IT is said that Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn’s manifestos represent the biggest divide in British politics, and departure from the centre ground since Margaret Thatcher’s clash with Michael Foot in 1983.
However there’s one key difference – the unedifying current campaign to determine, effectively, the least worst option for Britain is devoid of the basic courtesies, even grudging respect, that still existed in the early 1980s in spite of the industrial and social strife that was prevalent at the time.
Back then the PM – influenced by her Methodist upbringing – still referred to her opponent as Mr Foot or the Leader of the Opposition. Likewise Labour’s leader referred to his rival as Mrs Thatcher – or Prime Minister. There was no ‘Foot’ or ‘Thatcher’. Differences, just as profound as today’s divides, were argued in a principled and philosophical way.
Contrast this with today’s name-calling where Labour’s leader is dismissed by senior Tories as ‘Corbyn’ – party chairman James Cleverley was guilty of this at his manifesto launch – while the Opposition, and others, use the name Johnson in an equally disparaging way.
And this observation matters for three reasons. First, national leaders are expected to lead by example and conduct the election campaign with a degree of civility. Now the negative campaigning, which first came to the fore in the Thatcher era, is personal rather than policy-led – there’s a difference.
Second, it is a depressing foretaste of the next Parliament which is likely to be even more polarised – all Tory candidates are committed to the PM’s hard Brexit pledge to leave the EU by January 31 while most of the new tranche of Labour candidates are left-wingers in the mould of their leader. This is before both parties face up to their perturbing records on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Finally, all 650 MPs – irrespective of the outcome – will have to work together in a spirit of compromise, conciliation and consensus after the election if the great issues, from Brexit to social care funding and public service reform, are to be advanced in a responsible manner.
Already the omens are not good with Mr Johnson – if he’s still PM after December 12 – already signalling his intent to force his Brexit plans through Parliament immediately after the Queen’s Speech and before the select committees, which scrutinise the work of government have had a chance to convene.
Yet, given the next Prime Minister will be tasked with trying to unite a country left even more desperately divided after polling day, all leaders need to start being more respectful, and constructive in their disagreements, if there’s to be any hope of the next Parliament and politics becoming less polarising and more purposeful than the last one.
WHEN it comes to transport, the Tory manifesto – featuring Boris Johnson riding a bicycle in a woolly hat rather than a cycle helmet – promises “accountability, not nationalisation” over rail services.
It does not say, however, when long-suffering Northern and TransPennine Express commuters can expect improvements – or address the current state of affairs where the rail network around Leeds, and other cities, can’t physically handle the number of services scheduled for each day. With less than two weeks to go until polling day, it’s time for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to provide some answers before it is too late (just like the trains here).
WITHIN minutes of the Tory manifesto being released publicly, Downing Street press officers contacted this newspaper to point out the £4bn commitment for “new flood defences”.
Would this have happened if it wasn’t for The Yorkshire Post – and others – shaming Boris Johnson into action over the Don Valley floods? I doubt it.
However will Ministers reappraise the funding formula which prioritises flood defence schemes in London and the South-East over the North because there’s a greater economic benefit in wealthier areas? I don’t know. Over to you, Prime Minister.
HERE’S a random idea as the roads become even more clogged up with delivery vehicles dropping off online orders placed by families and consumers who value personal convenience more than the environment.
How about imposing an environmental levy on every drop-off – say £10 for starters – in the hope that this helps changes consumer behaviour and encourages more people to support their local shops? Even better, how about using the money raised to fund initiatives to support struggling high streets?
NICOLA Sturgeon – Scotland’s First Minister – tried to ingratiate herself to voters by being interviewed in front of a bookcase packed with the novels of Ian Rankin featuring the fictional detective John Rebus.
Yet, if she’d done her reading, she would have appreciated that Rebus, according to author, would have been opposed to the totemic issue of Scottish independence. “The thing about Rebus is Rebus likes the status quo. He fears change,” he told a literary festival.
I SEE Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson is turning down the rhetoric after a mailshot hailed her, arrogantly and presumptuously, as “Britain’s next prime minister”. Now, in election literature sent out in the Colne Valley, she is the “Prime Minister we deserve”.
On TV, Chuka Umunna – a recent defector from Labour – now tells people to vote tactically to stop Boris Johnson from getting a majority. And this is, of course, assuming that Ms Swinson holds off the SNP in her marginal Scottish seat...