An election nobody wants


So May wants to have an early election, in one of the biggest political U-turns in recent history. We were assured for months that there would be no such thing, why the whole reason for the fix term parliament act, which the Tories brought in during the last parliament, was essential to ensure stability and continuity of government….which they now propose to ditch at one of the most critical moments in recent UK history (hence why the markets suddenly dropped today as result of this announcement).

However the massive Tory 20 point lead in the polls proved just too irresistible to ignore. But this polling lead is due to a key electoral asset the Tories possess – Jeremy Corbyn. The danger is that sometime between now and 2020, he’d be unseated. And the upcoming local elections, where its expected labour will do badly, could be exactly the sort of opportunity for Corbyn’s opponents to do this. The Tories didn’t want to wait and risk having an election without Corbyn as labour leader, so they’ve decided to pre-empt any move to topple him.

Also there’s a lot of bad news in the pipeline over brexit. Prices are starting to go up, its starting to dawn on people that it might not have been a great idea. The Tories will face pressure from both directions during the brexit negotiations. On the one hand, they’ll have to make a lot of concessions to the EU which will infuriate the little Englanders. And on the other hand, there will be further rounds of cuts to spending in keeping with the expected fall in tax revenue. The impact of all of this on a 2020 election is difficult to foretell, particularly when you factor in a possible 2nd indyref. So the danger of waiting is their poll numbers could slide and next thing you know they’d be kicking themselves for waiting.

And there is history here. Gordon Brown was urged to have an early election after he took over from Tony Blair. Labour had seen a bounce in the polls, it was expected he’d win easily, gaining a mandate separate from Tony Blair’s. But he hesitated, in part due to some polls suggesting their majority might be reduced. Then the financial crisis hit and the rest as they say is history. Churchill too, delayed an election due to some ongoing European matters. Only for him to then lose the 1945 election to labour. So waiting might not be a terribly good strategy.

So should there be an election? My view no, and I’m not just saying that because I expect the Tories to win. They are setting a very dangerous precedence. We were told when the fix term parliament act came in that fixed terms are important for stability. However they now seem to be saying bolix to all of that, we only brought that in to control the lib dems. So instead the stability of the country will be sacrificed for the short term internal politics of the Tory party. Much as the brexit vote was held not because it was a good idea, but to resolve an internal dispute within the Tory party. And brexit is being negotiated not on terms that are favourable to the UK, but on terms that will be acceptable to the different factions within the Tory party. And of course the miners strike under Thatcher, the decision to join and then leave the ERM under Major were all made, not in the best interest of the country, but to deal with short term issues within the Tory party.

So the pattern here is that the UK national interest comes secondary to the internal politics of the Tory party. Which ever way you vote in this election won’t really matter. We’d be better off circumventing the process and all of us just joining the Tory party…although to sign up you’ll need a quart of blood from a baby and a handful of soil from your own grave! So it might not be for everyone.

Aside from this short term thinking, there is a more fundamental problem here. The Tories are going back on what they said with regard to fixed term parliaments. There is a convention of government that succeeding parliaments do not repeal bills passed by prior administrations without good reason or cause. Otherwise, the end result is political ping pong. e.g. Tony Blair or Brown repeals all of Thatcher’s privatisation policies, then Cameron spends much of his parliament bringing them back in. Nothing ends up changing. Arguably if a party campaigns on an issue at a previous election, then that’s grounds for repealing stuff. But I see nothing about repealing fixed term parliaments in the last Tory manifesto (nor do I see anything about a hard brexit either!).

So while I doubt the Tories will be stopped, its clear this election is being held for the most cynical of reasons at a time the country can least afford it.


13 thoughts on “An election nobody wants

  1. Why do you hate Corbyn so much? My impression from the other side of the pond may be wrong, but it is that Blair and his ilk are pretty-faced austerity-liberals who led the country nowhere and followed Bush into a war of aggression, while Corbyn might offer the left-wing populism that’s really needed- the true antidote to right-wing pseudo-populism. And I can’t help but wonder what Corbyn’s position would be like if his own party wasn’t working so hard to undermine him.


    • I outline my criticisms in a prior post but quite simply put he’s a pro-brexit politician in charge of a party that’s overwhelmingly pro-remain. He claims he’s doing because we have to “respect the vote”, even thought technically only about 37% of the electorate actually backed brexit. Furthermore the leave vote was was made up of Tories & UKIP’ers (who voted 70-90% leave) and a relatively small number of labour supporters (about 10-30% depending on who we count as “labour supporter”), many of whom are mild-leavers who were trying to send a message and will probably suffer the most when the implications of brexit become clear. Corbyn’s pro-leave stance is not going to convenience any Tories to vote for him, but’s going to certainly ensure that a lot of labour voters don’t vote for him. His policy here is electoral suicide.

      Furthermore, his caving in to the Tories on brexit means there is now effectively no opposition in the UK. The instant he let slip that he’d back brexit no matter what, even going against his own party if necessary, he may as well have gone home. In politics the other side has to believe you’re prepared to push the nuclear button and vote against them (or try to filibuster), otherwise they’ll take you for a ride.

      Finally, its not labour MP’s or his own party who are problem, its the public. Labour MP’s are simply picking up on what they hear from their constituents. And the fact is neither his pro-brexit stance nor his hard left politics are particularly appealing to many. I know plenty of labour supporters and I can count on one hand the number who will be voting labour. So while I might agree with some of the things he says (and I voted labour last election), that doesn’t matter because there’s no way he’s going to win. In opposition, he’s just going to go along with anything the Tories say, so I’d be throwing away my vote. I may as well vote SNP, lib dems or greens, which is what I probably will do.


  2. Interesting. Based largely on the writings of Steve Keen and other non-neoclassical economists, I do wonder if Brexit is a blessing in (a very racist) disguise and that the EU might collapse under the weight of its own built-in Thatcherism. But…clearly not my country.

    For instance, I didn’t even know about the SNP. What exactly is their deal, besides being Scottish?


    • The EU isn’t perfect, but anyone on the leeft advocating for it to collapse its like trying to burn your house down because you don’t like the colour of the wall paper. The EU has put things like climate change or tackling world poverty on the agenda. Its led to tighter standards in terms of food and product safety, environmental standards, etc. Its promoted open borders. And its not as if we’ve had a war in Europe for a while.

      Now yes, given that quite a few EU government are fairly right wing, its promoted a number of right wing policies, but the logic that all the countries would turn to Corbyn style socialism if you got rid of it is just bonkers. Actually, the opposite is more likely. Brexit now means workers rights, environmental protection, the NHS, social welfare will all be rowed back, along with a xenophobic immigration policy.

      The term “baby out with the bathwater” doesn’t quite cut it.


  3. It’s not just about some EU states having right wing governments. It’s about an inherently undemocratic decision-making procedure that empowers people like Schauble, and governing treaties that prevent effective post-crash economic policies. Countries can’t devalue (since they’re in the same currency), can’t deficit spend for stimulus (Maasricht), and can’t implement many protectionist trade measures. All they have left is to go to Germany I mean Brussels and beg for mercy. I see how well that worked for Greece/Spain. [Limited knowledge here, but I’ll try anyway…] The Uk may have had more freedoms than the continental currency union members and instead pursued Austerity by choice. But still, isn’t it somewhat good news that if a new Uk government were to attempt to reverse course over that, they at least won’t have to fight the EU over it anymore?

    That northern European governments clearly believe preventing their own private banking sectors from the consequences of bad investments is more important than sparing countries from economic collapse is probably a large part of the problem. So is the ‘far-right’ demagogues popping up in many of the countries.

    But I can’t help thinking that without the lead straightjacket of the governing treaties and EU power structure it would be easier for many countries to economically save themselves the “wrong way” despite the wishes of the Schaubles of the world, and that in turn might reduce the influence of all the racist far-right scapegoaters. In other words, I wonder if the recent prevalence of extreme right-wing parties throughout Europe is a symptom of other failed policies. It would make more sense than claiming that people suddenly got way more racist [Again, perhaps borrowing too much from the American experience- it is common for American liberals to attribute the Trump win almost entirely to bigotry despite the fact that his most important electoral victories occurred in regions that twice gave a majority to Barack Obama].


    • Again, the trouble is that the alternative is much worse. Many of the same arguments about the EU could equally be applied to the US. After all, if it weren’t for the “lead straightjacket” of the GOP’s hold over half of the country, a lot of liberal policies could be implemented.

      So suppose the US split up, the liberal states like California, Oregon, Washington & the Northern West broke away. There would be an economic price to be paid certainly, but overall I’d expect these parts of the US to probably do rather well, given that they’ve been essentially subsidising the rest of the country for decades. They could implement all sorts of liberal policies without any GOP veto.

      However, this doesn’t mean the Texan’s are all going to suddenly become liberals. They’d probably bring back the Jim crow laws, they’d basically ban the environment, lower taxes, kick the poor and let the corporations strip the land bare of resources. Of course eventually it would all collapse and the liberal states would probably forced to bail them out. But suffice to say, while its an option I wouldn’t take off the table (given Trump and all), its clearly not one you want to go down unless its absolutely necessary.

      And similarly in the EU, if it broke up, all that would happen is that Germany would be even better off and even more dominant, the fascists in Hungary & Italy would start throwing out Muslims & Jews, labour laws & environmental protections would be abandoned in many EU states, action on climate change or tackling 3rd world poverty would be ignored. And when the whole sorry mess ends in a war, guess what the end result is? Much worse than anything we see right now.

      As for the Greek bailout, yes the EU could have handled it better, but who borrowed all that money in the first place? The Greeks? Who decided to go into the Euro? the Greeks (nobody in Germany forced them, if anything they tried to stop them joining). While Goldman certainly helped the Greeks it was the Greeks who fiddled the books (to allow them to meet the Euro entry criteria) and the Greeks accepted the EU’s bailout terms – twice! And there’s been enough elections along the way that every party in Greece, even the hard left, and the Greek voters can’t pass the buck. Ironically the only party left in Greece who can legitimately claim to have opposed all this from the start are the 5 star fascists.

      We had similar issues in Ireland and again we were largely responsible for the mess. Yes the EU could have maybe avoided it and handled the bailout better, /but we were at least 70% responsible, not the EU, not Germany (and I’d pin at least 20% of the blame on wall street). And if we hadn’t been in the EU, its likely our economy would have collapsed completely (as would have the Greek economy).


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  5. Again, these are mostly my hunches about Europe since I’m not over there, but I want to make sure you understand the point I’m making…

    By “lead straightjacket”, I’m referring to the ‘neoliberal consensus’ kind of stuff that seems to happen as long as a centrist (left or right) party governs- financial deregulation, trade deals, austerity. One of the differences between the US and Europe is it seems that with Europe (especially on the continent), much of the neoliberal philosophy is built into the structure of the union and the governing treaties.

    You mention fiscal transfers in the United States- I’d like to note that that’s something this country has been doing for quite a while with a minimum of divisive moralizing, as opposed to Europe, where the slightest whisper of ‘debt relief’ brings up “PIIGS” and all kinds of other hypocritical divisive nonsense.
    So to rephrase my central suspicion, it’s that the EU CANNOT keep going in its current form- either the governance structure and governing treaties have to be dramatically modified, or the union probably won’t be around for much longer.


  6. Btw the “lead straitjacket” terming is also meant to mock a certain New York Times columnist. I suspect that many of the economic philosophies codified by the EU treaties originated in the United States- but fortunately we didn’t follow that advice in the distant or recent history of the US.


  7. …In response to the part about sovereign debt crises- this gets into some economics that I don’t completely understand yet, but I suspect that the main point is that asking whose “fault” a government debt crisis is misses the point. These crises all emerged as a consequence of the aftermath of a global private debt crisis that affected both ‘good boys’ like Spain (decreasing national-debt/GDP leading up to the crisis) and ‘naughty’ Greece. Germany dodged the bullet not because of a history of balanced budgets (which would be a myth anyways- even they couldn’t follow their own rules) but because they didn’t have ballooning private debt leading up to the global crisis. So they weren’t hit nearly as hard. And they had a trade surplus (something that, by definition- the rest of the world can’t have simultaneously) which probably was very helpful in keeping them afloat after the global crash (btw, looking at some trade balance trends- I wonder if that also plays a major role in Ireland’s recovery). Now they sit on top of the crumbling ruin that is the eurozone economy, with their trade surplus (Which helps balance their national budget but violates EU treaties but that doesn’t matter in their case- I wonder why), self-righteously preaching economic fairy tales (expansionary austerity, confidence fairies) and instructing the periphery countries to starve themselves for the ‘greater good’ of the EU…i.e to keep northern European banks happy…which would work if austerity worked but instead has thrown parts of the EU into prolonged economic depressions.

    Which brings me back to the problems in how the EU is set up. If some relatively self-serving/clueless center-right/neoliberal technocrat leadership is enough to threaten the existence of the EU, that means the thing is pretty inherently unstable to begin with.

    P.S I know a lot of this is a tangent off of any of the Brexit stuff. But back to that…why rejoin a sinking ship captained by clueless neoliberals? Why not instead get on board the Brexit ship that appears to be sailing one way or the other and try to have some say on where it goes? [No, I don’t have a strong opinion on whether this is possible in a Tory-dominated Uk government…but over here it does strike me as an opportunity].

    PPS. Is it possible that Ireland’s recovery has a lot more to do with exports and tax sheltering (e.g for US businesses) than with following the EU’s advice?


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