General Election 2017: Britain and Brexit

EU and UK flags Credit: Bankenverband (Source: Flickr)

By George Cook

‘Dare to dream, that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom’ were the words uttered by Nigel Farage in the early hours of the 24th June and saw the UK vote to leave the EU. Many have cited Brexit as the most important political decision in a life time, that is hard to deny. It sent shockwaves throughout this country and throughout Europe. It has changed the course of modern democracy demonstrating the surge in support for populist politics and saw the established political class represented as a deadly cocktail of elitism and privilege that have ignored the wishes of the ‘little man’ and ‘ordinary British people.’ This election too has the EU at its core once again, about whether we want the so called ‘strong and stable’ Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate our exit terms from the European Union. Whilst the implications of Brexit are unquestionably wide reaching and significant on almost every part of modern society, focussing too heavily on Brexit in a general election understates the importance of other key issues and proposed policies.

The Conservatives are trying to push the issue of leaving the EU to the forefront of their campaign, portraying Theresa May as the ‘strong and stable’ leader we need to negotiate the terms of our withdrawal. They have portrayed Jeremy Corbyn as weak, as incapable of getting a good deal for Britain and of being unable to reduce immigration, an issue that was also at the heart of the EU Referendum. The deal that is achieved will shape the economic success or stagnation for many generations to come. It will determine the extent of immigration to the UK. And it will ensure the rights of British citizens living abroad and those European citizens who reside here. These are things that will have a significant impact on life for all those ‘ordinary people’ who voted to Leave the EU and, of course, those who voted to Remain. So it is no surprise that Brexit has been put on a pedestal higher than any other issue in this election, especially by the Conservatives.

But what the Tories have really done by putting Brexit at the heart of this election, is push personality politics and see it as a possible vote winner. Why though? Why put personality at the heart of your campaign with a leader who, arguably, lacks that very thing; especially against a leader who is as passionate and charismatic in Jeremy Corbyn. Rod Liddle in the Spectator recently commented that Theresa May ‘has the wit and oratorical ability of a fridge freezer’. Now unless you have a comedic fridge freezer, this is a damning statement on her personal character and on the ‘strong and stable’ leadership she feels she can offer.

Corbyn knows he can outperform May in personality terms, that is why he is pushing so hard for a one on one debate. But his campaign has focussed, like the Leave campaign, on ‘ordinary British people’ on those who politicians usually ignore with an anti-austerity manifesto, and whilst he has obviously addressed the issue of leaving the EU, it has been to a lesser extent to the Tories.

We have seen the politics we had become so used to thrown out of the window and now we face the choice of who will lead us out of the European Union, but let us not forget they also need to lead the country here at home.

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