22 September 2019

Brexit and the state of UK politics

Everyone who is anyone knows that the UK is already in a General Election campaign. An election hasn't been called yet, largely because the Conservative government wants one but has a minority in Parliament so can't get a bill passed to call one. Why? Because the Labour opposition wants one, but only when they feel they can cause the maximum amount of damage. In the meantime there's no Parliament sitting, and we've three weeks of posturing at the various party conferences.

Last week saw the Liberal Democrats move from a position where they'd call a second referendum on the UK leaving the European Union, to saying they'd revoke article 50 altogether. In effect they've gone from a position on calling for a second referendum, to saying they'd reverse the decision to leave without putting it to a vote. Everyone knows that they are the antithesis of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, but by saying they'd go back on the 52% of the UK population who voted to leave, they've made no friends and have probably kicked any chance of causing an electoral upset into the long grass. They may have increased their number of MPs to 18 following a string of defections from other parties, but they've lost one MP who himself has sided with many party members over the party's policy. 

This week's Labour party conference was mired in controversy before it even started. Despite efforts to spin a united front, the party is hopelessly split on many issues. There's the continuing anti-semitic saga as well as its Brexit stance, but the call for the sacking of Tom Watson as Deputy Leader was an exercise of shooting yourself in the foot. It's well known that Tom and Jeremy Corbyn don't see eye to eye on certain issues, but the manner in which the party tried to sack their deputy leader was not only dramatic but shameful. There has been a battle of sorts between the party's Momemtum wing and the established old school for sometime, but this latest effort at seizing power brought the battle into the open. The problem for Jeremy Corbyn is he's stuck in the middle trying to keep the peace, whilst standing up for his principles. As for Brexit, they're still unsure what stance they want to take, and the voters have only so much patience left.

And so to the Conservatives. Well where do you start. They are so totally consumed by leaving the European Union by 31st October, that the tiny matter of governing the country has more or less stopped. Yes there are ministers doing their best to run their portfolios, but it is impossible to do any long term strategic thinking without knowing which direction the country will take. There's open revolt within their ranks on Brexit, with at least 20 of their number consistently voting against their own Government and Prime Minister. In Boris Johnson they have a leader who is popular with the public because of his buffoonish behaviour, but who has scant regard for the truth and an even greater tendency than the Labour Party at doing the wrong thing.

Meanwhile the Scottish National Party who want to remain in Europe, see Brexit as the perfect opportunity to achieve what they really want - independence. If that happens, it would spell the end of the United Kingdom, the Euro becoming the currency north of the border, and upsetting the Queen. Poor old Charles has waited this long, only to find he'll probably need to bring his passport to go on his summer vacation in Balmoral.

Among all these shenanigans, the people who elected their MPs are utterly bewildered at what has happened in their name. No matter which side of the Brexit debate you sit, there is widespread agreement at the daily theatre seen on their TV screens. The fact that three years after the vote to leave we are still to physically leave is not lost on them. It is the silly squabbling and point scoring by all sides. There are voters who voted remain that just want a leave deal sorted quickly, hardened leave voters who want out at any cost, and remain voters who probably wouldn't accept another referendum result. Yet many of our MPs seem to adopt a personal interpretation of the referendum result, rather than listening to what their constituency wants. It is party politics at its best and worst.

All this time the Brexit Party is loving it. This single issue party rides the crest of the moral high ground of the referendum result, whilst its MEPs abstain on a motion calling for the Iranian authorities to release dual Iranian/British national Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe. Such scant regard for the welfare of a British citizen being held on trumped up charges is shameful.

For decades my voting preference has been pretty clear. Whether it was a tactical vote to keep my least preferred choice out, or a simple X against the name of the best candidate, I find myself wondering what I'll do come the election. Who knows, a lot could happen between now and then, but if there are others hiding the same feeling of utter despair with the state of our political parties and system as me, then politics is the real loser.

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