This brief article (some might say rant) was written the day before the UK election on 12 December 2019 at the request of the Holmes Report, which published an abridged version of it on election day.
This has been a deeply depressing election, another twist in the downward spiral that has been British politics for the past 20 or 30 years. To an extent political parties always make promises that are at best optimistic and at worse highly unlikely ever to be delivered (aka lies), but this one has gone several steps further with the whole exercise being based on untruths. The Tories are not going to sell off the NHS to the Americans. Jo Swinson is not going to be Prime Minister. And, above all, we are not going to get Brexit done by 31 January, a whopper that will be exposed within months and ought to severely damage Boris Johnson (but probably won’t).
It is really hard to pick a lowlight, because it has been a parade of lowlights. But probably the lowest of the low moments came with the publication of the Conservative manifesto, which (on p.48) includes an overt threat to the judiciary and democracy dressed up in bland procedural language a 1920s European totalitarian would admire. And yet, unforgivably, Boris Johnson has faced no serious questions about it. This really is pathetic and horrible.
I’m struggling to think of a highlight. I did enjoy the empty chairing of Boris in the Channel 4 climate debate, the steady drip of melting ice a strong reminder of the urgency of the need for decarbonisation and for politicians to make really difficult and unpopular decisions if we are going to get anywhere near net zero by 2050. Speaking of the leaders’ debates, the big comms lesson was given every time Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon appeared. One was so over-rehearsed she seemed inauthentic and trite; the other naturally engaging and right on top of her brief. In fact Nicola Sturgeon is the big winner of this election, by virtue of being the only leader who was not entirely mediocre, meaningless or mendacious. Grim stuff.