There will be a general election in the UK within the next two years, but this will not be just another election – it will be an election like no other in living memory. The UK is at a tipping point, economically, socially and democratically and the next election will in effect be a referendum as to what kind of country the citizens of the UK wish to live in and the sort of future they wish to create for generations to come.
The vast majority of people in Britain have not benefited from the past 13 years of Tory rule. Most people are now poorer, less healthy and are more fearful about their own and their children’s future than they were a decade ago, whilst the fortunate few with access to power and money have reaped tremendous gains. This has not arisen because of Covid, the Ukraine war, the EU, ‘economic necessity’ or a ‘shadowy socialist conspiracy’ – all scapegoats that are regularly trotted out by a predominantly government orientated media. It has come about as a direct consequence of deliberate policy decisions made by a corrupt, dishonest, self-serving, callous, incompetent and increasingly authoritarian Tory government.
There is ample evidence to substantiate each of those assertions: corrupt (Covid contracts being awarded to ‘cronies’ through fast track scheme, ministers being paid by fossil fuel and property developer lobby groups), dishonest (broken pledges and promises – to date there have been more than 40 U turns and broken manifesto pledges since the last election), self-serving (cronyism and the rewarding of Tory donors with seats in the Lords and appointments to major public bodies ), incompetent (billions of pounds of public money squandered through mismanagement and fraud), callous (woeful underfunding of social care and post Covid education catch up, burgeoning levels of child poverty and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers) and authoritarian (draconian anti demonstration and strike legislation and the introduction of a voter ID scheme which will disenfranchise many potential voters).
A moment of choice
The British people therefore have a choice to make at the next election.
They can return the Tories to power yet again and expect more of the same: even greater inequality and poverty, inadequately funded public and community services, environmental degradation, increasing social and cultural division and a less representative democracy.
Or they can recognise that as a country we have reached the tipping point but it is not too late to pull back from the brink and create a more fulfilling, healthy and prosperous society where the benefits are enjoyed by all and which provides the opportunities for our children and grandchildren to thrive.
So at the next election the priority has to be to remove the Tories if we want to pull the UK back from the brink, and in order to bring this about four things need to happen.
Firstly people need to get out and vote. There is much, understandable, cynicism concerning politics these days. Many people are of the view that ‘all the parties are the same’ or that ‘my vote won’t make a difference’. Neither of those statements are in fact true but what is undisputable is that a low election turnout increases the chances of a Tory victory. And it is particularly important that younger voters make their voices heard – the prospects for future generations have already been severely jeopardised by this government and if re-elected they would make matters worse.
Secondly, traditional political loyalties need to be put aside, at least for the duration of the election. At the last election the Tories won 62 seats with a smaller vote than the combined progressive parties (ie Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens) – a stark reminder of the democratic deficit that exists in this country. Consider the average number of votes required per Tory seat vs other parties (Tory 38,000 votes, Labour 50,000 votes, LD 334,000 votes and Green (964,000 votes) and a government majority of 80 seats achieved on only 44% of votes; hardly hallmarks of a truly representative democracy!
Knowing which party is best placed to unseat the Tories in each constituency, and voting accordingly, is crucial if we are to avoid further economic and social decline. This link shows the voting pattern in the last election for every constituency so it’s a good place to start.
A new social contract
Thirdly, the decline will not be reversed unless a new social contract is forged to rebuild our economy, our democracy and our society. These changes will not happen, however, unless progressive parties are prepared to be bold and courageous – a timid ‘politics as usual’ approach will not suffice. The rebuilding of the US in the 30s following the great depression and the emergence of a rejuvenated UK after the second world war only came about through the adoption of radical transformational policies, and we need to demand the same of our progressive political parties once they gain power.
Finally, it is important to retain a sense of optimism. The past decade has been increasingly grim for many people and there is a sense of ‘inevitability’ that it is irreversible. There is another way but it will only come about if all citizens make their voices heard at the ballot box – we collectively can pull Britain back from the brink and create a future that the majority of people, regardless of their political allegiance, would welcome.
Doug Crawford is a member of Compass, an organisation dedicated to the cause of co-operation between progressive parties, https://www.compassonline.org.uk/campaigns/winasone/