As Britain gears up for what is arguably the most important general election, one poised to decide the nation’s future for generations to come, voter enthusiasm is at an all-time low.
Put simply, Britons are disillusioned with politicians of all stripes as well as a parliament engaged in vicious infighting for almost four years.
The country may be splintered between so-called Remainers and Leavers but if there is one thing they all long for is an end to the Brexit saga one way or another. That would require one party or coalition to gain a substantial parliamentary majority in order to push through its agenda unopposed.
However, judging by the scathing reactions to the recently aired BBC’s Question Time when Conservative, Labour, SNP and LibDem leaders were grilled by audience members, it appears that many voters will be forced to hold their noses while casting their ballots.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was attacked for his racist and homophobic writings and on his party’s poor performance on tackling crime, alleviating poverty and ensuring that the grossly overburdened National Health Service (NHS) is adequately funded.
Violence by injury
Indeed, since 2014 the homicide rate has risen by 32 per cent and ‘violence by injury’ offences have soared by as much as 70 per cent. Moreover, over the past ten years charities have monitored a substantial rise in child poverty. As for what was once the country’s pride the NHS, it was hit by austerity cuts resulting in shortages of doctors and nurses.
Johnson’s grand promises to plough billions into police forces and the health service were met with scepticism and on the topic of poverty he waffled eventually touting improved education as the solution. He is a showman with an elitist background hampered by a major trust-deficit.
Given that the Tories have failed to deliver on the people’s mandate to quit the EU primarily due to Theresa May’s squandering of their majority in parliament with an unnecessary election, one would normally assume that the nation was ripe for change.
Surely if the biggest opposition party Labour played its cards right it could easily sweep the board. Not so. Logic plays no part in this Brexit-dominated election.
Unfortunately, Labour is in disarray. Whereas its rivals have clear-cut in or out solutions, Labour is offering a people’s vote that threatens to drag the process on interminably with the spectre of ending back at square one. That may have been a good idea, say, six months ago but not at the nth hour when Brexit apathy is off the scale and there is no guarantee that the EU is up for further negotiations.
During Question Time, Jeremy Corbyn revealed he would remain neutral on Brexit to enable him to respond to the peoples’ will. In reality he has been fence-sitting all along amid allegations that he is a closet Leaver who’s been operating under his party’s constraints.
That said nobody can deny that the Labour leader isn’t a man with strong convictions, one of a rare breed of politicians today. He has always stood up for the little guy. He has battled on behalf of the working class and taken the side of oppressed minorities.
However, his staunch opposition to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been misconstrued as anti-Semitism. Two of my Jewish school friends who have known him personally since his early activist days and count themselves among his loyal supporters assure me that he does not possess an anti-Semitic bone in his body.
Nevertheless according to a poll of British Jews 87 per cent have fallen for the hysterical propaganda conflating opposition to Israel’s policies with anti-Semitism.
Sadly, he comes with unshakeable baggage based on his previous associations with officials from Iran, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. His far-left views coupled with the fact that he has shown open antipathy towards the US president could gravely mar the Special Relationship not to mention hopes for a coveted US-UK trade deal in the event his party was elected.
US push back
The Labour Party would be bad for Britain, said Trump who has refused to meet with Corbyn and has warned the US could reduce intelligence-sharing with the UK. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was caught on tape telling Jewish leaders that the US would “push back” to prevent a Corbyn premiership.
These comments amount to egregious interference in Britain’s democratic process, far worse than Russia’s alleged interference in America’s 2016 election, even so once the UK quits the EU, like it or not, preserving relations with its transatlantic partner will be paramount.
The outcome of this peculiar ballot where traditional party loyalties are no longer a major factor is too early to call. Polls may be notoriously unreliable but the latest Opinion Poll with just three weeks to go before December 12 suggests the unpopular Conservatives will grab 47 per cent of the vote leaving Labour with just 28 per cent. The unanswerable question is this: If Jeremy Corbyn had stepped aside to allow for a more centrist baggage-free party leader for the sake of party and country, would there be a different result?
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.