Today is a sorry day for British democracy. A real dark day. When lies go unchallenged, we all suffer. And when an election is won on lies, don’t be surprised to find you are governed by liars.
The result of this election sets a precedent that you can lie, cheat and evade scrutiny and get away with it.
The willingness of the Conservatives to mislead, misinform, and tell outright lies is a new low in British politics. From creating a fake Labour manifesto, to changing their twitter handle to pretend it was an independent fact-checking site, and all the other little lies along the way, the Conservatives have shamelessly said anything they think increases their chances of an election victory, with little regard for the consequence of their actions, both politically and socially.
Nearly 90% of Facebook ads paid for by the Conservative Party in the first few days of December contained misleading claims, an investigation found. Compared to 0% within similar Labour posts.
My personal favourite lie was when Boris Johnson claimed he’d never lied in his life. The sheer contempt he, and his ilk, hold for the public is staggering. It’s just a big game to them.
But no lie was and is bigger than their election slogan “Get Brexit Done”. Brexit is far from being done, with only a withdrawal deal agreed, discussion on future trading arrangements has yet to begin – from previously completed EU trade deals, these can take nearly a decade to conclude. Michael Barnier has said as much himself.
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”1984 by George Orwell
So how did the Conservatives get away with it?
Boris Johnson and political strategist (and unelected bureaucrat) Dominic Cummings had seen what has happened in America, where Donald Trump has told lie after lie and faced no repercussions. They latched onto this tactic knowing that people wouldn’t care – the comforting lie would beat the hard truth.
Media outlets such as the BBC have had their hand in creating this climate. For too long now “in the interest of balance” they have presented fact against opinion with equal weight. The equivalent of “so we’ve heard from the weatherman, and now to argue the point that it’s not actually raining outside, here is Bob from a shadily funded think-tank”. Remember, we’re “sick of experts”? The media reluctance to pull up Bob and say “hang on, we can see out the window that it is raining” has given rise to this.
So where were the media to call the Conservatives out during this election campaign? To be fair, some organisations tried, but a lot of people no longer wanted to listen. The issue is that so much of the media exists to facilitate rather than scrutinise or challenge the Conservative party. The print media have been drip-feeding people vitriol about Labour, and in particular Jeremy Corbyn for years. Even the BBC, meant to be impartial, edited clips to make Mr Johnson look more favourable, and Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg yesterday it seems potentially breached electoral law talking bout how postal votes were not reading favourably for Labour.
The media, and in particular the BBC really need to reflect upon this in the coming months.
Jeremy Corbyn has done wonders in the face of the sheer amount of vitriol that has come his way, and the smears and blatant lies he has had to combat He has campaigned tirelessly, and genuinely enjoys meeting people – unlike the Prime Minister who even elected to hide in a fridge to avoid questions. Corbyn and his team have put issues like rail nationalisation back into the public domain – do you think that the Conservatives would be pledging to increase the minimum wage had their not been such mobilisation from Corbyn’s Labour on this and other issues?
I agree, Corbyn isn’t and wasn’t perfect. Perhaps if he’d come down stronger on the Brexit issue it might have won him plaudits. But this country does need to come together, and perhaps doing so may have deepened the divide. His “honest broker” approach was measured and built to do just that. He listens to people, something our political leaders of late have forgotten how to do – little they care.
I heard countless people saying they couldn’t possibly vote for Jeremy Corbyn throughout the campaign, but very few could give me a rationale that didn’t include the phrases “terrorist sympathiser”, “threat to security”, “he’s a Marxist/communist” or question “where is the money coming from” despite the fact that Labour had a fully costed manifesto (the Conservatives didn’t). All tabloid attack lines. Repeated buzzwords. Propaganda – plain and simple. How many of these people had actually looked at Labour’s manifesto with their own eyes? I’ll bet you not many had. Corbyn was 3-0 down before the match had even started.
I do not blame those taken in by media smears, they have been duped. A lot of time and money is ploughed into misleading people and shaping public opinion. We should be angry at those who mislead, not the misled.
So to those people, and I say this with love, ask yourself this – why do media organisations mostly registered in the Cayman Islands so they don’t have to pay tax, and owned by billionaires who also avoid paying tax, have so much invested in influencing our political system and encouraging you not to vote for Labour? Is it your interests they have at heart, or might it be their own? Because their interests are certainly not the same as your own.
So what happens now? Well, more of the same. Tax cuts for the rich, an increase in homelessness and food bank usage around the country. Children going to school hungry. The NHS, schools and services starved of funds. Austerity and declining living standards for us, whilst the rich getting richer. And then there will be the “it’s not our fault we haven’t got Brexit done”. And if Brexit is done, a bonfire of workers rights and health & safety and environmental regulations.
Corbyn’s time as leader will inevitably come to an end, and it will be up to whoever is elected to replace him to build on the platform he has created. They must learn the lessons of the past 4 years, find a way to combat the hostile media, hold the government to account, and change this country for the better.
But we have more reason to be concerned than a continuation of austerity and deprivation under 5 more years of Tory rule.
The Tory manifesto pledges to “look at the broader aspects of our constitution”, leading to concerns that they wish to stamp out our ways of holding them to account – this would be branded a move towards autocracy anywhere else in the world. Our democracy is under attack, be in no doubt.
It will see issues such as climate change and the NHS swept under the carpet. It will likely bring about significant boundary and constitutional changes that will keep the Conservatives in power for the foreseeable future.
And then there’s the fact they have made noises about changing human rights. And the report into Russian interference in British politics that they have refused to release. Certainly Orwellian.
In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.George Orwell
Political reform is desperately needed, first-past-the-post does not work in the modern era. Many people feel their vote is wasted, and their views not represented. This is, however, an issue that requires a more in-depth analysis and one I will explore in the near future. While the Conservatives are in power, and the system undeniably favours them, they will certainly not move to change it – so pressure must be applied.
I pity and fear for this country. Things will get worse, markedly worse. It will be what we have voted for, yes, but our democracy has been so heavily subverted. Those with the least will suffer the worst, but ultimately we all rely on the NHS and other services, so we will all see the effects, directly or indirectly.
With trust is already so low in British Politics, this “post-truth” consensus cannot be allowed to become the new political norm. Otherwise, we sleep-walk into heavens knows where.
Worrying times indeed. But at least we’ll have our blue passports, right?