A UKIP government in all but name?

By Bernadette Meaden
April 19, 2017

You may be in pain because of a delayed operation. You may be unable to get social care for a frail parent. You may be worrying that your child’s school is about to lose teachers. You may be facing eviction because you can't afford the rent. You may be unable to put food on the table and need to use a foodbank. You may be barely able to walk and have an adapted car taken away from you. You may be struggling with mental illness and repeatedly sanctioned for not meeting the Jobcentre’s demands. You may be pregnant with your third child and just realising that, as far as the state is concerned, it’s now an unwanted child.  

But if you don’t vote Conservative on 8 June, you’ll be blocking the will of the people.

This was my interpretation of Theresa May’s speech in Downing Street yesterday. I found it vaguely sinister and profoundly anti-democratic. What the Prime Minster seemed to be saying was that she can brook no opposition. Brexit, her kind of Brexit, is such an overriding priority that the normal conditions of democracy are somehow suspended. Politicians who represent the views of almost half those who voted in the referendum are, by representing those views in Parliament, being in some way traitorous. Whilst Mrs May was claiming she wanted to bring people together, what she appeared to be actually trying to do was to eliminate dissent.

I wondered if my interpretation was extreme –until I heard an interview with Conservative peer Patience Wheatcroft, who was clearly disturbed by the speech, expressing her fears in a measured and subtle way. Asked about what Mrs May had said about those she perceived to be ‘blocking’ Brexit, this Conservative Peer said, “I don’t live in a one party state. I don’t live in a state, I hope, where even within one party there isn’t room for a variety of views”

She also said that in her view Mrs May wanted a mandate to do things, “that people in in the Conservative party and Conservative voters didn’t vote for” explaining “I would have grave fears, for instance, for the aid budget.” Asked if she thought Mrs May would take the party further right, she diplomatically replied, “I think it’s interesting that the UKIP vote has gone down and the Conservative vote has gone up by about the same amount.” In fact, it has already been noted that since she came to office, Mrs May has effectively been delivering the 2015 UKIP manifesto.  

This morning’s newspapers gave further confirmation of the anti-democratic rightwards thrust the election campaign looks set to take. With headlines like “Crush the Saboteurs” and “Blue Murder – PM’s snap poll will kill off Labour. She’ll smash rebel Tories too” it was clear that the aggressively anti-democratic spirit of Mrs May’s speech had come across loud and clear.

The way this election campaign is framed may determine the shape and nature of the UK for decades to come. Clearly the government and their friends in the media want it to be all about Brexit, with any opposition portrayed as frustrating ‘the will of the people’. If this is allowed to happen then the government will not, as in a normal election, be held to account on their record.

It is up to us to bring the NHS, schools, social care, poverty, housing, homelessness and all the other issues we care about into the debate at every opportunity. Inside or outside the EU, in these areas it’s the UK government’s policies which are responsible for where we are and where we are going. Don’t let an obsession with Brexit render them unaccountable. And let’s hope we don’t get a de facto UKIP government.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden 

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different petspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years. 

 

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