LIZ GERARD is angry. With everyone from Nigel Farage to Jeremy Corbyn – and here is why.
I’m just off to the polling station. My cross won’t make a jot of difference. The defending MP took 58% of the vote last time and won’t be dislodged.
The parties I have voted for in the past have always come a poor third, fourth or fifth, so I’m used to having my voice drowned out electorally. Not only that, I colluded in this state of affairs, having backed first-past-the-post in that other referendum everyone has forgotten about.
But this time, as the shock jocks are paid to say, I’m angry. I’m bloody angry. I’ve been bloody angry for 13 months. And I’m fed up with it.
Like that nice Mr Farage, I’d like my life back. I want to get back to ‘normal’, for my head to stop spinning, to stop this constant feeling of nausea, anxiety, impotence.
But it’s not going to stop. The chances are that this time tomorrow Mrs May will be leaning on her Downing Street lectern, claiming that the country is behind her. She may or may not be able to resist reciting ‘strong and stable’, but there will certainly be platitudes about ‘getting the best deal’ with Europe and governing for all the people.
She won’t (get the best deal). She can’t (govern for everyone).
She can’t because – regardless of whether she scrapes home, increases her majority or wins by a landslide – she won’t have even half of the country behind her.
Which is, again, as it always was. You have to go back to 1931 to find a party (the Conservatives, as it happens) elected with more than half the popular vote.
So why the anger now?
Because the whole country’s life has been on hold for too long. We’ve been in limbo since early 2015 and will remain so for at least another couple of years. And then? Catastrophe? Or a land of golden opportunity?
And if it’s the latter, what price will we have paid over those years of water-treading uncertainty? Does anyone, of any political persuasion, think that Britain is in a good place?
We didn’t need to be here. And that’s what makes me angry.
First of all, I’m angry with David Cameron.
Not so much for calling the EU referendum – yes, it was more about herding party cats than about Europe – but for making such a hash of it. For failing to build in requirements for a minimum turnout and a decent majority either way, for failing to realise that a simple in-out question wouldn’t cover all eventualities, for failing to sort out the basics in Parliament before going to the people, for failing so comprehensively in the campaign itself, and for failing to show any statesmanship in running away the moment the result went against him.
I’m angry with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
For putting personal ambition above principle in the full knowledge that whatever happened, they’d be all right Jack.
I’m angry with David Davis for his sheer incompetence. For thinking that it’s ok, as our chief Brexit negotiator, not to have costed the various possible outcomes or to have considered what might happen if we don’t get what we want.
I’m angry with voters’ apparent punishment fetish.
The way they ‘punished’ Nick Clegg for doing what any little party would do and taking the opportunity to put at least some of its ideas into practice by going into a coalition. And then ‘punishing’ him again over tuition fees. ‘We can never trust the LibDems again after that.’
What? After generations of broken promises from the two main parties, the LibDems are cast into oblivion over one issue? Fair enough, if that’s what you think. But if you’re a grieving Remainer, don’t try that argument here.
Because there would have been no referendum if those punishing voters hadn’t thrown Clegg and his MPs out.
I’m angry with Labour.
Having chosen the wrong Miliband and been soundly defeated in 2015, it decided not to draw on its recent experience of how to win, but to go in the opposite direction and pick someone even more left-wing, a man whose entire political history had been characterised by disloyalty to the party leadership.
And what did the party do when MPs said they couldn’t work with him and polls suggested that the overwhelming majority of voters could not stomach him as prime minister? It re-elected him. With a bigger majority.
Hundreds of thousands of Labour members voted him in. It’s their party and they can die if they want to. But what about the millions of centre-left Labour voters left with nowhere to go?
Yes, parts of the manifesto have had wide appeal, Yes, Corbyn has been attracting great crowds. But crowds can be deceptive. Look at Kinnock and the wildly applauding masses in Sheffield in 1992.
I’m angry with Corbynistas.
For vilifying their party’s most successful leader, for making Blairite a term of abuse. Forget the three election wins, just remember the war. A war that any Conservative Prime Minister would have joined.
OK, the ‘I’m with you whatever’ blank cheque promise to Bush is damning, but who really thinks Bush wouldn’t have invaded without us? That war would have happened with or without Blair’s blessing.
British lives on the line? Yes. That’s what we do. What we’ve always done. After all we’re a world power, a player in the big game. Ask any nationalist. Would we have stood aloof while the French and the Canadians et al did their bit?
I’m angry with Corbyn.
For not seeing all of this. Or, even worse, for seeing all this and carrying on regardless.
I’m angry with Remain-supporting MPs in the last parliament.
For forgetting that they were put there to use their judgment and do what is in the best interests of the country. For plagiarising the Nuremberg defence: just following orders from ‘the people’ on Brexit, even though it wasn’t a majority of the people and even though they believed that minority to be wrong (I’m not angry with the Eurosceptics. They are what they are and have always been).
An honourable exception should be Ken Clarke. But I’m angry with him for standing on a Conservative ticket behind a woman who expects blind obedience, rather than breaking out on his own or working with people who might together achieve what he believes in.
I’m angry with the media.
For the lies and distortion and incestuousness.
The Mail, Sun and Express, in particular, for their demonisation of vulnerable people. For using immigration as a weapon to win Brexit.
All papers are entitled to their opinions, to campaign for causes they believe in. It’s the unbalanced reporting that angers me and shames my trade.
The way they focus on Corbyn’s behaviour 40 years ago and ignore May’s responsibilities as Home Secretary and Prime Minister all this decade.
The skirting round stories that are positive for Corbyn (hospital car parking charges) or uncomfortable for May (dementia tax).The Express had a ‘crusade’ about hospital parking, but didn’t feel the need to tell its readers about the Labour policy, and as for dementia – one of its favourite subjects – its response to the Tory care plan was to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
The sheer hypocrisy of relentlessly banging on about the risks of electing Corbyn, after the way they screeched ‘Project Fear’ when anyone dared suggest there were risks attached to Brexit.
I’m angry with the Mirror.
For the failure until the last minute to engage in the referendum debate – as limp-wristed an effort as Corbyn’s – or to live up to its glorious campaigning history in this election. It’s not the Mirror’s duty to match the right-wingers for nastiness. It can’t compete with their readership. But it could try a little harder along the way, instead of just turning up at the end like John Terry in his Chelsea shirt.
I’m angry with broadcasters, especially the BBC.
For giving UKIP and Farage so much unwarranted publicity over the past five years (funnily enough I’m not angry with Farage. I think he is an obnoxious piece of work, but, like the Eurosceptic MPs, he is what he is and has never pretended to be otherwise).
For allowing the Press to set the news agenda, day after day. That is what gives the Sun and the Mail their influence. They sell to barely 3m people between them, but their news values permeate every outlet.
The BBC and ITV are bigger than both of them. They should make their own judgments.
And they should dump those press reviews: we can see what’s on the front pages when we go to the supermarket. There might be some value if they were to spend some time discussing arguments put forward by columnists who had more than ten minutes to consider what they were writing. But do listeners of the Today programme need to be told at 6.10am that the Daily Express is splashing on immigration again?
I’m angry about Brexit (had you guessed?)
About the ugly effect it has had on our society. About the way common sense has been thrown out of the window. About the way nationalism has been rebranded as patriotism, so that by worrying about the future of a UK outside Europe you are suddenly doing the country down.
About the way that voicing concern has become almost treasonable: ‘Time to silence the EU whingers’ as the Express so charmingly put it.
About the way that MY freedom of movement is being taken away. About the way that OUR children could lose their rights to work and study abroad – on the say-so of people with no wish to leave their armchairs, let alone the country.
I’m angry about foreigners. No, not like that.
I am angry because our politicians pay court to foreign press barons and nondoms, offer sweeteners to foreign companies, and allow our water, electricity and railways to be run by foreign businesses answering to foreign shareholders.
But I wouldn’t be angry about that if they didn’t at the same time tolerate and even encourage the press narrative that people who come from Europe to work hard and contribute to our society are either spongers or job stealers, swamping the NHS, schools and housing.
I am angry about the constant cry that we need to leave the EU so that we can ‘control our borders’ and keep criminals out. Especially since most immigration is from outside the EU and there are provisions to control migration from within the community that we – Mrs May, actually – have failed to implement.
Most of all – today – I’m angry about Theresa May.
I’m angry that a mediocre but opportunistic politician without any vision or charisma has run a Me, Me, Me presidential campaign that is likely to be successful.
A woman who (like Corbyn) paid lip-service to the Remain campaign, but kept her distance because she could see that she might inherit the big job from Cameron, whichever way the vote went.
A woman with so much respect for parliamentary democracy that she called this very election because ‘not all of Westminster’ had ‘got behind Brexit’. Opposition? Good grief! What a notion.
A woman who says the thing she’s learnt from this campaign is that she likes meeting voters – when the only voters she’s met have been clutches of admirers in closed rooms.
A woman whose main claim to power is that she isn’t someone else. A woman who refuses to put a price on her policies, then accuses the opposition of not being able to afford their costed ideas.
A woman who says Brexit will bring endless opportunities, but can’t give an example of one; a woman won’t tell us what she aims to get out of the negotiations with Europe, yet expects us to trust her over those who do say what they want.
A woman so lacking in statesmanship that she uses an international forum – G7 – to criticise her domestic rival; a woman who thinks that promising to be ‘bloody difficult’ is a good way to start negotiations; a woman who further helps her cause with election-meddling charges against those she hopes will cut her a good deal.
A woman so confident of Britain’s future outside Europe that she rushes to pay homage to Trump five minutes after the inauguration, desperate to be ‘first in the queue’ and clutching a state visit invitation like an ingenue surrendering her virginity on her first date.
A woman who continues to suck up to that American president, even when his reaction to a terror attack in London is to traduce the elected mayor – who happens to be Muslim – while the Europeans she plans to shun illuminate their landmarks with Union Flags in sympathy and solidarity.
A woman who tries to score political points on the back of those attacks – notwithstanding the fact that she has had personal responsibility for anti-terrorism and policing for the past seven years.
Enough! There’s more. But enough, as the lady famously said, is enough.
I am angry because I am frustrated, impotent. Angry because we are today faced with a choice between two incompetents. Because the world is laughing at us and we don’t seem to care; we’re just going with the flow. The people spoke on June 23 last year and democracy means never being allowed to change your mind or have a rethink. Or at least it does these days. Instead we must do the electoral equivalent of sending good money after bad and reinforce the power base of our maladroit prime minister. Like the Turks, we’re being asked to vote for dictatorship. She won’t tell us what she’s going to do, but we’re expected to be grateful and not ask awkward questions. Everything will be fine. Theresa’s wonderful.
I am also ashamed.
Because this feeling of helplessness is new – even though I am neither more nor less helpless than at any time before – and I realise that that is the way it has always been for millions of people.
Many of them will have voted for Brexit to ‘get back’ at the powers-that-be who rained austerity on them: the politicians who were careful not to raise income tax, which the poorest don’t pay, but who were happy to introduce new indirect taxes, such as levies on insurance premiums, that even the poorest couldn’t avoid.
These are the voters who will give Mrs May her mandate and then pay the price of another five years of Tory Government; the price of Brexit. They are already paying – higher food bills, higher transport costs – thanks to the fall in sterling that has had such a brilliant impact on share prices.
Then there are the old who dreamt of a Britain ‘like it used to be’ – all soft-focus dappled-light poppyfields and comely young gels in puff-sleeved frocks freewheeling down the lane on bicycles with a basket at the front. They will be entered into a health lottery: cancer or heart attack? The NHS will take care of you; Alzheimer’s or disability? You must pay, but we’ll take an IOU with your home as security.
And when we have left Europe and all those foreigners have gone, will life be better for the old, the sick, the disabled, the poor? No. It will be worse.
And our tabloids will be there to blame them for their plight.
So that’s why I’m angry.