put back to the people – with the choice of accepting a softer-Brexit (probably favoured by Jeremy Corbyn’s despite his neutral stance) or remaining in the EU (now we all know a lot more about the consequences of Leaving).
EU referendum two
I would actually argue, as I did in a recent blog, that voters need three choices in any #EUref2, using a single transferable voting system – with people being invited to give their first and second choice between Remaining, Leaving with a soft Labour-negotiated deal, or quitting with a hard Brexit favoured by Nigel Farage and the Tory right-wing.
Maybe having to pick two out of three options is too complicated – and it does risk leaving without any kind of safety net – but I suspect a soft-Brexit or Remain would win at the end of the day, providing lessons are learnt from the first referendum campaign.
Of course, we are a long way from there and the Tories are still way ahead in the national opinion polls. The pro-leave campaigners will have all sorts of tricks up their sleeve, but there is still a ray of hope that Conservatives are showing themselves up as a hopeless bunch spinning half-truths and sometimes outright lies and dodging any kind of scrutiny by experienced journalists.
So use your vote wisely on December 12!