UK elections – my money’s on the lemmings
A few quick thoughts about Britain’s upcoming general election, also referred to as a snap poll.
I have no idea why the word snap is used to describe an election called at short notice. Perhaps it has something to do with the card game, usually played by kids, in which the first person to turn over a card of same value as the previous one shouts snap, and gets to remove all the cards underneath. It usually results in fisticuffs when the two players shout snap simultaneously.
I’ll leave you to figure out how this is relevant to our political leaders, though children and fisticuffs might provide a clue. But in this context, snap has a different meaning for me – as in another bloody election will seriously challenge my sanity, and might actually push me over the edge.
The Daily Mail, which for the umpteenth year running is poised to win the Goebbels Award for Rabid Journalism, is having a field day. On its front page it has Theresa May staring at us with a demonic half-grin. Either that, or she was in urgent need of the bathroom during the photoshoot. Not blessed, as an Irish friend is fond of saying about people whose appearance leaves something to be desired. A shame, because when she’s not practising her death stare, she has a very pleasant face. Not that looks have anything to do with politics in my book, you understand, even if cartoonists might try and persuade you otherwise..
Anyway, the headline says “Crush the Saboteurs”, presumably referring to all those who have wilfully attempted to defy the Will of the People by obstructing Brexit. There follows fifteen pages of what the Mail, with its characteristic sense of humour, call Reports and Analysis.
Of those, pride of place goes to two pieces. One, written by their political editor, helpfully provides lists what he calls “charge sheets” against each of the saboteurs. He means, of course, the usual suspects: Labour, the Lib Dems, the House of Lords and so on. I imagine that after the election, he will suggest that these felons will be put up against a wall and shot.
The second piece shows a statue of Winston, under the headline “This election gives Mrs May the chance to do what every Conservative leader since Churchill has dreamed of – putting an end to Labour for ever.” A very conciliatory sentiment given the prime minister’s avowed desire to pull the nation together. The devil inside me wants to shout “Ein Reich, Ein Volk”. But I won’t, because I’m not one for summoning the ghost of Adolf whenever some tin-pot authoritarian newspaper editor gets above himself.
The writer has the cheek to refer to the Battle of Cable Street, in which Britain’s pre-war Fascist movement fought a pitched battle against its opponents in London’s East End. He cites that famous event as a “lesson of history about social dislocation”. He fails to mention that the Mail’s publisher at that time cheered on the Fascists in a leader entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”. Authoritarian instincts are clearly embedded in the Mail’s DNA.
Anyway, we are where we are. From where I sit, I wish success for any candidate or party committed either to destroying Brexit, or at least mitigating its consequences. I’m not sure that that’s the way things will turn out. The lemmings are likely to keep running. And if Labour are wiped out, which the Mail so fervently desires, our only hope of avoiding being in a country without a serious opposition is if the Conservatives, secure in a massive majority, start fighting each other. In other words, the only opposition worthy of the name might be within the ranks of a single party. A depressing thought, and certainly not what Mrs May has in mind.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be commenting further as the whole exercise pans out. The only good thing about this election is that the run-up is mercifully short.
But not too short for one significant event across the channel to take place in the interim that might add some spice. The run-off for the French presidential elections takes place on May 7th. How will political calculations change should President Le Pen take office?
The next few weeks should be grim but fascinating.