If, like me, you are sick to death of the government shirking the running of the country in order to run constant public votes – on leaving the UK, on leaving Europe, on electing a new government two years after we elected the last one – then the next 6 weeks are going to be tiresome. Why not use it to argue against and refuse to believe the bullshit that newspapers and ‘journalists’ will have you believe is important.
Here are 4 of to watch out for, along with the arguments to arm you in opposing them.
- “This is an election about Brexit/to lead Brexit/etc”
Brexit is happening. I didn’t vote for it, 48% of the country didn’t vote for it, but it is happening. It was a campaign filled to the rim with political spin, abrupt lies, political careerism and generally dodgy characters (a good few of whom are now in the cabinet…). But it happened, it’s done, Brexit is happening.
To vote for the Lib Dems, on their single-issue campaign that they will reverse it, would be a shockingly ridiculous idea. It was a referendum, and we all had a chance to point out the rubbish the politicians were speaking. Similarly we all had a chance four years ago to vote for a government which would do something about the manipulative, bias British ‘newspapers’/gossip rags. We didn’t, so the press remained bias and people were under-informed when it came to the vote. But to reverse a public mandate on this topic would be to go lower than the unscrupulous people who spread fake news to achieve votes in the first place. It would also be to tell 52% of the people that you wasted their time, don’t care about their vote and generally wish to see them never trust politics again.
Similarly, on the other side of the debate, voting for UKIP in order to ensure that Theresa May only listens to the 1/3 or so of the country who want a hard Brexit is, again, a poor idea. Brexit will happen, there’s no stopping it. But we should now allow people who know something about the EU, not the foreign-hating quasi-businessmen who hate the poor (UKIP), to negotiate the terms of it. Let people who know something about the legislation, trade and immigration make the decisions, not rich Donald Trump groupies with no grasp of the lives of real human beings.
And most of all, vote for people who will actually run the country rather than just be arseholes in Brussels during Brexit negotiations.
- “A united government is a strong government/voters need a strong and stable government”
This is one of the most ridiculous things every British person seems to believe. Almost every idea, every piece of progress, every major chapter of human history has come about through people disagreeing! Every good manager wants their staff to disagree with them and challenge them, every good leader wants their team to point out the problems. This is how things get better!
Preferring, instead, to support people based on how little their teams disagree, or to elect leaders who ‘keep them in their place’ is just utterly bizarre. It’s also authoritarian and decidedly anti-British. It’s what dictators do, or what office managers in the 80s did. The successful organisations and businesses of the noughties are all based around innovation, new ideas, challenging teams and getting rid of the incapable managers whose only tactic was to ‘keep people in their places’.
The Tories, in particular, want you to believe that Theresa May is the best leader because she is stern, disciplinary and generally looks like a head teacher. No good school is run by a head-teacher like Theresa May, whose opposition to new ideas (even the likes of gay marriage) would run a school into the ground. And, moreover, that we want an old-fashioned head-teacher running the country says more about our attachments to authority figures in our childhood than rational decision making in election votes.
If you want a country that keeps up with the rest of the world, let alone leads in it, you need a leader who will encourage a team full of people who disagree. Britain has gone backwards as the world around us has moved on. We need to catch up, not keep trying to find a new Thatcher.
- “Conservatives are good on the economy.”
The Conservatives have long been the businessman’s choice in government. They are generally funded by a small number of individually extremely wealthy donors, as the remit of Conservative policy is to offer low taxes across the board. This, coupled with a desire to see public services gradually phased out, or monetised, means many believe they are strong on the economy.
This is incorrect for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is because having the backing of a relatively small number of wealthy individuals does not mean they are good at improving the economy in a way which benefits everyone else (whether it be smaller business or people working in them). Indeed, quite the opposite. Successful wealthy people generally want less competition for the things they sell, lower (preferably no) taxes on their wealth, lots of unemploympent so there’s a big pool of workers to choose from, low wages so they pay less in costs, etc. These are not good economic desires for a government to support, as it benefits a few businesses and disadvantages the entire countries economy instead.
There is even more reason why voting Conservative is bad for the economy, though.
Starting with Thatcher’s political success, the Conservatives began to put a lot of effort into the public image of their ‘business first’ policies (which as I just explained is not ‘business first’ for 99% of businesses). Largely this revolved around building the theory of ‘neo-liberal’ economics, which orbited a single, politically brilliant idea: we need to be lenient with our tax on the wealthy, and help big business, as otherwise they won’t stay here, spend money here or thus pay taxes here.
With this single idea, the 1970’s Conservatives had found a persuasive reason why the 99% of the country who aren’t rich should vote for them. It allowed them to continue wealth-friendly policies, but also scared everyone else into voting for the kind of system which favours wealth-creation for the few. The Conservatives core belief is that wealth ‘trickles down’ from the lenient taxing and maintaining of several billionaires, or a small group of millionaires, to improve things for everyone. Indeed, this is known as ‘trickle down’ economics. Despite the global economic environment changing dramatically, and the emergence of various different forms of economic theory and evidence in that time, this core and important Tory policy hasn’t changed in almost 50 years.
What’s more, as the decades have gone on, evidence has mounted time and time again which shows that lenient taxes on the wealthy increases equality, rather than trickling down sufficiently. The likes of Thomas Piketty, in one of the 21st century’s great economic works, has shown without a shadow of a doubt that trickle-down economics not only increases inequality, but also increase economic instability, financial crashes, etc.
The Conservatives continue to amass the support of the wealthiest in society, but the policies of successive Conservative and New Labour (who were basically neo-conservative in economic policy) governments have halted economic growth, caused great financial instability and, more to the point, been very bad for 99% of the people who actually voted Conservative. Wealth has become concentrated in the hands of even fewer people, who in turn do not wish to reinvest it in others, interest rates have not risen from historic lows in years, and even the pound is now stuck in a cycle of decline. ‘Trickle down’ economics has failed, evidence has been telling us this for 10 years, yet arguably the biggest myth in politics remains: that Conservatives are good for business. The only reason we still believe it is because they spend millions on very talented PR experts.
Labour, to their credit, have turned away from New Labour’s neo-conservative economics, and yet, lo-and-behold, they are painted in the press as economically unsafe. Almost as if the press are run by those same millionaires who fund the Conservative party…
- “The SNP are progressive.”
The SNP have governed Scotland for years now, and have overseen a failure in public services which even the Tories would be proud of. They enact policies which, in general, can be characterised as Blairite, or perhaps centre-right, but they amass support among the left-wing of the political spectrum as they continue the rhetoric of being progressive. So, they keep the same lenient taxes on the wealthy as the Tories do, but have the rhetoric of a party who run a communist stronghold. Partly this might work because Scotland isn’t as progressive as it thinks it is, and voters are seemingly happy with rhetoric rather than action. More likely, they simply have the support of about 50% of the population by being pro-independence, and thus this number may not drop regardless of what they do in government. Either way, they aren’t a progressive party if you examine action over rhetoric.
Similarly, they aren’t interested in progressive alliances to help improve things in the wider UK. A cynic might say their destruction of public service in Scotland is a way to make such services seem unworkable whilst Scotland is still in the UK. That would seem accurate to their intentions which is, of course, independence above all else.
In 2015, that single-issue focus meant giving the Tories the ammunition to make Labour seem like they are in the pocket of Alex Salmond (who carefully manufactured his image to only seem to care about the human beings residing above the border) by offering Labour an ‘alliance’ which it was obvious to even the least canny political operators would be used to the Tories advantage. Indeed, many believe the Tory-funded posters of labour leader Milliband in Salmond’s pocket were the defining image of the campaign.
Now, they have begun again trying to poison Labour’s chance of electoral success via mention of political ‘progressive alliances’. It works well in Scotland, because it makes them seem to Scottish voters like they are being the ‘bigger man’ and offering Labour support. It works well for them in England, also, as it makes English voters more likely to vote Tory with thoughts like ‘crikey, that party who only cares about the voters in Scotland might be dictating how public services work here’.
The SNP are arguably the most well-oiled, smart political machine in the UK. But that’s not because they’re the best politicians in the UK, rather there are 3 reasons why they are so effective.
- They can, more or less, get away with doing absolutely nothing in Scotland, and blame it on Scotland not being independent – they essentially have no standards to maintain, other than keep talking about independence. Every other party in the UK walks a political tight-rope, whilst the SNP have some of the most unwavering support ever seen in British politics. They have sold a large section of Scottish voters on independence as a magic cure to Scotland’s ills, a momentous coming rainbow, and thus any problems until then are not because of the government but rather because the rest of Scotland refuses to drink the irn-bru flavoured Kool-Aid.
- They do not need to care about any opinion elsewhere in the UK other than making the Tories popular, and thus making the rest of the UK vote differently to Scotland. It’s much easier to ruin a reputation and cause damage, as they have been doing to Labour, than to win support.
- Whilst religious devotion and unity to your leader isn’t important in modern politics, the SNP are all united because rather than sharing and balancing complex sets of values, every MP or MSP joins knowing the single goal and focus of the party is independence. Thus any policy, agenda, decision or remark which doesn’t fit the goal, or best strategy for achieving the goal, is easy to persuade members of. People don’t join the SNP because their primary focus is social justice; they join it knowing the primary focus is independence. Again, no other party has the political tight-rope replaced with such a large collection of stable floorboards in this manner.
These are not the only 4 myths you’ll be asked to believe over the next few weeks; indeed, if 2016 was anything to go by, you might be told nothing that is true at all. But these are the 4 myths which constantly, and usually quite successfully, will try to manipulate you into voting a certain way. The above should you give the arguments and reason to counter this nonsense.