Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

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"What's the problem? I won, didn't I? Didn't I?"

I swiftly regret most of my decisions in life (with the exception of marriage, I should add swiftly, in the interests of self-preservation).

But as every day of the Theresa May Team General Election campaign has unfolded into the biggest omnishambles of an already record-breakingly shambolic century, I feel ever greater relief and gratitude that I cut up by Conservative Party membership card in March this year.

I did so out of disgust at the casual ditching of their election pledge not to raise income tax or National Insurance. It turned out that they had had their fingers crossed when they made that pledge. Or at any rate that they never meant it to apply to the self-employed.

Or, most likely, that the incumbents of Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street had never actually taken the trouble to read their own 2015 manifesto.

But then, within days, having realised that the move was unpopular with the sort of mugs like me on whom the party has traditionally relied for support, they changed their minds.

Eerily foreshadowing the ludicrous series of events of the last week or so, in which they proposed to deliver a comprehensive kicking to their natural supporters in what I suppose we now have to call the pensioner community through what swiftly became known as “the dementia tax”.

Then changed their minds when it belatedly occurred to them that not enough of those particular turkeys might vote for Christmas.

While Mrs May drearily repeated over and over again that nothing had changed and she was not executing a U-turn at all. A gross insult to the intelligence of the electorate if ever I saw one.

If this is intended as a demonstration of “strong and stable leadership”, calculated to win the best deal for Britain on the global stage, it is right up there with a demonstration of a hand grenade that blows its thrower’s arm off.

If The Thick Of It wasn’t already off air, its creators would presumably be throwing in the towel on the grounds that current events have moved beyond parody.

The ostensible reason was to “strengthen the hand” of Prime Minister Theresa May in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. It has been widely alleged that this cunning plan is not so much about obliterating the nominal opposition as about diluting the influence of the more extreme elements of the Tory Right. That is to say the ones who actually believe in exiting the EU, rather than going through the motions as a matter of political expediency.

Separated at birth?

And it is abundantly clear from her manifesto that, whatever else she may be this week, Mrs May is no Tory. Against individualism and “the privileged few”, she seems keen for the State to meddle in business and the lives of the citizenry wherever possible. Half of her policies appear to have been lifted straight from Ed Miliband.
No doubt her close advisers presented this as a brilliant idea that would persuade traditional, patriotic Labour voters to switch to the Tories. The snag is it is shows no sign of working. And why would it?

If you fancy a Big Mac, you’re surely more likely to buy it from McDonald’s than from the suspicious lookalike store across the street flogging Big Mucs. If you want Labour policies, why not vote Labour?

In order to deliver the vastly increased majority for which Mrs May was clearly hoping before it all went wrong, she had to assume that the likes of me would continue to vote for her because “we have nowhere else to go”.

The same calculation that led New Labour to spend 13 years being “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, embracing privatisation, and waging miscellaneous foreign wars that, almost without exception, made bad situations worse.

While immigrants flooded into the country because it allegedly boosted the economy (though surely only by holding down the wages of indigenous Labour supporters) and because diversity is a good thing in itself, whether the natives want it or not.

It remains to be seen whether this self-same “sod you” strategy will work for Mrs May in any degree in 2017. It certainly does not deserve to, but then on the other side we have the equally indecisive and indisputably more extreme spectre of Mr Corbyn, Not Necessarily Nice But Definitely Dim Tim, and Independence-Obsessed Nicola.

For the first time in my life I find myself minded not to vote at all. If I do it will be for an MP I know and respect personally, not for the party or leader to which she is affiliated.

In her lack of charisma, robotic and repetitive speaking style, and fetish for State intervention, the Conservative leader of my lifetime that Mrs May most closely resembles is Edward Heath.

Indeed, the one critical difference that I can see is that Mr Heath had a passionate conviction: that it was vitally important to build a United States of Europe. I could not have disagreed with him more about that – or at any rate on the appropriateness of the UK forming part of it – but at least he believed in something.

 It is hard to discern anything in which Mrs May has consistently believed, over and above the furtherance of the political career of Theresa May.

This was supposed to be the election she could not lose. Yet I am old enough to remember that it was received wisdom for many years that the nuclear option of holding a “who runs the country?” general election against the trade unions could be relied upon to deliver a thumping victory for the Government.

But when Mr Heath lit the blue touch paper during the three-day week of February 1974, dragging the nation to the polls more than a year before his term was up, the answer that came back from the British electorate was “Not you, mate.”

I wonder whether history might be about to repeat itself, and that the person regretting her decision will be Mrs May?

Has she had her chips?

 

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