The choice at this election is very simple. Each side is a known quantity. First, the Conservatives. They’ve been in power for a while and we know how they will conduct themselves. They’ve done okay.
The economy’s not been great, but it has been good. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been for decades. Growth is steady but solid. Inflation is moderate and unlikely to rise much. Taxes are set to reach their highest level for decades, but the only way to have avoided that would have been to cut spending on the NHS and schools. The Government has refused to do that these past seven years and isn’t going to start now. Public spending has been controlled without being cut dramatically.
At the last election, the Conservatives promised that if they were elected, they would hold a referendum on our membership of the EU. They delivered on that promise and 52 per cent of people voted that we should leave. The Conservative Party has accepted and embraced that – even in those parts of the party that had argued we should remain.
There is a clear plan for what we should try to get from our Brexit negotiations with the EU – including, in particular, control of our laws (including our immigration laws) and no large enduring financial contributions, but a new free-trade deal that would keep the commercial aspect of our relationship with the EU as close as possible to what we have now, while allowing us to go out into the world and try new things with other countries.
While we are in the process of dealing with the business of leaving the EU, the Conservatives say we should not have another Scottish independence referendum. The one in 2014 delivered a decisive result (an 11 per cent margin against separation) and there’s no evidence in opinion polls that opinion has changed. That does not mean there can never be another independence referendum. There may well be, a few years post-Brexit, if Scots want one. But now is not the time.
The Government could have shown more ambition on issues of security and ideological threats to social cohesion, especially (though not restricted to) Islamism. Perhaps we should have withdrawn from the European Convention on Human Rights earlier. Perhaps border controls should have been stricter. Perhaps we should have attacked IS in Syria sooner. Perhaps Islamist ideologies in UK schools should have been suppressed more vigorously. Perhaps the government should have been even more radical, and introduced a system of officially recognised and officially proscribed forms of Islam.
But in truth (despite the appalling loss of life and injury of the past few weeks), the practical reality is that there have been very few terrorist attacks in the UK in recent years compared with the past. We should strive to do better, but we could have done a lot worse.
On the other side, there is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. One must term it “Corbyn’s Labour” rather than just “Labour”, because 172 of Corbyn’s own MPs voted no confidence in him. He has taken over a party that has sought and failed to resist him. If he were to win the General Election, he would place an indelible stamp upon both his party and the country.
His manifesto is a radical document, including significant tax rises, an “excessive pay levy”, widespread nationalisation and a vast extension of unionisation. But no one serious believes his manifesto would be the full measure of his programme if he were to win.
Corbyn is also a known quantity. He started his political career on the far left of the Labour Party that considered Michael Foot far too right-wing, and spent the ensuing 40 years rebelling against Labour leaders from the Left. He has appointed as two of his main advisors a man who was a member of the Communist Party until only a few months ago, and another man much of whose journalistic career was spent explaining why Stalin and the East German secret police were not as bad as people thought.
He favours all the elements one would expect from a far-left programme, and if he were get a majority and impose his own programme (which, over time, he would be able to do if he were elected), which would include those policies he has argued for for decades – such as a maximum wage, nationalisation of the commanding heights of industry, widespread unionisation, special taxes on the financial sector to deter private capital, collectivisation of private business property through the creation of special public interest duties, abolition of the Monarchy and the Lords, restrictions on the police, reduction of the army to a notional force, and a withdrawal of Britain from its role in international security.
He is also in favour of a second Scottish referendum (and probably of Scottish independence) and of a united Ireland, as well as being in favour of Argentina having a role in governing the Falklands and Spain of governing Gibraltar. He would not, of course, be able to do these things straight away. But if he were elected, and he and his ilk stayed in power, in due course he would get to implement his programme like any other political leader.
Corbyn himself spent 20 years under security services surveillance as a potential threat. His shadow chancellor is an explicit Marxist who has called publicly for a workers’ insurrection. Corbyn himself, his shadow chancellor and his shadow home secretary were long-time supporters of the IRA, with his shadow home secretary calling publicly for the IRA to win. Corbyn has repeatedly sided with Britain’s enemies in every conflict for decades, including terrorist groups that have been responsible for or sponsored attacks on Britain and her armed forces.
Corbyn does not constitute “a bit less austerity and a bit friendlier negotiating”. He is, and always has been, a far-left extremist, regarded as such even by his own party. In politics we use terms such as “fascist”, “communist” and “extremist” so much that they lose credibility when actual fascists, Communists and extremists turn up. Well, an actual far-left extremist who has surrounded himself with literal Communists has turned up.
So that’s your choice. You can go with the Conservatives, who will provide steady if unimaginative economic management, gentle progress on health and education, implementation of Brexit involving control of our own laws (including on immigration) and further strengthening of our already-fairly-successful security.
Or you can go with Corbyn, whose whole career has been built on rejecting the main institutions of Britain and the way British politics of Left and Right has chosen to manage the economy, and who, with sustained power, would completely overturn our economy and constitution.
I think the Government has been doing okay, and that it has the right programme for the key issue of the day: Brexit. Indeed, I think we’ve been doing okay in Britain for most of these past 300 years.
I don’t want to overturn the system and start again from scratch with hard-left economic and constitutional principles that have failed dramatically elsewhere in the world, creating economic chaos and oppression. So I shall be voting Conservative. It really is as straightforward as that.