LET’S get the not-funny jokes about turkeys voting for Christmas and parties getting stuffed out of the way right now. This forthcoming general election, the third in four years, is far too serious to trifle with. And that’s not a festive trifle either.
The battle between Conservative and Labour deserves our full attention. There hasn’t been time to turn it into two clearly-defined ideologies going head to head. Rather it is about two fractured parties riven with bile.
Presiding over both are leaders who are not trusted by a significant number of their own MPs, party members and, most importantly, voters. Yet, barring the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, rising up like Colossus, most of us will be persuaded by one or the other in the end.
In Westminster this week, 100 Labour MPs defied the whip to vote against holding an election at all. Many Conservative MPs, already isolated from Number 10, now face a further bevy of strategists and election specialists calling in the flat whites and telling them what to do from afar.
And what about us, the ones who decide the winner? We need to forget these internal machinations and focus. We are going to be asked to perform a delicate balancing act on December 12. Deciding where to put the X should be the absolute opposite of our instinctive vote for Leave or Remain.
It should be based not just on the potential of each candidate in our particular constituency but with the ultimate prize in mind. You can blame the inequitable nature of our first-past-the-post electoral system for that.
Some lucky people will already know who they hope to win. Many, many others are totally perplexed.
Brexit has not only divided the political convictions of ordinary people. It has also forced us to see the leaders of the two main political parties through a polarising lens.
We need to force ourselves to ask the big question: what would either of them be like as Prime Minister if it wasn’t for Brexit?
I have never fallen for it myself, but Boris Johnson clearly has charisma and chutzpah in his favour. He shows this in his dealings with US President Donald Trump.
And although he’s left a trail of parliamentary debris in his wake, Johnson clearly has the determination and ambition to push through the things he wants. The unlawful prorogation of parliament was not his best idea, but that stop-at-nothing drive – directed in a positive way for the good of the country – is a plus point, I guess.
In their attempts to woo ‘Workington Man’, the blue-collar workers who voted Leave and put security first, his strategists have clearly realised that this bullishness chimes with a lot of voters in traditional Labour-held seats in the North. Perhaps typically, little so far has been said about how it chimes with their wives and partners.
Neither party leader is exactly a wow with women, it must be pointed out. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour has been tainted by accusations of sexism and anti-Semitism. Neither he nor Johnson are known for their tolerance and promotion of equal opportunities.
But what about policies, you may well ask? Put Brexit to one side and what would Johnson or Corbyn do about social care, inequality, zero hours contracts, bridging the divides between North and South (including, once and for all, HS2), student tuition fees… and yes, the NHS.
Of course, A&E shortcomings, ridiculous waits for GP appointments and the shocking number of unfilled hospital consultant posts requires emergency attention. However, don’t you find it patronising when either one of them thinks that mentioning the NHS will shut you up?
Personally, I want to know more about how each leader might tackle the serious child poverty blighting millions of families and what kind of system will deliver vital provision of social care for elderly and vulnerable people.
It’s here where Corbyn scores highly – especially in the North. He’s a lifelong campaigner who has taken a very principled stand on public services. His commitment to a root and branch reforming agenda – “the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen” – should chime with those who feel left behind by years of Conservative austerity.
But will it all be in vain? Running alongside this narrative is the fact that many experts are predicting that this election will result in no overall winning party; the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists could pick up significant numbers of disenchanted voters, which will result in a hung parliament and a brokering of who gets the top job.
In which case the very concept of leadership will start to play to a very different tune. And it won’t be one that either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn will recognise.