I’ve got Election Fever

18 May 2017

Last week I went to the launch event for my constituency’s Labour candidate. It was packed with enthusiastic activists who clapped for everyone and everything. And yet there was a pervasive air of unreality and naivete

The candidate is smart, articulate and committed to the area, as have been the previous excellent Labour candidates in earlier General Elections. We had the usual Labour scatter-gun approach of policies – NHS, education, welfare cuts, etc. But not a word was said about Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity (which goes above and beyond the effect of right-wing press and media). The only notable departure from script was the call for a 2nd EU referendum, once the negotiated terms are known

Logically, Labour should wipe out the sitting Tory MP, who is a toady Tory yes-man. The current Tory government’s record is an open goal. The sitting MP’s only peek over the parapet moment was when he led on the Equal Marriage debates, but then that was an issue close to David Cameron’s heart. Our MP was a lukewarm EU Remainer, but has subsequently fallen in to step behind Theresa May, and turned off his Twitter account. And bear in mind this was a strongly pro-remain constituency.

May’s election campaign strategy is very clear:

  • Don’t engage with a critical audience – hence no TV debates or real walkabouts, and complete control of how the message is delivered
  • Create a binary presidential contest – it’s either me or that dangerous and incompetent Corbyn. Say it often enough and people will believe anything
  • Keep repeating “Strong and stable government” – which reinforces the risk of electing anyone other than the Tories
  • Create “enemies” in Europe and at home – to reinforce a binary choice

So what are we to do locally? I believe it has to be by emphasising that voters aren’t voting for May or Corbyn (unless you live in Maidenhead or Islington North); You’re voting for a local MP to give a voice for local concerns. Locally we can’t influence what people in Middlesborough or Cardiff might do. Whether May or Corbyn end up as Prime Minister will be the aggregate of over 630 local elections. The signs are not good if you’re not a Conservative supporter. But miracles, both good and bad, do happen!

The General Election is the country’s regular opportunity to show how uneducated and ignorant we are as a people. Now I’m retired I’ve had more than enough time to listen and read people pontificating on things completely above and beyond their direct experience, knowledge, or understanding. An election or referendum cannot be assumed to be an aggregation of the nation’s wisdom; in fact it’s the complete opposite. We have ourselves to blame: politicians don’t speak the truth because voters either don’t want to hear the truth, or understand the truth. That’s democracy for you!

And what of Deaf people and BSL interpreters? It seems to me to be the worst time to garner support for AtW or a BSL Act. Candidates with not a hope of getting elected or who will be back-bench minnows may support your issue, but they’ll support anything remotely worthy, order to get your vote. The big hitters who will end up in government are too canny to get cornered into policy promises that aren’t in the manifestos.

And let’s be realistic, what chance has legislation or policy that affects maybe 60,000 BSL users have against big issues, like care for millions of elderly people? Money is tighter, and hearts are harder.

Deaf people and allied organisations have to work with the grain of existing legislation, policy, and the prevailing political climate. It’s time to sacrifice sacred cows like DLA/PIP to release the money for a national 24/7 VRS, free at the point of use to BSL users. It’s time to admit that sometimes AtW wastes money and interpreting resources. It’s time to sweep away bloated, inefficient interpreting agencies, in favour of self-service platforms that empower consumers. It’s time people went through the legal system to assert their rights, and not get bought off before things get to court.

It won’t happen though. There’s too much vested interest in keeping things the same.

Time to have a rest ….. Wake me when the election’s over.

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