Reflections on Thursday’s vote
The lead-up to the election has been an extraordinary and distressing period. The tragic and terrible terrorist attacks have left us feeling numb, sad, confused and inevitably somewhat fearful for ourselves and our loved ones. There is no obvious quick fix for the challenges we face. It’s not obvious what we need to do about terrorism, BREXIT, defence, the NHS and education. Yet our politicians pretend they have the solutions when they don’t.
And the scepticism that Jeremy Corbyn would never win the election is also being turned on its head. The unthinkable is becoming possible as other parties have led appalling campaigns. A far left Marxist and his even more far left Deputy John McDonnell and Diane Abbott could be in charge of this country from this Friday. Personally I think this would be a disaster. I sit in the centre of politics and it is his anti-business stance that concerns me most. Where does that leave aspiration? The UK is one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world and consists mainly of small and medium-sized businesses founded and run by enterprising and hard-working people who have often grafted for 60 – 80 hours a week, seven days a week, to get their business going.
There are major organisations, for whom he has it in, who employ large numbers of people but he wants to tax and regulate these until the pips squeak – and that will be likely to have the consequence of more unemployment and less tax revenue as businesses can and do, in this day and age, relocate to other more business-friendly lands.
On top of the upheaval and uncertainty of BREXIT – and Corbyn was remarkable for his absence in the Remain campaign and has held anti-EU sentiments that are unlikely to be beneficial to us in the negotiations – this anti-business approach could bring our country to economic ruin. Look at Venezuela. Or Cuba – yes they had good health and education but the people were dirt poor, and repressed. And financial ruin hits the poorest the hardest.
Corbyn supporters see him as the answer to our problems but I am not so convinced that his heart is in the right place, or that what he promises is affordable. They call him our Obama. But he is no Obama. It is trendy and hip to be pro-Jeremy – just look at the comedians, the TV audiences for debates, the celebrities. Social media streams are pro-Corbyn and few dare stick their head above the parapet if they feel differently. Those who utter criticism are regarded as unenlightened.
I know many of you disagree with me but I see him as a populist, our version of Donald Trump, albeit a very different character. He is an angry rebel – standing against situations for most of his life rather than for anything specific. What he does stand for, such as pacifism, his support of the underdog such as the IRA or Hamas, he later finds some way to wriggle out of in interviews so as not to sound too extreme. But I believe he is extreme. He is an ideologue who wants revolution and revolutions seldom end well and always incur much suffering and repression.
Inevitably the young will be enamoured with such idealistic rhetoric. I would have been if I had been younger. I flirted with communism in my teens in the 60s until I realized the terrible things that occurred in its name, the slaughter, the repression. Of course they will vote for him as he has effectively bribed them with the promise of no tuition fees. Why wouldn’t they? But whilst it is right that the young should be idealistic we also need to recognise that they have not yet had the experience of working, paying taxes, raising families and the inherent challenges of adult life.
But where to put that cross? The other parties are not offering us anything nearly as attractive. Of course not. They can’t. They don’t live in an idealistic wonderland. Perhaps you are old enough to remember the nationalised industries. I certainly am – the dreadful British Rail, the strikes of the 1970s where rubbish piled up on the pavements, we had electricity for only a few hours a day, bodies were not buried. Why do we imagine that the Government will be better at running industry when they have demonstrated through successive governments that they have been unable to run the NHS or education in any coherent or efficient way? Again, Corbyn is selling us a dream and of course people like dreams.
But we live in the real world. We have to pay for what a government promises. And if we go deeper into debt we have to pay more interest – billions of pounds of it a year that could be going elsewhere. Yes, austerity has been too harsh but we also have to be the grown-ups that we are as a voting community and recognise that money doesn’t grow on trees. We also need to recognise that it is a good thing to encourage people to work if they possibly can as this gives them pride and self-control.
I have voted Labour in the past but dislike the divisive rhetoric of the party. Words such as ‘the rich’ and ‘posh’. We need to encourage business development and wealth creation as these employ others and pay a huge percentage of the tax that our country needs for infrastructure. As do corporations. The ‘greedy bankers’ consist of a small percentage of people. The majority of staff working in organisations are decent ordinary people. You get rotten apples in every profession – we have seen cases of rotten doctors recently, we get rotten lawyers, rotten teachers, politicians, union leaders, etc. I am not an economist but I can see that one can’t allow banks to fail because each and every person who has money held in those banks, individuals and businesses, would have lost their money. There is still work to do on the culture and values of big business and I believe all the parties are addressing this. Things are changing and people in business are not all bad. In the meantime the coalition government and Conservative government who have been in power since the economic crash of 2008 have had to deal with the problem of “there’s no money left”.
Somehow we don’t hear the same criticism of ‘the rich’ for those who have made money singing a pop song or kicking a football. The anger and hatred is directed at business and this is dangerous because a country thrives or starves on the success of trade. My rather cynical mind thinks that a Corbyn approach is to pack full the public sector and keep people on generous benefits because these are his voting community and he has less control of them if they are working in the private sector. If he gets in I hope I shall be proved wrong but right now I am concerned for the economic viability of his policies.
I don’t have solutions. I think the Conservatives have made and continue to make major mistakes. I question how on earth the second referendum promised by the LibDems will work. Do they intend that many hundreds of people spend time and huge amounts of money discussing and negotiating an exit deal and then give the British public the right to reverse the whole thing? How would that work with the Europeans? Would they be happy that they had just spent two years of uncertainty that was effectively in the hands of the British people to negate? And how can any of them state that they will stay in the single market or custom zone until they start negotiating, especially when the EU will not flex one inch on the free movement of people?
But I do worry that a Corbyn government would ruin businesses and lead far more people into poverty. It will make the UK far less attractive a place for international businesses to operate – on top of the uncertainty they are already experiencing through BREXIT. Trade is what keeps the peace, not idealism. Trade has power in itself to build relationships, to employ diverse peoples and to keep the wheels of life going for the average person even through war and pestilence. Look at how mobile phone companies keep people talking despite wars, air traffic controllers and airlines maintain flights over and into war zones.
We have tax avoidance in the cash economy, such as in construction, and in the big businesses and this needs to be addressed. Business can be a force for the good, not evil. The average working person is just trying to make a living, not fleece others. Without it there will be no taxes to pay to help those people who need help – who are sick, disabled, or have fallen on hard times and need help and support to pick them up again. We need a Prime Minister who sees how to provide support for the needy in an efficient and pragmatic way. Anyone promising snake oil remedies must be questioned, their motives and solutions analysed to see if they are indeed workable.
Personally I believe the Coalition worked well for the country and I would like to see more cross-party projects on defence, the NHS and social care, on education. Collaboration surely provides a forum for listening to other perspectives and for rational debate. It has the potential to put the interests of the people and the nation above party politics. But the parties are claiming they will not work in coalition, so we have to make our own decisions who to vote for and this is difficult.
All politicians are human and therefore flawed and fallible. Think of Trump and how that was also a really hard choice of two people, neither of whom were popular, but I personally would have felt the US and the world to be a safer place with a pragmatic Clinton rather than the salesman Trump. Recent elections in France, the Netherlands and Austria have provided difficult choices for their electorate too.
Vote. Do vote. Don’t let the challenge stop you going to the ballot box. If you meet anyone who has lived under a repressive or authoritarian regime you will know how precious a gift a vote is. But please don’t fall for the line that all business is bad. It isn’t true and such propositions are bad for our country.