Theresa May’s collapse is not the only reason for Labour’s surge. Her campaign was indeed utterly hopeless, whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s was inspiring and effective. It would though, be far too easy to say that it’s merely Theresa’s fault. Make no mistake, the politics of austerity ruined our economy, our healthcare and our national security. May’s campaign tried to divert the focus from policy to personality. This was criticised by many, but Tory campaigns have always been based on hatred and division – those lies are just normally better told.
May’s infamous “strong and stable” rhetoric has become reflective of her personality: robotic, stubborn and deceitful. Yet security, strength and stability are nouns used by so many Tory campaigns, regardless of the leader’s personality. The reason is simple: to divert the public’s attention from policy to soundbites. The most effective lie the Tory propaganda machine managed to produce is the myth that the Conservatives are “harsh, but ultimately manage the country well”, particularly economically.
In their defence, many people don’t agree with any of the jargon that the Tories routinely trot out election after election. The vicious, insulting portrayals of the opposition thrown at the public do stick in the memory though. The “Britain-hating”, “terrorist-sympathising” Jeremy Corbyn would surely be a disaster for Britain – Theresa May might be a bad candidate, but she’s not as bad as the other guy. While Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly faced a cascade of personal attacks from the media, this demonisation of political opponents is nothing new.
In 2015, David Cameron said his defence secretary was “absolutely right” in claiming that Ed Miliband had “stabbed his own brother in the back”. There have always been vile, hate-filled personal attacks ensued by the overwhelmingly right wing and British media, of which the Conservatives do not condemn. Analysis carried out over 18 months by the Media Reform Coalition showed that Rupert Murdoch’s executive team at News Corp had 20 meetings with senior government representatives. In the year up to September 2016, there were 10 meetings between senior executives of Murdoch-owned companies and either David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May or Phillip Hammond. By comparison, just 7 meetings took place between the government and their public service broadcaster, the BBC.
These 20 meetings took place in an 18-month period where campaigns driven by Rupert Murdoch won; the Conservative majority in the 2015 general election, the leave vote in the EU Referendum all took place during this time period, as did the first 3 months of Theresa May’s government. Successive Conservative government meetings with senior officials from the right wing media happened whilst that same media was demonising, downgrading, and plainly insulting the Conservative’s political opposition. Coincidence is a funny thing. The Conservatives perpetuate these character assassinations, linking Corbyn to terrorism, and claiming he hates Britain amongst other things.
Why have the Conservatives always done this? Consistently over the last 7 years the Tories have diverted attention away from policy, and towards personality (which they have then framed). The answer is simple. Tory policy is not popular. It’s easy to dismiss May’s infamous repetition of “strong and stable” as just a gaffe, a hilarious mistake, but it shows the heart of the Tory campaign strategy. Deflect, Deflect, Deflect. That’s why robotic voices have to be used. On policy May’s government was, and still is, shambolic. It’s only when having an informed discussion on the issues of policy you begin to realise just how far the perception the Tories crave is from the reality.
The first pledge on the Conservative manifesto was “a strong economy that works for everyone”. Far from Theresa May’s invention, this is the main argument in defence of the Conservatives: “Labour can’t be trusted with the economy, the Conservatives can”. Words like “secure” and “growth” reinforce this myth. Selective cherry-picking of the facts also works very well. For example, the Conservatives have reduced the deficit from £103 billion in 2010 to just £69 billion. Good news right? Well, no. The Conservatives achieved this by excessive borrowing. The numbers that actually matter look entirely different. In 2010, the UK owed £700 billion. Since then the Conservatives have borrowed more than every single Labour government put together, and, as a result, UK debt now stands at approximately £1.73 trillion.
The sole justification that you always hear for the ruthless, politically driven austerity that literally has killed people is that there isn’t enough money – savings have to be made from somewhere. The Tories have ruthlessly cut welfare, disability benefits, social care, NHS funding, social housing etc. all in real terms, yet despite all of this have nearly tripled the national debt. Could you imagine if Labour tripled the national debt whilst food bank usage is at 1.2 million? You would, rightly, never hear the end of it. Theresa May stated that “work is the best route out of poverty”, but 7.4 million people who live in poverty are from working families. A record 55% of people who live in poverty are from working families. In-work benefits have also risen exponentially. Benefits have to subside those on their ‘living’ wage. The minimum amount necessary to live in the UK is £8.45 an hour – £9.75 if you live in London. The government’s minimum wage is £7.05 if you’re under 25, £7.50 if you’re over.
Already this is simply not sustainable. Prices are rising faster than pay. Pay rose 2.4% in the year up to March, but prices rose 2.7%. The cost of living is higher than ever before, the average house price across the UK stands at £218,255. London’s average house price is £490,318. Our capital city is essentially unlivable for the vast majority of people, and most younger people can forget about ambitions of owning their own home for a long time. In Manchester and Birmingham, the average house costs around 6 times the average annual local wage.
Theresa May ran one of the worst political campaigns Britain has ever scene. But this is not just about Theresa May: Conservatism has failed. Jeremy Corbyn has dragged left wing politics out of its long exile, and the British public have become enamoured by it. Imagine what he could have done had his party been united, or the UK had a free press – he’d certainly be Prime Minister. Now Theresa May, propped up by religious fundamentalists, will only serve to fail further. We must not forget though, it is the politics of Conservatism that has ultimately failed.