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“Strength and stability are notably absent” – Liam McCaffrey

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By Liam McCaffrey


Political campaigns by their nature can be arduous and repetitive, but in this election the Conservative Party have two words they want you to remember ‘strong’ and ‘stable’. Particularly, Theresa May has placed emphasis on having a strong and stable economy.

After years of reverse Robin Hoodery, May and her Merry Men have time and again come under scrutiny for their decision to take aim at welfare recipients and social institutions, rather than wealthy individuals or tax avoidant businesses. With every incisive question, May responds with a roboticism that would make Marvin the Paranoid Android shudder. She says: “In order to have [insert social good] we need a strong and stable economy.” The problem is that the social good is always deferred to some later, indeterminate time. It leaves us to ask the question: For whom are we building this strong and stable economy?

The election of a Tory government during a time of economic contraction is convenient. Convenient because it means that the Tories can shoehorn their ideological austerity into the public consciousness under the guise of ‘living within our means’, as though public spending works like some kind of sovereign credit card. Convenient because it means that their failure to bring the economy into proper recovery can garner further public mandate. Convenient because the electorate sees the financial difficulties we face and accepts the Eli5 explanation of public finances. Convenient because, for the Tories, a failing economy is a permission structure for fiscal conservatism. But perhaps a government of convenient rhetoric is not enough, if we truly want a strong and stable Britain.

The Conservative Party are no doubt strong in their ruthlessness to supplement their democratic mandate at any cost to the public. We saw this during the 2016 European Union membership referendum: the Conservatives feared voter attrition as increasing numbers (including their own MPs) were defecting to UKIP. The only way to cauterise the haemorrhage was to pander to the UKIP electorate. The Europhiles among the party never could have imagined that the pendulum would swing in UKIP’s favour. Now, nearly a year later, and we are beginning to negotiate our departure from the EU and all of the financial uncertainty that comes with it.

The fallout from Brexit was palpable, leaving party politics in a state of disarray. Once again, Theresa May, after promising to unite Britain and not call a general election, rolled the dice for the UK, calling a snap election. She is attempting now to capitalise on uncertainty and people’s need for security in a politically tumultuous landscape. But the reality is that she and her predecessor created the very instability that they are claiming to be the safe retreat from. Even worse, the polls continue to reflect sentiment shifting into the hearts of Labour, meaning that once again a Tory power grab is backfiring. Where is the strength in this democratic misfire? Where is the stability? Notably absent, like Theresa May on debate night.

Do not fall for Tory askesis: austerity is a choice and it is one that a Conservative government would have pursued even in a time of prosperity. This kind of economic Calvinism is a choice and one we should treat with due suspicion. The Tories want us stuck in a political spin cycle where they promise to fix problems that they created all the while attributing blame to those most in need. Yes, we need a strong and stable economy, but not at the sacrifice of those whom it services, the normal people, working or non-working, who rely upon it to provide them with the opportunities for happiness and to unlock their potential.

The Tories are the sickness, not the cure. Don’t let them fool you into thinking otherwise.

 

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